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The New School of Information Security 164

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
Ben Rothke writes "It is 2008 and never has so much been spent in information security. Year after year, more and more security hardware and software is purchased, more and more security professionals are hired, and more security is done; yet things are not getting better. Every indicator, every pundit, everything points to more security breaches, vulnerabilities and incidents. Large amounts of proprietary data are compromised on a daily basis. Obviously something is wrong, yet the entire industry goes along thinking things are getting better and more secure. Obviously something needs to change. And that new change is what The New School of Information Security attempts to conceive."
The New School of Information Security
author Adam Shostack and Andrew Stewart
pages 288
publisher Addison-Wesley
rating 9
reviewer Ben Rothke
ISBN 978-0321502780
summary Information security is highly broken; this book suggests a realistic fix.
Far too much of the security industry has its roots in FUD. Billions of dollars of information security products have been sold, and for what? The book asks why is information security so dysfunctional and why companies are often wasting so much money on security. So what is this thing called the new school? The authors define it as neither a service nor a product; rather it is a new approach that uses the scientific method and objective data. This in turn gives an entirely new perspective from diverse fields to make effective security decisions. The authors rightly believe that when objective data is used, it enables better decision-making.

The New School of Information Security is a ground-breaking text in that it attempts to remove the reader from the hype of information security, and enables the reader to focus on the realities of security. The fact that such a book needs to be written in 2008 shows the sorry state of information security.

The book starts out with observations of why there are so many failures within information security. Anyone with experience in security can easily relate to these issues. One recurring theme throughout the book is that poor data, be it research or advertising negatively effects the state of security. The authors astutely note that security advertising often does a disservice to the security field because it glosses over complex problems and presents the illusions of a reality in which a security panacea exists. It makes the buyer believe they can reach that panacea by using their service or purchasing their product.

In creating their new school, the authors have no qualms in attacking the dogma of the current state of information security. From Gartner to the Executive Alliance and more, the authors show that these groups and more often suffer from issues such as bias, lack of a scientific method and more. The book notes that the search for objective data on information security is at the heart of the philosophy of the new school. Since there is a drought of objective data today, the book asks how can we know that the conventional wisdom is the right thing to do? The observation is that the current state of affairs is unsustainable for the commercial security industry and for security practitioners.

The title of chapter 5 gives away the theme of the book — Amateurs Study Cryptography — Professionals Study Economics. The idea is that information security must do a better job of embracing such diverse fields as economics, psychology, sociology and more, to make effective decisions.

In some ways, the authors are perhaps too aggressive in their desire for security statistics. One of the most scientific approaches to information security is from CERT (www.cert.org). Yet the authors are not satisfied with CERT's findings that the majority of incidents appear to be insider based. Given what data and statistics we have in 2008, the figures from CERT are certainly good enough. Yes, they could be better, and yes, breach data is not actuarial data, but given the data from CERT, combined with recent news and court cases (UBS, Société Générale,etc.) clearly show that insiders are the most insidious threat.

Also, while the current state of information security is indeed less than perfect, the authors are a bit too condescending of areas where security is formalized (ISO 27001, etc.), yet not perfect.

After years of countless 1,000+ page massive security books, The New School of Information Security succinctly spreads its message in a brief 160 pages. In those 160 pages, the author's detail at a high-level what needs to be done to create this new school. Therein lays the books only flaw, its brevity. The authors want to get the concept of the new school out there, but they do not detail enough of the necessary requirement to make it work. They show with clarity how things are broken, but don't do enough to show how to fix it. Let's hope the authors are at work on a follow-up writing those necessary additions.

Some Slashdot readers are likely to question how an author (Shostack) can write a book on security while being employed by Microsoft. Even with all its security issues, what many do not realize is that no software company has spent more on security in the past decade than Microsoft. Indeed they have a lot of catching up to do, but it is being done. Put another way, Microsoft has likely spent more on security than China has spent on democracy.

Too much of information security is clearly broke and The New School of Information Security is about fixing it. The author's pragmatic approach is a refreshing respite from years of security product based FUD and silver-bullet solutions. The approach of the new school is one that screams out to be put into place. It is the job of today's CISO's and CIO's to heed that call, take the initiative, and lead their organizations there. Either they graduate their staff from the new school, or we are faced with more decades of information security failures.

