Simon Willison’s Weblog

High security is low security

Via Crypto-Gram, a great piece from Bruce Tognazzini about how tough security measures can actively reduce the security of a system:

My wife, the Doctor, was working over the summer at a local hospital. They are fiercely into security, requiring no fewer than four sets of passwords to navigate their system. And why not? There are confidential patient records on those systems! By golly, they ought to have eight sets of passwords, and really make things secure!

So works the mind of a D’ohLTish security engineer, working feverishly away in his cubicle in the basement next to the steam plant.

Take him out for a walk. Let him see the sunshine for the first time in years. Introduce him to some normal human beings. Be gentle at first; these are creatures with whom he has had no contact since being sucked into the depths of the university system.

Then, when his pallor begins to fade and he begins to take on signs of socialization, take him into the offices in the hospital and let him see the four sets of user names and password clinging to the monitors on yellow stickies (e. g., Post-It Notes) or, for the more security-minded, slid into the top drawer where no one would think to look.

This is High security is low security by Simon Willison, posted on 15th November 2003.

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Previously hosted at http://simon.incutio.com/archive/2003/11/15/highlow