Bottom Line: Cyberattacks enter a new era of lethal impact when threat actors are sophisticated enough to compromise SolarWind’s software supply chain with infected binary code while mimicking legitimate protocol traffic to avoid detection.
To gain greater insights into the SolarWinds breach, its implications on cybersecurity strategy in the future and what steps enterprises need to take today, I contacted Andy Smith, Cybersecurity Evangelist and an industry expert with Centrify. He explained the attack’s specifics, referencing the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) Alert AA20-352A, which details how sophisticated the attack is, citing the sobering fact that it is unknown if all attack vectors are identified. Active since at least March 2020, the advanced persistent threat (APT) has been identified by FireEye, SolarWinds, Microsoft and several other cybersecurity firms.
SolarWinds’ Security Advisory lists 18 known products that have been affected by the attack, including their Application Centric Monitor (ACM), Server Configuration Monitor (SCM) and Network Performance Monitor (NPM). Earlier this month, SolarWinds says the malicious code may have been delivered to nearly 18,000 customers.
Insights Into The SolarWinds Hack
Interested in dissecting the hack from a cybersecurity standpoint, I spent some time investigating the SolarWinds hack with Andy, a leading authority on Identity and Access Management (IAM), particularly around securing and managing privileged access credentials. The following is my interview with Andy:
Louis: There have been large-scale breaches before; why is this particular cybersecurity attack getting so much attention? Why is it so enormous?
Andy: What’s interesting about this particular attack is a couple of things. It follows a very traditional cyber-attack kill chain as many attacks, but the start of this one is impressive. Usually, there’s a vulnerability that allows threat actors to get into the network. What’s unique about this is the initial vulnerability is in vendor software, so it’s often now being referred to as a supply chain hack because the vulnerability was embedded as code.
The exposure to federal agencies and the attackers’ focus going after emails is especially troubling. It appears like it’s a nation/state-related incident that always heightens the exposure and is another reason it’s so large in scale. Some tools that FireEye uses for Red Team evaluation of people’s networks got exposed, so now those tools are in the hands of threat actors to do nefarious activities with them.
That’s one aspect of this hack that makes it remarkable, as sophisticated tools from FireEye are in nefarious actors’ hands. That’s one reason it’s enormous: you just gave something that was being used for good to threat actors intent on gathering as much intelligence across a supply chain of customers as they can.
Louis: How are the cyber-attack methods used in the SolarWinds hack particularly unique?
Andy: It follows a very common cyber-attack kill chain we’ve seen at Centrify for years. We ran the Anatomy of a Hack webinar earlier this year and it always starts with that initial vulnerability and getting in. What’s unique was this case is that the initial vulnerability wasn’t just, “Hey, I phished somebody’s password and logged in.” It was a vulnerability in the software build process for SolarWinds. So that’s a bit unique about how that initial vulnerability was there.
Still, once the attackers are in, the breach starts to look very traditional in the sense that they settle in, sit there for a while, scan the network, move laterally in that environment and hunt for privileged access.
All those things happened precisely by the people who investigated and then you find the data you’re going after. In some cases, it’s been software, as is the case with FireEye, or email servers, as is the case with government agencies. Attackers are patient and they wait to extract the data and then cover their tracks.
Louis: You and many others are an advocate of a layered approach to security. What is that and how would it have helped in the SolarWinds case?
Andy: For me, the biggest takeaway of this hack is that a layered approach to security is the way to go in the future in light of this hack’s sophistication. There’s no silver bullet to stop a hack this sophisticated, though. No one strategy or approach could have prevented it.
When you investigate this attack, it is pretty sophisticated and has multiple vectors to it and one has to assume there will be certain threat vectors compromised. That initial vulnerability will be there and you need those layers of security to prevent it, so you need to look at preventive controls, predictive controls and detective controls. All those need to be combined into a single, unified strategy.
For every organization looking at this hack and considering how future attacks of this sophistication will impact them, it’s a good idea to use this event as a way to get your board and executives thinking about a more resilient, hardened multilayer approach and not relying on a single solution to protect you. I see organizations using this opportunity to evaluate how a layered approach will work for their projects when it might not have been feasible to fund in the past.
It’s an extreme attack that shows how vulnerable the exposures are out there. It’s a good time to shore up your defenses. The Federal Information Processing Standard 200, or FIPS 200, the standard offers excellent guidance, including discussing the different types of layers and controls available today. Minimum Security Requirements for Federal Information and Information Systems defines the minimum security controls for federal information systems and the processes by which risk-based selection of security controls occurs.
If you dig into the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication 800-53, that gets a little deeper into the particular cyber controls you have in place. There is guidance available. You’re not out there on your own about what the layers should be and you can evaluate yourself against these standards.
Louis: What are some layers specific to privileged access management? Are there any particular PAM best practices that enterprises should be thinking about right now?
Andy: Absolutely and I’ll start with Privileged Access Management (PAM), which is one of the core layers. Investigations into this hack found specific evidence where they got in and created new accounts with elevated privileges to access data. It’s all over this.
We typically state the Forrester stat that 80% of hacks involve compromised privileged access. This SolarWinds example is no exception: that’s what happened.
Additional points to keep in mind include the following:
Before our interview, we talked about how vulnerable passwords are and how using the company’s name, followed by 123, is not a good idea – that ties into going pro with preventive controls rather than just relying on a password. That’s a perfect example of what not to do. Organizations can design preventive privileged access controls and detective controls and both are typically provided in Privileged Access Management solutions. Best practices call for multiple preventive controls – strong passwords, multi-factor authentication, password rotation, maybe use a federated credential and have privileged users log in as themselves for better auditing and accountability.
Rethink enterprise cybersecurity from a preventive control perspective that includes least privileged access. Simplistic preventive controls aren’t enough, as the sophistication of this hack shows. Preventive controls need to be strengthened with least privilege. The account creation process needs to provide as little privilege as possible to the server level. Workflows to request additional access need to be used to provide resources for a predefined period. If these types of controls had been in place, malicious code disguised in executable files and dynamic linked libraries would not have traveled as far down the supply chain.
Lastly, even if threat actors get through or you don’t have enough of those layers in place, you want detective controls. PAM solutions should have audit capabilities that watch what privileged users do. In the financial markets, there are things like the “four-eye principle,” where people are watching what other people are doing and so you can watch a privileged session in real-time and verify what users are doing. Of course, all that’s audited in the recording. You can send that information off to a SIEM to be correlated with other data to look for compromise indicators. Recent articles I’ve read pointed out the attackers were in the FireEye network for months before being detected. FireEye detected that they had been attacked thanks to detective controls.
Louis: The SolarWinds attack seems to have rejuvenated the case for Zero Trust. How can companies adopt a Zero Trust mindset and take stock of their security layers today?
Andy: Definitely and I see organizations accelerate their Zero Trust initiatives today. Organizations can get started on their Zero Trust frameworks by reviewing the FIPS and NIST publications. Review the layers of your security stack with a Zero Trust mindset. Don’t configure your network to trust someone just because they gained access. That’s how these attackers got in, laying in the network for plenty of time. Zero Trust says, “Don’t trust that authenticated network access. That could still be a compromised credential or a threat actor,” and this is a perfect example of that. This is why Zero Trust is critical: just because they’re on your network doesn’t mean they’re trustworthy.
The concept of least privilege, of authenticating at each step, introduces segmentation. When I give access, it’s just to that machine or that service that I need access to and not broad access across the network a network segment. That’s how you prevent that lateral movement. A Zero Trust mindset that Zero Trust philosophy of security is critical in this case.
Louis: What do you think will happen from the perspective of micro-segmentation and how does this hack change the balance of security relative to ongoing operations of a business?
Andy: I think it’s another evidence of our current breach culture and brings forth more awareness. More and more, events like this will make cybersecurity a higher priority in an organization – one essential to excel at to keep a business operating. So from that perspective, it is a business enabler.
If you do it right, you can start to do things like moving to the cloud and start to do things that make you more agile. The more we can think of security as a business enabler instead of a business blocker, the better we are. Taking the lessons learned from this hack and using them to create a more resilient, hardened organization is a start.
80% of hacks involve the use of compromised privileged credentials and this one is no exception. An important layer of control is Privileged Access Management (PAM) solutions such as Centrify, which typically involve predictive, preventive and detective controls.
