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Posts tagged ‘Absolute Software’

How Absolute Protects Patient Data At Apria Healthcare

How Absolute Protects Patient Data At Apria Healthcare

Bottom Line: Healthcare providers need to adopt more persistent, resilient endpoint cybersecurity to thwart cybercriminals who are escalating their efforts to steal healthcare records. Motivated by up to $1,000 being offered on the Dark Web for healthcare records, cybercriminals are prioritizing healthcare breaches for financial gain.

Endpoint Resilience Is the Cornerstone of Apria Healthcare’s Cybersecurity Strategy

Healthcare providers are a favorite target for cybercriminals, and their popularity is growing. In the first eight weeks of 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services received 66 reports of breaches affecting 500 patient records or more at healthcare providers and health plans. The Health & Human Services Breach Portal, which contains a list of all cases under investigation today, reflects the severity of healthcare providers’ cybersecurity crisis and the urgent need for a strong, resilient system to protect patient information. Apria Healthcare is well aware of these threats and has taken an innovative, insightful approach to thwart them.

Apria Healthcare’s cybersecurity strategy focuses heavily on deterrence at the endpoint and device level, an approach that has proven effective in mitigating breaches globally. The company is a recognized leader in healthcare, serving nearly 2M patients annually across 300 locations in 49 states. They have more than 8,000 laptops, desktops and tablets, many of which regularly leave the organization. Apria needed a way to deliver zero-touch IT asset management, provide self-healing endpoint security, and employ always-on data visibility and protection whether an asset was on or off their corporate network. They turned to Absolute and the company’s patented Persistence technology.

“Persistence [located] in the BIOS is the number one item that I think really sets Absolute apart from other companies touting that they can do asset tracking better,” said Janet Hunt, Senior Director, IT User Support at Apria Healthcare. “The other vendors really can’t, they don’t have that piece – that persistent piece is so important to me. I always am looking for opportunities to use different technologies as they come up, and I haven’t found anything that’s as good as Absolute. Nothing can compare.”

Absolute’s Persistence technology, the foundation of the company’s Resilience solution, enables a self-healing, unbreakable two-way connection to endpoints, applications, and data. It provides an adaptive layer of defense by notifying IT of where devices are and when security applications are removed or corrupt, and triggering automatic reinstallation. Because Absolute is already embedded in the BIOS of Dell, HP, Lenovo, and 22 other leading manufacturers’ devices, it provides Apria with the single source of truth needed to protect personal data and help achieve HIPAA compliance.

Turning HIPAA Compliance into A Competitive Advantage  

Apria quickly established a leadership position in the healthcare industry by setting and maintaining stringent requirements needed to achieve HIPAA compliance across its patient data platform. Leveraging Absolute’s Resilience solution and Persistence technology, Apria differentiated itself from its competitors and reduced the risk they would ever see fines for HIPAA non-compliance. And with HIPAA fines ranging from $25,000 to $15.M per year, Apria’s prescient decision to turn compliance into a competitive advantage was an excellent one because it put patients’ welfare and data security first, above all other IT priorities.

Achieving Greater Device Control & Visibility Is Key 

Absolute’s dashboard provides Apria with both a snapshot of the status of all devices, updated every 15 minutes, as well as a complete device history that enables security managers to see and report on encryption, geolocation, and usage.

“Our geo-fencing is extremely tight. I have PCs that live in the Philippines. I have PCs that live in India. I have one, or actually two, PCs that live in Indonesia. If somebody goes from where they say that they’re going to be to another part of Indonesia, that device will freeze because that’s not where it’s supposed to be, and that’s an automatic thing. Don’t ask forgiveness, don’t ask questions, freeze the device, and see what happens. It’s one of the best things we’ve done for ourselves,” Janet Hunt recently said during a recent during a recent panel discussion. Geofencing is a must-have in any persistent endpoint security strategy.

“[With Absolute] I have a complete history of each device, which makes it really easy for me to say not only whether it is encrypted now, but also what its status was a week ago, or two weeks ago, or two months ago,” said Dave Ochoa, Manager, Information Security Operations at Apria Healthcare. “So, you get this lovely little package that you can hand off to your auditor and say, ‘Not an issue.’ You know that this is not an incident, this is not a breach.”

Endpoint Security’s Network Effect Is Accelerating

Apria Healthcare’s decision to protect its 8,000 laptops, desktops, and tablets using Absolute’s Resilience endpoint solution is a leading indicator of the Network Effect happening with endpoint security today. A sure sign the Network Effect is taking place is how demand is growing for more endpoint security agents and applications. Absolute is seeing this Network Effect globally and has been steadily adding integrations with more than 30 endpoint security agents and applications – most recently adding support for the market-leading security solution VMware® Carbon Black.

“The average enterprise today has already spent thousands, if not millions, of dollars on security controls and applications, and that total security investment only continues to rise in the face of escalating risk,” said Christy Wyatt, CEO of Absolute. “However, the vast number of controls and agents being invested in and subsequently piled onto the endpoint can introduce a false sense of security; those controls are only effective if they are present and actually running. A foundation of Resilience enables IT and security teams to understand the current state of their assets, understand if the security controls have been compromised, and heal those that have been taken offline.”

Conclusion

In the face of increasingly sophisticated attackers and vectors, organizations continue to layer on security controls. Gartner estimates that more than $174B will be spent on security by 2022, and of that, approximately $50B will be dedicated to protecting the endpoint. Absolute’s 2019 Endpoint Security Trends Report revealed that organizations have an average of 10 distinct agents layered onto endpoint devices, all competing with one another for device services and resources. The resulting complexity not only negatively impacts endpoint performance but creates an environment ripe for collision and decay. This, along with humans tampering with or removing security controls, means that even the most well-functioning endpoint agents have a high probability of failure.

All of this has IT and security administrators grappling with increasing complexity and risk levels, while also facing mounting pressure to ensure endpoint controls maintain integrity, availability, and functionality at all times, and deliver their intended value. And so, organizations need complete visibility and real-time insights to pinpoint the dark endpoints, identify what’s broken and where gaps exist, as well as respond and take action quickly.

Absolute’s Resilience offering empowers organizations to build an enterprise security approach that is intelligent, adaptive, and self-healing. Rather than perpetuating a false sense of security, Absolute provides a single source of truth and the diamond image of resilience for endpoints as Apria Healthcare’s cybersecurity strategy and results indicate.

 

 

 

 

Five Interesting Takeaways From RSA Conference 2020

Five Interesting Takeaways From RSA Conference 2020

 

Bottom Line: Passwordless authentication, endpoint security, cloud-native SIEM platforms, and new API-based data security technologies were the most interesting tech developments, while keynotes focusing on election security, industrial control systems’ vulnerabilities and the persistent threat of state-sponsored ransomware dominated panel discussion.

This year’s RSA Conference was held February 24th to 28th in San Francisco’s Moscone Center, attracting more than 36,000 attendees, 704 speakers, and 658 exhibitors unified by the theme of the Human Element in cybersecurity. The conference’s agenda is here, with many session recordings and presentation slides available for download. Before the conference, RSA published the RSAC 2020 Trend Report (PDF, 13 pp., no opt-in). RSA received 2,400 responses to their Call for Speakers and based their report on an analysis of all submissions. The ten trends in the RSAC 2020 Trend Report are based on an analysis of all papers submitted to the conference. It’s a quick read that provides a synopsis of the main themes of the excellent sessions presented at RSAC 2020.

