We held the Secure360 conference in the Twin Cities last week. Presentation topics included PCI, cloud computing, and problems within the security industry. While it can get tiring discussing the industry’s problems, I like trying to understand the difficult nature of information security and enjoy the challenge of trying to overcome the obstacles related to rationally dealing with risk. On this topic, Rich Mogull had a very good presentation, “Putting the Fun in Dysfunctional,” about the inherent problems with information security. I appreciate insights from someone with both an IT and a physical security background and I thought he did a nice job discussing why security is such a difficult area for a business to understand.  I agree with the points he made that at the most simple level security and risk are abstract, long-term concepts that require a rational approach.  Rich did a good (and entertaining) job of illustrating that, as humans, we are often not rational. Generally we deal in the short-term and prioritize with our basic needs. In the context of a corporate environment, understanding and dealing with risk is extremely difficult.   I’d add to Rich’s discussion that in most organizations building mature risk management is essentially like playing a game of telephone across functional departments, most of which find risk and security to be totally foreign concepts (except, of course, at financial institutions). Rich’s thesis created a nice framework for the other core topics at the conference. A number of presentations dealt with the dangers of cloud computing. Because we created the cloud without rationally dealing with risk and security, it’s an afterthought; there are huge holes in cloud computing security and therefore significant risk.  David Bryan had a great presentation on the subject. The other core topic, PCI, is generally thought of as a compliance issue.  Anton Chuvakin put some context around PCI and how it fits as a basis for a security program.  I’ve seen a number of organizations do this, and Anton did a nice job outlining the gaps related to using the standard as a basis. While no standard is ideal, it’s a start and generally kick starts a maturation of risk management within organizations that adopt the approach. Overall, the Secure360 conference was very good and the speakers both local and national were great.  Kudos to the organizers. I look forward to next year.

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