Cybersecurity is a hot topic these days. Corporate breaches in the headlines have turned hackers into the new super villains. “Revenge of the Nerds” is alive and well, and hacking is their super power. It’s no wonder that every customer meeting I attend starts with a concerned voice: “what can we do to protect ourselves and our customers” from these new super villains? Secretly, they’re wishing to hear about a shiny new product that will solve all of their security problems, providing new protection for every new attack.
We all want our data and networks to be secure, with no effort or risk, but there are no shortcuts to success in the territory of cybersecurity.
As surprising as it may sound, these villains’ new tactics are not as new as you might think; in fact, many of the so-called new attacks could have been prevented by correctly using existing security technologies as part of an end-to-end cybersecurity plan.
What is the plan? Think like a hacker.
Start by thinking about what you need to protect, not about protecting the road to it. In other words, build protection to match your data and your processes, not just the network architecture. Learn about your business’s unique patterns of people-data interaction; what and how it needs to be protected, who needs access to it and when, and what is the expected interaction they will have with the data. Only then can you start building your data-centric security.
All networks are built to provide a service that is dependent on multiple systems both internally and externally. Hackers look for gaps, the path of least resistance. Why break down the front door, if you can easily get in through an open window? Your security solution must prevent as much as possible across multiple phases of the cyberattack lifecycle.
2.1 When you think about gaps, look at the borders of your systems and processes internally and externally, as gaps have more to do with interoperability and less with physical objects (Internet of Things). Work to close those gaps and think outside of the security box. Your inventory list should include computing, storage and network equipment.
2.2 The human factor: social engineering attacks are rising, with high success rates. Training and education is the key to defending on this front. Adding tools and scripts to catch users’ mistakes can help reduce the risk.
Your answer should be nothing and no one. Look to uncover and inspect as many compression and encryption protocols as possible, making sure that the data entering your network is what you expect it to be, and from whom you expect it to arrive. You must detect new unknown attack components across all traffic.
As you plan to add new products or processes, strive to reduce complexity and keep it simple: simple to manage, simple to monitor, simple to update, and simple to control. Any blind spot or unattended system can and will be used against you, especially in multi-step attacks. Keeping it simple is probably the most challenging aspect of this process. It is a daunting task. As you look under the hood of many customers’ networks, most have been built over long periods of time with highly heterogeneous platforms, languages and tools. Remember that you have more than one environment to manage, as mobile devices and public/hybrid cloud infrastructure are two of the biggest attack vectors. Your solution should detect new, unknown attacks across all traffic.
New security protections can become outdated quickly, if they are not attended to and updated regularly. Threats are constantly changing, requiring continuous monitoring, tracking and assessments in order to keep your security up to date. Timing is everything. You must be able to turn detection data into prevention very quickly.
Sun Tzu and his “The Art of War” guidelines are more relevant than ever. In order to beat cybercriminals, you need to understand the battlefield, know the enemy and know yourself. Build a security ecosystem designed to fit your unique data mix and data consumption patterns, predict the enemies’ next move, counter it, and strive to be one step ahead of them.