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Posts tagged ‘Absolute Software’

Why Cybersecurity Is Really A Business Problem

Why Cybersecurity Is Really A Business Problem

Bottom Line: Absolute’s 2020 Endpoint Resilience Report illustrates why the purpose of any cybersecurity program needs to be attaining a balance between protecting an organization and the need to keep the business running, starting with secured endpoints.

Enterprises who’ve taken a blank-check approach in the past to spending on cybersecurity are facing the stark reality that all that spending may have made them more vulnerable to attacks. While cybersecurity spending grew at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 12% in 2018, Gartner’s latest projections are predicting a decline to only 7% CAGR through 2023. Nearly every CISO I’ve spoken with in the last three months say prioritizing cybersecurity programs by their ROI and contribution to the business is how funding gets done today.

Cybersecurity Has Always Been A Business Decision

Overcoming the paradox of keeping a business secure while fueling its growth is the essence of why cybersecurity is a business decision. Securing an entire enterprise is an unrealistic goal; balancing security and ongoing operations is. CISOs speak of this paradox often and the need to better measure the effectiveness of their decisions.

This is why the findings from Absolute’s 2020 State of Endpoint Resilience Report​  are so timely given the shift to more spending accountability on cybersecurity programs. The report’s methodology is based on anonymized data from enterprise-specific subsets of nearly 8.5 million Absolute-enabled devices active across 12,000+ customer organizations in North America and Europe. Please see the last page of the study for additional details regarding the methodology.

Key insights from the study include the following:

  • More than one of every three enterprise devices had an Endpoint Protection (EP), client management or VPN application out of compliance, further exposing entire organizations to potential threats. More than 5% of enterprise devices were missing one or more of these critical controls altogether. Endpoints, encryption, VPN and Client Management are more, not less fragile, despite millions of dollars being spent to protect them before the downturn. The following graphic illustrates how fragile endpoints are by noting average compliances rate alongside installation rates:
  • When cybersecurity spending isn’t being driven by a business case, endpoints become more complex, chaotic and nearly impossible to protect. Absolute’s survey reflects what happens when cybersecurity spending isn’t based on a solid business decision, often leading to multiple endpoint security agents. The survey found the typical organization has 10.2 endpoint agents on average, up from 9.8 last year. One of the most insightful series of findings in the study and well worth a read is the section on measuring Application Resilience. The study found that the resiliency of an application varies significantly based on what else it is paired with. It’s interesting to see that same-vendor pairings don’t necessarily do better or show higher average compliance rates than pairings from different vendors. The bottom line is that there’s no guarantee that any agent, whether sourced from a single vendor or even the most innovative vendors, will work seamlessly together and make an organization more secure. The following graphic explains this point:
  •  60% of breaches can be linked to a vulnerability where a patch was available, but not applied. When there’s a compelling business case to keep all machines current, patches get distributed and installed. When there isn’t, operating system patches are, on average, 95 days late. Counting up the total number of vulnerabilities addressed on Patch Tuesday in February through May 2020 alone, it shows that the average Windows 10 enterprise device has hundreds of potential vulnerabilities without a fix applied – including four zero-day vulnerabilities. Absolute’s data shows that Post-Covid-19, the average patch age has gone down slightly, driven by the business case of supporting an entirely remote workforce.
  • Organizations that had defined business cases for their cybersecurity programs are able to adapt better and secure vulnerable endpoint devices, along with the sensitive data piling up on those devices, being used at home by employees. Absolute’s study showed that the amount of sensitive data – like Personal Identifiable Information (PII), Protected Health Information (PHI) and Personal Financial Information (PFI) data – identified on endpoints soared as the Covid-19 outbreak spread and devices went home to work remotely. Without autonomous endpoints that have an unbreakable digital tether to ensure the health and security of the device, the greater the chance of this kind of data being exposed, the greater the potential for damages, compliance violations and more.

Conclusion

Absolute’s latest study on the state of endpoints amplifies what many CISOs and their teams are doing today. They’re prioritizing cybersecurity endpoint projects on ROI, looking to quantify agent effectiveness and moving beyond the myth that greater compliance is going to get them better security. The bottom line is that increasing cybersecurity spending is not going to make any business more secure, knowing the effectiveness of cybersecurity spending will, however. Being able to capable of tracking how resilient and persistent every autonomous endpoint is in an organization makes defining the ROI of endpoint investments possible, which is what every CISO I’ve spoken with is focusing on this year.

