Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson is a very readable and honest portrayal of one of the most influential personalities in the computer industry from 1980 to the present. Often caustic, abrupt, and driven, Steve Jobs was a man of extreme brilliance who could intuitively understand what makes a great product. His marketing and design shrewdness were without peer. Jobs had his share of failures and more than his share of successes. Apple II, Macintosh, iMac, iPod, iPhone, and all iPad reflect Jobs' ability to orchestrate human capital to create truly innovative products.
A subtext of the book, and not directly called out, however, is Jobs' awareness of the value of intellectual property and the need to secure this. Jobs shows concern for the security of Apple’s intellectual property and goes to great lengths to ensure that security. For example, he imposed strong controls on the design area where the Apple design team works:
“The design studio where Jony Ive reigns, on the ground floor of Two Infinite Loop on the Apple campus, is shielded by tinted windows and a heavy clad, locked door. Just inside is a glass-booth reception desk where two assistants guard access. Even high-level Apple employees are not allowed in without special permission.”
–Isaacson, Walter, Steve Jobs, p. 345, Simon & Schuster, Inc. Kindle Edition.
However, the contribution Jobs makes to information security is an indirect one. This contribution is the recognition that the true value of Apple’s products is in the design. It is not in the physical assets themselves. The idea and its associated intellectual property is the true tangible asset.
For too long the information security industry has looked at information homogenously and assumed that all hacking is created equally because all information is created equally. This could not be further from the truth. What Jobs realized was that information has a true monetary value, and that value is reflected in the market value of the information expressed as a product or service. Apple manufactures very little. Apple is a design and marketing firm – Apple’s huge market capitalization comes from the new economy of ideas. This should act as an indicator for all of us in the information security field. Not all information has the same value, and so does not need the same protections, and the way we think about information protection and these protections associated architecture needs to change.
The lesson in Steve Jobs is that we as security professionals need to look at problems differently. The way we protected the enterprise in the last decade cannot be the way we protect the enterprise in the next. I am not sure either Jobs or Isaacson would have thought they were writing to security professionals, but there is a message for us here. Ideas expressed as digital information are the new products. They are worth infinitely more than any hardware or software system that tracks, manipulates, or manages that information. Our focus should not be on protecting networks or infrastructure; it should be on protecting the intellectual property that travels in these networks and systems.
The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.
—Apple’s “Think Different” commercial, 1997
(Source: Isaacson, Walter (2011-10-24), Steve Jobs, Simon & Schuster, Inc., Kindle Edition)