Here’s a deep dark secret: I don’t particularly like security policy. I don’t always follow policy. Goodness knows that with the 50-250 page policies I’ve seen, I didn’t even understand the whole policy at a legal level – and if you don’t understand them at a legal level can you really say you’re following them? Not to mention when one policy contradicts another.
Even at companies with very robust security programs that include policy, it is very common that I approach developers and they don’t understand their companies policy either – like for example what data they need to protect. At a previous employer, we used to tease the folks that worked on PCI as having a “passion for compliance.” That was not a compliment. Policy came to sort of feel like a necessary evil at best.
Then I met and started to work with our CISO Rocio Baeza. I didn’t know that I’d end up hiring her as an internal policy, governance and risk resource for Jemurai but I’m lucky I did. Initially, we did policy because many of our clients that needed technical help also needed policies – some kind of rules to follow.
As we challenged Rocio to “get meta” on the problems with policy the way we try to “get meta” with the technical issues we see, she extended and then surpassed our expectations by developing an approach for Agile Governance. She implemented policies for clients that were short, to the point, readable and in our collective judgment captured the important things they needed to think about even better than the policy “books” we saw.
Writing policy in layman’s terms, with a focus on simplicity, was something that wasn’t immediately easy to appreciate. The shorter simple policy reads easily and doesn’t feel like it hurts the same way some policies do. Its like the old quote from Blaise Pascal:
We worked hard to make it shorter. Does that mean it doesn’t work? On the contrary, we think it works even better.