The following are the five most interesting takeaways from the 2020 RSA Conference:

  • Endpoint security products dominated the show floor, with over 120 vendors promoting their unique solutions. There were over 50 presentations and panels on the many forms of endpoint security as well. Instead of competing for show attendees’ attention on the show floor, Absolute Software took the unique approach of completing a survey during RASC 2020. Absolute’s team was able to interview 100 respondents, with most holding the position of a manager/supervisor or C-level executive. More than three in four respondents reported their organizations are using endpoint security tools, multi-factor authentication, and employee training and education to protect data, devices, and users. You can review their survey results here.
  • The number of vendors claiming to have Zero Trust solutions grew 50% this year, from 60 in 2019 to 91 in 2020. There continues to be a lot of hype surrounding Zero Trust, with vendors having mixed results with their product and messaging strategies in this area. A good benchmark to use for evaluating vendors in the Zero Trust market is the Forrester Wave™: Zero Trust eXtended Ecosystem Platform Providers, Q4 2019, written by Chase Cunningham and published on October 29, 2019. I’ve summarized the lessons learned in the post, What’s New on the Zero Trust Security Landscape In 2019.
  • Over 30 vendors claimed to have passwordless authentication that met the current FIDO2 standard. In keeping with the theme of this year’s RSA Conference of Human Element, vendors offering passwordless authentication were out in force. Centrify, Entrust Datacard, HID Global, Idaptive, ImageWare, MobileIron, Thales, and many others promoted their unique approaches to passwordless authentication, leveraging the FIDO2 standard. FIDO2 is the latest set of specifications from the FIDO Alliance, an industry standards organization that provides interoperability testing and certification for servers, clients, and authenticators that meet FIDO2 specifications. I’ve written a separate post just on this topic, and you can find it here, Why Your Biometrics Are Your Best Password. 
  • Cloud-based security information and event management (SIEM) systems capable of integrating with 3rd party public cloud platforms reflect the maturity nature of this market. Of the several vendors claiming to have cloud-based SIEM, Microsoft’s Azure Sentinel’s demo showed in real-time how fusion AI technology can parse large volumes of low fidelity signals into a few important incidents for SecOps teams to focus on. Microsoft said that in December 2019 alone, Azure Sentinel evaluated nearly 50 billion suspicious signals, isolating them down to just 25 high-confidence incidents for SecOps teams to investigate. The following graphic explains how Azure Sentinel Fusion works.
  • One of the most interesting startups at RSA was Nullafi, who specializes in a novel API-based data security technology that combines data aliasing, vaulting, encryption, and monitoring to create an advanced data protection platform that makes hacked data useless to hackers. What makes Nullafi noteworthy is how they’ve been able to build a data architecture that protects legacy and new infrastructures while making the original data impossible for a hacker to reverse engineer and gain access to. It desensitizes critical data so that it’s useless to hackers but still useful for an organization to keep operating, uninterrupted by a breach to your business. Nullafi is built to AWS GovCloud standards. The Nullafi SDK encrypts the data before sending it to the Nullafi API. It then re-encrypts the data within their zero-knowledge vault in the cloud (or on-premises). The result is that no sensitive data in any format is shared with Nullafi that could be used or lost, as their architecture doesn’t have visibility into what the actual data looks like. The following graphic explains their architecture:

 

10 Ways Asset Intelligence Improves Cybersecurity Resiliency And Persistence

10 Ways Asset Intelligence Improves Cybersecurity Resiliency And Persistence

Bottom Line: By securing every endpoint with a persistent connection and the resiliency to autonomously self-heal, CIOs are finding new ways to further improve network security by capitalizing on each IT assets’ intelligence.

Capturing real-time data from IT assets is how every organization can grow beyond its existing boundaries with greater security, speed, and trust. Many IT and cybersecurity teams and the CIOs that lead them, and with whom I’ve spoken with, are energized by the opportunity to create secured perimeterless networks that can flex in real-time as their businesses grow. Having a persistent connection to every device across an organizations’ constantly changing perimeter provides invaluable data for achieving this goal. The real-time data provided by persistent device connections give IT and cybersecurity teams the Asset Intelligence they need for creating more resilient, self-healing endpoints as well.

How Asset Intelligence Drives Stronger Endpoint Security 

Real-time, persistent connections to every device in a network is the foundation of a strong endpoint security strategy. It’s also essential for controlling device operating expenses (OPEX) across the broad base of device use cases every organization relies on to succeed. Long-term persistent connections drive down capital expenses (CAPEX) too, by extending the life of every device while providing perimeterless growth of the network. By combining device inventory and analysis, endpoint data compliance with the ability to manage a device fleet using universal asset management techniques, IT and cybersecurity teams are moving beyond Asset Management to Asset Intelligence. Advanced analytics, benchmarks, and audits are all possible across every endpoint today. The following are the 10 ways Asset Intelligence improves cybersecurity resiliency and persistence:

  • Track, trace and find lost or stolen devices on or off an organizations’ network in real-time, disabling the device if necessary. Every device, from laptops, tablets, and smartphones to desktops and specialized use devices are another threat surface that needs to be protected. Real-time persistent connections to each of these devices make track-and-trace possible, giving CIOs and their teams more control than had been possible before. Real-time track-and-trace data combined with device condition feedback closes security blind spots too. IT and cybersecurity teams can monitor every device and know the state of hardware, software, network and use patterns from dashboards. Of the endpoint providers in this market, Absolute’s approach to providing dashboards that provide real-time visibility and control of every device on a network is considered state-of-the-art. An example of Absolute’s dashboard is shown below:

10 Ways Asset Intelligence Improves Cybersecurity Resiliency And Persistence

  • Asset Intelligence enables every endpoint to autonomously self-heal themselves and deliver constant persistence across an organization’s entire network. By capitalizing on the device, network, threat, and use data that defines Asset Intelligence, endpoint agents learn over time how to withstand breach attempts, user errors, and malicious attacks, and most importantly, how to return an endpoint device to its original safe state. Asset Intelligence is the future of endpoint security as it’s proving to be very effective at enabling self-healing persistence across enterprise networks.
  • Asset Intelligence solves the urgent problem created from having 10 or more agents installed on a single endpoint that collide, conflict and decay how secure the endpoint is. Absolute Software’s 2019 Endpoint Security Trends Report found that the more agents that are added to an endpoint, the greater the risk of a breach. Absolute also found that a typical device has ten or more endpoint security agents installed, often colliding and conflicting with the other. MITRE’s Cybersecurity research practice found there are on average, ten security agents on each device, and over 5,000 common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs) found on the top 20 client applications in 2018 alone.
  • Asset Intelligence sets the data foundation for achieving always-on persistence by tracking every devices’ unique attributes, identifiers, communication log history and more. Endpoint security platforms need a contextually-rich, real-time stream of data to know how and when to initialize the process of autonomously healing a given endpoint device. Asset Intelligence provides the centralized base of IT security controls needed for making endpoint persistence possible.
  • Having a real-time connection to every device on a perimeterless network contributes to creating a security cloud stack from the BIOS level that delivers persistence for every device. CIOs and CISOs interested in building secured perimeterless networks are focused on creating persistent, real-time connections to every device as a first step to creating a security cloud stack from each devices’ BIOS level. They’re saying that the greater the level of Asset Intelligence they can achieve, the broader they can roll out persistence-based endpoints across their networks that have the capacity to self-diagnose and self-heal.
  • Device fleets are churning 20% a year or more, increasing the urgency CIOs have for knowing where each device is and its current state, further underscoring Asset Intelligence’s value. Gavin Cockburn of ARUP is the global service lead for workplace automation and endpoint management, including how the firm acquires devices, manages and reclaims them. ARUP is using the Absolute Persistence platform for managing the many high-value laptops and remote devices their associates use on global projects. During a recent panel discussion he says that device replacements “becomes part of our budgeting process in that 33% of devices that we do replace every year, we know where they are.” Gavin is also using API calls to gain analytical data to measure how devices are being used, if the hard drive is encrypted or not and run Reach scripts to better encrypt a device if there is not enough security on them.
  • The more Asset Intelligence an organization has, the more they can predict and detect malware intrusion attempts, block them and restore any damage to any device on their perimeter. When there’s persistent endpoint protection across a perimeterless network, real-time data is enabling greater levels of Asset Intelligence which is invaluable in identifying, blocking and learning from malware attempts on any device on the network. Endpoint protection platforms that have persistence designed in are able to autonomously self-heal back to their original state after an attack, all without manual intervention.
  • Persistent endpoints open up the opportunity of defining geofencing for every device on a perimeterless network, further providing valuable data Asset Intelligence platforms capitalize on. Geofencing is proving to be a must-have for many organizations that have globally-based operations, as their IT and cybersecurity teams need to track the device location, usage, and compliance in real-time. Healthcare companies are especially focused on how Asset Intelligence can deliver geofencing at scale. Janet Hunt, Senior Director, IT User Support at Apria Healthcare recently commented during a recent panel discussion that “our geo-fencing is extremely tight. I have PCs that live in the Philippines. I have PCs that live in India. I have one PC or actually two PCs that live in Indonesia. If somebody goes from where they say that they’re going to be to another part of Indonesia, that device will freeze because that’s not where it’s supposed to be and that’s an automatic thing. Don’t ask forgiveness, don’t ask questions, freeze the device and see what happens. It’s one of the best things we’ve done for ourselves.”  Gavin Cockburn says, “We actually do some kind of secretive work, government work and we have these secure rooms, dotted around the organization. So we know if we put a device in that room, what we do is, what we say is this device only works in this area and we can pinpoint that to a pretty decent accuracy.”  From healthcare to secured government contracting, geofencing is a must-have in any persistent endpoint security strategy.
  • Automating customer and regulatory audits and improving compliance reporting by relying on Asset Intelligence alleviates time-consuming tasks for IT and cybersecurity teams. When persistent endpoint protection is operating across an organization’s network, audit and compliance data is captured in real-time and automatically fed into reporting systems and dashboards. CIOs and their cybersecurity teams are using dashboards to monitor every device’s usage patterns, audit access, and application activity, and check for compliance to security and reporting standards. Audits and compliance reporting are being automated today using PowerShell, BASH scripts and API-based universal asset commands. Gavin Cockburn of ARUP mentioned how his firm gives customers the assurance their data is safe by providing them ongoing audits while project engagements are ongoing. “We need to show for our clients that we look after their data and we can prove that. And we show that again and again. I mean similar story, we’ve seen machines go missing, either breaking into cars, re-image three times. We wipe it every time. Put the new hard drive in, think it might be a hard drive issue, it wipes again. We never see it come online again, “ he said.
  • Asset Intelligence improves data hygiene, which has a direct effect on how effective all IT systems are and the customer experiences they deliver. CIOs and their teams’ incentives center on how effective IT is at meeting internal information needs that impact customer experiences and outcomes. Improving data hygiene is essential for IT to keep achieving their incentive plans and earning bonuses. As Janet Hunt, Senior Director, IT User Support at Apria Healthcare said, “right now we are all about hygiene and what I mean by that is we want our data to be good. We want all the things that make IT a valued partner with the business operation to be able to be reliable.” The more effective any organization is at achieving and sustaining a high level of data hygiene, the more secure their perimeterless network strategies become.

