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Contributing Writer

Peer-to-Peer Security

Jul 27, 20102 mins
Cisco SystemsData and Information Security

A new model for shared intelligence and protection

Traditional security solutions are sort of like client/server computing. Security vendors take the role of the server, hosting the master software, adding new anti-malware signatures, and distributing them to all of the clients.This model was adequate in the past but it is no longer good enough. Why? Malware volume stresses the system and all too common zero-day attacks have free and clear access to sitting duck systems. Coping with the new threat landscape means embracing a new security model. First, we have to assume that an unknown file, URL, or IP address is malicious. That said, we can’t simply deny access, rather we need to analyze the suspicious content in real-time and then make the appropriate access decision (i.e. allow access, deny access, quarantine, send content to a honeypot, etc.).This new model depends upon a community of users and security devinces/software acting as a neighborhood watch and sharing information with security vendors in real-time. Some people call this a “hybrid cloud” model to capitalize on the buzz around cloud computing. Hybrid clouds are fine for now, but I foresee a future evolution to a peer-to-peer security model. With hybrid clouds, security devices/software still engage in a conversation with only one entity — the security vendor’s cloud infrastructure. In peer-to-peer security, security devices/software will engage in conversations with other security devices/software from multiple entities — security vendors, ISACs, government sources, academic institutions, etc. These conversations will issue warnings, blacklist threats, analyze content, compare notes, exchange data, etc. Several vendors including Blue Coat, Cisco, and Trend Micro already have hybrid cloud offerings that could serve as the foundation for my peer-to-peer model. A bit of vendor cooperation, government incentives, or user demand could lead to further developments in APIs, secure protocols, data standards, etc.Cybercriminals constantly exploit our security weaknesses and lack of coordination. This has been a winning formula thus far to the tune of $ billions of dollars in identity theft and data breaches. To overcome these tactics we need to use our technology assets more effectively. This is precisely what peer-to-peer security can do. The Network Effect (or Metcalf’s Law) states that the value of a network is proportional to the number of connections. In my opinion, peer-to-peer security leverages the power of the Network Effect for the good guys.

Contributing Writer

Jon Oltsik is a distinguished analyst, fellow, and the founder of the ESG’s cybersecurity service. With over 35 years of technology industry experience, Jon is widely recognized as an expert in all aspects of cybersecurity and is often called upon to help customers understand a CISO's perspective and strategies. Jon focuses on areas such as cyber-risk management, security operations, and all things related to CISOs.

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