Securitas Vigilantiae Instantis Praemium

The inner title page of MI5’s authorised history shows one of the Service’s past logos, bearing the motto: “Securitas Vigilantiae
Instantis Praemium”, intended to mean “Security is the reward of unceasing vigilance”. This seems to me to be as good a motto now as it was seventy years ago.

An enterprise has numerous tools at its disposal to control what happens on its infrastructure. Some examples are technical controls (such as port filtering, or blocking access to certain types of website) and non-technical controls (such as Acceptable Use Policies, violation of which could lead to disciplinary action).

Controls like these describe what you hope should be happening on your network, which isn’t necessarily what is happening. Controls may have been:

  • Intended, but not actually implemented at all
  • Improperly implemented
  • Removed
  • Changed
  • Circumvented (intentionally or otherwise)
  • Or they may not be as effective as you’d have hoped (anti-virus is a good example).

Implementing a control and then leaving it to its own devices doesn’t seem like a viable tactic. Rather than believing it to be effective, we need to make sure it is effective through strategies like the collection of information and the (unceasing) vigilance to detail required to extract the greatest meaning from it.

By doing this, you can verify the effectiveness of your controls. When things go wrong, you can use what you’ve collected to help you understand what happened and how you can modify your controls to help prevent it from happening again.

Without vigilance, we have our head in the sand, hoping for the best. If our vigilance is not unceasing, Murphy’s Law dictates that something Bad will happen the moment we take our eye off the ball.

“Securitas Vigilantiae Instantis Praemium” hardly ranks as catchy, but it certainly hits the nail on the head. Well, one of the nails, anyway.


Alec Waters is responsible for all things security at Dataline Software, and can be emailed at alec.waters(at)dataline.co.uk

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