Thinking outside the product box

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The dynamic nature of the cyber threat landscape guarantees that the threats and the actors behind them are always evolving, increasing in sophistication in order to circumvent the most robust security devices. As such, our cyber security mindset must evolve as well both from an understanding of what new and emerging threats we will face and the types of security solutions available that will best support the cyber security posture of our organizations and protect our most sensitive information. 

According to the market research firm Gartner, global spending on IT security is set to increase 8.2 percent in 2015 to $77 billion, with the world investing approximately $101 billion on information security in 2018. Markets and Markets agree with this trajectory, estimating that the cyber security market will grow to $170 billion by 2020. What this means is that there is no shortage of security technologies for organizations to choose from and incorporate into their enterprises.

However, with so many newer technologies offered, organizations are faced with trying to decide which solutions – and how many – are best applied to their infrastructures. The security approach an organization takes must be unique to the organization and take into consideration its unique needs and requirements. “One size fits all” is no longer a valid strategy. Defense-in-Depth has been long recognized as a best practice solution for organizations, advocating the implementation of a series of devices to form a multi-layered defense, incorporating preventative and post-breach remediation and data loss prevention capabilities. Although defense-in-depth provides a redundant framework, it can be costly for organizations’ bottom lines.

The theory behind “defense-in-depth” is simple: the more obstacles an attacker has to fight through, the better chance it has to deterring him from trying to penetrate the network. However, there has been some recent pushback with regards to this strategy. In some instances, experts believe that a “more security more better” tactic can be more detrimental to an enterprise increasing costs associated with the purchase and maintenance of multiple security devices as well as requiring intimate working knowledge of the interoperability of such systems. One security engineer claimed that he had seen some enterprises having as many as 80 security technologies applied in layers.

While having a robust security defense that includes antivirus, multi-factor authentication, firewalls, endpoint solutions, and intrusion detection systems (IDS) may provide a certain level of peace of mind, the complexity of this type of security infrastructure runs the risk of creating large repositories of information silos that need to be correlated. Add to this security equation the diverse threat intelligence feed offering from vendors, and the information can quickly become unwieldy for most security teams. Depending on the resources available, this may prove too insurmountable an effort for any organization to process and operationalize efficiently or expeditiously.

A more prudent approach for an organization is not to purchase every defense technology available or that it can afford, but rather, concentrate on ensuring that those that are acquired meet the needs of the organization’s operations and infrastructure. Data collected from IDS alerts, endpoint solutions, and intelligence feeds must not serve as independent and unrelated sources of information but integrate with one another in a synchronous complement in order to better inform network defenders and enrich the security environment as a whole.

This is increasingly important as hostile activity continues to increase and manifest into a significant number of alerts that are registered on a daily basis. Being able to collect, assign value, and prioritize this information is the new challenge that must be addressed. It is our new security reality.

Therefore we are entering a new evolution in cyber security “best practices.” While defense-in-depth remains a popular approach, the seamless integration of security products is fast becoming the priority as customers look to adopt different devices from different vendors. The more these devices can be assimilated, the better-positioned organizations will be to quickly detect, mitigate, and maintain their resiliency to attacks. 

In this regard, customers may be helping drive this new evolution. Those products that can’t work together by design and function may find themselves spurned in favor of those that do. Because in the end a recurring theme within the cyber security is that it must be a collaborative effort; whether via the sharing of timely threat information between private and public sectors, or the ability to work across platforms. No one device has succeeded in getting the job done alone. It’s time for the cyber security industry to step up collectively, integrate, and do its part.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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