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Posts tagged ‘COVID-19 cyberattacks’

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.

Machines Protecting Themselves Is The Future Of Cybersecurity

Machines Protecting Themselves Is The Future Of Cybersecurity

Bottom Line: Existing approaches to securing IT infrastructure are proving unreliable as social engineering and breach attempts succeed in misdirecting human responses to cyber threats, accentuating the need for machines to protect themselves.

Any nations’ digital infrastructure and the businesses it supports are its most vital technology resources, as the COVID-19 pandemic makes clear. Cybercriminal and advanced persistent threat (APT) groups are attempting to capitalize on the disruption that COVID-19 is creating to engage in malicious cyber activity. It’s become so severe that the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) issued a joint alert, COVID-19 Exploited by Malicious Cyber Actors earlier this month.

“If you’re in the Department of Defense, your doctrine says land, sea, air, space, cyber. An entirely new domain of warfare, but fundamentally, an entirely new domain of human existence. That’s really disruptive,” said General Michael Hayden during his keynote at the 2017 Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology (ICIT) Winter Summit. General Hayden’s comments are prescient of the world in 2020.

In the same keynote, he said that it’s essential that cyber-threats and the actors carrying them out be treated as invading armies and cyber-attacks be considered an act of war. “We self-organize and use business models to guide our self-organization,” General Hayden said. “We will have to rely on ourselves and the private sector in a way that we have not relied on ourselves for security.”

General Hayden’s’ comments are a call to action to the private sector to take the initiative and innovate quickly to secure the cyber-domain. Machines protecting themselves is an area noteworthy for its innovative technologies for securing IT infrastructures and the networks that comprise them.

Exploring An Approach to How Machines Protect Themselves

Wanting to learn more about how machines would be able to protect themselves automatically, I spoke with Centrify’s Chief Strategy Officer, David McNeely. He explained that one of the best ways is to have a client that is an integral part of any operating system act as an intermediary that establishes a trusted identity for each client system on a network. The client would then be able to authenticate every login attempt and request for resources by verifying each login through an authoritive security management platform such as Active Directory (AD).

McNeely explained how Centrify’s approach to having machines protect themselves using clients integrated with operating systems. “The client is designed to enable the computer to authenticate users. It must have a trusted relationship with the authoritative identity service in the organization that manages user accounts, this is usually Active Directory. The computer account and trust relationship is what enables strong authentication of user login requests” he said.

He continued, “Self-defending machines address the paradigm shift occurring in cybersecurity today where protection cannot be enforced at the network boundary. In the past, trusted networks were defined by administrators using network protection tools such as VLANs, firewalls and VPNs in order to protect a group of machines on that network. With self-defending machines, it’s possible to implement a true Zero Trust approach more fully where the network cannot be trusted.”

The following is a graphic of how Centrify is approaching machine-to-machine Zero Trust across distributed environments:

Machines Protecting Themselves Is The Future Of Cybersecurity

Centrify’s approach is based on servers protecting themselves by enforcing a policy defined by IT administrators as stored in Active Directory (AD) or Centrify’s Privileged Access Service. Clients then carry out the orders, enforcing centrally managed policies for each of the following scenarios:

  • Define who can login, making sure only authorized personnel are allowed access.
  • Whether clients should initiate the process of enforcing MFA or not, to make sure the login attempt isn’t a bot, fake ID, or incorrect human.
  • Whether audit is required or not of the login session and if so, what conditions define if it should be recorded or not.
  • Which privileges are granted to each user and for how long once they’ve gained access to systems.

Why The NIST 800-207 Standard Matters

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has defined Zero Trust architecture as a set of guiding principles that organizations can use to improve their security posture. You can view the publication online here: NIST Zero Trust Special Publication 800-207, Zero Trust Architecture (PDF, 58 pp., no opt-in).

Organizations need to continually evaluate their existing cybersecurity defenses in light of the Tenets of Zero Trust in order to continually improve their security postures. The NIST standard underscores the importance of how security architecture matters. For example, defenses to protect assets need to be as close to the asset as possible, much like in a war. In this new era of cyberwarfare, soldiers will need their own body armor and tools to defend against an adversary. Similarly, it is important to arm each server with appropriate defenses to protect against cyberthreats.

Conclusion

General Hayden’s challenge to private industry to pick up the pace of innovation so the nations’ cyber-domain is secure resonates with every cybersecurity company I’ve spoken with. One of the most noteworthy is Centrify, who has devised an enterprise-ready approach for machines to protect themselves across infrastructure and network configurations. It’s Identity-Centric approach to authenticating every login attempt and request for resources by verifying each login – through Active Directory (AD) or the cloud-based, FedRAMP-authorized Centrify Privileged Access Service – differentiates its approach from other cybersecurity vendors attempting to empower machine self-defense.

 

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