Why Securing Endpoints Is The Future Of Cybersecurity

Why Securing Endpoints Is The Future Of Cybersecurity

  • 86% of all breaches are financially motivated, where threat actors are after company financial data, intellectual property, health records, and customer identities that can be sold fast on the Dark Web.
  • 70% of breaches are perpetrated by external actors, making endpoint security a high priority in any cybersecurity strategy.
  •  55% of breaches originate from organized crime groups.
  • Attacks on Web apps accessed from endpoints were part of 43% of breaches, more than double the results from last year.

These and many other insights are from Verizon’s 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), downloadable here (PDF, 119 pp. free, opt-in). One of the most-read and referenced data breach reports in cybersecurity, Verizon’s DBIR, is considered the definitive source of annual cybercrime statistics. Verizon expanded the scope of the report to include 16 industries this year, also providing break-outs for Asia-Pacific (APAC); Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA); Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC); and North America, Canada, and Bermuda, which Verizon says is experiencing more breaches (NA).

The study’s methodology is based on an analysis of a record total of 157,525 incidents. Of those, 32,002 met Verizon’s quality standards, and 3,950 were confirmed data breaches. The report is based on an analysis of those findings. Please see Appendix A for the methodology.

Key insights include the following:

  • Verizon’s DBIR reflects the stark reality that organized crime-funded cybercriminals are relentless in searching out unprotected endpoints and exploiting them for financial gain, which is why autonomous endpoints are a must-have today. After reading the 2020 Verizon DBIR, it’s clear that if organizations had more autonomous endpoints, many of the most costly breaches could be averted. Autonomous endpoints that can enforce compliance, control, automatically regenerating, and patching cybersecurity software while providing control and visibility is the cornerstone of cybersecurity’s future. For endpoint security to scale across every threat surface, the new hybrid remote workplace is creating an undeletable tether to every device as a must-have for achieving enterprise scale.
  • The lack of diligence around Asset Management is creating new threat surfaces as organizations often don’t know the current health, configurations, or locations of their systems and devices. Asset Management is a black hole in many organizations leading to partial at best efforts to protect every threat surface they have. What’s needed is more insightful data on the health of every device. There are several dashboards available, and one of the most insightful is from Absolute, called the Remote Work and Distance Learning Insights Center. An example of the dashboard shown below:
  • 85% of victims and subjects were in the same country, 56% were in the same state, and 35% were even in the same city based on FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) data. Cybercriminals are very opportunistic when it comes to attacking high-profile targets in their regions of the world. Concerted efforts of cybercriminals funded by organized crime look for the weakest threat surfaces to launch an attack on, and unprotected endpoints are their favorite target. What’s needed is more of a true endpoint resilience approach that is based on a real-time, unbreakable digital tether that ensures the security of every device and the apps and data it contains.
  • Cloud assets were involved in about 24% of breaches this year, while on-premises assets are still 70%. Ask any CISO what the most valuable lesson they learned from the pandemic has been so far, and chances are they’ll say they didn’t move to the cloud quickly enough. Cloud platforms enable CIOs and CISOs to provide a greater scale of applications for their workforces who are entirely remote and a higher security level. Digging deeper into this, cloud-based Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) provides invaluable real-time analysis, alerts, and deterrence of potential breaches. Today it’s the exceptional rather than the rule that CISOs prefer on-premise over cloud-based SIEM and endpoint security applications. Cloud-based endpoint platforms and the apps they support are the future of cybersecurity as all organizations now are either considering or adopting cloud-based cybersecurity strategies.
  • Over 80% of breaches within hacking involve brute force or the use of lost or stolen credentials. One of the most valuable insights from the Verizon DBIR is how high of a priority cybercriminals are placing on stealing personal and privileged access credentials. Shutting down potential breach attempts from stolen passwords involves keeping every endpoint completely up to date on software updates, monitoring aberrant activity, and knowing if anyone is attempting to change the configuration of a system as an administrator. By having an unbreakable digital tether to every device, greater control and real-time response to breach attempts are possible.

Conclusion

Autonomous endpoints that can self-heal and regenerate operating systems and configurations are the future of cybersecurity, a point that can be inferred from Verizon’s DBIR this year. While CIOs are more budget-focused than ever, CISOs are focused on how to anticipate and protect their enterprises from new, emerging threats. Closing the asset management gaps while securing every endpoint is a must-have to secure any business today. There are several cybersecurity companies offering endpoint security today. Based on customer interviews I’ve done, one of the clear leaders in endpoint resilience is Absolute Software, whose persistent-firmware technology allows them to self-heal their own agent, as well as any endpoint security control and productivity tool on any protected device such as their Resilience suite of applications.

How To Build A Business Case For Endpoint Security

How To Build a Business Case for Endpoint Security

Bottom Line:  Endpoint security business cases do much more than just quantify costs and benefits; they uncover gaps in endpoint and cyber protection that need urgent attention to avert a breach.

