Security Experts:

Why You Should Be Dwelling on Dwell Time

Corporate boards used to care only about one thing - that your company didn't get breached on their watch. Those days, sadly, are behind us.

Few companies can say they haven't experienced a breach.

Those that do are delusional.

Security leaders are seeding the narrative that breaches are an inevitability in business. Sadly, I believe this to be a fact. This leads to a new set of metrics and measurements to worry about. The world is no longer binary. That's both good and bad - because shades of gray are hard to explain.

While not every board is completely on board with this new reality - the times are changing rapidly. Enter the concept of dwell time. Dwell time forces security leaders to work hard to not only prevent exploitation, but to also detect, respond, and recover as quickly as possible. Whereas in the past all of the security budget went to preventative tools and processes, today we're focusing much more on rapid detection and response than ever before.

Dwell time, for those who aren't sure of the meaning, is the length of time an attacker has in your environment from the time they get in, until they're eradicated. Dwell time is important, because if you can kick an attacker out before they've had an opportunity to achieve their objective - then you win.

Not every security professional is on board with this new thinking, however. Many still believe, foolishly, that once an attacker is in your environment it's game over. That's wrong. If an attacker exploits an open vulnerability, gets access to one of your systems, but you quickly find them before they're able to look around - then you're still doing well. You see, the key to succeeding in a today's climate is keeping that time delta between infiltration and expulsion as small as possible.

The difficult part of this paradigm is measurement.

Without highly effective processes, optimized tools, and trained staff it's just not feasible to measure dwell time. So in the absence of a measurement, many revert back to the binary breach/no-breach. I can't stress how important it is to not run back to the old ways. The world has changed and we have two choices - embrace it or get swallowed up in its wake.

If your board isn't already asking for dwell time reporting, I can virtually guarantee you the questions are coming. If you don't have those answers you should probably start evaluating the tools, the processes, and the staff you have to see how you're going to come up with that data.

In future columns, I will walk you through some of the things you need to know, and what you should be doing. Having reliable, if not accurate, data on dwell time is important. Until you can measure, you won't be able to effect change.

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Rafal Los serves as the VP of Solution Strategy at Armor. He's responsible for leading the various technical functions associated with designing, developing and delivering next-generation cloud security-as-a-service solutions to our clients. Rafal is also the Founder & Producer of the Down the Security Rabbithole Podcast. He previously worked as the Managing Director, Solution & Program Insight at Optiv Inc.; Principal, Strategy Security Services at HP Enterprise Security Services; and Senior Security Strategist at HP Software. As an IT security professional, Rafal gained experience in some of the world's most challenging business environments. His responsibilities included budgets, risk analysis, process creating and adoption, internal audit and compliance strategies. He has been the catalyst for change in many organizations, building bridges across enterprises and developing permanent successful strategies for growth and prosperity. Follow Rafal on Twitter: @Wh1t3rabbit.