Is Security Just About Culture?

In the journey of transformation to cloud adoption, mobile, Internet of Things (IoT) and more, all CISOs are under tremendous pressure to avoid having that transformation impacted by security incidents. Security is impossible without embracing a proper culture in terms of awareness of risks and good practices, either in terms of utilization of IT services, administration of IT services or development of IT services. But are we sure it is about just culture? Let me provide a few examples.

Culture and Technology Work Together

Password cracks are still one of the most important issues in enterprises today, and best practices suggest that passwords should not be written down and should have specific standards (e.g., a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, etc). Of course this is feasible when we have just a single password to remember, but what happens when we have tons of passwords? How is it possible to remember dozens of complex passwords without a support system?

So while security culture is needed to ensure people have strong passwords, that culture needs to be supported by proper technology. In this case, that technology is the single sign-on, which allows a user to authenticate to multiple applications that require passwords with one authentication session.

Multiple Identities Create Problems

The same discussion can be applied for the management of identities. Best practice dictates that each identity must be validated and that individual access passwords should be changed in a timely manner.

While this may be feasible for a single application, it becomes impossible for many applications with many users. An identity management solution can help in this instance, alleviating the stress of users and administrators while ensuring that all activity done on a corporate network is protected.

I would add the federated identity management and identity governance to the list of must-haves for an enterprise. It is possible to navigate an application requiring many different authentications, but it is tedious to insert the user ID and password several times. This make the service too cumbersome in the eyes of many employees.

We often talk about the security culture of an organization, but the reality is that the technology — in this example, federated identity management — is missing. That technology provides the potential to navigate the transactions without the need to authenticate all the time (or at least as few times as possible).

Identity governance is a bit different. Enterprises have many user IDs, and single sign-on can facilitate password management for those accounts, but do we really need all those user IDs? Could we have fewer user IDs with only the access we need for the type of activity being performed?

Moving Forward With Security

At the very least, companies need to manage critical access by recording all the activities performed during the session for future auditing. This is a matter of culture, but technology has a role, as well. Without making proper technology decisions, it would be difficult to connect security culture, awareness and security incidents. For an organization to have a good overall security posture, its culture and technological systems must work together to support employees and corporate initiatives.

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Domenico Raguseo

Technical Sales and Solutions Leader in Europe, IBM Security

Domenico Raguseo is currently Manager of Technical Sales in Europe for the Security Systems Division. He has over 15 years of management experience in different areas. Domenico also cooperates with several Universities by teaching Service Management, Cloud Computing. Since 2010 Domenico is member of Educational Scientific Council for the Master in IT Governance at the University of Rome La Sapienza ( Domenico got in IBM a certification as IBM Master Inventor for the multiple patents and publications in several disciplines (Business Processes, ROI, Messages and Collaborations, Networking). Finally, he is speaker on Information Security Management, Service Management, Cloud computing, Energy Optimization and Smarter Planet in several national and international events.