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Debunking The Myth That Greater Compliance Makes IT More Secure

Debunking The Myth That Greater Compliance Makes IT More Secure

Bottom Line:  Excelling at compliance doesn’t protect any business from being hacked, yet pursuing a continuous risk management strategy helps.

With a few exceptions (such as spearphishing), cyberattacks are, by nature, brutally opportunistic and random. They are driven to disrupt operations at best and steal funds, records, and privileged access credentials at worst. Conversely, the most important compliance event of all, audits, are planned for, often months in advance. Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) teams go to Herculean efforts to meet and exceed audit prep timelines working evenings and weekends.

Wanting to learn more about the relationship between GRC and cybersecurity strategy, I searched for webinars on the topic. I found Improve Your Compliance Posture with Identity-Centric PAM, a recent webinar-on-demand offered by Centrify. The webinar brought up several interesting insights, including shared pains companies experience with compliance and cybersecurity, yet require drastically different approaches to solving them.

Rationalizing Compliance Spending with Cybersecurity

The truth is organizations are attempting to rationalize the high costs of compliance by looking for how GRC spend can also improve cybersecurity. This is a dangerous assumption, as Marriott’s third breach indicates. Marriott is an excellently managed business and sets standards in compliance. Unfortunately, that hasn’t thwarted three breaches they’ve experienced.

Why are organizations assuming GRC spending will improve cybersecurity? It’s because both areas share a common series of pains that require different solutions, according to the webinar. These pains include:

  • Updates to regulations are exponentially increasing today, averaging 200 or more per day from approximately 900 oversight agencies worldwide, leading to a quickly changing, heterogeneous landscape. Dr. Torsten George, Cybersecurity Evangelist at Centrify, said that when he worked in the GRC space, the midsize clients he worked with had to deal with 17 different regulations. Larger organizations that operate on a global basis are dealing with, on average, 70 or more regulations they need to stay in compliance with. Dr. George provided an overview of the compliance landscape, differentiating between the levels compliance requirements every organization needs to abide by, which is shown below:
  • Compliance is, by nature, reactive to a known event (audit), while cybersecurity is also entirely reactive to random events (cyberattacks). GRC teams need to ramp up their staff and equip them with the apps and tools they need at least six months before an audit. For cybersecurity, the threat is random and will most likely be more severe in terms of financial loss. Preparing for each takes entirely different strategies.
  • The lack of continuous risk monitoring by GRC teams and identity management by IT cybersecurity leads to systemic failures in achieving compliance and securing an organization. The webinar makes an excellent point that for compliance to succeed, it needs to be based on continuous risk management, not just checking off the boxes or categories of a given GRC approach. The same holds for cybersecurity. Identity-Centric Privileged Access Management (PAM) provides GRC and IT professionals mutual benefits when it comes to achieving the mission of being and staying compliant, and shows how securing enterprises drive better compliance, not vice versa.
  • Manually updating compliance mapping tables showing the interrelationships of requirements by industry is not scaling – and leaving gaps in GRC coverage. The more regulated a business is, for example manufacturing medical products, the more important it is to automate every aspect of compliance. A great place to start is automating the process of creating mapping tables. Taking a manual approach to creating mapping tables comparing standards often leads to errors and gaps. And in highly regulated industries like medical products manufacturing, the accuracy, speed, and scale of staying compliant can be turned into a competitive advantage, leading to more sales.

How To Resolve The Conflict Between GRC and Cybersecurity Spending

According to the webinar, 80% of today’s data breaches are caused by default, weak, stolen, or otherwise compromised credentials. GRC and cybersecurity strategies’ best efforts need to be put on securing privileged access first. The webinar makes a strong argument for prioritizing privileged access security as the initiative that can unify GRC and cybersecurity strategies.

Key insights from the webinar include the following:

  • Industry standards and government regulations are calling for identity and access management as a requirement, with several specifically naming privilege access controls.
  • Identity-Centric Privileged Access Management (PAM) approaches help meet compliance mandates, while at the same time hardening cybersecurity to the threat surface level.
  • Attaining greater compliance by taking an Identity-Centric PAM approach ensures machines have secured identities as well, and the use of anonymous access accounts is limited to break-glass scenarios only, while organizations should otherwise be leveraging enterprise directory identities for the authentication and authorization process.
  • Improving accountability and segmentation by establishing granular security controls and auditing everything helps bridge the gap between GRC and cybersecurity initiatives.
Debunking The Myth That Greater Compliance Makes IT More Secure

Conclusion

Continuous risk management is key to excelling at compliance, just as securing privileged access credentials is foundational to an effective cybersecurity strategy. Dr. Torsten George ended the webinar saying, “In the long term, I believe that the current situation that we’re dealing with and its associated spike of cyber-attacks will lead to even stricter compliance mandates; especially when it comes to secure remote access by key IT stakeholders and outsourced IT.” The bottom line is that compliance and cybersecurity must share the common goal of protecting their organizations’ privileged access credentials using adaptive approaches and technologies if both are going to succeed.

 

 

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.

