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5/11/2007
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Security Treadmill

Despite rapid change, many old security problems just keep coming back around

9:00 AM -- When you a work on a news site like Dark Reading, everything seems to be in a rapid state of change. There's news happening every hour. Threats evolve, trends change, paradigms shift. Calling the IT security industry "dynamic" is like calling Bill Gates "well off."

This week, however, we were reminded that many of IT security's biggest problems are not so new. In fact, many of them have been around for years, yet they are not much closer to being resolved than they were a decade ago. Some old nuts, it seems, aren't any easier to crack.

Take, for example, the problems with IPv6, which has been a "next generation" technology since the early 90s. Although IPv6 networks and products have been available for years, researchers are only just now identifying some of the key security problems associated with the technology, and many U.S. enterprises are just beginning to wrestle with the problem. (See Five Security Flaws in IPv6.)

Portable device theft is another old tune, as old as -- well, portable computers themselves. Yet just this week, the Transportation Security Administration bought itself a lawsuit when it lost a hard drive containing personal information on more than 100,000 employees. (See TSA Loses 100,000 Employee Records.) And IT professionals still rank portable device security as one of their top concerns of the year. (See Security's Top Five Priorities.)

Want another old saw? How about intrusion prevention systems? IPS technology has been criticized for falling short of the mark since it first came on the market more than a decade ago. Yet many users continue to rely on IPS for key security functions, and IPS vendors continue to try to put a new face on the technology. (See IPS: Still Playing Catch Up.)

And it's not just a technology problem. Despite reams of Best Practices offering advice on how to administer security, companies are still making the same mistakes, such as allowing a single administrator to completely control the data that goes into an application. Just last week, the SEC reported that such a mistake cost Wireless Facilities more than $7.7 million. (See SEC: WFI Insider Stole $7.7M.)

Hackers, on the other hand, love the fact that users continue to make the same mistakes. Phishers, for example, are using many of the same techniques that coined the term years ago. But according to RSnake's fascinating interview with the phisher known as "lithium," it's still good business. (See The Phisher King.)

With so much change flying around, is security stuck in a rut? It's hard to believe, but at least when it comes to these issues, it certainly seems so. And despite years of new technology and development, some of these problems show no signs of going away.

Are things happening fast in the security industry? You bet. But let's not forget that some of the "latest" problems have been around for years. Otherwise, we'll continue to repeat them.

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

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