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"Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well!"

One of the more entertaining members of the UK's IT security community is Symantec's 'Security Theoretician' in the UK, Dr Jeremy Ward. Jeremy used to be with the Cabinet Office before he exchanged his service issue Walther PPK for a much larger Mercedes. These days he's still just as busy saving the world, but mostly from the constant threat posed by computer viruses and hacking.

Next week will see InfoSecurity Europe taking place at London's Olympia and I asked Jeremy, who will be presenting, what he viewed as this year's "Big Threat" - if there is such a thing.

"It's the 'pool of tears'," he said, quoting from Lewis Carroll: "'the pool was getting quite crowded with the birds and animals that had fallen into it'".
"You've lost me," I said. "Alice in Wonderland"?

"That's right" said Jeremy. "The big problem facing us all is the always-on, constantly connected pool. It's something that Dick Clarke, the US cyberthreat guru has already warned about. Clarke said quite recently, that we need to re-think the 'unwritten rule' that everything on the Internet is automatically connected to every single place on the planet. Continuing with his 'Alice in Wonderland' theme of wireless disaster, Jeremy added “It's the 'Mad Hatter's Tea Party' out there – but much worse, particularly when you consider the explosion in wireless networking. And in much the same way as that Tea Party, we are going to see networks increasingly plagued by the sudden arrival of unwelcome guests - from hackers, to hacktivists and cyber-terrorists. That is unless business wakes-up and takes the danger from the spread of uncontrolled wireless networks as seriously as it should".

Now we may think that everyone must, by now, know all know about wireless and the danger posed by drive-by hackers with Pringles cans - yet, only recently I walked into one of the more sensitive offices in the country and heard it 'suggested' that the wireless network probably wasn't secure, as if the topic was a fairly unimportant one.
"Of course," says Jeremy, "this situation has everything to do with policy and responsibility, rather than technology - something that appears to have escaped most of us in the head-long rush down the 'rabbit hole' of innovation. The time has come to pause, take stock, and get down to some serious security risk assessment and risk management. We must all be involved in developing a 'culture of security', where security is built in to all new systems and becomes an intuitive part of the behaviour of all users of information systems and networks."

That of course is voice of reason and most informed IT Directors agonise over the spread of wireless networks only a little more than they worry about Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs). And while a firm policy can be set at the top of the organisation, the increasingly consumerised technology, the Palms or IPAQs or Cisco Aeronets, has an unwelcome habit of creeping in from the outside.

So Wonderland may yet be coming to an office near you whether you wish it to or not.


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