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Information Security Must Take 5 Steps to Emerge From Dark Ages: RSA Conference

RSA Conference 2015 — Stumbling around in the dark is not the metaphor a CISO probably wants to use to describe his or her organization’s approach to security.

But according to Amit Yoran, like or not, defending a digital infrastructure today can be exactly like that.

RSA Conference 2015 — Stumbling around in the dark is not the metaphor a CISO probably wants to use to describe his or her organization’s approach to security.

But according to Amit Yoran, like or not, defending a digital infrastructure today can be exactly like that.

In his keynote at the RSA Conference, Yoran, president of EMC’s RSA security division, said information security is mired in its own dark ages as the threat landscape continues to evolve.

“My stumbling around here in the dark is a pretty good metaphor for anyone trying to protect and defend a digital infrastructure today,” he said. “Every alert that pops up is like a bump in the night, and often we don’t have enough context to know which ones really matter, and which ones we can ignore.”

“The terrain has changed, but we’re still clinging to our old maps,” he said. “It’s time to realize things are different.”

For security to escape its dark ages and enter into its own stage of enlightenment, there are five things that need to happen to help organizations better navigate this new terrain, he said. First, organizations need to stop viewing advanced protections as a panacea. While they work, they will also fail. The mega breaches that make the news as well as the ones that go unreported all demonstrate that a focused, well-resourced attacker will break into an environment no matter how high the walls around it, he said.

“You’ll see many promises made this week,” he said. “Expect to see more big data solutions, solutions to IoT [the Internet of Things]…and all sorts of other buzzwords. But challenge yourself. Challenge us vendors. Does this really help? Or is this another castle wall that inevitable will be breached?”

Second, he said, organizations need to improve visibility throughout their entire environment, from the endpoint to the network to the cloud.

“We need pervasive and true visibility into our enterprise environments,” said Yoran. “In reality, I’m describing now what SIEM was meant to be – or what SIEM ought to be. You simply can’t do security today without the visibility of both continuous full packet capture and endpoint compromise assessment visibility. “

“Within our digital environments,” he continued, “we need to know exactly which systems are communicating with which – why, how, any related communications, their length, frequency, volume, and ultimately the content itself to determine what exactly is happening. These aren’t nice-to-haves; they are foundational, core requirements for any modern security program. If you don’t have that level of visibility and agility, you’re only pretending to be secure.”

The third involves focusing on identity. While malware is often used in attacks, many hacks rely on vulnerable web applications and stolen credentials, Yoran noted.

“Strong authentication and analyzing who is accessing what can identify attack campaigns earlier in the kill chain and make the difference between successful response and unmitigated disaster,” he said. “Don’t make the mistake of actually trusting the actions of the trusted; those are the very accounts most targeted and the ones we should be most suspicious of.”

The fourth and fifth steps are strong external threat intelligence and understanding what is truly mission-critical so that security technologies can be deployed accordingly, he concluded.

“What I’m describing,” Yoran said, “is not a technology problem. We have the technology today to provide true visibility. Strong authentication and identity management solutions are readily available. We have great threat intelligence and insight into even sophisticated adversaries. And we have systems which help us map and manage our digital and business risks. This is not a technology problem. This is a mindset problem. The world has changed – and trust me, it’s not the terrain that’s wrong.”

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