Vigilance and Planning: Experts Share Their IT and Data Security Strategies

IT and security leaderstake proactive approaches to secure and protect IT environments amid the evolving threat landscape.

Security at work
AT&T

Cybersecurity planning can often seem like a futile game of whack-a-mole: You knock down one threat and another appears before you have a chance to relish success; knock down a second and a third, only to see the first reappear.

That’s why IT and security professionals are—or should be—looking ahead to future challenges.

What are the IT and data security use cases that organizations are focused on securing in the next two to three years? That’s the question we posed to members of the IDG Influencer Network, a community of journalists, industry analysts, and IT professionals who contribute their knowledge and expertise to IDG clients.

Their responses varied from the continued need for basic security hygiene to locking down plans for worst-case data breach scenarios.

Security from the ground up

A few of the IDG experts emphasized their need for regular security hygiene practices, and building them into development initiatives.

The IT infrastructure is becoming increasingly complex — with further adoption of cloud and incorporating edge computing — as organizations expand their digital transformation efforts. In turn, these projects expand the cyberattack threat surface and complicate security planning, according to the 2022 AT&T Cybersecurity Insights™ Report.

That’s why paying attention to the security basics are crucial; the more democratized computing becomes, the more critical security is.

“It’s important to maintain cyber hygiene to avoid security complacency,” says Scott Schober (@ScottBVS), president/CEO, Berkeley Varitronics Systems. “I revisit basic protocols and focus on security fundamentals continually throughout my organization.”

Isaac Sacolick (@nyike), president of StarCIO, adds that digital transformation projects are causing IT teams to build more apps, APIs, automations, and data services. These efforts, he says, will require DevOps teams to shift security left — in other words, integrate it from the outset and develop with a security-first mindset — by implementing proactive tools, especially web and API protection, customer identity protection, and cloud data security.

“Over the next few years, these protections will extend to the edge as more businesses develop IoT and other real-time, real-world experiences,” Sacolick says.

Another Influencer, Will Kelly (@willkelly), a content and product marketing manager, is also concentrating on DevOps processes.

“I’m focused on security of the DevOps/DevSecOps toolchain from man-in-the-middle and other attacks,” he says. “As the workplace becomes more hybrid, the toolchain becomes a more enticing target for threat actors raising the security stakes.”

In addition, Kelly is working on collaboration platform security: “There’s bound to be some organizations going through a security reckoning as remote and hybrid work became the order of the day. Some enterprises will [have negative results] for neglecting their SharePoint and other collaboration platforms pre-pandemic with organizational business processes now dependent on those platforms.”

Shoring up security for the remote workforce

As Kelly pointed out, some companies are still feeling the security effects of the remote or hybrid workplace. Several experts said this is an area that will require ongoing focus.

“Over the next two to three years we will find that a large portion of the workforce will continue to work remotely,” says Net Health CIO Jason James (@itlinchpin). “IT and security teams must look for frictionless methods to securely support a remote workforce. Security must be ever-present while being seamless and non-disruptive to the workforce. This requires a deeper understanding of where and how users access data.”

The need for frictionless data access that prevent leaks, while also providing robust security, was echoed by several Influencers:

“Work from anywhere (WFA) continues to take center stage. The best WFA solutions seamlessly adapt to existing trust models, further simplifying and securing the operational model already in use in remote-worker critical cloud deployments.” — Adam Stein (@apstein2), principal at APS Marketing

“Prevention of data leakage through hacks, or even through internal negligence, has to be at the top of any organizational security strategy. The challenge is: Many companies don’t even know where all of their data resides given all of the satellite data repositories deployed in a typical company, let alone how to keep it all safe. The first thing to do is to complete a full audit and find out just where all the data is – on prem and in the cloud. Then, building out a strategy and acquiring the proper tools to implement it must be the focus for the next several years — or however long it takes.” — Jack Gold (@jckgld), president and principal analyst, J. Gold Associates

Kayne McGladrey (@kaynemcgladrey), security architect/strategy and GRC practice lead at Ascent Solutions, recommends following the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification 2.0, which was developed by the U.S. Department of Defense. It offers a framework that incorporates “Zero Trust tenets that will help companies maintain regulatory compliance and ensure that data are adequately protected against evolving threats from nation states and advanced persistent threats,” he says.

 Filling skills gaps over the next few years

Workforce changes are also complicating an ever-present IT and security skillsets gap, as businesses must now deal with the Great Resignation phenomenon.

“Our primary and ongoing focus areas are hiring, training, and retaining cybersecurity and technology talent,” says Gene De Libero (@GeneDeLibero), GeekHive.com Chief Strategy Officer. “Security and tech execs need to build solid partnerships with HR, and execute a plan for professional growth and career pathing to combat increasingly sophisticated threats from inside and outside the organization.”

Other Influencers suggest augmenting existing IT teams with outside services, such as managed security services providers (MSSPs) and cloud services that incorporate built-in security frameworks:

“To complement existing enterprise security services for staff, partners, and customers, MSSPs deliver advanced security operations centers (SOCS. Their offerings typically include: cloud security workloads; threat prevention, detection, and remediation for endpoints; Zero Trust identity management; and unified log and analytics management.” —Stein at APS Marketing

“We are focusing on how cloud services may help with data security issues including confidentiality, integrity, and availability of massive volumes of data.” — Benjamin Ajibade (@Benni_aji), data analytics lead with SHIFT Nigeria

“At a high level, we are looking to get improved cloud security analytics. This will be used for varied security tasks — from user monitoring, insight into operations, threat management, and more.” — Ben Rothke (@benrothke), senior information security manager, Tapad

Preparing for the worst

Security incidents are becoming more frequent and sophisticated. For example, ransomware attacks are now organized by criminal gangs that spend significant time and money to develop their methodology. Organizations should prepare for the worst, says Frank Cutitta (@fcutitta), CEO and founder of HealthTech Decisions Lab.

For example, his work has shifted toward the “increasing need for ransom negotiators and funding mechanisms for the breach that could inevitably happen. This meshes with an overall incident response and communications plan starting at the reception desk all the way up to the board room,” Cutitta says.

The cyberattack landscape will continue to evolve. Gartner predicts a particulary gloomy near-future, where cybercriminals will “weaponize” operational technology to harm humans — such as the hacking attempt to poison the Oldmar, Fla., water supply. It’s imperative to plan how best to protect your organization, and consider your most important IT and data security use cases for the next two to three years.

Download the 2022 AT&T Cybersecurity Insights report to gain additional information into how businesses across the globe are becoming more cyber mature.

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