A spring cleaning for security

The state of the security union

This month marks two years of "In Security." Over the past year, some of my more popular columns have dealt with data aggregation and theft, the limits of risk management, getting along with human resources and how to spot and handle rogue security staff, encroachments on personal privacy, and the humor we find in the nonsensical things we hear from security consultants and the consulted. Sometimes it's the laugh of recognition; sometimes it's the laugh right before everyone looks away nervously and changes the subject. In either case, it's worth taking a look back before considering what's next.

Get smarter

Progress happens -- though sometimes in slow motion. In response to last week's column about phishing within organizations, Rex Warren, a colleague and partner at Leviathan Security, responded with a related experience where people in big organizations sometimes forget that sometimes they need to prove their identity. He received a call recently that went something like this:

Caller: "You owe money, I'll take your account number."

Rex: "How do I know you're not a criminal?"

Caller: "I'm not a criminal."

Rex: "A good criminal wouldn't acknowledge being a criminal. In fact a dumb one wouldn't either."

Caller: "I know your 'secret' authentication information."

Rex: "That proves it's me not you; How do I know you didn't steal that information?"

Caller: I'm not a criminal.

Rex: We've been over that.

How would you make that system work, exactly? Think less tech and more do-unto-others. While generally impressed with my own credit union's variable risk-based identification and authentication processes -- this past year they started asking more authentication questions for transfers than for lower-risk balance inquires, for example -- it would be nice to receive a periodic mailing with a list of authenticators or secret questions I could ask them . This would be useful in the unusual case where they contact me about errors, suspected fraud or other problems. The technology is available; maybe we'll see more implementation next year.

Continuing the thinking-trumps-technology theme, more and more enlightened managers and educators realized over the past year that filtering software pushed by the likes of SurfControl and Websense doesn't work. It's not because the technology can't pick out words or URLs, but because employees and children intent on pursuing blocked content usually can find a way to retrieve it.

For example, Google arguably performs the foremost and broadest research into filtering. Yet the flexibility provided by search and proxy tools to bypass other filtering systems easily surpasses the sophistication of their own "SafeSearch" technology. Technology doesn't fix social and behavior problems, and filtering is eventually destined to head the way of prohibition, dance-hall bans, and the V-Chip.

Social education taking the place of mindless tools in both the workplace and schools? That's a positive development. Just as the Ron Popeil "set-it-and-forget-it" approach doesn't provide gourmet meals, the path to professionalism at work and critical thinking in school is best served by clear rules, trust and reasonable monitoring -- not roadblocks. The recent Virginia state foray into meaningful Net education still smacks of 50's educational films on the dangers of social diseases and fast driving, but helping the kids think is a giant step in the right direction.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jon Espenschied

Computerworld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?