A look at IT security health checks
by Calum MacLeod - EMEA VP of Lieberman Software - Thursday, 14 November 2013.
Over the past few days, one thing got my attention which I think in many ways sums up the state of our industry. While on a shopping trip with my wife, she noticed a billboard from a certain health insurance organization with the slogan, “Our focus is health, not shareholders.”

Probably because I’m becoming an increasingly grump old man, I tend to be increasingly cynical about the state of the IT Security industry. Just ask yourself how many CEOs will give keynotes about Google driverless cars and talk about how these cars will be potentially hacked, and why we all need better security. Then they go on to imply that they will be in the forefront of doing just that. Never mind the fact that organizations are being hacked on a daily basis and they can’t fix that! And we just lap it up. Sometimes you wonder if many people in our industry are on some sort of medication called gullibility.

Gullibility is an interesting drug. Some writers on gullibility have focused on the relationship between the negative trait of gullibility and positive trait of trust. As one author put it so succinctly, “gullibility is a foolish application of trust despite warning signs that another is untrustworthy.”

So how’s your health?

Like the health sector we are now bombarded with organizations offering “free” IT security checks. I recently saw an insurance company offering you the chance to win a health assessment. The winner is assured of getting a detailed report about the state of how their “heart, lungs, muscles and metabolism perform during exercise”, which will be followed by free “practical medical and lifestyle action plan.”

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying all IT Security vendors are out there to get you, and that health checks are not good – free or otherwise - but it is important to pay attention to those that seem to offer happy pills. When you read claims that putting a Shared Account Password Management solution in place will mean that “Security threats arising due to password sharing are completely eliminated”, I would seriously wonder about the naivety of anyone who would take this at face value!

And do we really need some analyst to tell us we have problems, and should we happen to take some medicine that has been touted by some marketing guru, that all will be fine? I don’t think so, when we know full well that our organizations are a ticking time bomb waiting for a security breach. Sorry, I’m beginning to sound like one of these “free” health checks!

Are we vulnerable?

As Woody Allen once said, “I'm not afraid of death; I just don't want to be there when it happens.” Sometimes I think the approach of the average board of directors is the same when it comes to investing in information security; they’re worried about being breached and just hope it doesn’t happen while they’re in the job. But naturally the question is whether investment is the only course of action.

Like my health, I can either cut down on bad cholesterol or I can spend money on medication that will supposedly do it for me, and allow me to continue my bad habits. But the sad reality is that medication is not going to keep me alive and healthy.

And the same applies in IT Security. Buying the latest technology is not going to save me if I am not carrying out basic health checks in my organization. Listen to those vendors who tell you that working alongside your team, they can help.


What's the real cost of a security breach?

The majority of business decision makers admit that their organisation will suffer an information security breach and that the cost of recovery could start from around $1 million.

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