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Opinions expressed on this blog reflect the writer’s views and not the position of the Capgemini Group

The Walls of Jericho

Category : Security

I promised some additional book titles to you all. Just to guide you through your free summer days. A real nice one, which sounds particularly suitable for at the pool or the beach is The Naked Corporation, by Dan Tapscott and David Ticoll. It describes how regulatory compliance pressure – and society in general, for that matter – forces companies to become more and more transparent and open. Show us that you have nothing to hide. Actually, becoming completely transparent is not so bad at all and it can truly revive both corporate governance and the growth of a corporation. Opening up provides many new impulses and we all know ‘innovation happens elsewhere’. Nevertheless, there’s some historic evidence what can happen if you have to do without perimeters. When the walls of Jericho came down, the inhabitants were brutally slaughtered and the gold of the city was moved to the treasure rooms of the aggressor. Not really a compelling business case. Will information technology be an obstacle to becoming a Naked Corporation? We seem more than ever obsessed with being secure behind our virtual walls. Viruses, hackers - even the press - are just dying to have a nice look into our systems. But we just don’t know if our walls are big enough any longer. Everything is connected to everything and if there’s no network, there are always USB sticks and removable hard drives. Systems are simply leaking information and there are not enough Hans Brinker’s to stop the flooding. Even more important, do we really want this false sense of security behind closed network ports and immovable procedures? With the emergence of web services and XML, a world of collaborative business models is nearby. In that naked world, it is a matter of the real-time exchange of open, fine-grained information between true networks of corporations. Speed and Transparency are the magic words. And they just don’t flourish behind highly secured, impenetrable walls. Sounds like a paradox indeed, openness and transparency while being completely secure ath the same time. Not according to the Jericho Forum though, a platform within the Open Group consortium that focuses on security without walls, or de-perimeterisation if you like. It does no justice to the very solid work of the Jericho Forum, but if we had to write the management summary of ‘Jericho Style Security for Dummies’ (and why wouldn’t Wiley Publishing ask us?) we would describe a mix of integral encryption, protocols and hardware connections that are inherently safe and – above all – authentication at the level of the data element. Just try to touch it. That’s basically the motto. If you have the facilities to authenticate someone’s identity even at the lowest BIOS level of a PC, then you can decide at the very last moment if that someone actually has access to specific information. Come to think it, such a don’t shoot until you see the white of their eyes strategy can save a lot of time and money. You only rely on the very last ring of defence. Instead of spending tons on a armoured car you just buy a completely bullet-proof money-box which can never be cracked. An interesting metaphor which may trigger a lot of discussion around the IT solutions of tomorrow. Bringing back security so close to the actual assets – the data elements – also refocuses us on a concept that we almost forgot: that good old database. You can do whatever politically correct, cool stuff with objects, components and web services, there always may be a way around to directly plug into the data. And then you’d better have rock-solid security exactly there, right on the spot. Maybe I’m being a bit untrendy here in making a plea for more emphasis on the database and – shock horror – stored procedures. But on the other hand, we should know our classics. Just think of Jericho.

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Ron Tolido

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