Mythic Monday – The Creation of the Aztec People
According to Aztec myth, after the previous inhabitants of the Earth had been turned into fish, the gods wanted to make more people. Now, one would rationally expect that if the gods liked people so much, they wouldn’t have flooded the Earth in the first place and turned all the previous people into fish, but the Mesoamerican myths don’t seem to be much for rationality and forethought.
Anyway, to create the people, the gods need the magical bones where were guarded by the Lord of Death. After a fairly typical quest followed by a challenge and the reneging by the Lord of Death on the deal, the hero carrying the bag of bones fell to the bottom of a pit and the bones were broken. That, of course, is why the people come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Of course, we are quite lucky that the Aztec hero was such a klutz. The numerous variations in humanity have rendered us resistant to various plagues. (Technically, this is only partly true as there is evidence that humans are more genetically identical than most animals (except for cheetahs), but we’re ignoring that here.) The more variation there is in a genome, the greater the resistance to threats. Though similar concern has been raised about the ongoing homogenization of our food supply and how it renders us vulnerable to threats. this blog is about I.T. and business security.
For quite some time, I have been arguing against homogenization within certain businesses. The current practice of having all systems identical makes things very easy to manage. It makes it easy for auditors to verify that proper security standards are in place. It also can tie into automatic patching plans and keep everything up to date. However, it means that every person in the organization has adapt themselves to the same software and that if an attacker manages to get into one system, they can march right into every other one.
Like all things, using system images is a tradeoff. It seems that many organizations implement imaging just because it’s best practice. Sure it solves some problems, but any change also creates others. Often, an imaging project identifies numerous applications to drop out of the environment. This is great for general security, as it reduces attack surface, but often many of these are there because they make the business more effective.
Given that the whole point of “the computer revolution” was that we are now able to adapt technology to our lives are very small levels. It seems like questionable logic to take devices that are capable of enhancing individual abilities and compensating for individual flaws and turn them all into identical machines and then force people to match them. Richard Bejtlich gets into this in more depth over in his post Let a Hundred Flowers Blossom.
My point isn’t that imaging is bad. In some environments, it’s a necessity. (Mostly regulated environments or those lacking a technically-skilled workforce who can select the appropriate applications to enhance their productivity.) It just shouldn’t be a goal without consideration of the total business impact.
After all, people are all different. If the technology is all the same, it obviously won’t work as well for some people than it will for others. The question to ask is whether the benefit of uniformity outweighs the cost of productivity.