 

Why Cybersecurity Needs To Focus More On Customer Endpoints

Why Cybersecurity Needs To Focus More On Customer Endpoints

  • Cloud-based endpoint protection platforms (EPP) are proliferating across enterprises today as CIOs and CISOs prioritize greater resiliency in their endpoint security strategies going into 2020.
  • Gartner predicts that Global Information Security and Risk Management end-user spending is forecast to grow at a five-year CAGR of 9.2% to reach $174.5 billion in 2022, with approximately $50B spent on endpoint security.
  • Endpoint security tools are 24% of all IT security spending, and by 2020 global IT security spending will reach $128B according to Morgan Stanley Research.
  • 70% of all breaches still originate at endpoints, despite the increased IT spending on this threat surface, according to IDC.

There’s a surge of activity happening right now in enterprises that are prioritizing more resiliency in their endpoint security strategies going into 2020. The factors motivating CIOs, CISOs, IT, and Practice Directors to prioritize endpoint resiliency include more effective asset management based on real-time data while securing and ensuring every endpoint can heal itself using designed-in regenerative software at the BIOS level of every device. CIOs say the real-time monitoring helps reduce asset management operating expense, a big plus many of them appreciate give their tight budgets. Sean Maxwell, Chief Commercial Officer at Absolute, says, “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.”

The Endpoint Market Is Heating Up Going Into 2020

Over thirty vendors are competing in the endpoint security market right now. A few of the most interesting are Absolute Software, Microsoft, Palo Alto Networks, and others who are seeing a surge of activity from enterprises based on discussions with CIOs and CISOs. Absolute Software’s Persistence self-healing endpoint security technology is embedded in the firmware of more than 500 million devices and gives CIOs, CISOs and their team’s complete visibility and control over devices and data. Absolute is the leading visibility and control platform that provides enterprises with tamper-proof resilience and protection of all devices, data, and applications.

Like Absolute, Microsoft is unique in how they are the only vendor to provide built-in endpoint protection at the device level, with the core focus being on the OS. Windows 10 has Windows Defender Antivirus now integrated at the OS level, the same System Center Endpoint Protection delivers in Windows 7 and 8 OS. Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) incident response console aggregates alerts and incident response activities across Microsoft Defender ATP, Office 365 ATP, Azure ATP, and Active Directory, in addition to Azure.

Further evidence of how enterprise customers are placing a high priority on endpoint security is the increase in valuations of key providers in this market, including Absolute Software (TSE: ABT) and others. Absolute’s stock price has jumped 13% in just a month, following their latest earnings announcement on November 12th with a transcript of their earnings call here. Absolute’s CEO Christy Wyatt commented during the company’s most recent earnings call that, “The ability to utilize near real-time data from the endpoint to… to deliver actionable insights to IT about where controls are failing and the ability to apply resilience to self-heal and reinforce those security controls will become a critical skill for every one of our customers. This is the essence of Absolute’s platform, which adds resiliency to our customer’s operations.” It’s evident from what CIOs and CISOs are saying that resiliency is transforming endpoint security today and will accelerate in 2020.

Key Takeaways From Conversations With Enterprise Cybersecurity Leaders

The conversations with CIOs, CISOs, and IT Directors provided valuable insights into why resiliency is becoming a high priority for endpoint security strategies today. The following are key takeaways from the conversations:

  • Known humorously as the “fun button” cybersecurity teams enjoy being able to brick any device any time while monitoring the activity happening on it in real-time. 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 back 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 re-build “brick me.”
  • IT budgets for 2020 are flat or slightly up, with many CIOs being given the goal of reducing asset management operating expenses, making resiliency ideal for better managing device costs. The more effectively assets are managed, the more secure an organization becomes. That’s another motivating factor motivating enterprises to adopt resiliency as a core part of the endpoint security strategies.
  • 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 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.
  • Endpoints enabled with Resiliency have proven their ability to autonomously self-heal themselves, earning the trust of CIOs and CISOs, who are adopting Absolute to alleviate costly network interruptions and potential breaches in the process. 19% of endpoints across a typical IT network require at least one client or patch management repair monthly, according to Absolute’s 2019 Endpoint Security Trends Report. The report also found that increasing security spending on protecting endpoints doesn’t increase an organizations’ safety – and in some instances, reduces it. Having a systematic, design-in solution to these challenges gives CIOs, CISO, and their teams greater peace of mind and reduces expensive interruptions and potential breaches that impede their organizations’ growth.

 

10 Predictions How AI Will Improve Cybersecurity In 2020

10 Predictions How AI Will Improve Cybersecurity In 2020

Capgemini predicts 63% of organizations are planning to deploy AI in 2020 to improve cybersecurity, with the most popular application being network security.

Cybersecurity is at an inflection point entering 2020. Advances in AI and machine learning are accelerating its technological progress. Real-time data and analytics are making it possible to build stronger business cases, driving higher adoption. Cybersecurity spending has rarely been linked to increasing revenues or reducing costs, but that’s about to change in 2020.

