Compliance As Property

In engineering, a common approach to security concerns is to address those requirements after delivery. This is inefficient for the following reasons:

  • Fails to consider how the requirement(s) can be integrated during development, thereby avoiding reengineering to accommodate the requirement 
  • Disempowers engineering teams by outsourcing compliance and the understanding of the requirements to another group.

To improve individual and team accountability, it is recommended to borrow a key concept from Restorative Justice, Conflict as Property. This concept asserts that the disempowerment of individuals in western criminal justice systems is the result of ceding ownership of conflict to a third-party. Similarly, enterprise security programs often operate as “policing” systems, with engineering teams considering security requirements as owned by a compliance group. While appearing to be efficient, this results in the siloing of compliance activities and infantilization of engineering teams. 

Does this mean that engineering teams must become deep experts in all aspects of information security? How can they own security requirements without a full grounding in these concepts? Ownership does not necessarily imply expertise. While one may own a house or vehicle and be responsible for maintenance, most owners will understand when outside expertise is required.

The ownership of all requirements by an engineering team is critical for accountability. To proactively address security concerns, a team must see these requirements as their “property” to address them efficiently during the design and development phases. It is neither effective nor scalable to hand off the management of security requirements to another group. While an information security office can and should validate that requirements have been met in support of Separation of Duties (SoD), ownership for implementation and understanding belongs to the engineering team. 

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