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Attacks/Breaches

5/29/2007
09:05 AM
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Security With a Native Touch

Outsourcing overseas is a great idea, as long as a native-born local can bridge the cultural - and legal - gaps

5:05 PM -- So you want to outsource your technology to another country. It's a really common thing to hear as a company grows from a smaller, regional business to a multi-national corporation. It seems to make sense. You have cheap, highly educated labor that will work for your company without the attitude the local rockstars tend to bring to the table.

Unfortunately, there are lots and lots of hidden costs in terms of timeliness and security. First, let's talk about timeliness. Recently I worked with a client who had a large technology staff in the Asian Pacific. Because the timezones were so far removed from one another, a five-minute conversation could take two days to transpire. Losing two days may make sense if it only happens once in a while, but in critical times of need -- the norm in the security world -- that can be a big deal.

Also, because miscommunication almost always arises, even putting language barriers aside, you exacerbate the time it takes to get things done. Local cultural issues can make one thing sound or be completely different than it is in another country. As a simple example, something that sounds great in one country (capitalism) may actually hurt your business in another country that places value on something different (socialism). Those inconsistencies can add tons of time to your ability to do business. If you need to do business in other countries, it is worth hiring product management in those countries as well. Trust me on that one -- it will save you lots of pain.

But what about the security issues? Let's take an example where cultural issues caused pain for eBay. When it was discovered that child pornography was being sold on eBay India, they reacted swiftly and removed the offending material, working with the police to find and arrest the culprits, who were themselves young individuals. But in a surprise twist the Indian police arrested the president of eBay India too, even though by other legal standards he was completely innocent. Understanding cultural issues can make or break your company and may actually forge your technology in a different way.

Taking that same concept to an extreme is the Chinese government's firewall. The Chinese authorities have taken censorship to an extreme and actually block entire Websites from the country. Why is this a problem for you? Understanding the ins and outs of permissible content can lead to your entire Website getting blocked. That in turn can cause downtime between your offices. I won't even mention the men in suits who may show up at your Chinese headquarters asking questions of your staff about why you were attempting to look at Websites that threaten the Chinese government.

Like in any new venture, it is wise to get someone on the ground with experience in dealing with international business affairs. As a rule of thumb it is always better to perform localization of languages with someone who speaks it natively, rather than into the language by someone who learned the language later in life and/or who no longer lives there. If you have to outsource, it's critical to find someone who's native born to bridge the cultural, legal, and linguistic or language issues that are, for lack of a better word, foreign to you.

— RSnake is a red-blooded lumberjack whose rants can also be found at Ha.ckers and F*the.net. Special to Dark Reading.

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