When Compliance Goes Bad

When Compliance Goes Bad
When Compliance Goes Bad

You may laugh at the image above, but for many of us, similar absurdities can be found in our own policy frameworks. Governance matters, because badly written, confusing policies and standards will drain the productivity of your technical teams as they run around trying to figure out what’s actually required. Cormac Herley expressed this lunacy best in his paper, So Long, And No Thanks for the Externalities: The Rational Rejection of Security Advice by Users:

“Given a choice between dancing pigs and security, users will pick dancing pigs every time.” While amusing, this is unfair: users are never offered security, either on its own or as an alternative to anything else. They are offered long, complex and growing sets of advice, mandates, policy updates and tips. These sometimes carry vague and tentative suggestions of reduced risk, never security. We have shown that much of this advice does nothing to make users more secure, and some of it is harmful in its own right. Security is not something users are offered and turn down. What they are offered and do turn down is crushingly complex security advice that promises little and delivers less.

As security and governance professionals, we are trusted stewards for our organizations. We have an obligation to ensure that individuals make good choices by clearly communicating our expectations. Otherwise, we just come off like institutional bullies.