Saturday, April 12, 2008

A new type of nomads...

The Economist has a special topic on Mobile Telecoms this week. In the article Our nomadic future (Economist, April 12th--18th 2008, page 16) the author makes an interesting point. He postulates that by providing knowledge workers with mobile connectivity wherever they are, whenever they want, our society is reverting back to nomadism. "The emerging class of digital nomads also wander, but they take virtually nothing with them; wherever they go, they can easily reach people and information."

While mobile connectivity might seem like just an additional channel, nobody would have believed that "Traffic patterns are beginning to change again: the rush hours at 9am and 5pm are giving way to mare varied "daisy-chain" patterns, with people going backwards and forwards between the office, home, and all sorts of other places throughout the day".


I find this observation very interesting. When I was working as a consultant, I was noticing similar behavior. Having mobile Internet on my laptop, I could plug into the grid whenever, wherever I wanted. It changed the way that I worked; I would often chose to travel to a client's site off a few hours early to avoid rush hour, and when I got close to my destination find a nice spot in a picturesque environment, join the virtual world, and work for a while.

As information security professionals, this observation confirms something that we have been seeing for quite a while. Perimeter-based security, while necessary, is insufficient. We are constantly crossing the boundary between our own secure "tents" and wander out into the desert. While we are in the desert, we bring our belongings; we make sure we are connected in some way, shape or form.

How many of us still leave our homes, our offices, or our schools without a cell phone, a smart phone, a PDA, or a laptop computer. Our memories are on these devices, as are just about all of our most valuable assets.

With reverting to nomadism, the news paper reports, we revert back to tribal life. And indeed, we are connected to our tribe members through twitter, instant messenger, social networks, and email. With nomadism come great benefits; a social network that will be there in case of trouble, people to bounce ideas of, etc. Yet, it also comes with disadvantages. In closely knit societies, there is no privacy. Everyone knows everything about anyone.

For us as information security professionals, this trend will make our lives much more interesting. The challenges that are presented to us will become more complicated, more extensive, and have larger impacts. While IBM thinks that the security business has no future, I believe we have an interesting, but different future ahead.

Yes, security will become inherently embedded in technology, but there will always be a need for people who understand security in all of its aspects: human behavior, risk-reducing policies, incident management, and using secure technology effectively and efficiently.

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