In the end, it is security layers and vigilance that make the difference in minimizing the impact of a breach. NIST’s guidance can be constructive in cybersecurity planning, which can also be informed by Zero Trust’s principles. Remember, it’s not a question of if you will be hacked. It’s a matter of when and what you can do to limit the impact through layers.
Bottom Line: Cybersecurity CEOs’ lessons learned from navigating the pandemic provide a valuable framework for leading and growing a business through anxious, uncertain times.
How each cybersecurity CEO responds to the challenges of keeping employees safe, customers secure and product release cycles on schedule while still achieving customer success – all virtually – provide valuable insights into leading a company during difficult times. Simon Biddiscombe, former CEO of MobileIron (acquired by Ivanti), exemplifies the empathy all CEOs interviewed have for their employees’ welfare. “My first priority when the pandemic hit was to protect the health and safety of our employees, yet still maintain an “always-on business” for our customers,” Simon mentioned during a recent interview.
What made leading during the pandemic even more difficult was the exponentially increasing number of breaches and cyberattacks their customers are experiencing. McAfee Labs Covid-19 Threats Report found a 630% increase in cloud services cyberattacks between January and April of this year alone. The FBI estimates cyberattacks are up 400% due to the pandemic. As DevOps teams fast-track new features and releases, CEOs keep their virtual organizations cohesive and focused on the same goals.
The following cybersecurity CEOs provide their most valuable lessons learned leading through the pandemic:
Christy Wyatt, CEO of Absolute Software
Absolute is a leader in Endpoint Resilience solutions and the industry’s only undeletable defense platform embedded in over a half-billion devices. Enabling a permanent digital tether between the endpoint and the enterprise who distributed it, Absolute provides IT and Security organizations with always-connected visibility and Self-Healing Endpoint security.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
There was a clear moment for us where we said, “What is our objective? What is the best response to this?” And the phrase that came out was, “How can we help?” We knew our primary focus needed to be helping our customers solve a massive problem, instead of monetizing this opportunity. Making this decision to come together as a mission-driven organization… that was so incredibly powerful.
Even as life was changing drastically between breakfast and dinner every single day and employees were navigating their own work-from-home journeys and trying to care for their families, what we heard was that this ability to contribute was the thing that they were hanging onto. They were able to say, “Listen, I’m getting up every morning and I’m helping organizations with something that’s really scary and unfamiliar.” And, they did remarkable things… these teams put themselves through so much to help our customers stand up remote work and learning environments essentially overnight.
I always say you don’t win the race when you’re in the race. It’s the training and the practice, and the talking,and the drills and the teamwork… which we had been working on long before the pandemic hit. So I think my biggest takeaway is that if you put in the training upfront and you focus on doing the right things, the right things will happen. And you really can achieve more than you thought you could.
Flint Brenton – President and CEO of Centrify
Centrify is redefining the legacy approach to Privileged Access Management by delivering multi-cloud-architected Identity-Centric PAM to enable digital transformation at scale. Centrify Identity-Centric PAM establishes trust and then grants least privilege access just-in-time based on verifying who is requesting access, the context of the request and the risk of the access environment. Centrify centralizes and orchestrates fragmented identities, improves audit and compliance visibility and reduces risk, complexity and costs for the modern, hybrid enterprise.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
“Our customers and the people they serve are all going through rapid change. When you look at the concept of digital transformation, a lot of companies were struggling with that before the pandemic. Now we know that we can’t live without it. The role of the developer is more important than ever and they are driving innovation in a very different environment than they’ve ever experienced.
One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned during the pandemic is that no matter what the obstacles are, people need connection. For a company like Centrify, that means we need to be connected to our customers intellectually, strategically, virtually and – eventually – physically.
An example of this was very clear recently, as we engaged in discussions with one of the world’s largest financial institutions to replace their existing password vaulting solution. They have a vision for where they want to be, how they are going to get there and how they are going to secure that transformation. But they need the right partner who not only has the technology capabilities and architecture for a cloud-focused, DevOps-drive, digitally-enabled enterprise, but also to understand their vision and be invested in their success.
So the CIO asked me to personally track the rollout of our product against their product enablement success and he was very interested in how our vision of Privileged Access Management will converge with cloud security, DevOps and other modern technologies and empower their vision and plan. Ultimately, he wanted connectedness. He wants a personal relationship built on understanding, honesty and accountability, even if that relationship can’t be forged and nurtured over a dinner or meeting in a conference room.
That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned leading this year: that customers, employees, partners and peers want to be connected any way possible, even if they can’t do so in close physical proximity yet.”
Steve Havas, CEO of Evernym
Evernym is a pioneer in the field of verifiable credential technology, which gives individuals control over their digital identity and organizations the ability to trust and verify their data. Evernym builds and deploys self-sovereign identity solutions, with the technology and go-to-market resources powering the largest implementations of digital credentials in production.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
The pandemic has been, to say the least, impactful on society and our business. The market changes have required ruthless listening to customer needs and absolute focus on delivering what’s needed today.
We’ve all anticipated a gradual convergence of the digital and physical worlds, but that timeline has been accelerated by the sudden rise in remote work/education and contactless identity verification. We’re fortunate that this is the future we’ve been building toward, although we would have never imagined many of the COVID-19 credential use cases that are now mission-critical for our customers. It’s certainly been a lesson in adaptability and prioritization.
Benji Markoff, CEO of Founder Shield
About Founder Shield
Founder Shield is a tech-enabled insurance brokerage, focusing on rapidly growing businesses that operate in emerging industries. As a broker, we have a unique perspective of protecting our clients against cyber threats and guiding them to recovery should their fall victim. We work with forward-thinking insurers using proprietary cyber risk management tools, while also offering the most innovative insurance coverage possible.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
People say that fortunes are won and lost in times like these and it certainly appears that hackers & social engineering fraudsters have gotten that memo. Over the past 6 months, we’ve seen an increase in both hacking and social engineering attacks on clients of all shape and size $5M Revenue to $500M revenue. The reports suggest that working from home has only increased vulnerabilities of company networks (or lack thereof as employees use home networks) and the ability to induce fraudulent payments from employees who might not be able to lean over to a coworker to fact check a fishy invoice. The valuable lesson? Do a cyber audit and make sure you’re training your team on spotting social engineering and phishing scams.
Anand S – CEO at Gramener: Insights as Data Stories
About Gramener: Insights as Data Stories
Gramener is a data science company that helps solve complex business problems with compelling data stories using insights and a low-code analytics platform. We help enterprises large and small with data insights and storytelling by leveraging Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Automated Analysis and Visual Intelligence using modern charts and narratives (NLG). Our Gramex platform is a low-code framework to rapidly build engaging data solutions across multiple business verticals and use cases. Our products have empowered CXOs, Chief Data Officers, Scientists, Business Analysts and others save millions of dollars by making an impact on revenue and decision making. Gramener was founded in 2010 and has over 325+ clients worldwide, 200+ employees and 5 offices globally including the United States and Singapore.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
As an SMB we leaned more towards cost optimization over premium cybersecurity tools and services, resulting in ring-fencing our office infrastructure more. Due to COVID-19, when we moved 100% remote, our cybersecurity controls fell short to defend us against external threats. We had to extend the security protocols like moving all work to Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), strengthen VPN tunnel security, implement 2FA for all logins, opt for more security services from our Cloud service provider.
We accelerated digitization across operations and increased spending in Cloud security and production application security. We are revisiting our current approach and playbooks for cybersecurity.
– We are evaluating the current 3rd party service providers offering and reevaluating if they still have same level security controls in place at their end
We are conducting an accelerated implementation of Data Security protocols across the organization and not just on client specific projects. This includes updates to Information Security Policy around Data classification, Data tracking and protection.
With 100% remote operations, we are moving to VDI for all production and critical services. This means access to all data is through dedicated VPN Tunnels only. This is to mitigate any exposure to data from folks working at home.
– Our Virtual Desktop Infrastructure allows our IT teams to protect client sensitive data to a restricted cloud environment. All the tools and 3rd party cloud services required by our team members to perform their tasks are provided in the VDI. No data can be extracted or moved from VDI instances.
– All internal company data around operations, team members, Intellectual Property are a prime target for cyberattacks and ransomware. We have moved to a secure VPN tunnel architecture for all our team members to access company internal systems. Earlier this was restricted to a small group of functions. By mandating access via secure VPN tunnel our IT team has centralized visibility of all traffic across the network and can intervene quickly against any potential threats.
