Securing data is all the buzz in the world of digital security these days. It makes sense: data is both important and valuable. No matter if it is your own personal information or the information that your company has spent a lot of time, effort and finances on protecting, there is always some individual out there who has a strong desire to take that information for him or herself. It has always been that way. Just as HackerAttacker said in this article: A Brief History of Security – ever since there has been information worth protecting, there has been somebody who wants to steal it. Securing data is never easy, however, and standards and protocols are constantly evolving to fit the changing times. With the map of the digital world continually expanding and reforming – old standards are falling away, and once-reliable systems of defense are being called into question. The most recent of these debates is on whether or not the firewall, a classic form of local and network defense, is a strong enough deterrent and safeguard for securing data. While exploring this topic, I stumbled on another area of concern – the notion of perfect security.
Three Little Pigs and a Lesson in Securing Data
Spoilers ahead for anybody who has never heard the story of The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf. Do you remember the story from when you were little? It is one of those stories that wound up told in so many different forms; you probably came across it one way or another without even realizing it.
The story follows three little pigs who decide to build their houses out of three different materials; each material has its own weakness that the pigs do not seem to realize until it is too late. That is, all except for the third little pig – he was smart enough to build his home out of strong, sturdy materials.
Simple enough, right?
So where is the lesson on securing data, and where am I going with the whole perfect security idea?
Well, like most stories, the story of The Three Little Pigs is much more than what you see on the surface; it tells a story that can tell another story all on its own if you look at it just right (that was a Goldilocks reference, in case you missed it).
Something that you would think goes without saying is that every network; whether it is local, corporate, or global, needs some measure of security. Each of the three pigs offers an individual look at the types of security that you can activate, and why securing data is such a major concern:
- The first little pig does the bare minimum – he just installs crucial system updates. He assumes that his network is safe because it is internal and new. Nobody wants his information, so why spend money securing it?
- The second little pig goes a bit further in his security – he adds a series of antivirus programs alongside the system updates. He also asks his users to use a strong password when accessing the network. He knows that some of his information may be valuable to others, but he trusts his users to keep it safe.
- The third little pig goes all out: he emulates the other two and adds additional layers of security. The third pig adds a firewall to cover the gaps between the bricks of his security, enforces a complex password policy, and adds contextual authentication requirements to all access points to secure information. He prepares for an attack, even if one doesn’t come.
For all you Minecraft fans out there. Photo Courtesy of Reddit User miquinningtons
Each little piggy prepares for an attack to a different degree, but only the third piggy understands that an attack is almost guaranteed, and works to protecting everything. The story of The Three Little Pigs Is not just a story about protecting oneself: it is about safeguarding anything and everything that might be worth something to an outsider. If attackers are the big bad wolf and digital security is the strength of the house, then securing data is the goal, and the third piggy is coming out on top.
Perfect Security – The Brick House
By the end of the story, it seems like the third pig has established the perfect house. Indeed, he initially outwitted the wolf, who managed to tear down the other houses and gobble up the first two pigs (Or they got away, depending on which version of the story you heard). Insatiable as he was, the attacker turned his efforts to the third pig, but was unable to easily break down the walls of his building.
In terms of network defense, the third pig has done just about everything right: he has provided strong external defenses, and securing data has become a top priority. However, as the story plays out we learn one thing: the third pig still needed to build a chimney.
No matter how strong the network defenses that you have created, no network is without its own series of weaknesses or vulnerabilities.
This idea isn’t something new. In between the years of 1777 and 1851, the term perfect security was something that actually held a grain of possibility. Two locksmiths had made names for themselves by creating locks that could not be breached: Joseph Bramah and Jeremiah Chubb. Both creators added new innovation to the realm of security, and were synonymous with the idea of perfectly securing data from prying eyes. That is, until A.C. Hobbs came along in 1851 and cracked both locks – showing the world that no system was perfectly secure.
This man knew the value of secrets. Photo Courtesy of: historyoflocks.com
The third pig illustrates the notion of necessary vulnerabilities, and how those holes in the system can be used to undermine all efforts for securing data. However, the story also provides a response to the necessary worries that security is only a stopgap:
Ingenuity, active observation and adaptation.
Securing Data through Observation and Auditing
Authentication security is an important consideration when striving to establish a strong method of securing data. One major worry in the modern digital age is the vulnerability of secure networks due to mobile devices or services such as cloud sharing. Since networks are continually growing, having a brick house is no longer enough all on its own – companies and users need a way of securing their data while outside of the strong walls of the network.
This is where authentication security comes into play.
Every time that the wolf tried to trick his way inside the brick house, the third pig had a way to outsmart him – eventually scaring the wolf into a drastic attack that lead to his ultimate defeat. Authentication security works the same way when it comes to securing data – preventing various tricks and attempts at entering a network without proper authorization.
One method of strong authentication security takes the form of single sign on – consolidating many weaker passwords to various necessary systems under one strong banner. It is a method that has continually been thrown in the spotlight in recent days, and it has its own benefits for securing data and providing end users with a convenient, simple way of remaining secure while accessing confidential or valuable data. Providing your users with a strong centralized login portal also allows you to monitor your network for any unusual traffic without the hassle of monitoring various gateways.
Regardless of the methods, any authentication or network security system requires an easy method of tracking, observing, and reporting the activity going on within the network. Through proper auditing and observation, you can observe the attacker attempting to sneak into your network through the chimney and catch him or her in boiling water before putting your precious data at risk. Securing data, like securing a brick house, is an active process that can be made simpler and more effective with the appropriate authentication solution.
Things to Think On – Strong Security Still Matters
Everybody wants to find that offer that provides perfect security, and it can be devastating to learn that such a thing doesn’t exist as of yet. The fact remains; securing data is still a major concern, as lack of perfect security does not mean a lack of strong security. With an appropriate authentication security solution, you can anoint yourself with the tools and wherewithal to take on the guise of the third little piggy – continuously outsmarting any attacker who attempts to undermine your attempts at securing data and protecting your network. Perfect security may be a long shot, but the idea is only truly dead if we let the attackers win. Build your Brick house and turn the tables on the big bad wolf.