What Leading Cybersecurity Experts Are Predicting For 2020

Interested in what the leading cybersecurity experts are thinking will happen in 2020, I contacted five of them. Experts I spoke with include Nicko van Someren, Ph.D. and Chief Technology Officer at Absolute Software; Dr. Torsten George, Cybersecurity Evangelist at Centrify; Craig Sanderson, Vice President of Security Products at Infoblox; Josh Johnston, Director of AI, Kount; and Brian Foster, Senior Vice President Product Management at MobileIron. Each of them brings a knowledgeable, insightful, and unique perspective to how AI and machine learning will improve cybersecurity in 2020. The following are their ten predictions:

  1. AI and machine learning will continue to enable asset management improvements that also deliver exponential gains in IT security by providing greater endpoint resiliency in 2020. Nicko van Someren, Ph.D. and Chief Technology Officer at Absolute Software, observes that “Keeping machines up to date is an IT management job, but it’s a security outcome. Knowing what devices should be on my network is an IT management problem, but it has a security outcome. And knowing what’s going on and what processes are running and what’s consuming network bandwidth is an IT management problem, but it’s a security outcome. I don’t see these as distinct activities so much as seeing them as multiple facets of the same problem space, accelerating in 2020 as more enterprises choose greater resiliency to secure endpoints.”
  2. AI tools will continue to improve at drawing on data sets of wildly different types, allowing the “bigger picture” to be put together from, say, static configuration data, historic local logs, global threat landscapes, and contemporaneous event streams.  Nicko van Someren, Ph.D., and CTO at Absolute Software also predict that“Enterprise executives will be concentrating their budgets and time on detecting cyber threats using AI above predicting and responding. As enterprises mature in their use and adoption of AI as part of their cybersecurity efforts, prediction and response will correspondingly increase.”
  3. Threat actors will increase the use of AI to analyze defense mechanisms and simulate behavioral patterns to bypass security controls, leveraging analytics to and machine learning to hack into organizations. Dr. Torsten George, Cybersecurity Evangelist at Centrify, predicts that “threat actors, many of them state-sponsored, will increase their use and sophistication of AI algorithms to analyze organizations’’ defense mechanisms and tailor attacks to specific weak areas. He also sees the threat of bad actors being able to plug into the data streams of organizations and use the data to further orchestrate sophisticated attacks.”
  4. Given the severe shortage of experienced security operations resources and the sheer volume of data that most organizations are trying to work through, we are likely to see organizations seeking out AI/ML capabilities to automate their security operations processes. Craig Sanderson, Vice President of Security Products at Infoblox also predicts that “while AI and machine learning will increasingly be used to detect new threats it still leaves organizations with the task of understanding the scope, severity, and veracity of that threat to inform an effective response. As security operations becomes a big data problem it necessitates big data solutions.”
  5. There’s going to be a greater need for adversarial machine learning to combat supply chain corruption in 2020. Sean Tierney, Director of Threat Intelligence at Infoblox, predicts that “the need for adversarial machine learning to combat supply chain corruption is going to increase in 2020. Sean predicts that the big problem with remote coworking spaces is determining who has access to what data. As a result, AI will become more prevalent in traditional business processes and be used to identify if a supply chain has been corrupted.”
  6. Artificial intelligence will become more prevalent in account takeover—both the proliferation and prevention of it. Josh Johnston, Director of AI at Kount, predicts that “the average consumer will realize that passwords are not providing enough account protection and that every account they have is vulnerable. Captcha won’t be reliable either, because while it can tell if someone is a bot, it can’t confirm that the person attempting to log in is the account holder. AI can recognize a returning user. AI will be key in protecting the entire customer journey, from account creation to account takeover, to a payment transaction. And, AI will allow businesses to establish a relationship with their account holders that are protected by more than just a password.”
  7. Consumers will take greater control of their data sharing and privacy in 2020. Brian Foster, Senior Vice President Product Management at MobileIron, observes that over the past few years, we’ve witnessed some of the biggest privacy and data breaches. As a result of the backlash, tech giants such as Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon beefed up their privacy controls to gain back trust from customers. Now, the tables have turned in favor of consumers and companies will have to put privacy first to stay in business. Moving forward, consumers will own their data, which means they will be able to selectively share it with third parties, but most importantly, they will get their data back after sharing, unlike in years past.
  8. As cybersecurity threats evolve, we’ll fight AI with AI. Brian Foster, Senior Vice President Product Management at MobileIron, notes that the most successful cyberattacks are executed by highly professional criminal networks that leverage AI and ML to exploit vulnerabilities such as user behavior or security gaps to gain access to valuable business systems and data. All of this makes it extremely hard for IT security organizations to keep up — much less stay ahead of these threats. While an attacker only needs to find one open door in an enterprise’s security, the enterprise must race to lock all of the doors. AI conducts this at a pace and thoroughness human ability can no longer compete with, and businesses will finally take notice in 2020.
  9. AI and machine learning will thwart compromised hardware finding its way into organizations’ supply chains. Rising demand for electronic components will expand the market for counterfeit components and cloned products, increasing the threat of compromised hardware finding its way into organizations’ supply chains. The vectors for hardware supply-chain attacks are expanding as market demand for more and cheaper chips, and components drive a booming business for hardware counterfeiters and cloners. This expansion is likely to create greater opportunities for compromise by both nation-state and cybercriminal threat actors. Source: 2020 Cybersecurity Threats Trends Outlook; Booz, Allen, Hamilton, 2019.
  10. Capgemini predicts 63% of organizations are planning to deploy AI in 2020 to improve cybersecurity, with the most popular application being network security. Capgemini found that nearly one in five organizations were using AI to improve cybersecurity before 2019. In addition to network security, data security, endpoint security, and identity and access management are the highest priority use cases for improving cybersecurity with AI in enterprises today. Source: Capgemini, Reinventing Cybersecurity with Artificial Intelligence: The new frontier in digital security.
10 Predictions How AI Will Improve Cybersecurity In 2020

Source: Capgemini, Reinventing Cybersecurity with Artificial Intelligence: The new frontier in digital security.

Improving Endpoint Security Needs To Be A Top Goal In 2020

Improving Endpoint Security Needs To Be A Top Goal In 2020

Bottom Line:  Attacking endpoints with AI, bots, and machine learning is gaining momentum with cybercriminals today with no signs of slowing down into 2020, making endpoint security a must-have cybersecurity goal for next year.

Cyberattacks are growing more complex and difficult to prevent now and will accelerate in the future, making endpoint security a top goal in 2020. Cybercriminals are using structured and unstructured machine learning algorithms to hack organizations’ endpoints with increasing frequency. Endpoint attacks and their levels of complexity will accelerate as cybercriminals gain greater mastery of these techniques.

In response, endpoint protection providers are adopting machine learning-based detection and response technologies, providing more cloud-native solutions that can scale across a broader range of endpoints, and designing in greater persistence and resilience for each endpoint. The recent IDC survey published this month, Do You Think Your Endpoint Security Strategy Is Up to Scratch? completed in collaboration with HP recommends that “companies should seek to build resilience — on the assumption that breaches are inevitable — and look for “security by design” features that facilitate or automate detection and recovery.” IDC surveyed 500 senior security executives globally, finding major differences between leading organizations who realize endpoint security is essential for a unified cybersecurity strategy and followers, who don’t.

What Differentiates The Most Effective Endpoint Strategies? 

IDC’s study found that leaders who integrate endpoint security into their cybersecurity plans are more effective at compliance reporting, endpoint hardening, and attack detection and response. Leaders capitalize on the data from their endpoint security strategies, creating contextual intelligence that helps protect their most vulnerable threat surfaces. The following are key insights from the IDC study showing why endpoint security needs to be an integral part of any corporate-wide cybersecurity strategy:

