What is Security?

Security is one of the words of the age, and IT security is one of our most important concerns. Computer security, digital security, IT security, whatever term is used to describe it, the overall concerns are the same. The main issues all come from the value of our data, data about us, or data belonging to us (however, there are also some concerns about hardware). This data can be on our own computers or gadgets, or online, but wherever it is it is in need of protection.

However, security is a frequently misunderstood concept, and it is important to understand what security is in order to apply it well. Security is about protecting and accessing a resource. If I want to prevent access to a secure room containing my most treasured posessions, one of the best ways I can do this is to bury it in the ground and pour concrete over the whole thing. However, this would prevent me having easy access to it. Considering that the room contains treasured posessions, I would likely still want to access them every now and again. Instead, I would need to develop a system which allowed me convenient access, whilst making it difficult for others to gain access. Therefore, there is an inherent balancing act required.

Bruce Schneier, one of the world’s top security experts, calls security a trade off. The easier it becomes for an owner to access their resource, the easier it also becomes for unathorised parties to gain access as well. Security trade offs are generally made due to the the value of the resource, and the frequency with which access is needed. Passwords are an obvious example of trade offs, where people will generally make passwords they use often easier to remember and enter than those they use less frequently. Extremely valuable resources will tend to be better protected and have longer entry requirements, such as bank safety deposit boxes.

Given that security involves this balancing act, for anybody looking to improve their own security, understanding these trade offs will allow them to make better decisions about their priorities in these matters.

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