Let's hope The New School of Information Security is indeed a new start for information security. The book is practical and pragmatic, and one of the most important security books of the last few years. Those serious about information security should definitely read it, and encourage others to do the same.

Ben Rothke is a security consultant with BT and the author of Computer Security: 20 Things Every Employee Should Know.

You can purchase The New School of Information Security from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
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The New School of Information Security

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  • In my opinion, one of the most worrying trends in the computer security world was Bruce Schneier's turn from crypto guru to security consultant. He now gives only vague pronouncements of security, doesn't seem to seek to empower the community, and his books like Secrets and Lies [amazon.com] seem designed to sell Counterpane's services. Has lessening interest in widespread use of crypto led to security experts closing themselves off in consultancy bubbles?
    • by weston (16146) * <westonsd&canncentral,org> on Monday April 21, 2008 @01:56PM (#23148838) Homepage
      I think what's likely is that Schneier realized that availability of good crypto isn't the only link in the security chain, and it's probably been a while since it was a candidate for weakest link.

      Hence the discussion about how security as a field is reaching out to other disciplines -- organizational behavior and sociology and economics are essential because you're looking at the problem of why business organizations don't do well at security, and it isn't just a technical matter.

      • by zappepcs (820751)
        Technical matters begin to pale when some 20+ percent of users will give you their login credentials and personal information for free chocolates or a *chance* to win a trip to Paris.

        If nearly a quarter will risk identity theft for trinkets, imagine what they would think of having real security processes.

        One of the blogs/links to the story is: http://valleywag.com/381102/for-a-womans-password-offer-chocolate-for-a-mans-try-porn [valleywag.com]
    • > one of the most worrying trends in the computer security > world was Bruce Schneier's turn from crypto guru

      The title of chapter 5 gives away the theme of the book -- Amateurs Study Cryptography -- Professionals Study Economics.

      In other words, most of our security problems aren't rooted in flawed cryptography, they are based on the flawed allocation of resources and general human fallibility. Good luck with your studies young man. Perhaps you can fill that hole you think Bruce Schneier has left.

      • by ePhil_One (634771)

        In other words, most of our security problems aren't rooted in flawed cryptography, they are based on the flawed allocation of resources and general human fallibility.

        I'm note sure about that. I think the biggest issue is the "monetitization" of "cracking". This stuff used to be done for fun and thrills, geek cred, etc. Now a huge Botnet is a cash cow, criminal organiztions pay money for comprimized ID's & CC #'s. Yes, human fallibility plays into this, but the premise that the resources being spent on security are wasted is nonsense

        Perhaps you can fill that hole you think Bruce Schneier has left.

        Agreed. While crypto has its place, it's a very small piece of the security pie. Firewalls, Anti-malware, policy enforcement, anti-

      • by Zeinfeld (263942)

        n other words, most of our security problems aren't rooted in flawed cryptography, they are based on the flawed allocation of resources and general human fallibility. Good luck with your studies young man. Perhaps you can fill that hole you think Bruce Schneier has left.

        Why is it that everyone who posts on security is immediately compared to Bruce in derogatory terms? He certainly isn't the most influential practitioner within the field and he does not try to be. His focus is on describing what is reasona

    • "In my opinion, one of the most worrying trends in the computer security world was Bruce Schneier's turn from crypto guru to security consultant"

      You're entitled to your opinion, in the great scheme of things, a worse trend was when billg decided to embed Internet Explorer in the OS so as to kill Netscape.
    • by jotok (728554)
      Ahem. Schneier's change of focus is not a "trend."
      However, there is a "trend" of people in our industry abusing terms like "trend" and horribly mangling the underlying concepts and mathematics. This is why this book sounds so good to me: No more FUD. Just the facts.
  • by techpawn (969834) on Monday April 21, 2008 @01:45PM (#23148646) Journal
    Throwing more "experts" at the problem doesn't make the problems go away. Just like making passwords more complex doesn't seem to increase security, especially when the average user doesn't seem to be getting any better (still writing password on post-its, etc)
    • Security exploits (and exploiters) will always tend towards the path of least resistance, and that is the end user. It will always be easier to exploit human weaknesses than computer system weaknesses. One can 'educate' a firewall for example through patches or rules and this will often be 'good enough'. On the other hand, one can educate a human, and they will be highly inconsistent (and often times down right stupid) in adapting what they learn into practice.

