Archive for December, 2007

Is compliance possible?

December 10, 2007

This excerpt from an article caught my eye this morning

Compliance is hardly rocket science-or is it? Directives to use firewalls and change vendor-supplied default passwords are simply security best practices. But in other areas, merchants struggle to interpret the standards, haggling with auditors, consultants and sometimes the PCI Council itself over exactly how to protect cardholder data.

Source: Can mid-market merchants comply with PCI standards? – Network World

It’s referring to the difficulties faced – in particular – by mid market companies in achieving PCI compliance but the principles apply in other regulatory areas too.  It’s a point I made in our whitepaper.  The unfortunate reality is that unless there are very clear requirements defining “success”, many companies will spend unnecessary dollars trying to stay in front of an ill-defined process.  My friend Matt  Flynn (also from NetVision) has put some thought into at least one aspect of this problem that he has published in his blog and on the NetVision site as a whitepaper on “Surviving an Identity Audit”.


Policing the Power of Identity – Security by and for Identity

December 3, 2007

I recently published a whitepaper entitled Policing the Power of Identity. It’s a vision (mine anyway) for the future use and success of identity in corporate computing. Use of identity gives us a “handle” to use in consistently assessing, analyzing, monitoring, etc. insiders. We developed multiple, fairly mature disciplines for dealing with “outsider” threats (firewall, IPS, anti-SPAM, anti-virus). We should have the same goal with protecting ourselves from insider threats – which are prevalent.

I could be accused by a reader of this whitepaper of giving the impression that I think identity is the problem. That’s not the case. But as corporate IT uses identity more exhaustively for all its good purposes then identity becomes a handy mechanism for identifying insider threat – both potential and realized. This process could most accurately be described as “Policing Computing Power BY (using) Identity”. But also, casually used, identity can create a false sense of security. And in such an imperfect-use scenario identity itself can be a problem (or more accurately, poor identity management can be a problem). In that case the process we prescribe is accurately described as “Policing the Power of Identity”. And such cases are exceedingly common if our IT customers and contacts are any indication.

Either way, our goal is never to attempt to cast identity itself as bad. But instead, to identify practices, tools and standards that use identity to provide better security and to improve identity management (aka security) practice. Along the way we believe that proof of compliance with regulations, policies or best practices will be a natural by-product of our efforts; at least in the area where identity is implicated.

If this sounds like an interesting line of discussion to follow, join the conversation or let me join yours. We’ve had a number of offline comments back on the premises in the whitepaper. I’ll add those to this blog in imminent posts.