Security in Times of Crisis

Who would have thought, when I wrote my three-part column on “Security and Change” (here, here and here) that all three aspects would hit us at the same time. There was Hurricane Ike, the disappearance and takeovers of major financial institutions, and the massive credit freeze requiring a huge government bailout. This “perfect storm” of catastrophes has wreaked havoc with the domestic U.S. and global economies, threatening imminent collapse.

As someone who has been particularly concerned with the cyber security of our critical infrastructure, I couldn’t help thinking how much worse it would have been if there had been a simultaneous cyber attack bringing down our financial market systems, payment systems and e-commerce in general. In that regard, we can consider ourselves most fortunate. We may not be so lucky the next time.

While I have no specific evidence that the disruptions taking place throughout the economy have lead to security compromises, I would be really surprised if they had not. It’s just that with so much focus on the crises themselves, everyone is distracted from basic day-to-day security issues. Such compromises, if they are happening, are likely to be well hidden below the high levels of noise. We may never know their full extent.

My presumption of security compromises is based on prior experience of situations that were not nearly as devastating. Consider that we have a huge cadre of disaffected, disgruntled individuals who have been laid off or are at risk of being so and who had, and may still have, access to critical computer systems. Include the fact that major financial institutions are being taken over, forced together and eliminated. Combine that with the emergency reactions of individuals as they seek safe havens for their assets. And add to that the corporate reaction of freezing expenditures, including those for security.

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