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“War, what is it good for” as a security metaphor?

I have a thing for metaphors. I wrote my dissertation on them. And they have helped me enormously as a non-engineer working in IT security.

Metaphors are powerful tools (that’s a metaphor, by the way). Literally referring to something as something else enables us to make mental connections between concepts that are not really the same. War and weapons have proven historically useful metaphors. In wartime, everything changes. We look at the situation, our opponents, and even ourselves very differently (I like the image of a noble warrior on the battlefield more than that of a guy who spends most of his day sitting and typing…)

But metaphors also cause trouble, especially when we use them to over-simplify. I am skeptical of “security as war” metaphors, including that of the arms race. The metaphor detracts from the very real threats of cyber- and information warfare. War doesn’t define security any more than war defines firearms. Unless we are specifically talking about threats from nation states (and a few other actors) using information technology as part of armed conflict, we are not talking about war. And this is not what we are usually talking about in information security.

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Network Defense at Blackhat 2012

Just back from presenting lab-based training session Detecting & Mitigating Attacks Using Your Network Infrastructure with Joe Karpenko at Blackhat USA 2012. Great to see a Defense track of Briefings which included Intrusion Detection Along The Kill Chain: Why Your Detection System Sucks And What To Do About It and more of an emphasis on protecting or remediating network infrastructures in topics like Targeted Intrusion Remediation: Lessons From The Front Lines. I attended several of these briefings and was impressed with the breadth of information provided for network operators. The Defense briefings align well with the network security best practices advocated by Cisco and presented in our training. These best practices include: Read More »

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Work Your Way, Securely

August 2, 2012 at 11:17 am PST

Hear how financial innovator Diebold gains visibility and control of the 87,000 devices on their network. David Kennedy, former Chief Security Officer at Diebold recognizes there is no stopping new mobile devices and sets course to secure the organization while ensuring the business may continue to generate revenue. Workers want to work their way securely and prefer that the security is transparent so that they have the optimal experience. He speaks to the unique granularity that the Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE) offers to segment access by user, device, access method, posture, and time. So that engineers may have access to their codebase while marketing professionals like me have no access from my new iPad:

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Cyberspace – What is it?

Today, the word “cyberspace” is used in many contexts, but it is not always clear what exactly that term describes and what it means. In this post we will compare the definitions of cyberspace from several sources with the purpose of establishing a range of notions as to what cyberspace is and to derive its ontology. Sources are relevant entities like national or regional government, standardization bodies, and dictionary.

The reason why the term “cyberspace” is chosen is that all other terms (e.g., cyber security, cybercrime, cyberwar, cyberterrorism, etc.) are based on, or derived from, cyberspace itself. Therefore, cyber security is security of cyberspace. Cybercrime is crime committed within cyberspace or where elements from/of cyberspace are used as a vehicle to commit a crime, and so on for other derived terms.

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Compliance Headaches Continue

Staffing Cisco’s Compliance Solution demonstration a few weeks ago at Cisco Live 2012, I was beckoning passersby to test their knowledge of the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) 2.0.  Some attendees shook their head and walked (ran) the other way.  Of the brave souls who ventured over to demonstrate their PCI knowledge, most spoke of the difficulties and challenges of dealing with not only PCI, but other mandates as well, such as HIPAA, FISMA and SOX. Attendees came from different industries such as Retail, Healthcare, Financial Services and Education, many of whom shared the same challenges with approach, best practices and the cost of compliance. Surprisingly, some were just beginning their journey, starting at ground zero, and were seeking guidance on how to meet the CIO’s “get compliant” edict with a balancing act between IT and Finance. Other customers were seeking guidance on specific product features that could address areas of management and reporting.

At a Table Topics session during the same event, other challenges around scoping, segmentation and wireless networks were discussed. Today, one of the challenges that merchants still face is with auditor inconsistency. This is an area that the PCI council is working hard to address by implementing training and best practices programs for QSA’s. To add fuel to the fire, in a recent QSA Insights Report, the cost of annual audits averages $225,000 per year for the largest merchants. Excluding technology, operating, and staff costs, the world’s largest acceptors of credit cards (also known as Tier 1 merchants) are spending an average of $225,000 on auditor expenses. 10 percent of these businesses are spending $500,000 or more annually on PCI auditors.  The full PCI DSS is available for download at:

https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/security_standards/pci_dss_download.html

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