Rich makes the case that A Is Not for Availability in this week’s FireStarter. Basically his thinking is that the A in the CIA triad needs to be attribution, rather than availability. At least when thinking about security information (as opposed to infrastructure). Turns out that was a rather controversial position within the Securosis band.

Yes, that’s right, we don’t always agree with each other. Some research firms gloss over these disagreements, forcing a measure of consensus, and then force every analyst to toe the line. Lord knows, you can never disagree in front of a client. Never. Well, Securosis is not your grandpappy’s research firm. Not only do we disagree with each other, but we call each other out, usually in a fairly public manner.

Rich is not wrong that attribution is important – whether discussing information or infrastructure security. Knowing who is doing what is critical. We’ve done a ton of research about the importance of integrating identity information into your security program, and will continue. Especially now that Gunnar is around to teach us what we don’t know. But some of us are not ready to give up the ghost on availability. Not just yet, anyway.

One of the core tenets of the Pragmatic CSO philosophy is a concept I called the Reasons to Secure. There are five, and #1 is Maintain Business System Availability. You see, if key business systems go down, you are out of business. Period. If it’s a security breach that took the systems down, you might as well dust off your resume – you’ll need it sooner rather than later. Again, I’m not going to dispute the importance of attribution, especially as data continues to spread to the four corners of the world and we continue to lose control of it. But not to the exclusion of availability as a core consideration for every decision we make.

And I’m not alone in challenging this contention. James Arlen, one of our Canadian Wonder Twins, sent this succinct response to our internal mailing list this AM:

As someone who is often found ranting that availability has to be the first member of the CIA triad instead of the last, I’m not sure that I can just walk away from it. I’m going to have to have some kind of support, perhaps a process to get from hugging availability to thinking about the problem more holistically. Is this ultimately about the maturation of the average CIO from superannuated VP of IT to a real information manager who is capable of paying attention to all the elements of attribution (as you so eloquently describe) and beginning the process of folding in the kind of information risk management that the CISOs have been carrying while the CIO plays with blinky lights?

James makes an interesting point here, and it’s clearly something that is echoed in the P-CSO: the importance of thinking in business terms, which means it’s about ensuring everything is brought back to business impact. The concept of information risk management is still pretty nebulous, but ultimately any decision we make to restrict access or bolster defenses needs to be based on the economic impact on the business.

So maybe the CIA acronym becomes CIA^2, so now you have availability and attribution as key aspects of security. But at least some of us believe you neglect availability at your peril. I’m pretty sure the CEO is a lot more interested in whether the systems that drive the business are running than who is doing what. At least at the highest level.