Security Lessons from Nature – Long Worm
There is a story that we hear as kids about worms. We’re told that you can cut worms into as many pieces as you like and they’ll each grow into a new worm. As cool as that sounds, it’s a lie… mostly.
Regular earthworms don’t regenerate, so you can set aside your plans to buy worms on the Internet, cut them up, and sell them at a profit. However, after generations of scientists spent their lives gleefully chopping up worms and recording the results, we know of a few families of worms that do manage to more of less regenerate.
The key seems to be the segments. When you make a cut, the number of segments connected to one another determine the worm’s ability to regenerate. Certain worms can, in fact, grow from both ends and go on to live fairly normal lives… at least, as far as worms go.
This can be applied to business systems as well, though we call the segments different things at different levels. At a programming level, we work with modules and services. A good design would use lose coupling and connect the segments in such a way that some of them could fail and the system would still function. At a system/network level, you can build highly available systems out of nodes and connect them with either a cluster or virtualization system. Again, the goal would be that if any nodes fail, the system itself would survive.
What’s interesting is that the same model works at the business as well. One of the techniques discussed at last month’s BIZ presentation for business acquisition, was to build your business such that you can spin portions off. Business incubators often work the same way.
The thing we often forget about security is that it’s not just about keeping the wrong people out and allowing the right people in. It’s about survival. The reason we care so much about access and is that one of the easiest ways to ensure survivability is to prevent bad people from getting in. However, if the ultimate goal is to survive, you also have to consider ways to thrive in changing environments. Security should be intrinsically tied into the business in the same way that the segments tie into the worm.
The segments do more than just allow the worm to survive should it be dissevered in the name of scientific discovery. They give the worm flexibility and help contain organs. In fact, the longest worms in the world are segmented.
Makes you think, doesn’t it?