  • 29.6% of all enterprises globally consider endpoint security to be a significant component of their overall cybersecurity strategy, with leaders 2X as likely to consider it a high priority. Close to half of all enterprises (49.4%) believe endpoint security can perform effectively as a secondary component. IDC found that the lesser the priority security leaders place on endpoint security, the more likely endpoints will fail. Instead of taking a strategic approach, organizations treat endpoint security as an isolated strategy, adding an average of 10 security agents per device according to Absolute’s 2019 Endpoint Security Trends Report. You can get a copy of the report here. Cybersecurity leaders realize that having a unified endpoint security strategy designed for persistence and resilience is far more effective than relying on an isolated one. The following findings from the IDC report illustrate how leaders view endpoint as integral to their cybersecurity strategies.
  • When enterprises are complacent about endpoint security, procurement standards become mediocre over time and leave digital businesses at greater risk. Followers lack security focus for everything other than desktops during procurement, for example. Though most enterprises include security requirements in procurement requests, those requirements are not specified equally for all endpoint device types, resulting in uneven security coverage and compliance risk.
  • Automated operating system image recoverability, detect and recover firmware integrity breaches, and enabling software monitoring from the hardware level are the three most in-demand endpoint security features for enterprises today. Leader enterprises have relied on persistent connections to every endpoint in a network to achieve greater resilience across their global networks. Absolute is working to change this relationship, allowing remote, disconnected endpoints to remain resilient, which reflects what leaders are looking for in terms of greater control and visibility for every threat surface or endpoint. Senior security leaders, including CISOs, are taking a more integrated approach to endpoint security by designing in persistence to the device level that thwarts breach attempts in real-time. Absolute is working to change this relationship, allowing remote, disconnected endpoints to remain resilient.
  • Enterprises who are cybersecurity leaders most value a device’s built-in security features when evaluating PCs, laptops, and mobile devices while followers value this feature least. 33% of enterprises who are leaders prioritize devices that have built-in security capabilities that immediately provide persistent connections across the network, enabling greater resiliency. The study also makes the point that endpoint security needs to be tamper-proof at the operating system level, yet be flexible enough to provide IT and cybersecurity teams with device visibility and access to modify protections. One of the leaders in this area, Absolute, has invented endpoint security technology that begins at the BIOS level. There are currently 500M devices that have their endpoint code embedded in them. The Absolute Platform is comprised of three products: Persistence, Intelligence, and Resilience—each building on the capabilities of the other. The following graphic from the IDC study illustrates the stark contrast between enterprises who are cybersecurity leaders versus followers when it comes to adopting build-in security capabilities to harden endpoints across their networks.

Conclusion

When 70% of all breaches originate at endpoints, despite enterprise IT spending more than ever in cybersecurity, it’s a clear sign that endpoint security needs to be an integral part of any cybersecurity strategy. On average, every endpoint has ten security agents installed, often leading to software conflicts and frequent endpoint encryption failures. Absolute’s latest study found that over 42% of endpoints experience encryption failures, leaving entire networks at risk from a breach. They’re most commonly disabled by users, malfunction, or have error conditions or have never been installed correctly in the first place. Absolute also found that endpoints often failed due to the fragile nature of their encryption agents’ configurations. 2% of encryption agents fail every week, and over half of all encryption failures occurred within two weeks, fueling a constant 8% rate of decay every 30 days. 100% of all devices experiencing encryption failures within one year. Multiple endpoint security solutions conflict with each other and create more opportunities for breaches than avert them. These are just a few of the many factors that make improving endpoint security a top goal all enterprises need to achieve in 2020.

It’s Time To Solve K-12’s Cybersecurity Crisis

It's Time To Solve K-12's Cybersecurity Crisis

  • There were a record 160 publicly-disclosed security incidents in K-12 during the summer months of 2019, exceeding the total number of incidents reported in all of 2018 by 30%.
  • 47% of K-12 organizations are making cybersecurity their primary investment, yet 74% do not use encryption.
  • 93% of K-12 organizations rely on native client/patch management tools that have a 56% failure rate, with 9% of client/patch management failures never recovered.

These and many other fascinating insights are from Absolute’s new research report, Cybersecurity and Education: The State of the Digital District in 2020​, focused on the state of security, staff and student safety, and endpoint device health in K-12 organizations. The study’s findings reflect the crisis the education sector is facing as they grapple with high levels of risk exposure – driven in large part by complex IT environments and a digitally savvy student population – that have made them a prime target for cybercriminals and ransomware attackers. The methodology is based on data from 3.2M devices containing Absolute’s endpoint visibility and control platform, active in 1,200 K-12 organizations in North America (U.S. and Canada). Please see the full report for complete details on the methodology.

Here’ the backdrop:

  • K-12 cybersecurity incidents are skyrocketing, with over 700 reported since 2016 with 160 occurring during the summer of 2019 alone. Educational IT leaders face the challenge of securing increasingly complex IT environments while providing access to a digitally savvy student population capable of bypassing security controls. Schools are now the second-largest pool of ransomware victims, just behind local governments and followed by healthcare organizations. As of today, 49 school districts have been hit by ransomware attacks so far this year.

“Today’s educational IT leaders have been tasked with a remarkable feat: adopting and deploying modern learning platforms, while also ensuring student safety and privacy, and demonstrating ROI on security and technology investments,” said Christy Wyatt, CEO of Absolute.

Research from Absolute found:

K-12 IT leaders are now responsible for collectively managing more than 250 unique OS versions, and 93% are managing up to five versions of common applications. The following key insights from the study reflect how severe K-12’s cybersecurity crisis is today:

  • Digital technologies’ rapid proliferation across school districts has turned into a growth catalyst for K-12’s cybersecurity crisis. 94% of school districts have high-speed internet, and 82% provide students with school-funded devices through one-to-one and similar initiatives. Absolute found that funding for educational technology has increased by 62% in the last three years. The Digital Equity Act goes into effect this year, committing additional federal dollars to bring even more technology to the classroom. K-12 IT leaders face the daunting challenge of having to secure on average 11 device types, 258 unique operating systems versions and over 6,400 unique Chrome OS extensions and more, reflecting the broad scale of today’s K-12 cybersecurity crisis. Google Chromebooks dominate the K-12 device landscape. The following graphic illustrates how rapidly digital technologies are proliferating in K-12 organizations:

  • 42% of K-12 organizations have staff and students regularly bypass security endpoint controls using web proxies and rogue VPN apps, inadvertently creating gateways for malicious outsiders to breach their schools’ networks. Absolute found that there are on average 10.6 devices with web proxy/rogue VPN apps per school and 319 unique web proxy/rogue VPN apps in use today, including “Hide My Ass” and “IP Vanish.”  Many of the rogue VPN apps originate in China, and all of them are designed to evade web filtering and other content controls. With an average of 10.6 devices per school harboring web proxies and rogue VPN apps, schools are also at risk of non-compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).

  • While 68% of education IT leaders say that cybersecurity is their top priority, 53% rely on client/patch management tools that are proving ineffective in securing their proliferating IT infrastructures. K-12 IT leaders are relying on client/patch management tools to secure the rapidly proliferating number of devices, operating systems, Chrome extensions, educational apps, and unique application versions. Client/patch management agents fail 56% of the time, however, and 9% never recover. There are on average, nine daily encryption agents’ failures, 44% of which never recover. The cybersecurity strategy of relying on native client/patch management isn’t working, leading to funds being wasted on K-12 security controls that don’t scale:

“Wyatt continued, this is not something that can be achieved by simply spending more money… especially when that money comes from public funds. The questions they each need to be asking are if they have the right foundational security measures in place, and whether the controls they have already invested in are working properly. Without key foundational elements of a strong and resilient security approach in place – things like visibility and control, it becomes nearly impossible to protect your students, your data, and your investments.”

  • Providing greater device visibility and endpoint security controls while enabling applications and devices to be more resilient is a solid first step to solving the K-12 cybersecurity crisis. Thwarting the many breach and ransomware attacks K-12 organizations receive every day needs to start by considering every device as part of the network perimeter. Securing K-12 IT networks to the device level delivers asset management and security visibility that native client/patch management tools lack. Having visibility to the device level also gives K-12 IT administrators and educators insights into how they can tailor learning programs for broader adoption. The greater the visibility, the greater the control. K-12 IT administrators can ensure internet safety policies are being adhered to while setting controls to be alerted of suspicious activity or non-compliant devices, including rogue VPNs or stolen devices. Absolute’s Persistence platform provides a persistent connection to each endpoint in a K-12’s one-to-one program, repairing or replacing critical apps that have been disabled or removed.

You can download the full Absolute report here.

10 Ways AI And Machine Learning Are Improving Endpoint Security

  • Gartner predicts $137.4B will be spent on Information Security and Risk Management in 2019, increasing to $175.5B in 2023, reaching a CAGR of 9.1%. Cloud Security, Data Security, and Infrastructure Protection are the fastest-growing areas of security spending through 2023.
  •  69% of enterprise executives believe artificial intelligence (AI) will be necessary to respond to cyberattacks with the majority of telecom companies (80%) saying they are counting on AI to help identify threats and thwart attacks according to Capgemini.
  •  Spending on AI-based cybersecurity systems and services reached $7.1B in 2018 and is predicted to reach $30.9B in 2025, attaining a CAGR of 23.4% in the forecast period according to Zion Market Research.

