Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Perfect Security?

Many years ago, I was privileged to hear Marcus Ranum speak at a conference for our regional NSFNet member network. At the time, I was of the mindset that it was possible to have perfect security for the computer systems and networks I managed, and I was not willing to compromise security for any purpose.

For example, when my employer at the time wanted to build a way to accept credit cards via the web, I proposed an isolated database server behind multiple firewalls -- mind you, this was long before PCI-DSS! Instead of taking the perfect solution, they probably just accepted credit card numbers via email...

Anyway, I understood Marcus to say that business needs had priority, and in particular, sometimes the business (and its software and systems) has to be built in advance of the security. This did not mean that we needed to ignore or discard security, but to be cognizant of the business needs -- if there's no business, there's no need for security.

So, we need to manage risks and prepare to respond to problems rather than wait to enable business operations until known risks are eliminated.

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