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1/21/2005
12:11 PM
David  DeJean
David DeJean
Commentary
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IT Security, By The Book

Security is the biggest single issue in IT these days. Have you been doing your homework? Here are some recommendations on how to get smarter.

I asked a CIO type what he felt the real issues of the job were. He talked about the interesting questions being how resources get allocated. The toughest problem he saw, as you might expect, was security. "It's never-ending," he said.

The never-ending issue is going to continue to be Job One for IT types for the foreseeable future, and all the knowledge you can gather will be needed in the battle with the bad guys to keep your networks and data secure.

Mike Fratto knows more about this than most of us. He's the editor of Secure Enterprise magazine, and he devoted his column in the current issue to a short list of the best books about information security he's seen. His list should be required reading for everybody who recognizes that security is their Job One. Here are picks, with his comments:

  • Authentication: From Passwords to Public Keys, by Richard E. Smith (Addison-Wesley Professional, 2001). "Not only does the author describe the authentication landscape, he drills down into authentication methods and practical examples."
  • Cryptography and Network Security: Principles and Practice, by William Stallings (Prentice Hall, 2002). "More accessible to nonprogrammers than many other titles on the subject, Stallings' work covers cryptographic fundamentals and describes the technical details in common applications such as S/MIME, IPsec SSL and SET."
  • Introduction to Computer Security, by Matt Bishop (Addison-Wesley Professional, 2004). "This book provides a solid overview of security topics. Although much of the text focuses on theory, Bishop's ideas have proven practical."

Of course, my friend the CIO type makes the very valid point that many security problems are caused not by technology failures, but by human ones -- the password on a Post-It note stuck to the monitor, the user who answers an email that supposedly comes from Tech Support and asks for their login info. Somewhere in the allocation of resources we need to have a line item for the never-ending struggle to educate users.

But we can't do it if we don't know anything ourselves. Read up.

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