Cyber security top of mind for enterprise architects at Open Group conference

Summary:It's hard to plan any strategy for business and the IT forces that drive it, if the continuity of those services is suspect.

SAN DIEGO -- The Open Group 2011 conference here yesterday opened with a focus on cyber security, showing how the risk management aspects of IT, architecture, and business stand as a high priority and global imperative for enterprises.

It's hard to plan any strategy for business and the IT forces that drive it, if the continuity of those services is suspect. Social media and the accelerating uses of mobile devices and networks are only adding more questions to the daunting issues around privacy and access. And, the Wikileaks affair has clearly illustrated how high the stakes can be. [Disclosure: The Open Group is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Three cyber security thought leaders plunged into the issues for the attendees: Bruce McConnell, Cybersecurity Counselor, National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), US Department of Homeland Security; James Stikeleather, Chief Innovation Office, Dell; and Ben Calloni, Lockheed Martin Fellow for Software Security, Lockheed Martin Corp. Each speaker shared his thoughts on the current state of cyber security and where they see the industry heading in the future. Top of mind: The importance of trust, frameworks, and their impact on the security of critical infrastructure systems.

Following a brief introduction from Allen Brown, President and CEO of The Open Group, McConnell set the stage by discussing the current state of the security ecosystem.

Computing systems today often consist of numerous security hardware and software implementations working completely independently of each other. An improved security ecosystem would not only improve computing performance, but would also create an environment where interoperability would usher in governance and completeness. Facilitating information sharing between security systems would improve overall security by enabling systems to react in a more efficient manner when addressing security threats, he said.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) protects the federal executive branch, and works with critical infrastructure (gas, oil, electricity, telecom, etc.) to help them better protect themselves. DHS is currently working on a cyber security awareness campaign.

Stop, Think, Connect

Last year, DHS launched the “Stop, think, connect” campaign, which is directed at teens, young adults and parents of teens. With increased awareness, DHS believes that the threat of cyber security attacks will be lessened. For more information on the campaign, please go to http://www.dhs.gov/files/events/stop-think-connect.shtm.

McConnell mentioned that President Obama spoke on importance of private sector innovation earlier yesterday. He also stated that cyberspace is a new domain that is vital to our way of life. Therefore, it needs to be made more secure. Of course, government must play an important role in this process, but since cyber security is a civilian space, no one actor can secure it alone.

Given the global market of cyberspace, McConnell argued that the U.S. should continue to lead the security effort working together with consumers to achieve security. He then went on to suggest that an open, broad interoperability regime online would be able to validate attributes for online systems, but also emphasized that anonymity must be preserved.

Like every other function in IT, security, too, needs to be clearly defined in order to move forward.

McConnell concluded his keynote by speaking about a future white paper on the health of the cyber ecosystem, which will be based on the premise of a more secure cyberspace, where participants can work together in real-time to work against attacks. This cyber ecosystem would require automation, authentication and interoperability, enabling participating devices at any edge of a network to communicate with each other by policy established by the system owner. The ultimate purpose of the white paper is to encourage discussion and participation in an ecosystem that is more secure.

Dell innovation guru Stikeleather continued the plenary by emphasizing the need for a “Law of the Commons.” Like every other function in IT, security, too, needs to be clearly defined in order to move forward, he said. Clear definitions will enable the transparency and the common understanding needed for organizations and governments to communicate and discuss what goals the cyber community should strive to attain. This would not only lead to increased security, but it would also lead to improved trust, when addressing the growing concern of consumer privacy.

Co-evolution

The consequences of the Web’s evolution is actually a co-evolution, he said, in which people depend more on technology and we are restructuring how we see data (augmented reality); while technology is becoming contextual, dependent on who is making the request, how and when they are making it, and what their intentions are in making it.

In such a fluid environment trust is essential, but can there realistically be trust? We have created an untrustworthy environment, Stikeleather said, and the tipping point will be smart phones in the enterprise. This technology, in particular, is creating greater cracks in a complex environment that is destined to ultimately fail.

We’ve created rules for shared international usage of the world’s oceans and for outer space, and cyberspace should be no different.

Additionally, government and enterprise can’t agree on what the world should look like from a security perspective, due to differing cultural concepts in cyberspace, creating the need for a "Law of the Commons." We’ve created rules for shared international usage of the world’s oceans and for outer space, and cyberspace should be no different.

At the end of the day, everything is an economic survival issue, Stikeleather said. The real value of the Web has been network effects. If we were to lose trust in privacy and security, we'd lose the currency of that global network exchange and the associated economic model, which in turn could actually mean the collapse of the global economy, he said. A catastrophic event is likely to happen, he predicted. What will the world without trust look like? A feudal cyber world with white lists, locked clients, fixed communication routes, locked and bound desktops, limited transactions, pre-established trading partners, information hoarders, towers of Babel.

Underlying structure

We have a unique opportunity with cloud, Stikeleather said, to get it right early and put thought into what the underlying structure of cloud needs to look like, and how to conduct the contextual nature of evolving technology. Meantime, people should own the right to their own identity and control their information, and we need to secure data by protecting it within content.

There were a lot of car analogies during the plenary, whether intentional or not, and my favorite one of the day came from Calloni of Intel – “security needs to be built-in, not bolt-on.” I’ve thought of this analogy many times before when discussing IT, especially in regards to enterprise architecture.

Calloni said that given human nature’s tendency to use technology to engineer ways to make our life easier, better, more functional, etc., we increase the risk by increasing exposure. Drawing a comparison to a Ford Pinto, he stated that if organizations can purely focus on security, their probability of success would increase exponentially. However, when we add functionalities where focus will be more distributed, security will decrease as the attack surface increases.

He outlined key questions that each organization should ask when determining security:

  • Who has access?
  • What are the criteria for gaining access/clearance?
  • Who has controls?
  • What function is most important? Is being balanced key?
  • What type of security do you need?

Security is expensive, so the need to reduce an organization’s attack surface is critical, when establishing a security policy. In order to build a security policy that will protect your organization, Calloni argued that you must be able to look at what area or parts of your system/network are available for an assailant to compromise. Five key areas that must be looked at include:

  • Vulnerability -- to have it, an attacker must be able to access it
  • Threats -- any potential hazard of harm to the data, systems or environment by leveraging a vulnerability; Individual taking advantage of a vulnerability
  • Risk -- the probability of the threats using the vulnerabilities; higher risks come with more vulnerabilities and increased threats
  • Exposure -- the damage done through a threat taking advantage of a vulnerability
  • Countermeasures -- processes and standards that are used to combat and mitigate the risks

Like a car's drivetrain, security needs to be built-in, not bolted-on. Security frameworks need to have the solid foundation in which organizations can build-on in order to address the ever-changing cyber threats. Bolt-ons will only provide temporary band-aids that will leave your organization vulnerable to cyber threats, he emphasized.

As organizations move toward the cloud and as cyber threats are becoming more commonplace, it will be interesting to see what importance organizations place of the themes discussed yesterday. They definitely apply to the remaining conference tracks. I’m especially looking forward to how what the enterprise architecture and cloud speakers will address these topics.

If you want a real-time view of the 2011 San Diego Conference, please search for the Twitter hashtag #ogsdg.

Topics: Security

About

Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, an enterprise IT analysis, market research, and consulting firm. Gardner, a leading identifier of software and cloud productivity trends and new IT business growth opportunities, honed his skills and refined his insights as an industry analyst, pundit, and news edito... Full Bio

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