Traditional approaches to securing endpoints based on the hardware characteristics of a given device aren’t stopping breach attempts today. Bad actors are using AI and machine learning to launch sophisticated attacks to shorten the time it takes to compromise an endpoint and successfully breach systems. They’re down to just 7 minutes after comprising an endpoint and gaining access to internal systems ready to exfiltrate data according to Ponemon. The era of trusted and untrusted domains at the operating system level, and “trust, but verify” approaches are over. Security software and services spending is soaring as a result, as the market forecasts above show.

AI & Machine Learning Are Redefining Endpoint Security

AI and machine learning are proving to be effective technologies for battling increasingly automated, well-orchestrated cyberattacks and breach attempts. Attackers are combining AI, machine learning, bots, and new social engineering techniques to thwart endpoint security controls and gain access to enterprise systems with an intensity never seen before. It’s becoming so prevalent that Gartner predicts that more than 85% of successful attacks against modern enterprise user endpoints will exploit configuration and user errors by 2025. Cloud platforms are enabling AI and machine learning-based endpoint security control applications to be more adaptive to the proliferating types of endpoints and corresponding threats. The following are the top ten ways AI and machine learning are improving endpoint security:

  • Using machine learning to derive risk scores based on previous behavioral patterns, geolocation, time of login, and many other variables is proving to be effective at securing and controlling access to endpoints. Combining supervised and unsupervised machine learning to fine-tune risk scores in milliseconds is reducing fraud, thwarting breach attempts that attempt to use privileged access credentials, and securing every identity on an organizations’ network. Supervised machine learning models rely on historical data to find patterns not discernable with rules or predictive analytics. Unsupervised machine learning excels at finding anomalies, interrelationships, and valid links between emerging factors and variables. Combining both unsupervised and supervised machine learning is proving to be very effective in spotting anomalous behavior and reducing or restricting access.
  • Mobile devices represent a unique challenge to achieving endpoint security control, one that machine learning combined with Zero Trust is proving to be integral at solving.  Cybercriminals prefer to steal a mobile device, its passwords, and privileged access credentials than hack into an organization. That’s because passwords are the quickest onramp they have to the valuable data they want to exfiltrate and sell. Abandoning passwords for new techniques including MobileIron’s zero sign-on approach shows potential for thwarting cybercriminals from getting access while hardening endpoint security control. Securing mobile devices using a zero-trust platform built on a foundation of unified endpoint management (UEM) capabilities enables enterprises to scale zero sign-on for managed and unmanaged services for the first time. Below is a graphic illustrating how they’re adopting machine learning to improve mobile endpoint security control:
  • Capitalizing on the core strengths of machine learning to improve IT asset management is making direct contributions to greater security.  IT Management and security initiatives continue to become more integrated across organizations, creating new challenges to managing endpoint security across each device. Absolute Software is taking an innovative approach to solve the challenge of improving IT asset management, so endpoint protection is strengthened at the same time. Recently I had a chance to speak with Nicko van Someren, Ph.D. and Chief Technology Officer at Absolute Software, where he shared with me how machine learning algorithms are improving security by providing greater insights into asset management. “Keeping machines up to date is an IT management job, but it’s a security outcome. Knowing what devices should be on my network is an IT management problem, but it has a security outcome. And knowing what’s going on and what processes are running and what’s consuming network bandwidth is an IT management problem, but it’s a security outcome. I don’t see these as distinct activities so much as seeing them as multiple facets of the same problem space. Nicko added that Absolute’s endpoint security controls begin at the BIOS level of over 500M devices that have their endpoint code embedded in them. The Absolute Platform is comprised of three products: Persistence, Intelligence, and Resilience—each building on the capabilities of the other. Absolute Intelligence standardizes the data around asset analytics and security advocacy analytics to allow Security managers to ask any question they want. (“What’s slowing down my device? What’s working and what isn’t? What has been compromised? What’s consuming too much memory? How does this deviate from normal performance?”). An example of Absolute’s Intelligence providing insights into asset management and security is shown below:
  • Machine learning has progressed to become the primary detection method for identifying and stopping malware attacks. Machine learning algorithms initially contributed to improving endpoint security by supporting the back-end of malware protection workflows. Today more vendors are designing endpoint security systems with machine learning as the primary detection method. Machine learning trained algorithms can detect file-based malware and learn which files are harmful or not based on the file’s metadata and content. Symantec’s Content & Malware Analysis illustrates how machine learning is being used to detect and block malware. Their approach combines advanced machine learning and static code file analysis to block, detect, and analyze threats and stop breach attempts before they can spread.
  • Supervised machine learning algorithms are being used for determining when given applications are unsafe to use, assigning them to containers, so they’re isolated from production systems. Taking into account an applications’ threat score or reputation, machine learning algorithms are defining if dynamic application containment needs to run for a given application. Machine learning-based dynamic application containment algorithms and rules block or log unsafe actions of an application based on containment and security rules. Machine learning algorithms are also being used for defining predictive analytics that define the extent of a given applications’ threat.
  •  Integrating AI, machine learning, and SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) in a single unified platform are enabling organizations to predict, detect, and respond to anomalous behaviors and events. AI and machine learning-based algorithms and predictive analytics are becoming a core part of SIEM platforms today as they provide automated, continuous analysis and correlation of all activity observed within a given IT environment. Capturing, aggregating, and analyzing endpoint data in real-time using AI techniques and machine learning algorithms is providing entirely new insights into asset management and endpoint security. One of the most interesting companies to watch in this area is LogRhythm. They’ve developed an innovative approach to integrating AI, machine learning, and SIEM in their LogRhythm NextGen SIEM Platform, which delivers automated, continuous analysis and correlation of all activity observed within an IT environment. The following is an example of how LogRhythm combines AI, machine learning, and SIEM to bring new insights into securing endpoints across a network.
  • Machine learning is automating the more manually-based, routine incident analysis, and escalation tasks that are overwhelming security analysts today. Capitalizing on supervised machine learnings’ innate ability to fine-tune algorythms in milliseconds based on the analysis of incidence data, endpoint security providers are prioritizing this area in product developnent. Demand from potential customers remains strong, as nearly everyone is facing a cybersecurity skills shortage while facing an onslaught of breach attempts.  “The cybersecurity skills shortage has been growing for some time, and so have the number and complexity of attacks; using machine learning to augment the few available skilled people can help ease this. What’s exciting about the state of the industry right now is that recent advances in Machine Learning methods are poised to make their way into deployable products,” Absolute’s CTO Nicko van Someren added.
  • Performing real-time scans of all processes with an unknown or suspicious reputation is another way how machine learning is improving endpoint security. Commonly referred to as Hunt and Respond, supervised and unsupervised machine learning algorithms are being used today to seek out and resolve potential threats in milliseconds instead of days. Supervised machine learning algorithms are being used to discover patterns in known or stable processes where anomalous behavior or activity will create an alert and pause the process in real-time. Unsupervised machine learning algorithms are used for analyzing large-scale, unstructured data sets to categorize suspicious events, visualize threat trends across the enterprise, and take immediate action at a single endpoint or across the entire organization.
  • Machine learning is accelerating the consolidation of endpoint security technologies, a market dynamic that is motivating organizations to trim back from the ten clients they have on average per endpoint today. Absolute Software’s 2019 Endpoint Security Trends Report found that a typical device has ten or more endpoint security agents installed, each often conflicting with the other. The study also found that enterprises are using a diverse array of endpoint agents, including encryption, AV/AM, and Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR). The wide array of endpoint solutions make it nearly impossible to standardize a specific test to ensure security and safety without sacrificing speed. By helping to accelerate the consolidation of security endpoints, machine learning is helping organizations to see the more complex and layered the endpoint protection, the greater the risk of a breach.
  • Keeping every endpoint in compliance with regulatory and internal standards is another area machine learning is contributing to improving endpoint security. In regulated industries, including financial services, insurance, and healthcare, machine learning is being deployed to discover, classify, and protect sensitive data. This is especially the case with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliance in healthcare. Amazon Macie is representative of the latest generation of machine learning-based cloud security services. Amazon Macie recognizes sensitive data such as personally identifiable information (PII) or intellectual property and provides organizations with dashboards, alerts, and contextual insights that give visibility into how data is being accessed or moved. The fully managed service continuously monitors data access activity for anomalies and generates detailed alerts when it detects the risk of unauthorized access or inadvertent data leaks. An example of one of Amazon Macie’s dashboard is shown below:

5 Key Insights From Absolute’s 2019 Endpoint Security Trends Report

  • Endpoint security tools are 24% of all IT security spending, and by 2020 global IT security spending will reach $128B according to Morgan Stanley Research.
  • 70% of all breaches still originate at endpoints, despite the increased IT spending on this threat surface, according to IDC.