We are mandating 2FA. Earlier employee convenience led to not mandating 2FA for all our services. Now 2FA has been made mandatory across all services.
In order to optimize costs, we are consolidating tools used in the organization to identify overlapping functionalities and getting rid of those which are no longer required.
Apu Pavithran, founder and CEO of Hexnode
Hexnode MDM is the award-winning Unified Endpoint Management platform from Mitsogo Inc. The company has been helping organizations in over 100 countries to stay agile and competitive in an increasingly mobile world. Mitsogo Inc. is a leading provider of Endpoint Management and security solutions. From SMBs to Fortune 500s, enterprises of all sizes have leveraged Mitsogo’s prowess in device management to drive business productivity and compliance. Mitsogo’s solutions adapt to the most complex of business environments.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
Navigate the path, trust your crew
Being a CEO, as lucrative as it may seem has its own little big challenges, for example, they don’t tell you that there are no off days. There are always thousands of choices to be made and tons of pathways to be chosen, but the absolute worst thing comes when we face an uncertainty that was never on the radar.
And when the pandemic hit, the team needed support more than ever, I had to switch through the roles of commander in chief, therapist, cheerleader and even at times a babysitter. After all, you have to be the rock for your employees, or else it shows. But fortunately, I was so lucky to be surrounded by like-minded people who are as passionate as the founder about our business and customers.
We had to establish a fully remote work landscape and it was not what we would have expected, it was at a time when everyone was very insecure about COVID-19. People were worried about their safety, the safety of their families and work started to slip into second gear, some of us were even having mental breakdowns. It was time to be the person that the team could look up to.
“Customer is king”, is a tired old saying but that is what Hexnode live by, we had a commitment towards our clients, so we had to provide uninterrupted service for them rain or shine. So, we made a decision that would be deemed “mad “from a financial standpoint.
We rented out hotel rooms and made guesthouses for each of our employees around the globe and ran security and screening protocols equivalent to that of hospitals. Soon the stress levels were back to normal and the team started to enjoy the atmosphere. Productivity became better than pre-COVID levels.
As a leader, your team should be able to trust that you’re going to do everything in your power to navigate them through this tough time. The greatest asset for every business is said to be “finding the right staff”, but I would say it is “how you create the right staff”. The most valuable lesson l learned during this pandemic is “When the crew is great you just have to navigate, they will pull through all the tides and storms coming your way. They always do”.
Brad Wiskirchen, CEO, Kount
Kount’s Identity Trust Global Network delivers real-time fraud prevention and account protection and enables personalized customer experiences for more than 9,000 leading brands and payment providers. Linked by Kount’s award-winning AI, the Identity Trust Global Network analyzes signals from 32 billion annual interactions to personalize user experiences across the spectrum of trust—from frictionless experiences to blocking fraud. Quick and accurate identity trust decisions deliver safe payment, account creation and login events while reducing digital fraud, chargebacks, false positives and manual reviews.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
Open, honest, fearless communication. The Kount team has lived by this motto for more than a decade and never before has it been more tested and more relevant than in navigating the events of 2020. From moving our entire team to remote work to quickly pivoting to help our eCommerce businesses handle dramatic changes in transaction volume, it’s essential that our team communicate at the highest levels. As the impacts of the pandemic are often deeply personal, open, honest, fearless communication has empowered us to balance individual needs, customer needs and company needs while uniting us in our mission to do whatever it takes to stop digital fraud for our customers.
Simon Biddiscombe, former CEO of MobileIron (acquired by Ivanti)
MobileIron is redefining enterprise security with the industry’s first mobile-centric security platform for the Everywhere Enterprise. MobileIron’s platform combines award-winning and industry-leading unified endpoint management (UEM) capabilities with passwordless MFA (Zero Sign-On) and mobile threat defense (MTD) to validate the device, establish user context, verify the network and detect and remediate threats to ensure that only authorized users, devices, apps and services can access business resources in a “work from everywhere” world.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
As a leader during a pandemic, you must go above and beyond to provide your employees and customers with world-class service and support. My first priority when the pandemic hit was to protect the health and safety of our employees, yet still maintain an “always on business” for our customers. At MobileIron, we quickly enabled our employees around the world to work remotely. We also made it as easy as possible for our customers to issue more corporate-owned devices or enable a BYOD program to keep their employees secure and connected – whether they were working on the frontlines or at home. And we continued to innovate to meet the changing security needs of our customers and communities.
Overall, the pandemic has crammed years’ worth of change into a few short months and it will have long-lasting effects on how, when and where we work in the future. Work in the future will be very different to work in the past, which will present leaders with some challenges. However, it will also offer some significant opportunities to overhaul working practices and support employees who work from home with better collaboration and more intuitive access. The “Everywhere Enterprise” is not a passing phase, it’s the current reality and will continue to grow and expand as workers find new ways to be productive from anywhere.
Ward Osborne, CEO of Osborne Global Security
About Osborne Global Security
Osborne Global Security is a new player in the security space. They are challenging the stereotypes that come to mind when you originally think of security and replacing them with the ideas of trust, care and a shift in general security culture. This is a fascinating company to watch in the future.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
As CISO’s for multiple companies through this pandemic, we have seen so much shift and change. There’s been borderline chaos in many companies – and chaos ALWAYS brings opportunity. For our clients, the ones we’ve worked with and developed mature, risk and capabilities based models for just this situation, they are thriving.
It’s interesting to see the world adapt to a virtual delivery model which we’ve been creating, living, evangelizing for 25 years. Our clients who may not have had the time or prioritization to develop those models and capabilities have taken a hit, but we continue to do what we do, which is develop and provide resilience and growth to our customers.
In a virtual and distributed world, Trust becomes a major factor in every conversation. If a customer can’t Trust that we are there to solve problems when things get tough, then they aren’t able to operate effectively knowing that someone has their back.
Our world has become physically disconnected, but the people and companies that deal with that challenge in a proactive and positive way will always thrive. We are here. Growing our tribe. Doing the next right thing and leading customers to success in the midst of all of this chaos and challenge.
Rodrigo Tumaián, CEO and Co-Founder of Prometeo
Prometeo provides a single point of access to banking information, transactions and payments across multiple financial institutions in Latam. Inspired by PSD2 and with high security standards, Prometeo brings easy plug & play access to open banking, the future of financial services. Currently, Prometeo is connected with more than 30 financial institutions across 9 countries of Latam (including México & Brazil) and provides access to more than 45 APIs.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
Prometeo was born with a very strong focus on cyber-security, so the pandemic had no effect on our operation. Our company grew up with the foundation of mobility and work flexibility, this forced us from the beginning to think about the best way to transmit data and protect mobile assets. So when the pandemic arrived, we were already providing remote access (VPN) to all our employees, limiting access by profile. We were already using two-factor authentication to access our services. We already had user nomination and record of the operations generated by our employees on our assets. I think if I had to mention what was the most valuable thing we learned from the pandemic, it’s that the direction we took from the beginning was worth it. We didn’t have to deal with operational issues to handle the high demand for digital products from customers, we just did it. So the pandemic for us strengthened another of our fundamental values, not to make security to be compliance, but to make integral security, both within our company and for our customers.
Jean Le Bouthillier, CEO of Qohash
Qohash delivers advanced data classification and monitoring capabilities to protect your personal, health, corporate and financial data using transformational technologies such as machine learning and analytics.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
2020 has accelerated digital transformation efforts and highlighted the need for advanced, lightweight data security capabilities. With enterprise employees working increasingly remote, data is flowing faster and in previously unimagined ways. Businesses realize that to keep up with the demands of clients and a digital workforce, data risk models need an update or risk jeopardizing the enterprise.
Qohash clients recognize that the employee Risk Score, a quantifiable measure of trust, mitigates the impact both of bad actors as well as busy, distracted employees.
Remote, digital work will be a part of enterprise operations for the foreseeable future. Organizations need to enable governance risk and compliance teams to better support this transition to Work From Anywhere [WFA] models where talent and business thrive.