      Security systems need to be equally hardware an
    • by Stevecrox (962208)
      I agree completely with this, at university I was given a random 8 digit password consisting of letters, letters (small and upper) and symbols. Because the systems demanded all of them I kept it.

      Unfortunatly where I work most passwords have to conform to the same standard but must be rotated every 3 months and can't repeat for a year. Next month I reach the point where I'm going to have to make something up and most probably I'll have to write it down (ran out of permutations.)

      Passwords are a great idea
      • by SlamMan (221834)
        Just wait until one of those systems is compromised, and your password for of your systems along with it. Password standardization is not such a good thing.
        • by namespan (225296) <namespan&elitemail,org> on Monday April 21, 2008 @02:58PM (#23149708) Journal
          I don't think the parent is talking about standardizing his password across every service he uses. I think he's talking about standardizing what a password can consist of and what constitutes a standard length, and a *tiny* bit of sanity regarding human factors in memory and use.

          I understand in practice that might allow people to collapse to a narrow set of passwords. But I think it's also possible that this kind of standardization could allow people's ideas about what constitutes a good password to coalesce around a few basic points, which might let them more readily create a few.

          And the parent is absolutely right that rotating random strings of characters every three months presents a use problem. One type of security analyst might say "suck it up, there's a tradeoff between security and use," and if you can get the user to suck it up and that works in the context of the organization, that's great. But if not, this brings us to the point in the "Amateurs study crypto, pros study economics" phrase. If you really want a secure system, solve both problems. Provide the user with some security practice that isn't going to cost him cycles the operation of the organization is going to demand he use somewhere else.

      • by Jaime2 (824950)
        Standardization of passwords is just a work-around (and a dangerous one). The real problem is the appalling lack of single sign on. There are tons of commercial and free implementations of LDAP and other Directories, and a lot of major applications support them. However, it is very difficult to convince developers of small project to get on board and it is very difficult to convince admins and architects the importance of single sign on. With a decent sso system, you wouldn't have to make your passwords
      • by Morrigu (29432)
        Use KeePass [keepass.info].

        I've been using it for over 3 years, and have somewhere north of 200 passwords stored for different systems, sites and organizations.

        It'll even generate new random passwords for you and can keep track of expiration dates.
    • by Sancho (17056) *
      Writing passwords on post-it notes isn't a bad idea. Leaving the post-it notes with passwords outside of your control is what's bad.

      I write passwords on post-it notes all the time (I use post-its only because of the stigma--I could just as easily use index cards.) You know what I do with them? I put them in my wallet. I've had a couple of decades of training on keeping tabs on my wallet, so I'm not concerned about it. And if someone is going to rob me, or break into my house in order to get passwords,
      • Password + Biometric. Your password is useless unless they cut off your finger.
        • by Sancho (17056) *
          Well, that's not an option for many of the systems to which I have logins. Also, fingerprint biometrics are so easily defeated that we aren't adding much security here. I haven't read much on other forms of biometrics, but I do know enough to know that revocation in the event of compromise is pretty harsh.
        • by compro01 (777531)
          or you happen to leave your fingerprints somewhere. typical biometric "security" systems are so easily broken it's hilarious.
    • by Zeinfeld (263942)
      Throwing more "experts" at the problem doesn't make the problems go away. Just like making passwords more complex doesn't seem to increase security, especially when the average user doesn't seem to be getting any better (still writing password on post-its, etc)

      The obfustication of passwords started in 1990 or thereabouts when crack first appeared and there was a need to strengthen the passwords to prevent the brute force attack taking less than a day.

      Forcing users to include a digit increases the search

  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Monday April 21, 2008 @01:48PM (#23148696) Homepage Journal
    One crippling problem with gathering hard numerical data about security is that so many incidents go unreported. A few make it into books, a few make it into the press, but most are solved internally.

    If you have a fire, the fire department will write it down and it will go into national statistics that fire insurance companies can bet money on. If you have a security breach, would you even try involving law enforcement?