To better understand the challenges organizations have securing the proliferating number and type of endpoints, Absolute launched and published their 2019 Endpoint Security Trends Report. You can get a copy of the report here. Their findings and conclusions are noteworthy to every organization who is planning and implementing a cybersecurity strategy. Data gathered from over 1B change events on over 6M devices is the basis of the multi-phased methodology. The devices represent data from 12,000 anonymized organizations across North America and Europe. Each device had Absolute’s Endpoint Resilience platform activated. The second phase of the study is based on exploratory interviews with senior executives from Fortune 500 organizations. For additional details on the methodology, please see page 12 of the study.

Key insights from the report include the following:

  1. Increasing security spending on protecting endpoints doesn’t increase an organizations’ safety and in certain cases, reduces it. Organizations are spending more on cybersecurity than ever before, yet they aren’t achieving greater levels of safety and security. Gartner’s latest forecast of global information security and risk management spending is forecast to reach $174.5B in 2022, attaining a five-year Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 9.2%. Improving endpoint controls is one of the highest-priority investments driving increased spending. Over 70% of all breaches are still originating at endpoints, despite millions of dollars spent by organizations every year. It’s possible to overspend on endpoint security and reduce its effectiveness, which is a key finding of the study. IBM Security’s most recent Cost of a Data Breach Report 2019 found that the average cost of a data breach in the U.S. grew from $3.54M in 2006 to $8.19M in 2019, a 130% increase in 14 years.
  2. The more complex and layered the endpoint protection, the greater the risk of a breach. One of the fascinating findings from the study is how the greater the number of agents a given endpoint has, the higher the probability it’s going to be breached. Absolute found that a typical device has ten or more endpoint security agents installed, each conflicting with the other. MITRE’S Cybersecurity research practice found there are on average, ten security agents on each device, and over 5,000 common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs) found on the top 20 client applications in 2018 alone. Enterprises are using a diverse array of endpoint agents, including encryption, AV/AM, and Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR). The wide array of endpoint solutions make it nearly impossible to standardize a specific test to ensure security and safety without sacrificing speed. Absolute found organizations are validating their endpoint configurations using live deployments that often break and take valuable time to troubleshoot. The following graphic from the study illustrates how endpoint security is driving risk:

  1. Endpoint security controls and their associated agents degrade and lose effectiveness over time. Over 42% of endpoints experience encryption failures, leaving entire networks at risk from a breach. They’re most commonly disabled by users, malfunction or have error conditions or have never been installed correctly in the first place. Absolute found that endpoints often failed due to the fragile nature of their encryption agents’ configurations. 2% of encryption agents fail every week, and over half of all encryption failures occurred within two weeks, fueling a constant 8% rate of decay every 30 days. 100% of all devices experiencing encryption failures within one year. Multiple endpoint security solutions conflict with each other and create more opportunities for breaches than avert them:

  1. One in five endpoint agents will fail every month, jeopardizing the security and safety of IT infrastructure while prolonging security exposures. Absolute found that 19% of endpoints of a typical IT network require at least one client or patch management repair monthly. The patch and client management agents often require repairs as well. 75% of IT teams reported at least two repair events, and 50% reported three or more repair events. Additionally, 5% could be considered inoperable, with 80 or more repair events in the same one-month. Absolute also looked at the impact of families of applications to see how they affected the vulnerability of endpoints and discovered another reason why endpoint security is so difficult to attain with multiple agents. The 20 most common client applications published over 5,000 vulnerabilities in 2018. If every device had only the top ten applications (half), that could result in as many as 55 vulnerabilities per device just from those top ten apps, including browsers, OSs, and publishing tools. The following graphic summarizes the rates of failure for Client/Patch Management Agent Health:

  1. Activating security at the device level creates a persistent connection to every endpoint in a fleet, enabling greater resilience organization-wide. By having a persistent, unbreakable connection to data and devices, organizations can achieve greater visibility and control over every endpoint. Organizations choosing this approach to endpoint security are unlocking the value of their existing hardware and network investments. Most important, they attain resilience across their networks. When an enterprise network has persistence designed to the device level, there’s a constant, unbreakable connection to data and devices that identifies and thwarts breach attempts in real-time.

Bottom Line:  Identifying and thwarting breaches needs to start at the device level by relying on secured, persistent connections that enable endpoints to better detecting vulnerabilities, defending endpoints, and achieve greater resilience overall.

Absolute’s CEO Christy Wyatt On Leading A Cybersecurity Company And The Power Of Resilience

Christy Wyatt’s career exemplifies what you would expect from a high-performing tech leader who thrives on turning challenges into growth. Showing persistence, resiliency, and tenacity – she has a long history of scaling high-growth technology companies and infusing them with greater creative energy, ingenuity, and intensity for results. As CEO of Absolute, she’s leading the company through an evolution that is shifting its focus from simply being known as a ‘track and trace’ company to becoming the world’s most trusted security company delivering endpoint resiliency to businesses of all sizes.

Previously she served as CEO of Dtex Systems, a user behavior intelligence company that grew revenue by 321% last year. Before Dtex, she was Chairman, CEO, and President of Good Technology, the global leader in mobile security where she defined and delivered an aggressive growth strategy before its successful acquisition by BlackBerry. Wyatt began her career as a software engineer and rose through the executive leadership ranks at Citigroup, Motorola, Apple, Palm and Sun Microsystems. She was named one of Inc. Magazine’s Top 50 Women Entrepreneurs in America, CEO of the Year by the Information Security Global Excellence Awards, and one of Fierce Wireless’s Most Influential Women in Wireless.

Insights From Absolute’s Latest Earnings Call

On August 13th, Christy Wyatt and Errol Olsen, CFO of Absolute, hosted the company’s latest earnings call with financial analysts. A transcript of the call is available here. Key insights from the company’s latest quarter and fiscal year-end were shared and included the following:

  • Total revenue in FY19 was $98.9M, representing an increase of 6% over the prior fiscal year with the ACV Base reaching $98M as of June 30, 2019, up $6.5M or 7%, over the prior year.
  • Enterprise sector portion of the ACV Base increased 11% year-over-year. Enterprise customers represented 55% of the ACV Base of June 30, 2019. And the Government sector portion of the ACV Base increased 15% year-over-year, now representing 12% of the ACV Base as of June 30, 2019.
  • Incremental ACV from new customers was $5.2M in FY19, compared to $3.4M in FY18.
  • Adjusted EBITDA in FY19 was $19.3M, or 20% of revenue, up from $9.2M or 10% of revenue, in the prior fiscal year.
  • FY19 Net Income increased 144% over the prior fiscal year based on continued Enterprise market growth.
  • In Q4, Absolute signed a new financial services customer with an ACV just under $1M with their service being delivered by a Managed Service Provider (MSP) that maintains the customers computing infrastructure.
  • Absolute has provided product-level enhancements to make it easier for MSP partners to use their products to support multiple customers, with the strategy paying off with more deals globally.

Christy Wyatt On Competing In Today’s Cybersecurity Industry 

I recently had the opportunity to interview Christy and learn more about how she sees the cybersecurity industry today and where it’s heading, in addition to gaining insights into her and her teams’ goals at Absolute, one of the top 10 cybersecurity companies to watch in 2019. Absolute serves as the industry benchmark for endpoint resilience, visibility, and control. Embedded in over a half-billion devices, the company enables more than 12,000 customers with self-healing endpoint security, always-connected visibility into their devices, data, users, and applications whether endpoints are on or off the corporate network, and the ultimate level of control and confidence required for the modern enterprise.

