If you listen to my podcast (which you should be doing already), I had a bit of a rant at the start this week about an assignment my son had over the weekend. He wasn’t supposed to use any “screens” which is part of a drug addiction lesson. I get where this lesson is going, but I’ve really been thinking about the bigger idea of expectations and reality. This assignment is a great example of someone failing to understand the world has changed around them.
What I mean is expecting anyone to go without a “screen” for a weekend doesn’t make sense. A substantial number of activities we do today rely on some sort of screen because we’ve replace more inefficient ways of accomplishing tasks with these screens. Need to look something up? That’s a screen. What’s the weather? Screen. News? Screen. Reading a book? Screen!
You get the idea. We’ve replaced a large number of books or papers with a screen. But this is a security blog, so what’s the point? The point is I see a lot of similarities with a lot of security people. The world has changed quite a bit over the last few years, I feel like a number of our rules are similar to anyone thinking spending time without a screen is some sort of learning experience. I bet we can all think of security people we know who think it’s still 1995, if you don’t know any you might be that person (time for some self reflection).
Let’s look at some examples.
You need to change your password every 90 days.
There are few people who think this is a good idea anymore, even the NIST guidance says this isn’t a good idea. I hear this come up on a regular basis though. Password concepts have changed a lot over the last few years, but most people seem to be stuck somewhere between five and ten years ago.
If we put it behind the firewall we don’t have to worry about securing it.
Remember when firewalls were magic? Me neither. There was a time from probably 1995 to 2007 or so that a lot of people thought firewalls were magic. Very recently the concept of zero trust networking has come to be a real thing. You shouldn’t trust your network, it’s probably compromised.
Telling someone they can’t do something because it’s insecure.
Remember when we used to talk about how security is the industry of “no”? That’s not true anymore because now when you tell someone “no” they just go to Amazon and buy $2.38 worth of computing and do whatever it is they need to get done. Shadow IT isn’t the problem, it’s the solution to the problem that was the security people. It’s fairly well accepted by the new trailblazers that “no” isn’t an option, the only option is to work together to minimize risk.
I could probably build a list that’s enormous with examples like this. The whole point is to point out that everything changes, and we should always be asking ourselves if something still makes sense. It’s very easy for us to decide change is dangerous and scary. I would argue that not understanding the new security norms is actually more dangerous than having no security knowledge at all. This is probably one of the few industries where old knowledge may be worse than no knowledge. Imagine if your doctor was using the best ideas and tools from 1875. You’d almost certainly find a new doctor. Password policies and firewalls are our version of blood letting and leeches. We have a long way to go and I have no doubt we all have something to contribute.