    Another hassle is that so many of the costs are hard to quantify. Loss of revenue after a fire is something you can pin down. Loss of reputation or consumer confidence after a breach? The numbers will be uselessly fuzzy.
    • by CRCulver (715279)

      If you have a security breach, would you even try involving law enforcement?

      With all the stories of police seizing computer equipment in criminal investigations and then never returning it, even after years have gone by and even if no one was found guilty, I'd be reluctant to involve the police.

  • Compare and contrast these two quotes:

    Year after year, more and more security hardware and software is purchased, more and more security professionals are hired, and more security is done; yet things are not getting better.

    And:

    Even with all its security issues, what many do not realize is that no software company has spent more on security in the past decade than Microsoft.

    "Do as I say, not as I do?"
  • The issue is not how we handle security, but rather a fundamental flaw with the technology itself..

    Meaning, the design of files themselves make it too easy to copy them. Also, trying to slap on some sort of encryption layer is laughable at best because once the encryption is removed all security goes along with it.

    In my opinion, as an industry we need to re-examine how documents are managed. I suspect a considerably better approach is more of a "looking glass" to managing data where instead of actually h
    • In my opinion, as an industry we need to re-examine how documents are managed.

      And what's the cost benefit of that? You are talking about security and secrecy but really at the price of throwing innovation and efficiency out the window.

      How can anyone on slashdot in their right mind be so dull-wittingly committed to doing in IT the very things that caused so many societies to fail! Secrecy and an atmosphere of secrecy, authentication at every turn,... my god, we have turned information into a virtual polic
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tgatliff (311583)
        I think I understand your argument, but it sounds more political than technology in nature... Also, I know my history well and it certainly does not backup that secrecy makes societies fail. Early Germany certainly did not fail because of secrecy, but rather because they had a madman at their helm. Soviet Russia just had an unsustainable government structure... The US economy is currently failing not because of our secrecy, but rather because we want to try grow our economy on the ever continued consum
        • Germany certainly did not fail because of secrecy, but rather because they had a madman at their helm. Soviet Russia just had an unsustainable government structure... The US economy is currently failing not because of our secrecy, but rather because we want to try grow our economy on the ever continued consumption of debt... :)

          Well, part of the consequence of Germany having a madman at the helm was that there were a number of different weapons projects, all running in parallel and in secret from each other.
      • by jotok (728554)
        I agree and disagree.

        1. Sometimes the need for secrecy outweighs the need for "innovation and efficiency."

        2. People have plenty of data and are empowered to make decisions. But they don't know what to do; there is a fundamental education gap. These are the people who run random attachments they get from someone named "xplurg bffrgis" offering them "v14g r a." You think they're really equipped to make decisions on security?

        The thing is, security is a risk management discipline. Most applications thereof
    • In my understanding, most sensitive data is stolen from improperly configured applications that permit access to weakly secured databases. See TJX for an example. File permissions have nothing to do with this (except on a very low, irrelevant level).

      This is a people problem. People write bad code, configure servers poorly, and manage security inefficiently.
      • by tgatliff (311583)
        That actually is a pretty good argument... I would agree that no technology in the world will stand up to someone simply giving the information away... :)
    • You'd still be moving the document, of course -- just, in this case, as a bitmap -- possibly JPEG-compressed. And if you're X-forwarding, then the text is actually available, in fact.

      The problem is basic to the technology, but I think it's much more fundamental.

      Analog electronics had a problem: Data was degraded as it was processed. Digital electronics solved the problem -- by copying the data in order to restore it at each step. Copying is inherent to the nature of digital technology. The minute

      • ---I'm thinking this basic idea is a large part of the MPAA's motivation the move to higher and higher HD, for instance; in the extreme, they could give up on encryption, and replace it with a known nontrivial problem: Downsampling and recoding video. It's not quite the same magnitude as factoring products of large primes, but it's still a computational pain in the butt when you're talking about a 50GB Blu-Ray disc.

        I think its fair to say that even if cpu speeds hold steady, our cores will grow. Given that,
  • "Even with all its security issues, what many do not realize is that no software company has spent more on security in the past decade than Microsoft." I guess that goes to show us that security is one problem you can't just throw money at and make it go away.
    • by Sancho (17056) *

      I guess that goes to show us that security is one problem you can't just throw money at and make it go away.

