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Friday, 11 January 2013

Protection Without Detection

I read an article this week by the guys at Securosis, that referred to a study on anti-virus testing.  I'm not going to  comment on the contents of the article, but I loved the title of the blog, which I've subtly used for inspiration here.  The concept of protection without detection.  Just think on that for a second.  It's a mightily powerful place to be at.  It's also a position we generally see applied to the 'real world' too.  Not that information security isn't the real world of course.

You take prescribed medicine or wash your hands with antibacterial gel without knowing the names, consequences or impact of the bacteria you have killed.  You lock your luggage with a combination lock and are not aware at the other end of the flight, who has attempted to touch up, open and get into your bag.  Your salary gets paid in to the bank every month, at which time the bank can invest that cash, lend it to other people and so on.  You aren't really concerned about the details of those transactions as your salary will always be available for you to withdraw (unless of course the bank defaults...).  Your ISP could well be stopping thousands of cyber attacks a day before you see the handful of attacks on your local multi-function router in your front room.  Ok, the last example is slightly off-piste, but the concept of protection without detection, or even protection-by-default is a nice panacea to be at.

It removes the concept of security being a managed outcome.  It stops security being a cost, an effort laden piece of work, a distraction from the 'real world' of living, going on holiday or safely browsing the internet.  Isn't that how security should be?

Often as consultants, technologists and engineers, we sometimes fail to see things through the eyes of the normal subscriber and end user.  When the majority of us buy a car we are concerned about mpg, reliability, safety and performance.  We are not generally wanting to speak directly with the mechanic, designer or component builder about the injection system, the carbon mix of the break pads or the improvements made to the vanos.  It's the end goal or deliverable that will directly impact our lives that we are really interested in.

Many end users and individuals will see security in this light.  They want to be (or at least feel) secure, without having to worry about implementation, detection and reaction.  They want security as a given proposition, perhaps guaranteed to a certain level.  In exchange they maybe be prepared to pay a sum of cash or put up with a particular change in service of lifestyle as long as a certain level of security can be guaranteed.

Security itself is a means to an end.  The end being a protected lifestyle or protected identity or piece of data.      Promoting security as a default proposition, makes its more attractive for those who may not be prepared to struggle with the inconvenience or details, on how competing security options deliver a level of safety.

@SimonMoffatt