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Perimeter

12/18/2012
02:57 PM
Gunnar Peterson
Gunnar Peterson
Commentary
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The Identity Cliff

Kicking the can down the road on identity cannot go on forever. Not choosing to deal with improving identity and access architecture is a choice

I make it a point not to discuss politics in this blog, and I expect to continue that policy. But permit me one brief exception, as it relates to an infosec matter.

Without getting into the mechanics or trying to assign blame to one side or the other, it seems clear to me that the current fiscal cliff drama demonstrates a failure of leadership on both sides -- a willingness to play to win rather than to do the right thing for country. Beating the other side has replaced solving problems. The former is mandatory, the latter optional.

Sadly, we have the same state of affairs here in identity. Information security teams regularly draw lines in the sand over what is allowed in the DMZ, agents that do something or other that must be on all desktops, and, of course, demand funding for the latest pizza box. Unfortunately, improving identity and access management is often inadequately staffed and underfunded, and this means more usernames and passwords that then get compromised. Rinse, repeat. Like "leaders" in Washington, D.C., inside information security team making hard choices is a minority sport.

Kicking the can down the road on identity cannot go on forever. Cans kicks back, design debt piles up. Not choosing to deal with improving identity and access architecture is a choice. The outcome of a weak identity architecture leaves you vulnerable to six of the OWASP Top Ten and plenty of other threats besides.

As an industry, we're staring over a cliff of our own making. Decades of suboptimal design tradeoffs and same ol', same ol'. Even the leading-edge progressive companies suffer from insufficient integration, weak authorization management, and how to deal with new technologies like cloud and mobile.

The economist Herb Stein said, "Anything that can't go on forever won't." The present situation of infosec teams looking at strengthening identity as optional is untenable. Is 2013 going to be the year we see a shift in companies taking decisive action on improving their outdated identity architecture, or just another year where attackers feast on them?

Gunnar Peterson is a Managing Principal at Arctec Group Gunnar Peterson (@oneraindrop) works on AppSec - Cloud, Mobile and Identity. He maintains a blog at http://1raindrop.typepad.com. View Full Bio

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