Bad actors and hackers prefer to attack threat surfaces that are isolated, vulnerable with out-of-date security patches, yet integrated into a corporate network to provide access. For these reasons and more, endpoints are now the popular choice for hacking attempts. Ponemon Institute’s Third Annual Study on the State of Endpoint Security Risk published in January of this year found that 68% of organizations were victims of successful endpoint attacks in 2019 that compromised data assets and IT infrastructure. Since 2017, successful endpoint attacks have spiked by 26 percent. The Ponemon study also found that it takes the typical organization 97 days to test and deploy patches to each endpoint. When the average endpoint is three months behind on updates, it’s understandable why breaches are increasing. In 2019 the average endpoint breach inflicted $8.94M in losses. The following graphic compares the escalating number of breaches and economic losses for the last three years:

How To Build A Business Case For Endpoint Security

Exploring Endpoint Security’s Many Benefits

Think of building a business case for endpoint security as the checkup every company needs to examine and identify and every threat surface that can be improved. Just as all efforts to preserve every person’s health is priceless today, organizations can’t let their guard down when it comes to keeping endpoint security strong.

The economic fallout of COVID-19 is hitting IT budgets hard. That’s why now is the time to build a business case for endpoint security. CIOs and CISOs have to make budget cuts due to revenue shortfalls. One area no one wants to compromise on, however, is allowing endpoint agents to degrade over time. Absolute Software’s  Endpoint Security Trends Report found that the more complex and layered the endpoint protection, the greater the risk of a breach. Overloading every endpoint with multiple agents is counterproductive and leaves endpoints less secure than if fewer agents were installed.  Additionally, Absolute just launched a Remote Work and Distance Learning Insights Center, providing insights into the impact of COVID-19 on IT and security controls. An example of the dashboard shown below:

How To Build A Business Case For Endpoint Security

 

Business Case Benefits Need To Apply To  IT and Operations

Absolute and Ponemon’s studies suggest that autonomous endpoints are the future of endpoint security. Activating security at the endpoint and having an undeletable tether to every device solves many of the challenges every business’s IT and Operations teams face. And with the urgency to make IT and Operations as virtual as possible with budgets impacted by COVID-19’s economic fallout, team leaders in each area are focusing on the following shared challenges. COVID-19’s quarantine requirements make hybrid workforces instantly appear and make the budgets needed to support them vanish at the same time.  The following are the shared benefits for IT and Operations that need to anchor any endpoint security business case:

  • The most urgent need is for greater IT Help Desk efficiency. While this is primarily an IT metric, the lack of real-time availability of resources is slowing down remote Operations teams from getting their work done.
  • Both IT and Operations share asset utilization, loss reduction, and lifecycle optimization ownership in many organizations today. Having a persistent, undeletable tether to every device at the hardware level is proving to be an effective approach IT, and Operations teams are relying on to track and improve these metrics. The Absolute and Ponemon studies suggest that the more resilient the endpoint, the better the asset efficiency and lifecycle optimization. Autonomous endpoints can self-heal and regenerate themselves, further improving shared metric performance for IT and Operations.
  • The more autonomous endpoints an organization has, the quicker Operations and IT can work together to pivot into new business models that require virtual operations. Education, Healthcare, Financial Services, Government, and Professional Services are all moving to hybrid remote workplaces and virtual operations as fast as they can. Using the business case for endpoint security as a roadmap to see where threat surfaces need to be improved for new growth is key.

Endpoint Security Benefits 

The following are the benefits that need to be included in creating a business case for endpoint security:

