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Cloud Security: Article

The New Standard: Intelligence-Driven Security

Moving away from traditional/outdated strategies and embracing a unified approach

In a recent blog post, Art Coviello, the executive chairman at RSA, posed an important question. How do we move from traditional security to intelligence-driven security? In his answer he described that the quickly interdependent exchanges between parties (B2C, B2B, B2P, etc) have grown beyond the traditional means of securing the enterprise:

“IT organizations have continued to construct security infrastructures around a disintegrating perimeter of increasingly ineffective controls.”

He described a new-model of cyber-security that includes five concepts:

  1. A thorough understanding of risk
  2. The use of agile controls based on pattern recognition and predictive analytics
  3. The use of big data analytics to give context to vast streams of data to produce timely, actionable information
  4. Personnel with the right skill set to operate the systems
  5. Information sharing at scale

I have to stand up and applaud. I have been waiting for someone of Art’s stature to publicly acknowledge that the current system of security management is still rooted ostensibly in 2002 and needs to directly address the challenges of the modern enterprise.  He describes the status quo is hurting our ability to properly protect our enterprises as “not moving fast enough to make the transition.”

Now I am reading between the lines, but what I understand, he is describing REACT: A unified platform I introduced last Fall. Briefly, REACT is a cloud-based security platform that integrates several alerting, analytical and preventative tools into a central monitor and management best practice—and it does it in real time. It creates what the Exec Chair of the RSA terms “intelligent-driven security."

So, how do we move from traditional security to intelligence-driven security?

He first mentions budget as a potential hurdle; that spending has traditionally concentrated on reactive preventions that support a disappearing perimeter. I want to expand that issue in that many security professionals recognize the overall problem, but have their hands tied by limited budgets and resources Given that, they can only apply their capital expenditures towards a reduced scope of what they know as a conquerable priority. Or forced to choose between one initiative over another. That is…until they consider the cloud as a cost effective method to acquire the means to incorporate the totality of the five concepts noted above (and still not dip into CapEx!!). I have talked at length about how the cloud makes enterprise power and capabilities available, affordable and manageable to any sized organization…you simply don’t have to be Bank of America or Qualcomm to enjoy similarly capable protection. Essentially, cloud-based security gives access to all the necessary tools and capabilities to carry out Coviello’s 5 points and still have dollars left over to take me to lunch for suggesting it!

Assuming you accept the concept of cloud security and assembled the elements from SIEM, Log Management and Identity/Access Management, just having these solutions doesn’t mean you have the right visibility. The key now is to leverage the capabilities of each and let them work together to detect breaches in real time, analyze who is logging in from what devices and controlling access to assets .  This new speed of information and trans-enterprise data provides the width and breadth for a thorough understanding of risk.

This centralized approach creates the flexibility to dissect a variety of data-driven patterns; everything from traffic (specific IP addresses or devices) to user behavior (see last week’s blog about Adaptive Risk Models) to information migration, threat assessments and other predictive analytics. This gives you the ability to evolve from defensive responses to a proactive posture.

Coviello points to another deficit to making this vision a reality--that of a skills shortage. Not to belabor the point, but this is another strong reason to consider security-as-a-service. The ability to add expertise without adding headcount (and the associated costs) underscores the “doing more with less” concept favored by most CFOs.  This doesn’t even touch the issue of maintaining tribal knowledge and avoiding job fusion as these in-house “experts” get right-sized or move from one company to another. I’ll save that for another time.

Context is the next hurdle. “We need context, not a list of the latest breaches – a broader and more collaborative understanding of the problems we face and the enemies,” Coviello writes. This is what a REACT unified platform promotes--situational context from a variety of endpoints, silos and sources. For instance, the system notes a series of access pings from an IP address in Sofia, Bulgaria. Is the ping by itself reason to take action? Are there employees or partners or vendors with authorized credentials in that part of the world? Is there a sales rep at a conference just trying to get his mail through a web mail server? Are they using a password that has been retired or accessing permissions that have recently been de-provisioned? Are they trying to change or modify sensitive records? There are literally dozens and dozens of variables to understand in order to make a judgment call to alert, block remediate or allow. That’s what a good correlation engine will do. It will automate the policies, score the threat and initiate the action alert based on three-dimensional results. As people trying to mess with our networks get more sophisticate, so must we.

I appreciate he notes that an attack on one of us is an attack on us all (because we are so interdependent). However, to achieve the level of sophistication required to support the is vision of an intelligence-driven security model requires one of two things…a healthy budget and the army of resources to support it…or look upwards to the cloud and take a step towards the next generation of security best practice and performance. But one way or the other, the important issue is finding a way to make intelligence-driven security become the standard.

Kevin Nikkhoo
Waiting for that call for lunch!

More Stories By Kevin Nikkhoo

With more than 32 years of experience in information technology, and an extensive and successful entrepreneurial background, Kevin Nikkhoo is the CEO of the dynamic security-as-a-service startup Cloud Access. CloudAccess is at the forefront of the latest evolution of IT asset protection--the cloud.

Kevin holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering from McGill University, Master of Computer Engineering at California State University, Los Angeles, and an MBA from the University of Southern California with emphasis in entrepreneurial studies.

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