Security, Code Red!

The Enterprise Security Architecture, Part 1

In a recent post, I talked specifically about the security challenges faced in the Big Data field.  Of the many examples referenced, the one most recently on everyone’s mind is probably the Equifax hack involving the Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and more of at least 143 million people.  It was a staggering amount of critical data stolen in the security breach.  Additionally, over the weeks that followed, more details were discovered regarding the breach which are mind-boggling.

  • The original security breach was on March 10th, 4 days after the a security flaw in the Apache web server applications was discovered and published along with a fix.
  • Equifax discovered the breach on July 29th and took some of the affected systems offline for up to 11 days to resolve the issues.
  • On August 1st & 2nd, 3 top executives from Equifax sell off nearly $2 million dollars worth of company stock.
  • Finally, on September 7th, Equifax publicly announced about the security breach.

Since that time, numerous executives at Equifax have either left or been let go, and the investigation has shown similarities to other cyber-attacks that were carried out by Chinese hackers, but nothing conclusive has been publicly announced as of this time (Bloomberg Businessweek).

There is a lot of ambiguity regarding the timeline of the initial breach, considering that Equifax itself originally reported that they were hacked in mid May.  However, from a security perspective, the most critical issue is why did it take 4 months before Equifax was aware that there had been a security breach at all.  The organization was supposed to have sophisticated cyber-security policies and tools in place.  Additionally, the public is most angry about why the breach wasn’t disclosed until a full month after it was discovered!


So how does an organization protect itself in today’s security challenged environment? There are the obvious steps that an individual or organization can take such as virus protection, malware protection, keeping up to date on security patches, limiting access to critical systems, etc.  But haphazard methods can no longer keep up with the rate at which hackers break through security measures and efforts.  There needs to be a plan.  For organizations, this can be referred to as the Security Architecture.  Thorn, Christen, Gruber, Portman & Ruf (2008) defined Security Architecture as:

A Security Architecture is a cohesive security design, which addresses the requirements (e.g. authentication, authorization, etc.) – and in particular the risks of a particular environment/scenario, and specifies what security controls are to be applied where. The design process should be reproducible.

Not only does there need to be specific actions taken to ensure the security of the organizations systems and data, but there needs to be a cohesive security design that governs how security is managed and controlled.  Once the organization has an Enterprise Architecture established, this should be even more comprehensive.

An enterprise security architecture needs to address applications, infrastructure, processes, as well as security management and operations.  (Thorn, et. al., 2008)

As in other aspects of Enterprise Architecture, a Security Architecture brings a measure of standardization which simplifies governance of the security as well as potentially brings cost savings to the organization.  Security resources can be deployed across the enterprise to minimize potential risks.   Of course, if keeping your security measures up to date is not part of the Security Architecture, then like Equifax, there will be harsh consequences to be faced.



Thorn, A., Christen, T., Gruber, B., Portman, R. & Ruf, L. (2008). What is a Security Architecture.  Information Security Society Switzerland.


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