Demystifying Security

Information is present in computing platforms in two forms.

– Bits that are stored
– Bits that are traveling and transitioning

Securing bits that are stored and bits that are traveling and transitioning is a task.

These two forms present their own challenges but the bits that are traveling and transitioning i.e. changing forms within the computing platforms have acquired special attention. This is due to the prevalent pervasive communications using information technology computing platforms within society and businesses. When bits transition and travel they are also stored and retrieved from storage so securing both is important.

The only mystery surrounding the field of security is the presence of the all so many interaction surfaces between hardware layers and software layers through which transitions and traveling of bits occurs. From seeing text on the screen with ones eyes to thinking and considering it to thereafter editing it via hands there exists industries working within the human body which occur without us contemplating over them. There are interaction surfaces with the body as well. With muscular, neural, skeletol, etc working together to name a few.

Within computing platforms as the bits transition back and forth within one component i.e. one isolated CPU, RAM, HardDisk, Operating System and Application Software they present their own security challenge. When instead of isolation the bits travel between 2 such computing systems they present a different set of challenges. When there exists industrial scale, constant, consistent, ongoing back and forth travel and transitioning within milliseconds over large geographies between hundreds and thousands of components of various types it presents a completely different set of challenges.

Interaction surfaces are where bits change hands between subsystems. For example bits changing hands between the operating system and an application running on it or bits changing hands between one PC and another PC over a network. Interaction surface is when one subsystems surface interacts with another subsystems surface within the larger system and bits run. As the field of information technology and computing has evolved and progressed the number and types of subsystems, their surfaces and their interactions has increased a lot. So much so that securing them has become complicated. Wholesome security is therefore achieved when every time bits change hands i.e. transition and travel the interaction is secure. It is secure in the form that the storage at each end of change of hands is secure and the medium of exchange is secure.

Now it is simple to state in general english that when one subsystem interacts with another subsystem and bits change hands the storage points at each end and the medium used for the interaction and travel should be secure. Given timescale and geographical scale when it comes to reality the shear number and types of subsystems, the number and types of storage locations and the number and types of exchange mediums is so large that encompassing all of them becomes difficult.

Another incision into the security domain is cut deep into the system when the human computer interaction surface appears at various locations and in various forms. This increases the complexity of the whole security domain. Bit to Human interaction surface also needs to be kept secure at each interaction, at each geographical location and every time.

Furthermore another aspect is when one secure system under the ownership of one entity interacts with another system owned by another entity. This is therefore a time when bits are changing hands amongst different owners of them. The time and location of such an interaction surface presented between two separate ownerships also increases complexity. As your bits are stored under the ownership of another entity and accessed and retrieved by other people a whole system of management is required for such inter-ownership bit storage and bit travel interaction surfaces.

I guess a chart showing the whole variety of interaction surfaces within computing would demystify security. The reason for this is that each entry in the chart i.e. each interaction surface would be simply mapped to the precaution and action required for securing it. Each type of interaction surface would require a security precaution and actionable item within the security framework.

Be it an interaction surface where bits are:
– stored in hardware
– being processed by one set of software
– within one computer
– on a server
– in an application
– traveling over a network
– interacting with humans
– being exchanged between different humans
– being exchanged between different entities

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