      Well, it will be a long time before anyone figures out how to make security problems go away. Microsoft has really increased the security of their systems over the past couple of years, so while throwing money at it isn't making the problem go away, it has certainly seemed to help a bit.

      Oh wait, I'm sorry, I forgot what site I'm on. Ignore the facts above--MICROSOFT SUCKS!

    • by Daffy Duck (17350)
      Many people also don't realize that no software company has spent more on lunches in the past decade than Microsoft. I don't think that makes them an authority on food, though.
  • I hope everyone reads this book. I think they make a great point about looking at business practices as security vulnerabilities.
  • WHAT?!!! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by explosivejared (1186049) <.hagan.jared. .at. .gmail.com.> on Monday April 21, 2008 @01:52PM (#23148772)
    The authors astutely note that security advertising often does a disservice to the security field because it glosses over complex problems and presents the illusions of a reality in which a security panacea exists. It makes the buyer believe they can reach that panacea by using their service or purchasing their product.

    MARKETING causes problems?!! I'd have never dreamed of such a concoction of lunacy! This guy wants to make us think we'd actually be safer without the Nortons and McAfees of the world. I tell you this buddy, you can pry my annual $50 subscription from my cold dead hands!! I say we hunt down this guy with torches and rope in hand!

    No,I do not work for Norton. What a silly question. That thousand bucks the guy in Norton shirt just gave me is totally normal, so never you mind it. Anyways, lynch the heretic!
  • I think I'd beg to differ. Consider the growth rate of deployed systems and data, and compare to the number of security incidents. I think someone could make a strong argument that it IS getting better, proportionately. The internet has such impressive growth, it's hard to notice the change. Check out any sites with historical trends of reported security incidents (dshield.org, cert.org, whomever). They all show very large growth rates up until 2006, where they tend to level off. The internet didn't stop gr
    • Security is not some end state but an ongoing practice. Nobody will every 'solve' the security problem.
  • Most sales people went into that field because they are good at manipulating people on an emotional level; some actively hate any quantatative methods, and cannot do basic statistical analysis.

    Can you blame them, though? How many people really buy based on scientific evidence and through research, rather than emotions? E.g. we all "know" that Linux is more secure than Windows...

    • Engineers became engineers because they have no social skills. What? Don't like generalizations? Don't think anyone can read someone's mind, let alone a whole group of people? No? Then don't be part of it. Jus' sayin'
      • Oddly enough I always look for someone who has problems socially when hiring an engineer or SE, then I know the guy will understand what I need and not "be my friend".
      • by Hatta (162192)
        This, and the GP's assertion are both valid. What was your point?
  • Doh! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by farrellj (563) * on Monday April 21, 2008 @02:03PM (#23148928) Homepage Journal
    I've been saying for years: More computer security is not better computer security!

    Most security can sometimes even lead to less security! A system that is too hard to access because of it's security will eventually be bypassed by the normal users, leaving you with a bigger security hole is one example of this. Customers who put three different firewall programs on their computer, plus the one on their router is another example.

    ttyl
              Farrell
    • True for programmers as well: if the system makes it hard to program secure applications, it won't be done. There's a nice paper (pdf) that explains why programmers don't use the principle of least privilege [stanford.edu] (hint: with the current POSIX API, it's too complex and non-portable, and thus only a few programmers do it, basically in an ad-hoc fashion).
  • by ErichTheRed (39327) on Monday April 21, 2008 @02:05PM (#23148960)
    I seriously believe that one of the reasons throwing money at the problem hasn't been working is that people who are implementing these things aren't the best possible candidates.

    How many IT projects have you worked on where the company hires one of these huge consulting firms, spends millions of dollars, and still has problems after all is said and done? I think one of the problems is the business model of these firms. The head schmooze crowd takes the CIO for a round of golf or two, and convinces them that the firm is the answer to all their security questions. The next day, a bunch of barely-trained "security consultants" descend on the company and begin making all sorts of recommendations/purchases. Sounds cynical, but I've seen it many many times. It's also applicable for any system replacement project, development project, etc.

    The other problem is marketing of security products. How many times have you heard from a relative, "Oh, I've got Norton Internet Security, I'm safe." Vendors have a lot of people convinced that if they install their toolset, they can totally drop their guard.

