BLUF – Some things are bent to suit. Some are broken in process. Some things just have to burn. The following are considerations for metaphorical implications.
As a follow-up to bending and breaking, where we looked into how we bend to make things fit, the next step examines: what comes after something is broken? It’s not simply cleaned up and rebuilt into a similar/ new form. Just as with any form of breaking and recovery we ask: how do we build better?
It helps when we build on razed ground.
Letting it burn: Aside from the relative, dark satisfaction found with letting something burn, this is also a new starting point for what will come to replace what stood before. There are likely resources left to use, there are likely processes and things needing a new home. More than simply breaking – where parts and infrastructure can still be used in some, albeit different, capacity – having it burn completely means it was erased, perhaps lending fertile soil to work with. Despite the inconvenience, there is a good chance it was no longer fit to serve the capacity it stood for originally; either it was no longer keeping up with scale or the need itself changed in ways and proper adjustment didn’t occur.
Building with control fires: An aspect of wildfire management is conducted with deliberate fires set to create a barrier, burning away potential fuel which may otherwise allow an uncontrolled fire to take on new, destructive form. Control fires are essentially using destruction for risk management, looking ahead to limit exposure by breaking – or in this case burning – the uncontrollable aspects of the environment. Now this is not a blog about forest fires but digital spaces . The challenge in digital spaces is to find what is potential fuel and how to clear it. Even managing more clearcut areas, such as patch management and CVEs, can become difficult, in part because there are so many, in part as we realise how many second and third-order effects may result from the changes to the cyber ecosystem. This can give way to the temptation to completely disconnect from the risk imposed by digital spaces – essentially a control burn of everything. Which in turn would create a desert, rather defeating the purpose.
Collateral damage considerations: A top of mind consideration is about other collateral damage that might occur from our playing with fire. In some cases, what we burn may not have a convenient means of replacement, which is what we mean when we refer to burning bridges or legacy. The other aspect is the limits of control we have on initiating irreversible actions. Once past the event horizon it takes on a life of its own. Beautiful in its own right. Unpredictable in its impact.
When we look at disruptive digital startups challenging incumbents, appreciation is given to the clean, clear integration and user experiences they offer. New growth in fertile soil.
Incumbents and large institutions that have operated for decades through many waves of technologies by comparison are massive, cumbersome with legacy technology and infrastructure. More potentially flammable brush.
Perhaps an unfair comparison, but seems the new growth occurs where ground was cleared. Also seems some trees survive the fires, where the underlying growth does not. A lens that can help us focus on strategic and resilience challenges when we look at cyber risk.