 

10 Charts That Will Change Your Perspective Of AI In Security

10 Charts That Will Change Your Perspective Of AI In Security

Rapid advances in AI and machine learning are defining cybersecurity’s future daily. Identities are the new security perimeter and Zero Trust Security frameworks are capitalizing on AI’s insights to thwart breaches in milliseconds. Advances in AI and machine learning are also driving the transformation of endpoint security toward greater accuracy and contextually intelligence.

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. 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. The following ten charts illustrate the market and technological factors driving the rapid growth of AI in security today:

  • AI shows the greatest potential for fraud detection, malware detection, assigning risk scores to login attempts on networks, and intrusion detection. Supervised and unsupervised machine learning algorithms are proving to be effective in identifying potentially fraudulent online transaction activity. By definition, supervised machine learning algorithms rely on historical data to find patterns not discernible with traditional rule-based approaches to fraud detection. Finding anomalies, interrelationships, and valid links between emerging factors and variables is unsupervised machine learning’s core strength. Combining each is proving to be very effective in identifying anomalous behavior and reducing or restricting access. Kount’s  Omniscore relies on these technologies to provide an AI-driven transaction safety rating. Source: Capgemini Research Institute, Reinventing Cybersecurity with Artificial Intelligence – The new frontier in digital security (28 pp., PDF, no opt-in).
  • 80% of telecommunications executives stated that they believe their organization would not be able to respond to cyberattacks without AI. Across all seven industries studied in a recent Capgemini survey, 69% of all senior executives say they would not be able to respond to a cyberattack without AI. 75% of banking executives realize they’ll need AI to thwart a cyberattack. Interestingly, 59% of Utilities executives, the lowest response to this question on the survey, see AI as essential for battling a cyberattack. Utilities are one of the more vulnerable industries to attacks given their legacy infrastructure. Source: Statistica, Share of organizations that rely on artificial intelligence (AI) for cybersecurity in selected countries as of 2019, by industry
  • 51% of enterprises primarily rely on AI for threat detection, leading prediction, and response. Consistent with the majority of cybersecurity surveys of enterprises’ AI adoption for cybersecurity in 2019, AI is relied the majority of the time for detecting threats. A small percentage of enterprises have progressed past detection to prediction and response, as the graphic below shows. Many of the more interesting AI projects today are in prediction and response, given how the challenges in these areas expand the boundaries of technologies fast. Source: Capgemini Research Institute, Reinventing Cybersecurity with Artificial Intelligence – The new frontier in digital security (28 pp., PDF, no opt-in).
  • Enterprises are relying on AI as the foundation of their security automation frameworks. AI-driven security automation frameworks are designed to flex and support new digital business models across an organization. Existing security automation frameworks can crunch and correlate threat patterns on massive volumes of disparate data, which introduces opportunities for advanced cybersecurity without disrupting business. Using alerts and prescriptive analytics for dynamic policies to address identified risks, enterprises can speed deployment of threat-blocking measures, increasing the agility of security operations. Source: Cognizant, Combating Cybersecurity Challenges with Advanced Analytics (PDF, 24 pp., no opt-in).
  • Cybersecurity leads all other investment categories this year of TD Ameritrade’s Registered Investment Advisors (RIA) Survey. The survey found RIAs are most interested in investment opportunities for their clients in AI-based cybersecurity new ventures. Source: TD Ameritrade Institutional 2019 RIA Sentiment Survey (PDF, 35 pp., no opt-in)
  • 62% of enterprises have adopted and implemented AI to its full potential for cybersecurity, or are still exploring additional uses. AI is gaining adoption in U.S.-based enterprises and is also being recommended by government policy influencers. Just 21% of enterprises have no plans for using AI-based cybersecurity today.  Source: Oracle, Security In the Age Of AI (18 pp., PDF. no opt-in
  • 71% of today’s organizations reporting they spend more on AI and machine learning for cybersecurity than they did two years ago. 26% and 28% of U.S. and Japanese IT professionals believe their organizations could be doing more. Additionally, 84% of respondents believe cyber-criminals are also using AI and ML to launch their attacks. When considered together, these figures indicate a strong belief that AI/ML based cybersecurity is no longer simply nice to have; it’s crucial to stop modern cyberattacks.   Source: Webroot, Knowledge Gaps: AI and Machine Learning in CyberSecurity Perspectives from the U.S. and Japanese IT Professionals (PDF, 9 pp., no opt-in)
  • 73% of enterprises have adopted security products with some form of AI integrated into them. Among enterprises that receive more than 1,000 alerts per day, the percentage that has AI-enabled products in their security infrastructure jumps to 84%. The findings suggest that some decision makers view AI as useful capability in dealing with the flood of alerts that they receive. Source: Osterman Research, The State of AI in Cybersecurity: The Benefits, Limitations and Evolving Questions (PDF, 10 pp., opt-in).
  • AI’s greatest benefit is the increase in the speed of analyzing threats (69%) followed by an acceleration in the containment of infected endpoints/devices and hosts (64%). Because AI reduces the time to respond to cyber exploits organizations can potentially save an average of more than $2.5 million in operating costs. Source: The Value of Artificial Intelligence in Cybersecurity – Sponsored by IBM Security Independently conducted by Ponemon Institute LLC, July 2018.

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.

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