What Reality TV can teach us about Security

August 6th, 2010

I came across this TV show the other day called “The Colony” and it is on the Discovery Channel and is touted as a post apocalyptic exercise to see if a bunch of random strangers (with various different skill sets) can get together and rebuild after a major disaster. This concept is right up my ally as I eat up any kind of post apocalyptic survivalist content I can get my hands on so I decided to give it a shot. What it ended up being was a reality TV show. It disappointed me right off the bat but I stuck it out to see if there were any redeeming factors. What I ended up coming away with was a few new tricks for surviving a major disaster but what really struck me was the fact that they were preaching security.

As the show starts, the “survivors” or “colonists” get to this gigantic warehouse and set up shop. One of the first things they do is set up a very basic defense of the warehouse by closing and locking doors. Not a whole lot but it will keep the passer by deterred from getting into the warehouse. A few episodes in, one of the “colonists”, Joey (ex drug trafficker that spent six years in prison) started to be concerned about the security of the building and started bringing up the issue at their daily meetings. The group kept putting it of for more important things such as a shower stall with heated water. Joey brought it up once or twice saying that there was a section of the rear perimeter wall that was lacking barbed wire but it kept getting put on the back burner. Well guess what happened…

One night while they were all sleeping, a group of marauder started banging at the front gate, woke all of the “colonists” up, and grabbed their attention while two others hopped over the section of the wall that was lacking barbed wire. Those two¬†marauders that got in, then proceeded to ravage their food supply by taking all that they could and then smashing all of the rest. After it was all said and done, three or four days of food was gone. Can you guess what was the new priority the very next day?

The next day, the only thing they did was security. They got the barbed wire over the patch of wall that didn’t have it, they made entrances inaccessible, they reinforced walls, and started projects for building weapons. This is just one example of their security being breached. They also received attacks similar to insider attacks and brute force attacks. The cool thing about this is that it can all relate over to the world of computer systems and network security and the defenses against these attacks map directly over as well.

There are a few points that get displayed really well

a) Security is really only a feeling
    •Just because you feel secure with high walls and some security precautions does not mean you really are secure
b) Security is not something you can throw on the back burner and expect to come out unscathed
c) Always prepare for the Advanced Persistent Threat (ooohhh! buzzword!) and targeted attacks
d) Listen to the the people that specialize in their field
e) Noah built the Arc before the flood
    •Security should be implemented before the compromise

All in all, it was really comforting to see a show put out for the general public that demonstrates some of the issues that we face in InfoSec and may possibly help us get another step forward in education about the issues as well as security as a standard practice across all systems and networks.

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