What IT Needs to

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2002-03-25 Print this article Print

Know"> What IT Needs to Know Coffee: What do IT people need to understand about security that they dont now, and, given that understanding, what do they need to be sure theyre clearly communicating to non-technical management?
Glover: What I find a lot of times working with the IT people is they feel that theyve got a really good understanding of security and understand what needs to be done. They try to take control of it, and sometimes at the wrong place. They dont really understand that security is something that needs to be more embedded, really, at the company level. It has to be the DNA of the corporation. That is so important--that everybody is responsible for security, not just IT. A lot of times, IT will drive the decision on security, and it should be a business driver.
   Its just not getting up to the level where it should, and, as a result, corporations just dont understand the true need of security. When you talk to CIOs about security, they understand its important, but theyre going to come back and say, "What is my return on investment by employing this security?" Thats a really hard question to answer, and I dont think we can answer that today.
Davidson: I would second large elements of that. For us, it really is about having a culture of security, and that would encompass a number of factors. It really has to be a top-down commitment to security in all aspects--and thats physical security, as well as IT security. You dont need to have the National Security Agencys corporate culture of security, but it needs to be appropriate to the business. Trilling: Security is not an all-or-nothing thing, and it is not the same for every organization. It is an ongoing evolutionary process, and we often say that it is important to secure your environment in such a way that the cost of breaking in is greater than the value of the information that youre storing, and that will be different for everybody. You need a lot more security on a large government building than you need on an empty studio apartment, in just the same way that you need a lot more security in a large corporate network than somebody probably does on their own home personal Web site. So everyone needs to evaluate the information on their business systems and do this in an ongoing way. I think security needs to be evaluated on a regular basis. It is really an ongoing process in which you never get to a point where you are done.
   Security really is almost a lifestyle inside the organization. Its not only about installing and deploying the appropriate software, but its also about making sure peoples passwords are appropriately long, that people arent leaving their passwords on sticky notes on their monitors, and, when people take home their laptops, theyre not out surfing the Internet unprotected with sensitive company information on their machines. There are all kinds of cultural aspects to embedding security inside an organization that I think really need to come from the top down. Lipner: Its not a matter of do one thing and youre protected. Its really a matter of defense in depth, of taking measures across the board, the sorts of things that Steve Trilling was talking about. Then, in terms of communicating to the rest of management, I think its really a very similar message--that this is a process and not simply a point. Security really is something that is an ongoing effort that requires analysis and investment and attention to do right. Paller: John Gilligan, the CIO at the Air Force, stood up in front of 200 people and said, The vendors have to make a quantum change in the way they deliver this software to us, because cleaning up after their messes is costing us more than it costs us to buy the software, and were willing to pay for it. I think what John discovered that most CIOs dont understand is that when the vendors tell you that a problem is solved, it may mean that somewhere on one of their servers its solved. But the piece of software youre installing may, in fact, be so full of holes that youre vulnerable within moments after you install it. Also in this Special Report
  • Ignorance: The Hackers Best Friend
  • Here Be Dragons: Web Services Risks
  • Threats to Come
  • Trail of Destruction: The History of the Virus
  • Community Builds Security: Labs Answers Your Security Questions
  • WLAN Hardening Checklist
  • Application Hardening Checklist
  • Operating System Hardening Tips

    Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at salesforce.com, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developersÔÇÖ technical requirements on the companyÔÇÖs evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter companyÔÇÖs first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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