100%, 80% or 0% security? Make the right choice!

Recently, I have had a number of conversations with end user organizations, covering a variety of Information Security topics but all having the same theme: There is a need for certain security approaches such as strong authentication on mobile devices, secure information sharing, etc. But the project has been stopped due to security concerns: The strong authentication approach is not as secure as the one currently implemented for desktop systems; some information needs to be stored in the cloud; etc.

That’s right, IT Security people stopped Information Security projects due to security concerns.

The result: There still is 0% security, because nothing has been done yet.

There is the argument, that insecure is insecure. Either something is perfectly secure or it is insecure. However, when following that path, everything is insecure. There are always ways to break security, if you just invest sufficient criminal energy.

It is time to move away from our traditional black-and-white approach to security. It is not about being secure or insecure, but, rather, about risk mitigation. Does a technology help in mitigating risk? Is it the best way to achieve that target? Is it a good economic (or mandatory) approach?

When thinking in terms of risk, 80% security is obviously better than 0% security. 100% might be even better, but also worse, because it’s costly, cumbersome to use, etc.

It is time to stop IT security people from inhibiting improvements in security and risk mitigation by setting unrealistic security baselines. Start thinking in terms of risk. Then, 80% of security now and at fair cost are commonly better than 0% now or 100% sometime in the future.

Again: There never ever will be 100% security. We might achieve 99% or 98% (depending on the scale we use), but cost grows exponentially. The limit of cost is infinite for security towards 100%.


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