Saturday, February 14, 2009

Effective enterprise security begins and ends with architectural best practices approach

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Read a full transcript of the discussion.

The Open Group, a vendor- and technology-neutral consortium, in February held its first Security Practitioners Conference in San Diego. A panel of experts was assembled at the conference to examine how enterprise security intersects with enterprise architecture.

Aligning the two deepens the security protection across more planning- and architectural-level activities, to make security pervasive -- and certainly not an afterthought.

To gain deeper insights into how IT architects can bring security and reduced risk to businesses, I queried panelists Chenxi Wang, principal analyst for security and risk management at Forrester Research; Kristin Lovejoy, director of corporate security strategy at IBM; Nils Puhlmann, chief security officer and vice president of risk management of Qualys, and Jim Hietala, vice president of security for The Open Group.

Here are some excerpts:
In a down economy, like we have today, a lot of organizations are adopting new technologies, such as Web 2.0, service-oriented architecture (SOA)-style applications, and virtualization.

... They are doing it because of the economy of scale that you can get from those technologies. The problem is that these new technologies don't necessarily have the same security constructs built in.

Take Web 2.0 and SOA-style composite applications, for example. The problem with composite applications is that, as we're building these composite applications, we don't know the source of the widget. We don't know whether these applications have been built with good secured design. In the long-term, that becomes problematic for the organizations that use them.

It's the same with virtualization. There hasn't been a lot of thought put to what it means to secure a virtual system. There are not a lot of best practices out there. There are not a lot of industry standards we can adhere to. The IT general control frameworks don't even point to what you need to do from a virtualization perspective.

In a down economy, it's not simply the fact we have to worry about privileged users and our employees ... We also have to worry about these new technologies that we're adapting to become more agile as a business.

There's a whole set of security issues related to cloud computing -- things like compliance and regulation, for example. If you're an organization that is subject to things like the payment card industry data security standard (PCI DSS) or some of the banking regulations in the United States, are there certain applications and certain kinds of data that you will be able to put in a cloud? Maybe. Are there ones that you probably can't put in the cloud today, because you can't get visibility into the control environment that the cloud service provider has? Probably.

There's a whole set of issues related to security compliance and risk management that have to do with cloud services.

We need to shift the way we think about cloud computing. There is a lot of fear out there. It reminds me of 10 years back, when we talked about remote access into companies, VPN, and things like that. People were very fearful and said, "No way. We won't allow this." Now is the time for us to think about cloud computing. If it's done right and by a provider doing all the right things around security, would it be better or worse than it is today?

I'd argue it would be better, because you deal with somebody whose business relies on doing the right thing, versus a lot of processes and a lot of system issues.

Organizations want, at all costs, to avoid plowing ahead with architectures, not considering security upfront, and dealing with the consequence of that. You could probably point to some of the recent breaches and draw the conclusion that maybe that's what happened.

Security to me is always a part of quality. When the quality falls down in IT operations, you normally see security issues popping up. We have to realize that the malicious potential and the effort put in by some of the groups behind these recent breaches are going up. It has to do with resources becoming cheaper, with the knowledge being freely available in the market. This is now on a large scale.

In order to keep up with this we need at least minimum best practices. Somebody mentioned earlier, the worm outbreak, which really was enabled by a vulnerability that was quite old. That just points out that a lot of companies are not doing what they could do easily.

Enterprise architecture is the cornerstone of making security simpler and therefore more effective. The more you can plan, simplify structures, and build in security from the get-go, the more bang you get for the buck.

It's just like building a house. If you don't think about security, you have to add it later, and that will be very expensive. If it's part of the original design, then the things you need to do to secure it at the end will be very minimal. Plus, any changes down the road will also be easier from a security point of view, because you built for it, designed for it, and most important, you're aware of what you have.

Most large enterprises today struggle even to know what architecture they have. In many cases, they don't even know what they have. The trend we see here with architecture and security moving closer together is a trend we have seen in software development as well. It was always an afterthought, and eventually somebody made a calculation and said, "This is really expensive, and we need to build it in."

What we're seeing from a macro perspective is that the IT function within large enterprises is changing. It's undergoing this radical transformation, where the CSO/CISO is becoming a consultant to the business. The CSO/CISO is recognizing, from an operational risk perspective, what could potentially happen to the business, then designing the policies, the processes, and the architectural principles that need to be baked in, pushing them into the operational organization.

From an IT perspective, it's the individuals who are managing the software development release process, the people that are managing the changing configuration management process. Those are the guys that really now hold the keys to the kingdom, so to speak.

... My hope is that security and operations become much more aligned. It's hard to distinguish today between operations and security. So many of the functions overlap. I'll ask you again, changing configuration management, software development and release, why is that not security? From my perspective, I'd like to see those two functions melding.
Read a full transcript of the discussion.

Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Find it on iTunes and Podcast.com. Learn more. Sponsor: The Open Group.

View more podcasts and resources from The Open Group's recent conferences and TOGAF 9 launch:

The Open Group's CEO Allen Brown interview

Live panel discussion on enterprise architecture trends

Deep dive into TOGAF 9 use benefits

Reporting on the TOGAF 9 launch

Panel discussion on cloud computing and enterprise architecture


Access the conference proceedings

General TOGAF 9 information

Introduction to TOGAF 9 whitepaper

Whitepaper on migrating from TOGAF 8.1.1 to version 9

TOGAF 9 certification information


TOGAF 9 Commercial Licensing program information