The following is my interview with Christy:

Louis:             Coming into a new company environment and establishing yourself with credibility in the role is key. What are the things that you’ve gone after immediately to address how the company is doing and where it’s going? In essence, what’s been your 90-day plan, and how’s that going overall?

Christy:          Most incoming CEOs join a company with a thesis about why this is an interesting opportunity and how they can invest significant intellectual capital into it. And then that first 90 days is really about vetting out that model and seeing if the opportunity is real. With Absolute, my thesis was here is a company that very few people understood, with an amazing install base and partner community built around unique self-healing capabilities. If you juxtapose that against the security industry today, you’ll see the glaringly huge problem. There are start-ups after start-ups all claiming they can protect businesses from breaches – so organizations keep buying more and more technology – all while breaches are accelerating. And those businesses keep asking themselves, “Are we more secure? How do I know if my business is more secure?” And the answer is they don’t know.

When I talk to customers, they say, “I have more than ten agents on every laptop in my device fleet. User experience is suffering, and the complexity is mind boggling.” As a CEO, I want to be able to fix that, right? How do we effectively deploy security controls in a way that is healthy and productive for both the laptop and for the user? That’s a massive opportunity, and that’s what gets me excited about Absolute.

Louis:             In your last few earnings calls, you referenced wins in financial services, healthcare, and professional services. What do you attribute the success of Absolute moving more towards the enterprise?

Christy:          The initial transition and increased focus on the enterprise market predates me. Over the past year, however, we’ve expanded our discussions into all the sectors you mention, and more, to better understand what they’re doing around enterprise resilience.

In April, we published original research that examined the state of decay and exposure points around endpoint security. Once we quantified that, we then spent our time with customers talking about what’s happening within their unique environments. What we found was that they had a false sense of security. They have encryption, malware security, and VPN all checked. But based on our research and new analytics, we were able to show them there are gaps in their protection when those agents became un-installed, missed a patch, or conflicted with other controls. That is the rate of decay we are talking about. How to make their existing controls more resilient to decay. We highlighted how their existing deployments degrade, weaken and fail over time. We also showed them some simple strategies to heal and even boost the immune system of their environment. That’s very powerful, and as a result, customers are leaning into our resilience story – it helps them capture the value of the investments they have already made.

Louis:             Regarding your product roadmap and the direction you’re going in, what are some of the plans that you’re looking to be able to capitalize on that presence that you have on billions of devices?

Christy:          Critical to our success has always been our partners. If you look at our Resilience product, which is our enterprise product, we can heal other third-party applications. So if the average enterprise has ten plus security agents deployed, there are probably at least three to five that they care about. They say, “Look, I feel exposed from a compliance perspective or a risk perspective if I don’t have, for example, encryption turned on… and it’s not okay with me that my users can delete something or turn it off.” Our data tells us where and how we can serve, and better secure, those enterprise IT architectures.

There’s a growing list of things within our platform today that we already heal. Broadening our resilience capabilities is something you’re going to see us invest significantly in. And then there’s work we have to do for our customers’ security and IT organizations, pointing them to the specific, critical things that need their focus right now. So if there’s a gap or something has gone offline in their security fabric, I want to bring their attention to it; I want to heal it and fix it. Absolute excels at solving those challenges for our customers.

Louis:             You mention endpoints often, and it makes me think about ‘Zero Trust’ security and the proliferation of IoT and industrial internet of things devices and how that’s flourishing across manufacturing and other distributed based industries like supply chains. What are your long term plans in these areas?

Christy:          We’re doing a lot of work in that space. With 5G quickly evolving, this is going to have a significant impact on the enterprise, and the ability to have similar controls on anything that’s connected to your network will be critical. I think there is a lot of credence in Zero Trust model as one of the many security architectures, but any one of these has to be rooted in something. So even if you’re trying to manage security from the cloud, your efficiency and your effectiveness are only as good as the data that you’re getting. If you don’t have visibility on what’s connected or what’s happening on the endpoint, your ability to diagnose it or fix it is relatively is impacted. My view is whatever you think your security strategy is today, the controls you think you need are going to be completely different 18 months from now. And so the five things you care about persisting and healing today are not going to be the same five things you care about in that timeframe. Our job is leverage our BIOS enabled foundation that allows enterprises to get reliable data, see the things that are protecting their environment, and heal them if something goes wrong – regardless of what their stack looks like.

Louis:             So Absolute becomes a system of record because it is the definitive record of all activity coming off of that laptop or that device that’s enabled at the BIOS level with your technology.

Christy:          I think we’re a big part of that. We’ve talked to a lot of customers, and there are other visibility solutions on the market. A lot of times somebody says, “Well, I have a fill-in-the-blank-security-product, and so I think I see everything.” My answer is the thing they are relying on is likely one of those ten things that are sitting in the stack that has a rate of decay – because it is not rooted in the BIOS so, therefore, it has some inherent vulnerability. So we should be instrumenting that and ensuring that we protect that critical control, ensure it is always running, and heal it if it goes offline. Our customers rely on us because they know that we are giving them the complete picture.

I don’t see the vast ecosystem of security products as competitive to what we are doing. I see those as complementary. Whatever is in your security technology stack, let’s make sure it’s always there, let’s make sure it’s always turned on, and let’s heal it if it goes offline.

Louis:             Regarding the designed-in win you’ve achieved with being embedded at the BIOS level, do you spend time OEMs? How is that all orchestrated at the platform level, or at the OEM level, to ensure that you continue to have that as a competitive advantage?

Christy:          We’ve had very close relationships with our OEM partners for well over a decade. We spend a lot of time looking at both the technical architectures and customer challenges. Every one of our OEM partners has a unique strategy for how they are delivering unique security services to their customers, and we view ourselves as an enabler of those strategies.

Louis:             When you visit customers, what are they most excited about? What’s their burning need right now? What are they focused on?

Christy:          Right now, we’re spending a lot of time with our customers focused on simplifying their experience and making these new capabilities easier to use, and easier to integrate into their environments. A lot of our customers have been with us for a long time and get very excited about how we make their jobs easier with more automation using things like our constantly expanding library of Reach scripts, enabling their IT teams to automate a lot of their endpoint tasks.

Where we also see a significant change in behavior is when we show them the power of some of our Resilience capabilities, paired with some of our analytics pieces. When we show them the state of the endpoint as it applies to their unique environment, where the gaps are, and demonstrate how we can help heal those gaps, I often hear, “Oh, I didn’t know Absolute could do that…” It’s a big departure from where we were ten years ago. So I think we’re going through a period of reintroducing ourselves to our customers and showing them that, even with the technology they already have, they could be doing so much more.

Louis:             How do you build the business case for Absolute?

Christy:          I think it depends on the customer. I think that if they’re a customer that’s talking to us about our visibility and control products, which are really about trust in our BIOS level visibility and control, management and tracking and locating and taking fine grain view at their assets, then I think the conversation is really about return on investment around the asset itself. Using their data to give them valuable insights about the state of their assets, as well as their posture. It’s a conversation about protecting the investment you’re making in your computing infrastructure.

When we’re talking to a customer about resiliency, it’s really about how much they are spending on security and how do we help them get back the return on investment of the dollars they’ve already spent. I believe the frenzy around security spending has put a lot of IT managers into a position where they have deep stacks and are not getting the full return on investment from those controls. We want to help them close the gap.

Louis:             How do you enable innovation of culture and be able to turn out the next generation products?

Christy:          So, I’ve done it a bunch of different ways, and I believe that what is most empowering to people who love to build great products….is when individuals get to see their stuff, their unique idea, their new concept go to market and be used by customers. We are fundamentally builders using our tools to solve customer problems.

What I like is a little bit more of the startup energy. Where people can bring forward ideas, and if we agree this is a cool idea – we invest.  We give them a team and a timeline. We can give those ideas an opportunity for commercialization. And by the way, that’s what engineers and innovators and entrepreneurs love the most. That’s what they want. They get passionate about pointing to a product and saying, “I did that. That’s super cool. It was my idea; they gave me a team. I learned a lot, and I got to have an impact.” And I think that impact is really what fires or fuels the innovation culture.

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