Monday, 6 June 2011

Who is Responsible for Web Security?

Web security for many people is quite simply one of the most important responsibilities that IT departments have. Even a simple forum site, if cracked, can expose passwords and email addresses which can then be used to access other sites - since many people use the same passwords for all their logins.
It is a simple but important question: Who is responsible for application security? Perhaps it's not you because you are not paid? Rubbish. Not you because you are the manager and it is a developer job? Nonsense. Sadly, my experience is that there is a lot of assumption about whose responsibility it is but few people who will stand up and take responsibility when things go wrong. What is worse is that in many ways it is too late when a site has been hacked. Whoever is sorry becomes irrelevant.
Think about some of the risks you have as an individual or company. The integrity of the firewall, the integrity of the network, the applications, the personnel management of people who might cause damage from the inside. Have you even thought about them and done a formal risk assessment? I doubt it. Most people have a very poor and non-methodical approach to security and then try and blame others when it goes wrong. You use an off-the-shelf product but do you keep it up-to-date? You use a lot of networking but are your staff really qualified to keep it secure? Can someone simply plug into your network switches and immediately gain access to your network layer?
So many risks, so little control. Is it any wonder why even high-profile companies suffer from hacking? It is time we started taking this thing seriously. We need auditing, expertise and responsibility. We need people to own up to where their expertise is lacking and the compulsion from management to pay in order to put things right.
I'm not going to hold my breath though. Contact me if you need any consulting on the security risks faced by electronic commerce.
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