« Disclosure Laws | Main | Phishing »

The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good

My favorite Voltaire quote:

Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien.

So often in information security we are presented with fairly poor starting scenarios. And there are usually a number of options - raging from doing nothing, to modest improvements, to complete redesign. Purists, of course, tend to advocate a complete redesign from the ground up. Generally, that's a poor strategy, especially if you're an outside stakeholder.

If the responsible owner wasn't planning a redesign, you are basically advocating a complete reinvestment of all costs incurred to date, plus whatever is necessary to meet security needs, for no increased value (generally, revenue). Obviously, they aren't going to just comply.

Assuming you manage to comvince the owner that a complete redesign is worthwhile, you'll find that every other stakeholder jumps in. Second system Syndrome now kicks in - as long as such a large investment is being made, why not add in all these other, "minor" things people have been looking for?

Instead, find the little changes, that can get slipped in to improve the current state. Few systems are so bad that minor changes won't provide a world of good. But more importantly, this establishes security as a reasonable requirement, that the system owner is used to dealing with.

And when they decide to implement their next major change, odds are, they'll come find you.