Jean-Paul Smets, Founder and CEO RapidSpace
Rapid.Space is a cloud provider whose “approach is based exclusively on the use of free, fully auditable and reversible software, hardware and management procedures under open licenses. Thanks to a network of 228 points of presence, Rapid.Space has global presence including in mainland China. It covers similar features as the most sophisticated public cloud provider and introduces exclusive innovations such as industrial edge computing and private 4G/5G vRAN.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
“Rapid.Space learned during the pandemic how to formalize its management procedures and remotely setup points of presence. Thanks to Augmented Reality and smart glasses, Rapid.Space team in Europe and Americas could setup remotely its points of presence in mainland China and Taiwan without having to travel by air plane”.
Software companies continue to deliver the highest growth rates for the 25th straight year, representing 71% of the entire list, the highest-ever percentage in the history of the rankings.
353 of the 500 fastest-growing companies in North America are in the software industry according to Deloitte’s 2020 Tech Fast 500, the most ever in the history of their rankings and a 3% increase over last year.
Two of the ten fastest-growing companies over the last three years specialize in cybersecurity, OneTrust and Transmit Security.
Notable software companies ranked in Deloitte’s 2020 Tech Fast 500 include Bolt, Illumio, LogicMonitor and Seeq.
Biotechnology/pharmaceutical companies are the second most prevalent sector, comprising 14% of all companies, followed by digital content/media/entertainment (5%) and medical devices (4%).
It’s fascinating to look at the emerging trends in Deloitte’s 2020 North America Technology Fast 500 Rankings as leading predictors of innovation. This year’s report is a quick read and provides a glimpse into the fastest-growing companies between 2016 and 2019. Deloitte chooses Technology Fast 500 awardees based on percentage fiscal year revenue growth from 2016 to 2019. Overall, the 2020 Technology Fast 500 companies achieved revenue growth ranging from 175% to 106,508% over the three-year time frame, with a median growth rate of 450%.
Key insights from the rankings include the following:
Five of the top ten winners are software companies, includingBranch Metrics, OneTrust, Transmit Security, Drift and CharterUP. It’s noteworthy that cybersecurity is well-represented in the top ten fastest-growing companies between 2016 and 2019. OneTrust and Transmit Security is in the top five fastest-growing companies between 2016 and 2019, accentuating how critical cybersecurity is becoming in all businesses. The following graphic lists the top ten Deloitte 2020 North America Technology Fast 500 winners.
Digital platform and enterprise infrastructure & productivity dominate software companies are dominating software sub-sectors with 56% of all companies. Deloitte’s ranking reflects the increasing urgency all organizations have to launch, scale and excel at new digital selling channels. The pandemic accelerated the urgency faster than the most compelling business case ever could. Having over 50% of all software companies in these categories quantifies the cloud as the platform of choice across enterprises.
Electronic devices/hardware, energy tech and software & SaaS are the three sectors generating the fastest growing businesses over the last three years. Edge computing and the quick pace of innovation in intelligent sensor development and adoption for the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) use cases are catalysts driving the 683% growth rate. Sustainability’s bottom-line benefits, including its positive impact on lean manufacturing, help drive to 525% growth rate in energy tech. Software and SaaS median growth rate of 465% shows enterprise software’s evolution is nascent and just getting started.
Cybersecurity professionals with cloud security skills can gain a $15,025 salary premium by capitalizing on strong market demand for their skills in 2021.
DevOps and Application Development Security professionals can expect to earn a $12,266 salary premium based on their unique, in-demand skills.
413,687 job postings for Health Information Security professionals were posted between October 2019 to September 2020, leading all skill areas in demand.
Cybersecurity’s fastest-growing skill areas reflect the high priority organizations place on building secure digital infrastructures that can scale. Application Development Security and Cloud Security are far and away from the fastest-growing skill areas in cybersecurity, with projected 5-year growth of 164% and 115%, respectively. This underscores the shift from retroactive security strategies to proactive security strategies. According to The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Information Security Analyst’s Outlook, cybersecurity jobs are among the fastest-growing career areas nationally. The BLS predicts cybersecurity jobs will grow 31% through 2029, over seven times faster than the national average job growth of 4%.
Key takeaways from their analysis include the following:
Cloud Security skills are the most lucrative of all, predicted to deliver a $15,008 salary boost in 2021. Demand for specific Cloud Security skills is far outpacing the broader demand for cybersecurity skills in the labor market. Burning Glass predicts the fastest-growing skills over the next five years include Azure Security (+164%), Cloud Security Infrastructure (+144%), Google Cloud Security (+135%), Public Cloud Security (+121%), Cloud Security Architecture (+103%). There are 19,477 positions available for cybersecurity professionals with Cloud Security skills.
The fastest-growing cybersecurity skill is Application Development Security, predicted to see a 164% increase in available positions over five years. Cybersecurity professionals with Application Development Security, DevSecOps, Container Security, Microservices Security, Application Security Code Review are predicted to see an average $12,266 salary boost starting next year given the strong marketability of their skills. Like Cloud Security, market demand for Application Development Security professionals’ skillsets far outpaces average cybersecirty jobs growth over five years.
Knowing where the most cybersecurity job postings are by metro area and state provides job seekers with the insights they need to narrow their job search. Cyberseek partnered with Burning Glass to create an interactive U.S.-based heat map that shows cybersecurity positions by state or metro area. The heat map can be configured to show total job openings, supply of workers, supply/demand ratio,and location quotients. You can access the heat map here.
Bottom Line: Flint Brenton’s vision for the future of Centrify and cybersecurity, in general, prioritizes the need for privileged access management to become core to the multi-cloud architectures and DevOps environments he sees pervading customers’ enterprises today.
Every new cybersecurity company CEO is writing their vision of the future by their decisions and the priorities they are based upon. From tech dominance to sales success, each CEO has their own long-term strategy and idea of what they and the company need to excel at to succeed.
Defining Cybersecurity As A Core Part Of DevOps
It is always fascinating to speak with new CEOs at cybersecurity companies and see what their vision for the company is after they’ve been there a few months. I recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Flint Brenton, who joined Centrify as President and CEO in July of this year. Flint leads the strategic direction and execution of the company’s vision drawing from an exceptional track record of accelerating growth through product innovation and sales execution. He recently served as president and CEO of CollabNet VersionOne, which pioneered the Value Stream Management market. He previously held president and CEO positions at AccelOps and Tidal Software and has successfully led engineering teams at NetIQ, Compaq, BMC Software, IBM and more.
Flint sees the needs of enterprise developers creating new apps using DevOps as pivotal to the future of Centrify, specifically and cybersecurity in general. A core part of those developers’ needs is securing privileged access management (PAM) in multi-cloud environments while supporting agile development.
My interview with him provided five key insights into why cybersecurity will increasingly be defined by how well it can be incorporated into “DevSecOps,” and how Centrify’s vision for the future looks to capitalize on that demand and drive PAM into the DevOps pipeline to further automate built-in security practices:
Cybersecurity providers’ cloud-based architectural platforms will define the competitive landscape for the next several years in the industry. Since accepting the CEO role in July, Flint has been spending most of his time talking with customers to gain in-depth insights into their greatest challenges. He is hearing about the challenges customers face when attempting to make different cybersecurity vendors’ solutions work together and function in a multi-cloud architecture. “Having a clear architectural advantage where features can be added quickly is going to be key in cybersecurity for years to come,” he explained.
Any cybersecurity company’s vision needs to consider the speed at which infrastructure and workloads are moving from on-premise to the cloud – it’s faster than predicted. One of Centrify’s financial services customers in APAC is launching a virtual bank and wants the new venture to be entirely cloud-based. Like many Centrify customers, they are considering a multi-cloud architecture, including Amazon AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure. Flint explains they will need a security model and identity management controls that run in the cloud to accommodate their current and future computing plans. The FinTech is relying on Centrify to secure privileged access for administrators to its multi-cloud environment.
Viewing every enterprise customer as a software business first helps remove roadblocks to delivering more value faster. Cybersecurity companies need to consider how they can streamline DevOps and DevSecOps cycles by providing enterprise developers with new tools to integrate identity management efficiently. “The developer is now building identity management into apps and frequently those apps are built using container-based models and they are then deployed either into cloud, on-prem, or a combination of both,” Flint said.
Design in flexibility for the many different buying communities you’re trying to serve early on and continually monitor them to learn about what’s most valuable to them. DevOps leaders’ buying community is among the most self-sufficient, willing to download a trial, install it and buy it. Enterprise sales are more research and time-intensive. Flint observed that a company’s vision needs to encompass each buying community’s unique nature and be willing to extend platform-level features and DevOps tools if necessary.
