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Surviving Security
Let's think about the meaning of the word “security” for a moment. In many ways, life is about the perpetual struggle for security-security from the elements and from hunger, financial security, emotional security, among others. Clearly, human beings seek stable, secure relationships with the world around them. (Well, the majority of us do, anyway.)

Unfortunately, as most of the major world religions relate, humankind is not destined to enjoy perfect security on this mortal plane. We see this philosophical abstraction represented in our everyday life. How many of us can consider ourselves truly secure in all aspects? Intuitively, we all understand that unpredictable threats could arise at any moment. So security, from the realist's point of view, has always been about mitigating risk; surviving the panoply of threats our world throws at us. We see examples of risk mitigation in our daily lives as well. We build houses in safe neighborhoods, put locks on our doors, drive the speed limit, and buy insurance. These are examples of dozens of rituals that have become almost habitual and encoded into our lives.

The need for security has existed since the introduction of the first computer. The paradigm has shifted in recent years, though, from terminal server mainframe systems, to client/server systems, to the widely distributed Internet. Although security is important, it has not always been critical to a company's success. With a mainframe system, you were mainly protecting your systems from resource abuse-either authorized users hogging resources or unauthorized users gaining access and using spare resources. Such abuse was damaging because system resources were costly in the early days of mainframes. As technology developed and the cost of system resources decreased, this issue became less important. Remote access to systems outside a company's network was almost nonexistent. Additionally, only the underground community had the knowledge and tools necessary to compromise a mainframe system.

The development of client/server technology led to a myriad of new security problems. Processor utilization was not a priority, but access to networks, systems, and files grew in importance. Access control became a priority as sensitive information, such as human resources and payroll, was being stored on public file servers. Companies did not want this type of data to be public knowledge, even to their employees, so new technologies such as granular access control, single sign-on, and data encryption were developed. As always, methods of circumventing and exploiting these new applications and security products quickly arose. Windows NT and UNIX became the operating systems of choice during this period.
Amanda Andress

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