McGovern, James F (HTSC, IT) wrote:
> I have observed an interesting behavior in that the vast majority of IT
> executives still haven't heard about the principles behind secure
> coding. My take says that we are publishing information in all the wrong
> places. IT executives don't really read ACM, IEEE or other the sporadic
> posting from bloggers but they do read CIO, Wall Street Journal and most
> importantly listen to each other.
> What do folks on this list think about asking the magazines and
> newspapers to publish? I am willing to gather contact information of
> news reporters and others within the media if others are willing to
> amplify the call to action in terms of contacting them. 
The vast majority of IT executives are unfamiliar with all of the
principles of security, firewalls, coding, whatever.

The important thing to understand is that such principles are below
their granularity; then are *right* to not care about such principles,
because they can't do anything about them. Their granularity of decision
making is which products to buy, which strategies to adopt, which
managers to hire and fire. Suppose they did understand the principles of
secure coding; how then would they use that to decide between firewalls?
Web servers? Application servers?

If anything, the idea that needs to be pitched to IT executives is to
pay more attention to "quality" than to shiny buttons & features. But
there's the rub, what is "quality" and how can an IT executive measure it?

I have lots of informal metrics that I use to measure quality, but they
largely amount to synthesized reputation capital, derived from reading
bugtraq and the like with respect to how many vulnerabilities I see with
respect to a given product, e.g. Qmail and Postifx are extremely secure,
Pidgin not so much :)

But as soon as we formalize anything like this kind of metric, and get
executives to start buying according to it, then vendors start gaming
the system. They start developing aiming at getting the highest
whatever-metric score they can, rather than for actual quality. This
happens because metrics that approximate quality are always cheaper to
achieve than actual quality.

This is a very, very hard problem, and sad to say, but pitching articles
articles on principles to executives won't solve it.


Crispin Cowan, Ph.D.     
CEO, Mercenary Linux     
               Itanium. Vista. GPLv3. Complexity at work

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