Buy-in from the DevOps community will become increasingly important in cybersecurity in general and is a core part of Centrify’s vision. Prior to taking the helm at Centrify, Flint was the CEO of CollabNet VersionOne, where he helped define value stream management as a market standard. I asked him if he sees any parallels with value stream management’s success and the vision he has for Centrify. “The key with value stream management is to understand how developers wanted or needed to build software more successfully in the future. So you have to get the buy-in of the development community to include it in what they’re building, rather than making an appetite of adding it after it’s already been deployed. So I think that’s a major focus in the DevSecOps market. Make it part of what is built. Don’t allow it to become an afterthought,” Flint said. The future of cybersecurity will increasingly be defined by how easily Identity Access Management (IAM) and Privileged Access Management (PAM) can be designed at the beginning of DevOps and DevSecOps cycles.
What I find most compelling about his vision is how essential every person is to breaking apart complex cybersecurity problems and solving them. Flint’s vision of providing DevOps teams with the tools they need to design in identity access management is groundbreaking. No one is talking about design wins in this area of the market today.
Centrify is quickly turning into a company that actively seeks out their customers’ most difficult obstacles and uses them to challenge itself to grow and do excellent work. They are looking for cybersecurity leaders with cloud-based development skills, AI skills and automation skills who are up for the challenge.
73% of enterprises (over 500 employees) accelerated their cloud migration plans to support the shift to remote working across their organizations due to the pandemic.
81% of enterprises accelerated their IT modernization processes due to the pandemic.
48% of all companies surveyed have accelerated their cloud migration plans, 49% have sped up their IT modernization plans because of Covid-19.
32% of large-scale enterprises, over 500 employees, are implementing more automation using artificial intelligence-based tools this year.
These and many other insights are from a recent survey of IT leaders completed by CensusWide and sponsored by Centrify. The survey’s objectives on understanding how the dynamics of IT investments, operations and spending have shifted over the last six months. The study finds that the larger the enterprise, the more important it is to secure remote access to critical infrastructure to IT admin teams. Remote access and updating privacy policies and notices are two of the highest priorities for mid-size organizations to enterprises today. The methodology is based on interviews with 215 IT leaders located in the U.S.
Key insights from the survey include the following:
The overwhelming majority of enterprises have transformed their cybersecurity approach over the last six months, with 83% of large-scale enterprises leading all organizations. It’s encouraging to see small and medium-sized businesses adjusting and improving their approach to cybersecurity. Reflecting how digitally-driven many small and medium businesses are, cybersecurity adjustments begin in organizations with 10 to 49 employees. 60% adjusted their cloud security postures as a result of distributed workforces.
48% of all organizations had to accelerate cloud migration due to the pandemic, with larger enterprises leading the way. Enterprises with over 500 employees are the most likely to accelerate cloud migration plans due to the pandemic. 73.5% of enterprises with more than 500 employees accelerated cloud migration plans to support their employees’ remote working arrangements, leading all organization categories. This finding reflects how cloud-first the largest enterprises have become this year. It’s also consistent with many other surveys completed in 2020, reflecting how much the cloud has solidly won the enterprise.
49% of all organizations and 81% of large-scale enterprises had to accelerate their IT modernization process due to the pandemic. For the largest enterprises, IT modernization equates to digitizing more processes using cloud-native services (59%), maintaining flexibility and security for a partially remote workforce (57%) and revisiting and adjusting their cybersecurity stacks (40%).
51% of enterprises with 500 employees or more are making remote, secure access their highest internal priority. In contrast, 27% of all organizations’ IT leaders say that providing secure, granular access to IT admin teams, outsourced IT and third-party vendors is a leading priority. The larger the enterprise, the more important remote access becomes. The survey also found organizations with 250 – 500 employees are most likely to purchase specific cybersecurity tools and applications to meet compliance requirements.
Conclusion & Wrap-Up
IT leaders are quickly using the lessons learned from the pandemic as a crucible to strengthen cloud transformation and IT modernization strategies. One of every three IT leaders interviewed, 34%, say their budgets have increased during the pandemic. In large-scale enterprises with over 500 employees, 59% of IT leaders have seen their budgets increase.
All organizations are also keeping their IT staff in place. 63% saw little to no impact on their teams, indicating that the majority of organizations will have both the budget and resources to maintain or grow their cybersecurity programs. 25% of IT leaders indicated that their company plans to keep their entire workforce 100% remote.
It’s encouraging to see IT leaders getting the support they need to achieve their cloud transformation and IT modernization initiatives going into next year. With every size of organization spending on cybersecurity tools, protecting cloud infrastructures needs to be a priority. Controlling administrative access risk in the cloud and DevOps is an excellent place to start with a comprehensive, modern Privileged Access Management solution. Leaders in this field, including Centrify, whose cloud-native architecture and flexible deployment and management options, deliver deep expertise in securing cloud environments.
Removing any doubt endpoints are resilient, self-healing and secure is what matters most to cybersecurity leaders today. It has become the highest priority across education, enterprise, financial services and government organizations in 2020 and beyond. At the same time, CIOs and CISOs are recognizing that endpoint complexity itself is a vulnerability. Absolute’s 2020 State of Endpoint Resilience Report finds there are now 10.2 agents per endpoint installed, up from 9.8. Add to this how quickly software agents degrade across thousands of remote devices and the size of the challenge becomes clear.
Absolute’s approach to delivering unified endpoint security using their Endpoint Resilience platform that creates a permanent digital tether to every endpoint in the enterprise is getting noticed by CIOs and CISOs. IT leaders say Absolute’s ability to provide greater visibility and control is what they need. Interested in learning more about how Absolute is helping customers taking on the many challenges of protecting the proliferating number of endpoints today and how the company sees the future, I recently spoke with Christy Wyatt, CEO. (You can see my discussion with her last year here.)
Under her leadership, Absolute’s revenues, customer retention and Net Income continue to grow. Total revenue in Q4-FY2020 was $27.2M, representing a year-over-year increase of 7%. Annual revenue in FY2020 was $104.7M, representing an increase of 6% over F2019. Absolute also attained a 14% year-over-year increase in Enterprise and Government revenue making this segment 68% of Total ARR on June 30, 2020.
Christy is one of the most brilliant, insightful leaders in cybersecurity today and her perspective on the future of endpoint security makes for a fascinating discussion. The following is my interview with her:
Louis: When you look back over the last eight months, which decisions and strategies do you see as being pivotal to Absolute’s growth and the fact that you accomplished so much, so quickly?
Christy: That’s a great question and the first thing that jumps to mind is our decision that Endpoint Resilience needs to be its own category. This was kind of a new thing. Many people talk about finding bad guys and the need for identity and access management.. there is a lot of use of the fear factor. And as an industry, we kept thinking of different ways devices could be compromised and we kept adding more security controls to solve those problems.
The thesis we arrived at, here at Absolute, is, “Listen, more isn’t always better. Making sure that things are actually working in there when you need them, that’s what is more important.” Because when you spend a lot of money on solutions, or when you tell your board or your CEO that you have a particular control and are now safe from a specific kind of risk… you need to go to sleep at night knowing that that’s in fact true. There needs to be a foundational belief that there is something solid to stand on when bad things happen.
And so, much of what we did this past year was really focused on quantifying that rate of decay because we believe that it is a painful problem organizations are having. I think that we are making traction and the insights we continue to publish on the state of Endpoint Resilience is really helping with that.
Louis: On your last earnings call, you talked about undeletable endpoint security and how it caught on in the education market. Did you change your go-to-market strategy this quarter to show you could scale an enterprise-wide deployment with teachers and administrators?
Christy: What’s important to remember is that we’ve been in business 20 years and that we started in education – as the one-to-one laptop initiatives for school kids were just getting underway. Those devices were very expensive and so that is the first problem we worked to solve. If somebody got their hands on a student’s device, how do you build a security platform that can survive anything that happens to that device? That was the original design premise all those years ago. And so, we have deep experience in things like scalability and solving problems for the education market.
What we’ve been seeing n the education market over the last couple of years has really been that, while technology has been an enabler for students, they weren’t necessarily thinking about teachers and administrators. So the challenge that they’ve grappled with over the last few months, notably with the accelerated shift to remote learning, is figuring out how to be both a digital and remote organization all at once. A lot of their processes were not yet online and not every single individual was connected.
