Security Lessons from Nature – Anachoresis
Anachoresis. The word can mean many things referring to hermitages, animals or bacteria. Now, as interesting as the medical definition is, I am more interested in the zoological context today. When the word is used in reference to little critters, it describes the habit of hiding in crevices to avoid predators. If you’re a mouse, such a strategy works great. You just scurry about eating seeds all day and when it’s time to sleep, you find a nice little hole and hide from all the cats that hunt at night.
The strategy, of course, is less effective when implemented by elephants.
As with most security strategies, this one works better for some animals than for others. The same applies to businesses. The equivalent strategy in the small business space is to try to “fly under the radar”. Much like mice hiding in holes, this strategy is only effective so long as there are other mice around for the predators to pursue. As soon as the easy prey is eaten, predators start learning other techniques to get at the more difficult prey. Lizards may lose their legs and evolve into snakes. Mammals became more slender and supple and grew into weasels.
True, in the business space, an attacker would be much happier to take control of a multi-million dollar business than a sole proprietorship. However, if all the big attackers are pursuing the bigger prey, the smaller attackers are free to go after all the little businesses hiding out in holes… and they’ve been busy.
Just like snakes and weasels, worm-based malware will crawl around the Internet looking for the little cracks and crevices in the security around small businesses. Like shrews, automated malware spread and look for juicy targets, which, when found, can be targeted by all. Similarly, like biological viruses, digital viruses can infect a small business and just wait for the right conditions to execute a payload.
The point of this isn’t to scare you. Realistically, small businesses don’t face the same threats that large enterprises do. However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t face any. It’s one thing to use that justification to avoid spending large amounts of money on expensive protection that you may not need, but it’s quite another to think that just because there are fewer threats that you are safe. No matter how good it is at hiding, a mouse is not safe from a snake. Just as a mouse uses more than one security technique, businesses of all sizes should consider how much of a target they are, who wants to attack them and take appropriate action.
Hiding in the sand will only take you so far.