A security lesson from 1687

A week of firsts it is then. This blog was created a few months ago, today finally a first real post. The reason to create the blog was to have a space for short comment pieces which didn’t make it into external sites, I’ll add posts later pointing at the pieces that did get published elsewhere, of which there have been a fair few recently,

The other “first” was that I was advised to open a Twitter account for the Kent Cyber Security Research Centre to publicize our activities. I’d searched Twitter occasionally in the past, but now I’ve also opened an account @KentCyberSec. This needed a “profile picture” which couldn’t be me, couldn’t be the non-existent logo of the centre (suggestions welcome!), and I didn’t want it to be one of the standard images such as this. Instead I used the image below. No one has asked yet why, but this blog post is dedicated to answering anyway!

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On my recent visit to Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh, India), I visited the ancient and well-known Golconda Fort, a Unesco world heritage site. It was started in the 13th century, and heavily fortified from the 16th century onwards. The picture above shows a water pipe from that era, part of the extensive system to ensure that in case of a siege the fort’s inhabitants would not run out of water. Several reservoirs like the one pictured below would be pumped full by camels driving pumps at the ground level.

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In 1687, the Muslim king Abul Hasan Qutb Shah ruled the Golconda fort, and the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb besieged the fort. The fort held out for 8 months, thanks to its food supplies, water supply infrastructure, and extensive fortifications. The fall of the fort after 8 months was because the officer Sarandaz Khan in the Qutb Shahi’s army was bribed and opened a secret door.

The security lesson from 1687 is thus a very familiar one, about weakest links and insider attacks …