Last week I visited the London Design Museum on South Bank. One of the current exhibitions is about Dieter Rams—not someone I was aware of previously—who is head of design at Braun, the German consumer electronics manufacturer. The exhibition included scores of examples of products he has designed over 40 years; with many on loan from Braun's own archives.
Ten Principles of Good Design
But Rams' ten most important principles of good design caught my eye since it seemed they might apply more widely. I wondered how they might be applied to good security. Of course the ten most important security principles would actually be something else, but let's just look at Rams' ones.
design security is innovative
Technological developments offer new opportunities for innovative security. Security practitioners must innovate to meet new threats.
design security makes a product useful
Interesting in the security context. I believe that good usability includes good security and vice versa. Good security won't always make a web application useful, but equally good design can never truly make up for fundamental shortcomings of a product. Good security should enhance the application, not detract from it.
design security is aesthetic
I don't expect aesthetic quality to be mentioned any time soon in the ISO 27000 series of standards, but if we can achieve beauty, that should be preferred. For example, ugliness in user interfaces inevitably introduces errors in data selection and entry, and these may have a security impact.
design security makes a product understandable
Self-explanatory security? Yes, the inclusion of security measures should aid the user's understanding. Security measures should complement the software and make sense.
design security is unobtrusive
Security should not get in the way of the other functionality and where it is visible, its reason and method of use should be obvious.
design security is honest
Cut out the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD). For example, don't include claims about security (and privacy) that are not true or cannot be substantiated.
design security is long-lasting
Repeated changes to software are prone to introducing faults and should require a carefully controlled change management processes. By getting it right first, and not having to change security measures later, this makes better security.
design security is thorough down to the last detail
Building security in at an early stage by assessing the risks and requirements reduces the chance of having to make arbitrary decisions later or security implementation being left to chance.
design security is environmentally friendly
This one is harder, but perhaps good security uses resources more efficiently? It is certainly more expensive to fix faults later, so there could be an environmental benefit.
design security is as little design as possible
Purity? Simplicity? Architectural and programming code complexity leads to faults that may be security vulnerabilities. It is also difficult to maintain. Yes, keep it as simple as possible to achieve the security requirements.
Maybe in time we'll have security celebrities who adorn software packaging and interfaces with their signatures, like sportsman on clothing or chefs on saucepans. I don't think Dieter Rams would ever want his signature on one of his designs—they are enough of an inspiration without adding un-necessary branding.
Top Ten Most Critical Web Application Security Risks
There's a different "ten" being presented and discussed at OWASP London this Thursday: the OWASP Top Ten 2010 RC1. Web application developers should find the new document and associated cheat sheets a great help but it's very important for organisation subject to Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCIDSS). As usual all meetings are free and open to anyone, but prior registration is required. The meetings are very popular, so register now if you haven't already.
Posted on: 02 March 2010 at 09:37 hrs