    • How many IT projects have you worked on where the company hires one of these huge consulting firms, spends millions of dollars, and still has problems after all is said and done?

      Not worked on but have been the unfortunate recipient of having to use them. First it was SAP. What a horrible piece of shit. Nearly every day we get calls from people who can't access the system and it's because the system can't handle all the requests from people processing travel vouchers, time requests, etc.

      Now I hav

    • I seriously believe that one of the reasons throwing money at the problem hasn't been working is that people who are implementing these things aren't the best possible candidates.

      It's a specific case of a larger problem: when it comes to hiring (whether a consultant or employee), "it take one to know one." If you don't have a good eye for quality industrial design, how will you be able to pick out a good industrial designer? If you don't really know something about information security, how will you recogni
    • by scoove (71173)
      I seriously believe that one of the reasons throwing money at the problem hasn't been working is that people who are implementing these things aren't the best possible candidates.

      In larger corporations, especially where the regulatory environment is a driving factor, you might find that money isn't being thrown at security, but rather compliance. As ErichTheRed points out, there is no shortage of these silver bullets being purchased from executives who don't know better.

      As someone who heads up an informatio
  • Computer security begins and ends with the user common sense. If the user is not informed on common data security practices, up to date exploits, viruses, mal-ware, spyware, what have you, then they don't really have sense enough of where to start in the first place. Sure, you can buy yourself all the Anti-virus protection you want, but that isn't going to protect you from ignorance. Security software protects users from security breaches. It doesn't protect them from dumb.
  • "... Microsoft has likely spent more on security than China has spent on democracy"

    Very creative. I can do that, too! My example: Women spend more money on makeup than children spend on trapping hedgehogs.

    Microsoft makes more money when computers are less secure, because many people who have malware buy new computers: Corrupted PC's Find New Home in the Dumpster [nytimes.com].
    • by Skeet112 (1088203)
      TFA only furthers my above post. Maybe these 'security experts' should start going dumpster diving for PC's... I mean, hell, that's a whole new market of revenue there! :)
  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Monday April 21, 2008 @02:21PM (#23149190) Journal
    In a conflict between weapons and armor, weapons eventually win.

    What is going on in "computer security" now is a conflict where the bad guys use weapons and the good guys only use armor.

    Just as with ordinary security - safes, locked doors, walls, armor, military "defense", etc. - attempts at IT infrastructure security only slow, not stop, the perpetrators. In ordinary security the "war" must be taken to the enemy - with self-defense deterrence and counterattacks, arrest/trial/incarceration, or retaliatory war. Why should information security be any different?

    But as of now there is essentially no consequence - except occasional failure and the need to adjust tools to evade the latest security tweaks. The result has been an opportunity, and financial incentive, to develop a powerful security-breaking infrastructure and several very lucrative businesses based on it.

    So things will keep getting worse until there is retaliation that creates enough consequences to knock the perpetrators down in number of perpetrators and longevity of activity.

    Retaliation produces collateral damage, so this won't be pleasant. But systematically letting bad guys get away with their crimes creates a rising exponential of wrongdoing that eventually sucks the lifeblood out of the rest of the population. Eventually this will become so egregious that the rest of the population will be willing to accept the collateral damage if it knocks down the problem.
  • I've found in the commercial world that security in all of its flavors makes up no more than 10% of any outsourcing deal no matter how large or complex either the outsourcing deal is or the security requirements themselves. 8% is closer to the norm with some deals in the 3-4% range. That cost represents the total cost over the entire lifecycle including all labor and hardware. So I'm left wondering what people mean when they complain that so much money is being spent on security. If you're spending 1.6 mill
  • You guys are just about hitting the nail on the head. The problem is not so much in the complexity or quantity of security measures, but the policies and training presented to the users. I believe that over half of the users in my organization could not recognize a security threat and would most likely give their password out over the phone if the person calling them said they were in the IT department. Imagine if companies held a short class or training session about once a week to identify, react, and rep
    • Imagine if companies held a short class or training session about once a week to identify, react, and report threats. A little bit of training goes a long way. You don't need an expert to tell you that.

