Voltaire is famous for noting that the main problem with common sense is that it's not all that common. Proof of that abounds in the security industry, where people who should know better do idiotic things daily, according to Roger G. Johnston, a member of the vulnerability assessment team at Argonne National Laboratory.
At the 2010 Usenix Security Symposium today, he presented some surprising (or not) examples of what he has seen as a vulnerability assessor: security devices, systems, and programs with little or no security -- or security thought -- built in. There are the well-designed security products foolishly configured by those who buy them, thus causing more vulnerability than before the devices were installed.
Then there are the badly-thought-out security rules and security programs laden in security theater, lacking muscle and teeth. In fact, some policies only make some employees disgruntled because they are treated like enemies and children. In turn, the company risks turning them into malicious insiders.
Johnston described three common problems: People forgetting to lock the door, people too stupid to be helped and -- worst of all -- intelligent people who don't exploit their abilities for the betterment of security. Enter what he calls the dog snot model of security-- where intelligence and common sense exist but are not used.
He came up with the term by watching his dogs, who often crash themselves against the picture window facing the yard when they want to go chase a squirrel. Hence, the windows are covered in dog snot. Call it the classic banging-the-head-against-the-wall approach.
"In the interest of following the American way, we will do nothing until there's an incident. Then we will massively overreact," he said, running through several examples of this in both the physical and cyber security cultures: