Security Experts:

Linking the Brains to the Brawn: Why Security Intelligence Means Little Without Enforcement

Security Threat Intelligence

The Faster a Network Can Respond and Act on Intelligence, the More Effectively it Will Block the Threat

Be it Dwayne Wade and LeBron James or Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan, some things are just better together. The sum is ultimately better than the parts because they complement each other and perform better as a unit. In the security world, the same can be said about threat intelligence and policy enforcement at the firewall. Separate the two and neither works as efficiently as it should to reach the ultimate goal of mitigating the risk or threats, or in the case of star basketball players, go on that 15 point run to win the game.

As the threat landscape continues to evolve with new types of threats targeting networks every day, the security industry has become adept at developing all kinds of threat intelligence feeds. From signature-based feeds, reputation feeds, device fingerprint feeds and even industry-specific lists of bad IPs, the availability of threat intelligence is growing exponentially.

While this development is certainly positive, it is creating some unintended consequences for the companies trying to manage all the new data – and there is a lot of new data.

The security industry also continues to innovate on the detection side, with tools like anti-malware detection, sandboxing technology and the like. However, this approach results in customers struggling to manage a patchwork of uncoordinated security tools. Furthermore, there is a widening gap between detection of a threat and enforcement that causes the threat to stop at the firewall, rather than play out its malicious intent.

Today, organizations struggle to efficiently tie threat intelligence to the enforcement points in the network – the firewall. This is due to the significant amount of man hours required to first make sense of threat data and then configure firewalls to consistently and efficiently consume the data and enforce policies. Certainly firewalls and other security appliances might include integrated capabilities, such as intrusion detection systems (IDS), intrusion prevention systems (IPS), or Web filtering services, but as single-purpose devices or software, these are not capable of taking advantage of the new breed of advanced threat intelligence.

The good news is there are several steps companies can take to improve the link between threat intelligence and policy enforcement.

The Goal: Get the Feed to the Need with Speed

Since it’s impossible to predict where threats are coming from, the faster a network can respond and act on the intelligence, the more effectively it will block the threat. We like to say, “Get the feed to the need with speed.” Enforcement of security policies is critical to achieve this, along with implementing a threat intelligence platform with the following four characteristics. So ask yourself, can your network fend off the most sophisticated and intelligent cyber attacks?

Here are the steps to take:

• Prioritize Feeds: Each additional feed adds more potential protection but also additional complexity. Companies need to consider which threats are the most concerning and choose the feeds that are likely to provide the best protection for their network. How often are feeds updated with regular information? Is there a good track record of blocking threats and an acceptable false positive rate? Will the organization be able to effectively analyze and use these new feeds? These are the questions that need to be addressed when deciding the feeds that best meet companies’ needs.

• Automate Enforcement: Companies should look for ways to automate enforcement to ensure that threat feeds are quickly consumed by the policies already in place across the firewall estate. Reducing the need for human intervention saves time and reduces operating expenses.

• Centralize Management: Having a single, centralized policy management capability goes a long way to expedite threat intelligence to where it’s needed most – at the firewall. If it’s an option, select a single point of a control management system that will allow for a single pane of glass view into the security infrastructure.

• Use Open Platforms: Given the diversity, volume and velocity of new intelligence sources in the market today, an open data model will deliver the agility necessary to integrate new intelligence quickly and effectively. Certain industry initiatives are providing both the structure and open approach that are in high demand to execute successfully.

So go for the slam dunk – connect the brains with the brawn. Take threat intelligence data and pack a punch at the firewall. It’s the only way you can evolve at the rate of threat change. But first, it is crucial to understand the nature of today’s threat landscape and also recognize that modern protection tools are morphing quickly to remain a step ahead of attackers’ actions. Secondly, to ensure your company is selecting the right tools to ‘pack a punch,’ it’s important to know the technologies available to accommodate every network’s specific needs. A one-size-fits-all security solution does not work for everyone, so it’s critical to select the solution that’s right for your network to maximize success.

view counter
Rebecca Lawson leads worldwide product marketing initiatives for the security business at Juniper Networks. She is responsible for directing market development, communications and integration of technology and service offerings on behalf of enterprise customers and service providers. Lawson’s background in enterprise technology spans more than 20 years in product marketing and product management, strategy, marketing communications and business development for internet start-ups as well as large multinational companies. Lawson is a frequent public speaker and author of several technology-related publications.