Security is in the same leaky boat as the sysadmins

Sysadmins used to rule the world. Anyone who’s been around for more than a few years remembers the days when whatever the system administrator wanted, the system administrator got. They were the center of the business. Without them nothing would work. They were generally super smart and could quite often work magic with what they had. It was certainly a different time back then.

Now developers are king, the days of the sysadmin have waned. The systems we run workloads on are becoming a commodity, you either buy a relatively complete solution, or you just run it in the cloud. These days most anyone using technology for their business relies on developers instead of sysadmins.

But wait, what about servers in the cloud, or containers which are like special mini servers, or … other things that sysadmins have to take care of! If you really think about it, containers and cloud are just vehicles for developers. All this new technology, all the new disruption, all the interesting things happening are all about enabling developers. Containers and cloud aren’t ends to themselves, they are the boats by which developers deliver their cargo. Cloud didn’t win, developers won, cloud just happens to be their weapon of choice right now.

If we think about all this, the question I keep wondering is “where does security fit in?”

I think the answer is that it doesn’t, it probably should, but we have to change the rules since what we call security today is an antiquated and broken idea. A substantial amount of our security ideas and methods are from the old sysadmin world. Even our application security revolves around finding individual bugs, then releasing updates for them. This new world changes all the rules.

Much of our security ideas and concepts are based on the days when sysadmins ruled the world. They were like a massive T-Rex ruling their domain, instilling fear into those beneath them. Today in security we are trying to build Jurassic Park, except there are no dinosaurs, they all went extinct. Maybe we can use horses instead, nobody will notice … probably. Most security leaders and security conferences are the same people saying the same things for the last ten years. If any of it worked even a little, I think we’d notice by now.

If you pay attention to the new hip ideas around development and security you’ve probably heard of DevSecOps, Rugged DevOps, SecDevOps, and a few more. They may be different things but the thing is, it should just be called “DevOps”. We’re in the middle of disruptive change, a lot of the old ideas and ways don’t make sense anymore. Security is pretty firmly entrenched in 2004. Security isn’t a special snowflake, it’s not magic, it shouldn’t be treated like it’s somehow outside the business. Security should just exist the same way electricity or internet does. If you write software, having a security step makes as much sense as having a special testing step. You used to have testing as a step, you don’t anymore because it’s just a part of the workflow.

I’ve asked the question in the past “where are all the young security people?” I think I’m starting to figure this out. There are very few because nobody wants to join an industry that is being disrupted (at least nobody smart) and let’s face it, security is seen as a problem, not a solution. The only real reason it’s getting attention lately is because we’ve done a bad job in the past so everything is on fire now. If you want to really scare someone to death, pull out the line “I’m from security and I’m here to help”. You aren’t really, you might think you are, but they know better.

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