Because we have a long-standing relationship with this community, we have a lot of expertise in the providing the scale and stability that they need. It was relatively intuitive for us to step and say, “Listen, these are things we can help you with. Here’s the bigger picture of things we could be helping you with, as you’re still figuring out distance learning and how to mobilize students.” Because we’ve also while serving education, we’ve also been serving banks and governments – and our enterprise business has been growing quite nicely over the years as well.
And I think we’re going to see that continue, because even as schools are contemplating sending children back to school, nobody knows whether this is a long-term or short-term. The new term I’ve started using is operational agility… and I think it applies to enterprise as well as it goes to education. I don’t think we ever again get to take for granted location and physical proximity to employees or students or devices. It has become a critical KPI for most organizations going forward.
Louis: Excellent point. And with regard to enterprise and government sectors growing 14% annually, what did you see in the eight months of this year that led to the double-digit growth in those markets?
Christy: Very few organizations had ever really contemplated the question, “What would happen if everybody had to be remote at a moment’s notice?” While our enterprise business has been experiencing double-digit growth for quite a while now, the onset of the pandemic really accelerated that growth. There has been a shift in thinking, that working remotely is not just for a smaller population of road warriors and sales reps and executives. I’ve spoken with many organizations that would say having a permanent digital connection to a device is really important for the people who are on airplanes and in a taxi cabs. But, I have a large percentage of my population that has a device that really they only use at work. Maybe it’s a laptop, maybe it’s a desktop – but either way, 99% of the time they are here. Or the times that they’re not here, they can VPN in. And I think that’s really become the challenge, that we can’t make that assumption anymore.
A lot of customers are rethinking all of that right now, as they’re seeing that being a remote, digitally-led organization can actually fit within their business model. If they give employees the flexibility to do what they love, where they want to do it, they’ll have an edge. While this is something that’s been forced on us, as with many things, the more you practice, the better you get… and then at some point, it becomes a part of the company’s DNA. And you learn to trust that you’re going to be safe and secure, your data and your employees are going to be just fine, because you don’t lose connection with them just because you can’t see them.
Louis: I think trust is an accelerator and Absolute’s success with endpoint security shows how to enable it at scale across organizations. Now with 13,000 customers, Absolute’s approach to building trust is working well.
On the earnings call you gave guidance of $112M to $118M with between 7% to 13% growth defined by how accounting transactions are handled. Underneath those figures, what’s the customer segment or what’s the geographic segment that you believe will be the primary catalyst for that revenue growth?
Christy: Perhaps a bit unusually for company our size, a large percentage of our revenue is actually North America-based. Our international markets have been some of the fastest growing segments for us. Our ecosystem of partners that we support – notably, the large PC and device manufacturers and their indirect channels – most of those are global entities and would like to support their customers in the same way internationally that they support them in North America. So one big focus for us is doing more selling and marketing globally, to meet this need.
I think the other big catalyst is going to be this shift to Resilience. We have a lot of customers who still rely on us for making sure they’re always connected to their devices and able to take preventative action – such as selectively wiping images or freezing a device, or geo-fencing a device from specific locations. While that’s certainly a critical set of capabilities, because we’re sitting in the hardware and sort of looking up at the software, we can help with this concept of self-healing. We can make sure that the critical controls you care about are truly working and protecting your employees.
A lot of the conversations we’re having, especially with new customers, are really focused on these capabilities. It’s not just, “How do I make sure I always know where my things are and that I can take action on them no matter where they are?” Instead, it’s “how do I use automated workflows to remediate risk? How do I have devices fix themselves so that my IT people don’t have to drown and help those calls?”
This concept of persistence and true self-healing that’s rooted in the hardware, I think is really, really powerful.. and the value of that really starts to become apparent when we’re in a world that looks like this. So I think those are some big focus areas for us as we go in the next year.
Louis: I like that one point you made on the earnings call about intelligence efforts, providing more data in a more interactive way for customers. I thought that that was really insightful and I think relevant to what you’ve been saying throughout our discussion. How do you help customers see themselves in a new way with new metrics, more interactively, more intuitively with greater insight?
Christy: It’s a different view for us and it’s something I’m very excited about. When it comes to a new product, I focus on, “What’s the question the customer’s going to be asking? What’s the problem they’re trying to solve?” And from there, “How do I package that up neatly so that they click on a button and get a report and it solves all of their problems?” But that’s not the world we live in today, especially when you have so many moving parts and things are continuously changing.
So it’s a different design philosophy when we say to the team, “You actually have no idea what question the customer is going to ask. Your job is to create tools that allow them to ask any question they have and then help them define the answer, either using our tool or using our data in some other tool.” At the end of the day, that’s how they get closer to the truth about what’s going on within their organization… and how they gain the ability to make better decisions.
Louis: Absolutely, that’s key to creating a culture that can continues to innovate and with Absolute’s focus on helping customers attain greater autonomous endpoint resiliency, it’s proving to be a strong catalyst for future growth too.
Details Of What’s New In Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Endpoint Security, 2020
Five technologies are on the Hype Cycle for the first time reflecting remote working’s rapid growth and the growing severity and sophistication of endpoint attacks. Unified Endpoint Security, Extended Detection and Response, Business E-Mail Compromise Protection, BYOPC Security and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) are the five technologies added this year. Many organizations are grappling with how to equip their remote workforces with systems, devices and smartphones, with many reverting to have employees use their own. Bring your PC (BYOPC) has become so dominant so fast that Gartner replaced BYOD on this year’s Hype Cycle with the new term. Gartner sees BYOPC as one of the most vulnerable threat surfaces every business has today. Employees’ devices accessing valuable data and applications continues to accelerate without safeguards in place across many organizations.
Extended detection and response (XDR) are on the Hype Cycle for the first time, reflecting the trend of vendor consolidation across cybersecurity spending today. Gartner defines XDR as a vendor-specific, threat detection and incident response tool that unifies multiple security products into a security operations system. XDR and its potential to reduce the total cost and complexity of cybersecurity infrastructures is a dominant theme throughout this year’s Hype Cycle. XDR vendors are claiming that their integrated portfolios of detection and response applications deliver greater accuracy and prevention than stand-alone systems, driving down Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and increasing productivity. Key vendors in XDR include Cisco, FireEye, Fortinet, McAfee, Microsoft, Palo Alto Networks, Sophos, Symantec and Trend Micro.
Business email compromise (BEC) protection is on the Hype Cycle for the first time this year. Phishing attacks cost businesses $1.8B in 2019, according to the FBI, underscoring the need for better security in the area of business email. Gartner defines business email compromise (BEC) protection as a series of solutions that detect and filter malicious emails that fraudulently impersonate business associates to misdirect funds or data. There have been many instances of business email compromise attacks focused on C-level executives, hoping that a fraudulent directive from them to subordinates leads to thousands of dollars being transferred to outside accounts or being sent in gift cards. Gartner found that fraudulent invoices accounted for 39% of such attacks in 2018, posing an internal risk to organizations and reputation risk.
Unified Endpoint Security (UES) is being driven by IT organizations’ demand for having a single security console for all security events. Gartner notes that successful vendors in UES will be those that can demonstrate significant productivity gains from the integration of security and operations and those that can rapidly process large amounts of data to detect previously unknown threats. CIOs and CISOs are looking for a way to integrate UES and Unified Endpoint Management (UEM), so their teams can have a single, comprehensive real-time console of all devices that provides alerts of any security events. The goal is to adjust security policies across all devices. Absolute’s approach to leveraging their unique persistence, resilience and intelligence capabilities are worth watching. Their approach delivers unified endpoint security by relying on their Endpoint Resilience platform that includes a permanent digital tether to every endpoint in the enterprise. By having an undeletable digital thread to every device, Absolute is enabling self-healing, greater visibility and control. Based on conversations with their customers in Education and Healthcare, Absolute’s unique approach gives IT complete visibility into where every device is at all times and what each device configuration looks like in real-time.
Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) is expanding rapidly beyond managing PCs and mobile devices to provide greater insights from endpoint analytics and deeper integration Identity and Access Management. Gartner notes interest in UEM remains strong and use-case-driven across their client base. UEM’s many benefits, including streamlining continuous OS updates across multiple mobile platforms, enabling device management regardless of the connection and having an architecture capable of supporting a wide range of devices and operating systems are why enterprises are looking to expand their adoption of UEM. Another major benefit enterprises mention is automating Internet-based patching, policy, configuration management. UEM leaders include MobileIron, whose platform reflects industry leadership with its advanced unified endpoint management (UEM) capabilities. MobileIron provides customers with additional security solutions integrated to their UEM platform, including passwordless multi-factor authentication (Zero Sign-On) and mobile threat defense (MTD). MTD is noteworthy for its success at MobileIron customers who need to validate devices at scale, establish user context, verify network connections, then detect and remediate threats.
Gartner says ten technologies were either removed or replaced in the Hype Cycle because they’ve evolved into features of broader technologies or have developed into tools that address more than security. The ten technologies include protected browsers, DLP for mobile devices, managed detection and response, user and entity behavior analytics, IoT security, content collaboration platforms, mobile identity, user authentication, trusted environments and BYOD being replaced by BYOPC.
Enterprises who are increasing the average number of endpoint security agents from 9.8 last year to 10.2 today aren’t achieving the endpoint resilience they need because more software agents create more conflicts, leaving each endpoint exposed to a potential breach.
1 in 3 enterprise devices is being used with a non-compliant VPN, further increasing the risk of a breach.
60% of breaches can be linked to a vulnerability where a patch was available, but not applied. Windows 10 devices in enterprises are, on average, 95 days behind on patches.
CIOs, CISOs and cybersecurity teams say autonomous endpoint security is the most challenging area they need to strengthen in their cybersecurity strategy today. Software agents degrade faster than expected and conflict with each other, leaving endpoints exposed. Absolute’s 2020 State of Endpoint Resilience Report quantifies the current state of autonomous endpoint security, the scope of challenges CISOs face today and how elusive endpoint resiliency is to achieve with software agents. It’s an insightful read if you’re interested in autonomous endpoint security.
Endpoint Security Leads CISOs’ Priorities In 2020
With their entire companies working remotely, CIOs and CISOs I’ve spoken with say autonomous endpoint security is now among their top three priorities today. Cutting through the endpoint software clutter and turning autonomous endpoint security into a strength is the goal. CISOs are getting frustrated with spending millions of dollars among themselves only to find out their endpoints are unprotected due to software conflicts and degradation. Interested in learning more, I spoke with Steven Spadaccini, Vice President, Sales Engineering at Absolute Software and one of the most knowledgeable autonomous endpoint cybersecurity experts I’ve ever met. Our conversation delved into numerous cybersecurity challenges enterprise CIOs and CISOs are facing today. My interview with him is below:
The Seven Toughest Questions the C-Suite Is Asking About Endpoint Security
Louis: Thank you for your time today. I have seven questions from CIOs, CISOs and their teams regarding endpoint security. Let’s get started with their first one. What happens if an endpoint is compromised, how do you recover, encrypt, or delete its data?
Steven: It’s a challenge using software agents, both security and/or management, to do this as each agents’ tools and features often conflict with each other, making a comprised endpoints’ condition worse while making it virtually impossible to recover, encrypt, delete and replace data. The most proven approach working for enterprises today is to pursue an endpoint resilience strategy. At the center of this strategy is creating a root of trust in the hardware and re-establishes communication and control of a device through an unbreakable digital tether. I’m defining Endpoint Resilience as an autonomous endpoint security strategy that ensures connectivity, visibility and control are achieved and maintained no matter what is happening at the OS or application level. Taking this approach empowers devices to recover automatically from any state to a secure operational state without user intervention. Trust is at the center of every endpoint discussion today as CIOs, CISOs and their teams want the assurance every endpoint will be able to heal itself and keep functioning
Louis: Do endpoint software security solutions fail when you lose access to the endpoint, or is the device still protected at the local level?
Steven: When they’re only protected by software agents, they fail all the time. What’s important for CISOs to think about today is how they can lead their organizations to excel at automated endpoint hygiene. It’s about achieving a stronger endpoint security posture in the face of growing threats. Losing access to an endpoint doesn’t have to end badly; you can still have options to protect every device. It’s time for enterprises to start taking a more resilient-driven mindset and strategy to protecting every endpoint – focus on eliminating dark endpoints. One of the most proven ways to do that is to have endpoint security embedded to the BIOS level every day. That way, each device is still protected to the local level. Using geolocation, it’s possible to “see” a device when it comes online and promptly brick it if it’s been lost or stolen.
Louis: How can our cybersecurity team ensure compliance that all cybersecurity software is active and running on all endpoints?
Steven: Compliance is an area where having an undeletable tether pays off in a big way. Knowing what’s going on from a software configuration and endpoint security agent standpoint – basically the entire software build of a given endpoint – is the most proven way I’ve seen CISOs keep their inventory of devices in compliance. What CISOs and their teams need is the ability to see endpoints in near real-time and predict which ones are most likely to fail at compliance. Using a cloud-based or SaaS console to track compliance down to the BIOS level removes all uncertainty of compliance. Enterprises doing this today stay in compliance with HIPAA, GDPR, PCI, SOX and other compliance requirements at scale. It’s important also to consider how security automation and orchestration kicks on to instantly resolve violations by revising security controls and configurations, restoring anti-malware, or even freezing the device or isolating it from data access. Persistent visibility and control give organizations what they need to be audit-ready at every moment.
Having that level of visibility makes it easy to brick a device. Cybersecurity teams using Absolute’s Persistence platform can lead to humorous results for IT teams, who call the bricking option a “fun button as they watch hackers continually try to reload new images and right after they’re done, re-brick the device again. One CIO told the story of how their laptops had been given to a service provider who was supposed to destroy them to stay in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and one had been resold on the black market, ending up in a 3rd world nation. As the hacker attempted to rebuild the machine, the security team watched as each new image was loaded at which time they would promptly brick the machine. After 19 tries, the hacker gave up and called the image rebuild “brick me.”
Louis: With everyone working remote today, how can we know, with confidence where a given endpoint device is at a moments’ notice?
Steven: That’s another use case where having an undeletable tether pays off in two powerful ways: enabling autonomous endpoint security and real-time asset management. You can know with 100% confidence where a given endpoint device is in real-time so long as the device is connected to a permanent digital tether . Even if the device isn’t reachable by your own corporate network it’s possible to locate it using the technologies and techniques mentioned earlier. CIOs sleep better at night knowing every device is accounted for and if one gets lost or stolen, their teams can brick it in seconds.
Louis: How can our IT and cybersecurity teams know all cybersecurity applications are active and protecting the endpoint?
Steven: By taking a more aggressive approach to endpoint hygiene, it’s possible to know every application, system configuration and attributes of user data on the device. It’s important not to grow complacent and assume the gold image IT uses to configure every new or recycled laptop is accurate. One CIO was adamant they had nine software agents on every endpoint, but Absolute’s Resilience platform found 16, saving the enterprise from potential security gaps. The gold image is an enterprise IT team was using had inadvertently captured only a subset of the total number of software endpoints active on their networks. Absolute’s Resilience offering and Persistence technology enabled the CIO to discover gaps in endpoint security the team didn’t know existed before.
Louis: How can we restrict the geolocations of every endpoint?
Steven: This is an area that’s innovating quickly in response to the needs enterprises have to track and manage assets across countries and regions. IP tracking alone isn’t as effective as the newer techniques, including GPS tracking, Wi-Fi triangulation, with both integrated into the Google Maps API. Enterprises whose business relies on Personal Identifiable Information (PII) is especially interested in and adopting these technologies today. Apria Healthcare is currently using geofencing for endpoint security and asset management. They have laptops in use today across Indonesia, the Philippines and India. Given the confidential nature of the data on those devices and compliance with local government data protection laws, each laptop needs to stay in the country they’re assigned to. Geofencing gives Apria the power to freeze any device that gets outside of its region within seconds, averting costly fines and potential breaches.
Louis: How can our IT team immediately validate an endpoint for vulnerabilities in software and hardware?
Steven: The quickest way is to design in audit-ready compliance as a core part of any endpoint resilience initiative. Endpoint resilience to the BIOS level makes it possible to audit devices and find vulnerabilities in real-time, enabling self-healing of mission-critical security applications regardless of complexity. The goal of immediately validating endpoints for current security posture needs to be a core part of any automated endpoint hygiene strategy. It’s possible to do this across platforms while being OS-agnostic yet still accessible to over 500M endpoint devices, deployed across Microsoft Windows, macOS via a Mac Agent and Chrome platforms.
