In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss trusting your vendors. You trust them to make their best effort at producing bug-free code. You probably trust that their software will perform at least 50% of what they promise. You might trust them to eventually build at least some of the features on their roadmap. But can you trust them to not build secret backdoors into the software they give you?
Snowdon showed we cannot trust any large American tech company because they send our data straight into the databases of the National Security Agency. Apparently, you cannot trust Chinese smartphone vendor Xiaomi. The Lithuanian National Cyber Security Centre just published the results of their investigation, and they recommend that people with such phones replace them with non-Xiaomi phones "as fast as reasonably possible."
It turns out these phones send some kind of encrypted data to a server in Singapore, and that it has censorship built in. Phrases such as "Free Tibet" simply cannot be rendered by the browser or any other app. Right now, that feature is not active in Europe, but it might be enabled at any time.
During the nuclear disarmament discussions between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan was fond of quoting a Russian proverb: Doveryay, no proveryay - Trust, but verify. The ability for both parties to verify what the other was doing became a defining feature of the eventual agreement.
In software, we can verify Open Source. If you cannot find open source software that does what you need, many enterprise software vendors will make their source code available to you under reasonable non-disclosure provisions.
In your organization, there should be both trust and verification. Don't simply trust your software vendors. Trust, but verify.
Beneficial Intelligence is a bi-weekly podcast with stories and pragmatic advice for CIOs, CTOs, and other IT leaders. To get in touch, please contact me at email@example.com