The Language of Information Security – The Devil is in the Details

A theme I touch on regularly is that learning information security is like learning a new language.  I remember the first time I took a German language course in school, and something caught my attention.  The teacher had to spend a surprising amount of time teaching the class English first.  What a surprise!  Every person in the class spoke English fluently, but they had forgotten many of the building blocks of English, such as what adjectives, pronouns, and prepositions were.  When the class was over, everyone was on their way to learning a new language, and many learned their native language even better too!

When speaking the language of information security, one thing we know is that the devil is in the details.  For this reason, when helping a firm improve security we like to start from the ground up, with our “IT Topology Mapping” service.  With this service, a detailed map of information flows within IT is created.  This service is one of the building blocks for speaking the language of information security, but a great thing can happen for the IT Manager along the way.  As progress is made with information security, they may learn their native IT language better too!

Let me share some real-life examples of what I mean:

  1. Bottleneck: As part of the mapping process the position of switches, uplinks, and routing are thoroughly documented.  In this example, the wiring in the server rack looked like a rat’s nest (not yours, right?).  While creating a map, it was discovered that the top of rack switch, which handled all data in and out of their servers, was connected to the floor switches and ISP through a single 1gbps uplink.  After making this discovery, it only took a few hours work to expand bandwidth and add redundancy to the design, and the user experience snapped to life!
  2. Efficiency: One of the goals of the topology mapping service is to connect data flows with the services that IT provides to its users.  In this example, as service dependencies were mapped to servers, several servers were found that were no longer valuable to the firm.  These servers were then removed.  This provided the IT manager with about a 10% reduction in server maintenance and patching and freed up needed CPU and RAM in the virtual environment for important services.
  3. Redundancy: As the network topology map takes shape, how data flows in and out of the firm becomes clearer.  Here, a firm was under the impression that they had WAN redundancy for external access to their VDI environment.  The network topology map helped discover that it was not configured correctly, and in the event of an ISP failover it would have caused an outage lasting hours.  Prepared with a clear map of the network, an engineer was able to resolve the misconfiguration in a few hours.

An IT professional and an Information Security professional speak different languages, but many of the building blocks of the language are the same.  A good security consultant will improve security through documentation and change, while at the same time doing what they can to empower the IT Manager to take excellent care of their users! An “IT Topology Mapping” is a great way to get started!