Knowing if their autonomous endpoint security and enterprise-wide cybersecurity strategies are working or not is what keeps CIOs up the most at night. One CISO confided to me that 70% of the attempted breaches to his organization are happening in areas he and his team already knew were vulnerable to attack. Bad actors are getting very good at finding the weakest links of an enterprises’ cyber defenses fast. They’re able to look at the configuration of endpoints, see which software agents are installed, research known conflicts and exploit them to gain access to corporate networks. All this is happening 24/7 to enterprises today. Needing greater resilient, persistent connections to every device, CISOs are looking at how they can achieve greater resilience on every endpoint. Capitalizing on an undeletable tether to track the location of the device, ensure the device and the apps on that device have self-healing capabilities and gain valuable asset management data – these are a few of the many benefits they’re after.
Bottom Line: Defining the perfect mix of cloud apps, platforms and secured endpoints to create compelling online learning experiences customizable to students’ learning strengths is how schools are overcoming the challenge of virtual teaching.
There are over 56 million students in the U.S. alone who are relying on remote learning apps, platforms and autonomous endpoint security to protect them as they pursue their education. School districts, online educators and teachers quickly realized the move to 100% online classes could mean the end to outdated mechanized approaches to teaching. Eager to teach using technologies that tailor individual learning programs to every student’s unique learning strengths, schools are combining cloud, e-learning and endpoint security with strong results. Combining technologies gives every student regardless of their socioeconomic background a chance to excel. The goal is to provide unique personalized instruction at scale using a teaching technique called scaffolding. Scaffolding stresses creating an individual learning plan for each student complete with reinforcement for each lesson.
Why Cybersecurity Is The Cornerstone Of Online Learning
Tailoring the latest technologies to the diverse needs of online learners is the easy part of creating an online learning program. Far more difficult is choosing the right endpoint security strategies to protect their identities, every one of their video conference sessions with peers and teachers and thwarting breach attempts. Parents, teachers, students and administrators all need to trust an e-learning platform to make it work. The bottom line is an e-learning platform needs to create and grow trust while being adaptive enough to meet students’ unique learning needs.
Interested in learning more about how leading online educators are bringing together the latest cloud and autonomous endpoint security technologies to help students learn online, I recently interviewed Eric Ramos Chief Technology Officer at Duarte Unified School District and Dean Phillips, Senior Technology Director, David Atkins, Director of Marketing and Communications and Jennifer Shoaf, Deputy Chief Academic Officer at PA Cyber. Duarte Unified School District (USD) serves the educational needs of 3,400 scholars at the elementary, K-8 and high school levels. The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber) in Midland, PA, is one of the most experienced and successful online K-12 public schools in the nation serving over 12,000 students. Together the group of education professionals provided valuable insights into how educators can combine cloud, collaboration and cybersecurity applications to create more personalized, effective learning experiences for students. David Atkins of PA Cyber says that their approach to e-learning is succeeding because they take a fully holistic view of the student, their family and their situation. “Our collaboration with the student starts from the very moment that there’s interest in having some sort of cyber education. And we go from enrollments, all the way through any issues of that students could have, or the students family could have and take them all the way through graduation’ David said. “We take the time to listen and see the student as a complete person.”
The following are the key insights based on our conversations:
Choosing to make cybersecurity the highest priority treats students as customers, protecting their unique online learning experiences while providing excellent access across all socioeconomic levels. That’s when online learning experiences excel. What’s impressive how committed the team of educators I spoke with is about making technology work as a catalyst to help every student achieve their educational goals across all socioeconomic levels. They’re also the most advanced at tailoring complex technologies to deliver customized online learning experiences with PA Cyber serving 12,000 remote students at once. “Each of our students is different and they’re looking to accomplish different things and they learn in different ways. We have a different classroom options that they can choose from. And we have a lot of different scaffolding options in place when it comes to our instructional platform, “Jennifer Shoaf, Deputy Chief Academic Officer at PA Cyber said. Eric Ramos, CTO at USD says that he and his staff “reach out to teachers and staff members and provide them with the latest cybersecurity alerts and make sure they are aware of how their autonomous endpoint security platform is securing every laptop and making their job of staying in compliance to security protocols easy.” Eric continued saying that, “having an undeletable digital tether gives my staff, senior educators and me peace of mind, especially with summer here and the need to keep track of the Chromebooks out with students and families.”
The more resilient the autonomous endpoint security on the laptop, the easier it is to secure, upgrade and locate each of them if they’re lost or stolen. Duarte Unified School District provides Chromebooks to students for use all year long, often also providing an Internet HotSpot as many students’ families don’t have Internet access. PA Cyber provides students a Dell laptop and an entire technology kit that includes printers and peripherals as well. Having an undeletable digital tether to every laptop makes it possible to keep every system up to date on security and system patches. Dean Phillips, Senior Technology Director at PA Cyber, says that it’s been very helpful to know each laptop has active autonomous endpoint security running at all times. Dean says that endpoint management is a must-have for PA Cyber “We’re using Absolute’s Persistence to ensure an always-on, two-way connection with our IT management solution, Kaseya®, which we use to remotely push out security patches, new applications and scripts. That’s been great for students’ laptops as we can keep updates current and know where the system is. Without an endpoint management solution on student laptops, it is very difficult to manage endpoints without that agent. So Absolute absolutely helps us with that as well. That’s been a big plus.” Eric Ramos, CTO, says that “Absolute has been great, especially when student calls in and says they can’t find their laptop. I don’t know where it is. It’s lost or maybe stolen. We’re able to pull that up, figure out the last time it got pinged and we can locate that usually. Nine times out of 10, the student finds it by next day by just having that information. So that’s been crucial. It’s always been something we love having.”
Standardize on a secure cloud platform that is flexible enough to support scaffolding or individualized learning yet hardened enough to protect every laptop connected to it via an undeletable digital tether. A major challenge both online schools face is keeping their cloud platforms adaptive enough to support students’ varying skills yet also secure enough to protect every student online. Dean Phillips, Senior Technology Director at PA Cyber, says that it’s best to “keep technology as simple as possible for the students and families. Standardization is key, I think, with everything you do from a technology standpoint. Making sure that you build from the inside out from the core. Your applications and networks and making sure that that’s consistent all the way to the endpoint, I think that’s extremely important.” PA Cyber’s lessons learned creating a secure and adaptive e-learning platform makes the goal of providing personalized instruction for every student achievable at scale. Jennifer Shoaf, Deputy Chief Academic Officer at PA Cyber, explains how the school personalizes online instruction for every student. “It all starts when the student first comes to PA Cyber and we try to get an understanding of where they are and where they should be and where they want to see themselves, whether it’s in a month or in a couple years, or when they graduate from our school. So one of the things that we pride ourselves on here at this school is allowing for multiple modes of instruction for our students,” Jennifer said.
Capitalizing on the excellent asset management reporting autonomous endpoint security solutions have, CTOs and senior IT directors are gaining new insights into how to improve learning effectiveness. Having resilient, persistent connections to every endpoint with an undeletable digital tether also provides invaluable asset management data. Eric Ramos of Duarte USD and Dean Phillips of PA Cyber are leaders in this area of e-learning today. Eric Ramos says that asset management and activity reports made possible by the autonomous endpoint platform he is using from Absolute makes getting prepared for senior management meetings easy. “During principal meetings, I’m able to pull up these reports and say, look, these were the goals at the beginning of the year to use these four products at this amount of time. And here’s where you’re at on a small window. Or you can look at it over time and saying, this has been an increase here, this is a decrease here, these sites are doing really well with it, these sites may be not. But let’s now talk about what’s working for you. What are your teachers liking about the particular program? Or, program aside, how are your results coming about?” Eric Ramos, CTO said.
Delivering an excellent online learning experience needs to start with a cybersecurity strategy that includes autonomous endpoint security. Duarte USD and PA Cyber are leaders in this field, being among the first to see how combining core technologies while having an undeletable digital tether to every laptop is a must-have. Earning and growing the trust of parents, students, teachers and school administrators start with an endpoint security strategy that can adapt and grow as an e-learning program does.