ShmooCon started today. ShmooCon leader Bruce Potter finished his opening remarks by challenging the audience to find anyone outside of the security community who cares about security. I decided to take his idea seriously and I thought about it on the Metro ride home.
It occurred to me that the digital security community fixates on vulnerabilities because that is the only aspect of the Risk Equation we can influence. Lines of business control assets, so we can't decrease risk by making assets less valuable. (That doesn't even make sense.) We do not have the power or authority to remove threats, so we can't decrease risk by lowering the attacks against our assets. (Threat mitigation is the domain of law enforcement and the military.) We can only address vulnerabilities, but unless we develop the asset ourselves we're stuck with whatever security the vendor provided.
I would like to hear if anyone can imagine another realm of human endeavor where the asset owner or agent is forced to defend his own interests, without help from law enforcement or the military. The example can be historical, fictional, or contemporary. I'm reminded of Wells Fargo stagecoaches being robbed as they crossed the West, forcing WF to hire private guards with guns to defend company assets in transit. As a fictional example, Sherlock Holmes didn't work for Scotland Yard; victims hired the Great Detective to solve crimes that the authorities were too slow or unwilling to handle.
As I've said many times before, we are wasting a lot of time and money trying to "secure" systems when we should be removing threats. I thought of this again last night while watching Chris Hansen work with law enforcement to take more child predators off the streets. Imagine if I didn't have law enforcement deterring and jailing criminals like that. I'd have to wrap my kids in some sort of personal tank when I send them to school, and they'd still probably end up in harm's way. That's the situation we face on the Internet. There's no amount of bars over windows, high fences, or other defenses that will stop determined intruders. Removing or deterring the intruders is history's lesson.
This FCW article has the right idea:
The best defense against cyberattacks on U.S. military, civil and commercial networks is to go on the offensive, said Marine Gen. James Cartwright, commander of the Strategic Command (Stratcom), said March 21 in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee.
“History teaches us that a purely defensive posture poses significant risks,” Cartwright told the committee. He added that if “we apply the principle of warfare to the cyberdomain, as we do to sea, air and land, we realize the defense of the nation is better served by capabilities enabling us to take the fight to our adversaries, when necessary, to deter actions detrimental to our interests...”
The Stratcom commander told the committee that the United States is under widespread, daily attacks in cyberspace. He added that the country lacks dominance in the cyberdomain and that it could become “increasingly vulnerable if we do not fundamentally change how we view this battle space.”
Put me in, coach. I'm ready to play, today.