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FUD, risk and videotape...
From: "Craig Wright" <cwright () bdosyd com au>
Date: Sat, 3 Mar 2007 21:03:23 +1100


Risk is an area surrounded in uncertainty. It is a probablistic function of threat, exposure, vulnerability and the 
impact associated with the exploit of the aforementioned factors. Risk can be modelled quantitatively using inferential 
means and methods such as point processes, Monte Carlo markov chain simulations, asymptotically optimal tests and other 
statistical methods.

Security modelling correlates extremely well to Poisson based survival and hazard functions.

This said, the accuracy of models is reliant on the accuracy of the factors determining the model. As such, it is 
necessary to carefully assess both threats and vulnerability with an eye on the probablistic likelihood associated with 
the impact of a particular effect.

By overstating threat we create bias.

By overstating impact we create bias.

By not assessing the true nature of a vulnerability we skew perception of risk.

Without a true quantitative measure of risk we make errors. These mistakes come back to haunt us. People, including 
managers and others in our organisations remember our mistakes more than our successes. When we skew the impact of a 
vulnerability, such that we state are higher risk than it really contains, we cry wolf. People remember each time we 
cry wolf.

People react negatively. The next time a real vulnerability with a serious impact and threat is discovered we are not 
believed. We have cried wolf too often. Our calls are silent, drowned in the din of past false assertions.

So I reiterate, yet again, not for the last time, FUD is bad.

With the innumerable numbers of valid attack vectors, why make up another one. We need to prove our assertions or find 
where another has already done so before we start making these assertions.

One response to the fax question talked about determining the port and IP address associated with the fax service. Fax 
is not an Internet protocol. As such it has no port. This is exactly the type of comment that brings disrepute to the 
information Security community. Each and everyone of us binds the reputation of as all in his or her comments. To an 
extent, we are all judged for good or ill not only on our own achievements, but also on those of our cohort. We are 
judged by the action of our peers.

F When we spread fear we sow the seeds of mistrust. This is doubt in the truth of our arguments.

U When we propagate uncertainty, we leave those who listen to us unable to believe us.

D When we espouse doubt we create confusion.

It is common for those new to the information Security profession to complain that people do not listen to them. It is 
common for them to state that management do not take them seriously. It is likely that they feel that their assertions 
are not believed. We are sowing the seeds of fear, uncertainty and doubt. Yet, we complain when we start to reap what 
we have sown. When we cry wolf we are astonished to find no one listens any longer.

So again I say FUD is bad.


Craig S Wright


        Nam et ipsa scientia potestas es - Knowledge is power. (Sir Francis Bacon)

Manager - Computer Assurance Services
BDO Chartered Accountants & Advisers
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<Mailto:CWright () bdosyd com au>

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