Former Google VP Suggests User-Based Security

Letting users dictate to enterprise

At the Black Hat security conference on Wednesday, former Google VP of Engineering Douglas Merrill gave the opening keynote presentation, and it wasn't a traditional security industry talk. The takeaway: Let users dictate enterprise security needs.

Merrill, who most recently served as Chief Operating Officer and President of EMI Records, started with a metaphor of placing sidewalks on a college campus to describe his view of security architecture. Campus planners, he said, come in and put down sidewalks and grass. Six months go by and they begin to notice patches of dead grass. In response, the planners would put up metal chains to keep the students on the pavement. If the students persist in walking on the grass, the planners put in planters to discourage such traffic once and for all.

The same happens with security in the enterprise. Companies will try to control employees by restricting IM use, by forcing Gmail through a proxy. Merrill cited his experience as COO, his own frustration with Exchange, and faulted the classic enterprise software for not being user friendly. "Employees want better tools at work," said Merrill. "They're trying to make use of the best technology." In his opinion, the best technology can often be found in consumer-grade software.

He said that twenty years ago everyone wanted to work in enterprise software; not today. Today there are better, more user-friendly tools such as IM. And rather than fight the needs of the employees, security officers should work to secure the networks that use them.

There is another approach to putting sidewalks on the college campus: plant grass and let the students walk where ever. Merrill said that after six months the planners can go in and then harden the most used paths with sidewalks. Merrill thinks the same could happen with security: the users should lead the security development.

But rather than present a threat to the billion-dollar security ecosystem currently in place, Merrill sees a compromise. "I do believe that security companies will change from creating infrastructure boundaries to infrastructure resilience. If we can build security correctly, we make things easier, not harder."

Robert Vamosi is a freelance computer security writer specializing in covering criminal hackers and malware threats.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags black hat

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert Vamosi

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

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.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?