  • Reduce and eventually eliminate IT Help Desk backlogs by keeping endpoints up-to-date. Reducing the call volume on IT Help Desks can potentially save over $45K a year, assuming a typical call takes 10 minutes and the cumulative time savings in 1,260 hours saved by the IT help desk annually.
  • Reduce Security Operations staff interruptions and emergency security projects that require IT’s time to run analytics reports and analyses. Solving complex endpoint security problems burns thousands of dollars and hours over a year between Security, IT, and Operations. Having a persistent, unbreakable connection to every endpoint provides the device visibility teams need to troubleshoot problems. Assuming the 2,520 hours IT Security teams alone spend on emergency endpoint security problems could be reduced, organizations could save approximately $130K a year. 
  • Autonomous endpoints with an undeletable tether improve compliance, control, and visibility and is a must-have in the new hybrid remote workplace. For endpoint security to scale across every threat surface, having an undeletable tether to every device is a must-have for scalable remote work and hybrid remote work programs in the enterprise. They also contribute to lowering compliance costs and improve every aspect of asset management from keeping applications current to ensuring autonomous endpoints can continue to self-heal.
  • Reducing IT asset loss, knowing asset utilization, and system-level software installed by every device can save a typical organization over $300K a year. Autonomous endpoints that can heal themselves and provide a constant hardware connection deliver the data in real-time to have accurate IT asset management and security data teams need to keep software configurations up to date. It’s invaluable for IT teams to have this level of data, as it averts having endpoint patches conflict with one another and leave an endpoint vulnerable to breach.
  • Accurate asset lifecycle planning based on solid data from every device becomes possible. Having autonomous endpoints based on a hardware connection delivers the data needed to increase the accuracy of asset life cycle planning and resource allocation, giving IT and Operations the visibility they need to the device level. IT and Operations teams look to see how they can extend the lifecycle of every device in the field. Cost savings vary by the number of devices in the field and their specific software configurations. The time savings alone is approximately $140K per year in a mid-size financial services firm.
  • The more autonomous and connected an endpoint is, the more automated audit and compliance reporting can become. A key part of staying in compliance is automating the audit process to save valuable time. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) all require ongoing audits. The time and cost savings of automating audits by organizations vary significantly. It’s a reasonable assumption to budget at least a $67K savings per year in audit preparation costs alone.

Evaluating Endpoint Security Costs

The following are the endpoint security costs that need to be included in the business case:

  • Annual, often multi-year endpoint security licensing costs. Endpoint security providers vary significantly in their pricing models, costs, and fees. Autonomous endpoint security platforms can range in licensing costs from $750K to over $1,2M, depending on the size of the organization and the number of devices.
  • Change management, implementation, and integration costs increase with the complexity of IT security, Operations, and IT Service Management (ITSM) integration. Expect to see an average price of between $40K to over $100K to integrate endpoint security platforms with existing ITSM and security information and event management (SIEM) systems.

Creating A Compelling Business Case For Endpoint Security

The best endpoint security business cases provide a 360-degree view of costs, benefits, and why taking action now is needed.

Knowing the initial software and services costs to acquire and integrate endpoint security across your organization, training and change management costs, and ongoing support costs are essential. Many include the following equation in their business cases to provide an ROI estimate. The Return on Investment (ROI) for endpoint security initiative is calculated as follows:

ROI on Endpoint Security (ES) = (ES Initiative Benefits – ES Initiative Costs)/ES Initiative Costs x 100.

A financial services company recently calculated their annual benefits of ES initiative will be $475,000, and the costs, $65,000, will yield a net return of $6.30 for every $1 invested.

Additional factors to keep in mind when building a business case for endpoint security:

  • The penalties for non-compliance to industry-specific laws can be quite steep, with repeated offenses leading to $1M or more in fines and long-term loss of customer trust and revenue. Building a business case for endpoint security needs to factor in the potential non-compliance fees, and penalties companies face for not having autonomous endpoint security. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and other laws require audit reporting based on accurate endpoint security data.
  • Endpoint Security ROI estimates fluctuate, and it’s best to get started with a pilot to capture live data with budgets available at the end of a quarter. Typically organizations will allocate the remaining amounts of IT security budgets at the end of a quarter to endpoint security initiatives.
  • Succinctly define the benefits and costs and gain C-level support to streamline the funding process. It’s often the CISOs who are the most driven to achieve greater endpoint security the quickest they can. Today with every business having their entire workforces virtual, there’s added urgency to get endpoint security accomplished.
  • Define and measure endpoint security initiatives’ progress using a digitally-enabled dashboard that can be shared across any device, anytime. Enabling everyone supporting and involved in endpoint security initiatives needs to know what success looks like. Having a digitally-enabled dashboard that clearly shows each goal or objective and the company’s progress toward them is critical to success.

Conclusion

The hard economic reset COVID-19 created has put many IT budgets into freefall at a time when CIOs and CISOs need more funding to protect proliferating hybrid remote workforces. Endpoint security business cases need to factor in how they can create an undeletable resilient defense for every device across their global fleets. And just as every nation on the planet isn’t letting its guard down against the COVID-19 virus, every IT and cybersecurity team can’t let theirs down either when it comes to protecting every endpoint.

Autonomous endpoints that can self-heal and regenerate operating systems and configurations are the future of endpoint security management. The race to be an entirely virtual enterprise is on, and the most autonomous endpoints can be, the more cost-effective and valuable they are. The best business cases bridge the gap between IT and Operations needs. CIOs need endpoint security solutions to be low-cost, low maintenance, reliable yet agile. Operations want an endpoint solution that has a low cost of support, minimal if any impact of IT Service Help Desks, and always-on monitoring. Building a business case for endpoint security gives IT and Operations the insights they need to protect the constantly changing parameters of their businesses.

 

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.

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