Security is not a buzz-word business model, but our cumulative effort

FULL ARTICLE

This article conveys my personal opinion towards security and it's underlying revenue model; I would recommend to read it with a pinch of salt (+ tequila, while we are on it). I shall be covering either side of the coin, the heads where pentesters try to give you a heads-up on underlying issues, and tails where the businesses still think they can address security at the tail-end of their development.

A recent conversation with a friend who's in information security triggered me to address the white elephant in the room. He works in a security services firm that provides intelligence feeds and alerts to the clients. Now he shared a case where his firm didn't share the right feed at the right time even though the client was "vulnerable" because the subscription model is different. I understand business is essential, but on the contrary isn't security a collective argument? I mean tomorrow if when this client gets attacked, are you going just to turn a blind eye because it didn't pay you well? I understand the remediation always cost money (or more efforts) but holding the alert to a client on some attack you witnessed in the wild based on how much money are they paying you is hard to contend.

I don't dream about the utopian world where security is obvious but we surely can walk in that direction.

What is security to a business?

Is it a domain, a pillar or with the buzz these days, insurance? Information security and privacy while being the talk of the town are still come where the business requirements end. I understand there is a paradigm shift to the left, a movement towards the inception for your "bright idea" but still we are far from an ideal world, the utopian so to speak! I have experienced from either side of the table - the one where we put ourselves in the shoes of hackers and the contrary where we hold hands with the developers to understand their pain points & work together to build a secure ecosystem. I would say it's been very few times that business pays attention to "security" from day-zero (yeah, this tells the kind of clients I am dealing with and why are in business). Often business owners say - Develop this application, based on these requirements, discuss the revenue model, maintenance costs, and yeah! Check if we need these security add-ons or do we adhere to compliance checks as no one wants auditors knocking at the door for all the wrong reasons.

This troubles me. Why don't we understand information security as important a pillar as your whole revenue model?

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How is security as a business?

I have many issues with how "security" is being tossed around as a buzz-word to earn dollars, but very few respect the gravity or the very objective of its existence. I mean whether it's information, financial, or life security - they all have very realistic and quantifiable effects on someone's physical well-being. Every month, I see tens (if not hundreds) of reports and advisories where quality is embarrassingly bad. When you tap to find the right reasons - either the "good" firms are costly, or someone has a comfort zone with existing firms, or worst that neither the business care nor do they pressure firms for better quality. I mean at the end, it's a just plain & straightforward business transaction or a compliance check to make auditor happy.

Have you ever asked yourself the questions,

  1. You did a pentest justifying the money paid for your quality; tomorrow that hospital gets hacked, or patients die. Would you say you didn't put your best consultants/efforts because they were expensive for the cause? You didn't walk the extra mile because the budgeted hours finished?
  2. Now, to you Mr Business, CEO - You want to cut costs on security because you would prefer a more prominent advertisement or a better car in your garage, but security expenditure is dubious to you. Next time check how much companies and business have lost after getting breached. I mean just because it's not an urgent problem, doesn't say it can't be. If it becomes a problem, chances are it's too late. These issues are like symptoms; if you see them, you already are in trouble! Security doesn't always have an immediate ROI, I understand, but don't make it an epitome of "out of sight, out of mind". That's a significant risk you are taking on your revenue, employees or customers.

Now, while I have touched both sides of the problem in this short article; I hope you got the message (fingers crossed). Please do take security seriously, and not only as your business transaction! Every time you do something that involves security on either sides, think - You invest your next big crypto-currency in an exchange/ market that gets hacked because of their lack of due-diligence? Or, your medical records became public because someone didn't perform a good pen-test. Or, you lose your savings because your bank didn't do a thorough "security" check of its infrastructure. If you think you are untouchable because of your home router security; you, my friend are living in an illusion. And, my final rant to the firms where there are good consultants but the reporting, or seriousness in delivering the message to the business is so fcuking messed up, that all their efforts go in vain. Take your deliverable seriously; it's the only window business has to peep into the issues (existing or foreseen), and plan the remediation in time.

That's all my friends. Stay safe and be responsible; security is a cumulative effort and everyone has to be vigilant because you never know where the next cyber-attack be.