      I used to do that for one company, even had a newsletter that had easy security tips, such as complex password phrases, how to determine if your email had a virus, so on. Almost always they were forgotten because the companies mentality, like most, is to get the job done at least cost. Add to that that most of the users we dealt with ended up feeling like they didn't need it because they never encountered a problem, it's downhill battle, ends up falling on the security person all ways. Thats just the har

  • as it leads to apps not working and it can slow work down so much that high up people tell the people under them to by pass it and do your job with out waiting for the over worked, under staffed and under payed IT guys to get around to it.
  • Information security is not dysfunctional. The author's logic is flawed. "Billions of dollars of information security products have been sold". "... everything points to more security breaches, vulnerabilities and incidents." [Therefore] "information security [is] so dysfunctional." I think most working Security professionals would point to other "things" that lead to this state of bad security. Probably the two largest factors being: bad decisions by management and the lack of accountability (for both ma
  • The problem with IT security is that the solutions are that of being reactive to problems, and that we're asking for "secure" computing from nontrusted resources. There's never any proactive look at resources and doing proper planning for what sort of problems might develop (at least in my workplace). Project Managers and accountants never like to dole out money for dealing with exploits and issues that "might, in the future, become a hazard," and so the IT team is only rushing around putting out fires inst
  • There is no way you can rap up INFOSEC in a simple way. Each company practices it in a different way because each has it's own acceptance of liabilities due to applications that they use or equipment that they purchase. You make the best of INFOSEC with those in mind because no company will change their technology infrastructure just because it's not the most secure technology. If the company is an enterprise you can have thousands of different types of applications and equipment all working together for
  • Far too much of the security industry has its roots in FUD.

    And so does this review.
  • You can have the latest, most sophisticated (and probably expensive) security hardware and software imaginable, use military-grade encryption on every single file, and post armed guards at the entrance to your data center.

    But guess what? NONE of the above will make the slightest bit of difference as long as there are still people who write their passwords on sticky-notes without a second thought, and paste them to the front of their monitor, the inside of their desk drawer, or wherever.

    None of the above wil
  • by Arrogant-Bastard (141720) on Monday April 21, 2008 @03:36PM (#23150348)
    Marcus Ranum's "The Six Dumbest Ideas in Computer Security" rant/essay neatly identified the top culprit a few years back. The mistakes he outlined continue to be made on a daily basis by nearly everyone working in the field -- and most of those people compound those errors by layering on more mistakes. (Example: "Well, yes, the firewall is default-permit outbound, but that's okay because we have an IDS.") This approach inevitably fails, yet those practicing it profess surprise every time it does -- especially if they happen to be standing in front of a press conference announcing the latest data loss incident.

    We will not make any headway on this, as a profession, until we stop making rudimentary mistakes such as the ones Ranum has identified, along with a few others that are worthy additions to that list. No initiatives, no certifications, no appliances, nothing will change that -- because none of those change the attitudes of the people who are building systems and networks. Until those people manage to step back from irrelevant details like "which iframe exploit is current today?" and look at larger questions like "why are iframe exploits even possible?" or "why are browser exploits even possible?", then they will continue to waste effort "solving" the wrong problems.

    Sadly, after observing this situation close up for many, many years, I've concluded that some, possible many, people will never get that far. They simply Do Not Get It, and despite essays like Ranum's or books like this one or anything else, they're not going to get it. And they will continue to fail, and so the systems/networks they've built will continue to fail. I'd say that will make for a bleak future, but -- look around! -- we're living in a bleak present.

    • by turing_m (1030530)
      "We will not make any headway on this, as a profession, until we stop making rudimentary mistakes such as the ones Ranum has identified, along with a few others that are worthy additions to that list."

      This is one of those things that is only understood by following the money. There is no money to be found in cures, there is only money to be found in temporary fixes. One has an income stream, the other doesn't. This is a sad fact of life.

      There will be a few companies who see the advantages in running a leane
  • 1. The bad guys are also smart.

    2. The reward is higher for the bad guys than the good guys.

    3. The risk for the bad guys isn't that high - they operate from different jurisdictions and with many cutouts between them and their operation.

    4. They have cookies.

A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any other invention, with the possible exceptions of handguns and Tequilla. -- Mitch Ratcliffe

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