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Viewing posts tagged Security and Economics


Been a long time since I posted anything. I'm trying to get back into the swing.


It has occurred to me that you could develop an interesting incentive program for an information security team, assuming that you believe a couple of data points (or can come up with your own) and your primary concern is a data breach. In my opinion, security people are all too often incented only to maintain security - not to optimize the investment in security. Interests need to be aligned.


Perhaps there is a lesson for infosec professionals in this post on the Affect heuristic on Overcoming Bias:

Suppose an airport must decide whether to spend money to purchase some new equipment, while critics argue that the money should be spent on other aspects of airport safety. Slovic et. al. (2002) presented two groups of subjects with the arguments for and against purchasing the equipment, with a response scale ranging from 0 (would not support at all) to 20 (very strong support). One group saw the measure described as saving 150 lives. The other group saw the measure described as saving 98% of 150 lives. The hypothesis motivating the experiment was that saving 150 lives sounds vaguely good - is that a lot? a little? - while saving 98% of something is clearly very good because 98% is so close to the upper bound of the percentage scale. Lo and behold, saving 150 lives had mean support of 10.4, while saving 98% of 150 lives had mean support of 13.6.
The post also shows that people tend to over-estimate the value of going with known brands, even though they might not add any extra value:
Ganzach (2001) found the same effect in the realm of finance. According to ordinary economic theory, return and risk should correlate positively - or to put it another way, people pay a premium price for safe investments, which lowers the return; stocks deliver higher returns than bonds, but have correspondingly greater risk. When judging familiar stocks, analysts' judgments of risks and returns were positively correlated, as conventionally predicted. But when judging unfamiliar stocks, analysts tended to judge the stocks as if they were generally good or generally bad - low risk and high returns, or high risk and low returns.
But perhaps you don't have time to consider all this, because you've got a deadline!
Finucane et. al. also found that time pressure greatly increased the inverse relationship between perceived risk and perceived benefit, consistent with the general finding that time pressure, poor information, or distraction all increase the dominance of perceptual heuristics over analytic deliberation.


The anonymous CEO blogger has accused me of IT propoganda. Don't worry my feelings aren't hurt ;). Of course, it is in my interest as the CEO of a security firm that more CEOs recognize the value that investing in security brings. However, I would point out a few things that IMO, keep this post from being pure 'propoganda'.


Kiss me, I'm vaccinated:

People who have the flu spread the virus so getting a flu shot not only reduces the probability that I will get the flu it reduces the probability that you will get the flu. In the language of economics the flu shot creates an external benefit, a benefit to other people not captured by the person who paid the costs of getting the shot. The external benefits of a flu shot can be quite large. Under some conditions each person who is vaccinated reduces the expected number of other people who get the flu by 1.5.
Perhaps we have been taking the wrong tack thinking about how to punish PC users who have malware on their machines.. Maybe offering additional benefits to users with verifiable security mechanisms is a better solution. Maybe one of those benefits would be access to IRC channels often used by malware to contact their controller.

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