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September 2004

Forming enterprise security best practices from past mistakes

George Santayana's warning, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," is constantly played out by infosecurity professionals, especially in the unfortunate repetitions of easily prevented security failures and wasteful overreactions to threats. Security practitioners who lack a firm foundation in the profession's history will continue to retard infosecurity's growth as a mature discipline. Measuring risk and generating enterprise security best practices are impossible without applying historical experience. Case in point: the general lack of skepticism about "hostile Web sites." This summer's warnings about vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer had a familiar ring to them, and for good reason--we've had multiple, similar warnings for more than a decade, ever since Java was mistakenly characterized as a significant danger to the Internet. Security pros with a grounding in history won't squander resources on such low-risk threats. They know HTTP is an insignificant source of malware compared to e-mail, file ...

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