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What Enterprises Need To Plan For In 2021 When It Comes To Endpoint Security

What Enterprises Need to Plan for In 2021 When It Comes to Endpoint Security

Bottom Line: Today’s largely-distributed enterprises need to make sure they are putting endpoint security first in 2021– which includes closely managing every stage of the device lifecycle, from deployment to decommission, and ensuring all sensitive data remains protected.

There’s a looming paradox facing nearly every organization today of how they’ll secure thousands of remote endpoints without having physical access to devices, and without disrupting worker productivity. Whether there’s the need to retire hardware as part of down-sizing or cost-cutting measures, or the need to equip virtual teams with newer equipment more suitable for long term work-from-home scenarios, this is one of the most pressing issues facing CISOs and CIOs today.

Wanting to learn more about how their customers are tackling their endpoint security challenges and how their companies are helping to solve it, I sat down (virtually) with Absolute Software’s President and CEO Christy Wyatt and Matthew Zielinski, President of North America Intelligent Devices Group at Lenovo. The following is my interview with both of them:

Louis Columbus: Christy and Matt, thanks so much for your time today. To get started, I would like each of you to share what you’re hearing from your customers regarding their plans to refresh laptops and other endpoint devices in 2021.

Christy Wyatt: We’re seeing a strong desire from organizations to ensure that every individual is digitally enabled, and has access to a screen. In some cases, that means refreshing the hardware they already have in the field, and in other cases, that means buying or adding devices. From the endpoint security standpoint, there’s been a shift in focus around which tools matter the most. When laptops were primarily being used on campus, there was a certain set of solutions to monitor those devices and ensure they remained secure. Now that 90% of devices are out of the building, an entirely different set of capabilities is required – and delivering those has been our focus.

Matt Zielinski: We are seeing historic levels of demand from consumers, as many are transitioning from having maybe one or two devices per household to at least one device per person. We’re also seeing the same levels of demand on both the education and enterprise side. The new dynamic of work-from-anywhere, learn-from-anywhere, collaborate-from-anywhere underscores that the device hardware and software need to be current in order to support both the productivity and security needs of hugely distributed workforces. That’s our highest priority.

Louis:  Where are CISOs in their understanding, evaluation, and adoption of endpoint security technologies?

Christy: The journey has been different for the education market than for the enterprise market. Most enterprise organizations were already on the digital path, with some percentage of their population already working remotely. And because of this, they typically have a more complex security stack to manage; our data shows that the total number of unique applications and versions installed on enterprise devices is nearly 1.5 million. What they’ve seen is a trifecta of vulnerabilities: employees taking data home with them, accessing it on unsecured connections, and not being aware of how their devices are protected beyond the WiFi connection and the network traffic.

In the education space, the challenges – and the amount of complexity – are completely different; they’re managing just a small fraction of that total number of apps and versions. That said, as the pandemic unfolded, education was hit harder because they were not yet at a point where every individual was digitally connected. There was a lot of reliance on being on campus, or being in a classroom. So, schools had to tackle digital and mobile transformation at the same time – and to their credit, they made multiple years of progress in a matter of weeks or months. This rapid rate of change will have a profound effect on how schools approach technology deployments going forward.

Matt: Whether in enterprise or education, our customers are looking to protect three things: their assets, their data, and their users’ productivity. It’s a daunting mission. But, the simplest way to accomplish it is to recognize the main control point has changed. It’s no longer the server sitting behind the firewall of your company’s or school’s IT environment. The vulnerability of the endpoint is that the network is now in the user’s hands; the edge is now the primary attack surface. I think CISOs realize this, and they are asking the right questions… I just don’t know if everyone understands the magnitude or the scale of the challenge. Because the problem is so critical, though, people are taking the time to make the right decisions and identify all the various components needed to be successful.

Louis:   It seems like completing a laptop refresh during the conditions of a pandemic could be especially challenging, given how entire IT teams are remote. What do you anticipate will be the most challenging aspects of completing a hardware refresh this year (2021)?

Matt:  The PC has always been a critical device for productivity. But now, without access to that technology, you are completely paralyzed; you can’t collaborate, you can’t engage, you can’t connect. Lenovo has always been focused on pushing intelligent transformation as far as possible to get the best devices into the hands of our customers. Beyond designing and building the device, we have the ability to distribute asset tags and to provide a 24/7 help desk for our customers whether you’re a consumer, a school, or a large institution. We can also decommission those devices at the end, so we’re able to support the entire journey or lifecycle.

The question has really become, how do you deliver secure devices to the masses? And, we’re fully equipped to do that. For example, every Lenovo X1 Carbon laptop comes out of the box with Lenovo Security Assurance, which is actually powered by Absolute; it is in our hardware. Our customers can open a Lenovo PC, and know that it is completely secure, right out of the box. Every one of our laptops is fortified with Absolute’s Persistence technology and self-healing capabilities that live in the BIOS. It’s that unbreakable, secure connection that makes it possible for us to serve our customers throughout the entire lifecycle of device ownership.

Louis: Why are the legacy approaches to decommissioning assets falling short / failing today? How would you redesign IT asset-decommissioning approaches to make them more automated, less dependent on centralized IT teams?

Christy: There have been a few very visible cases over the past year of highly regulated organizations, experiencing vulnerabilities because of how they decommissioned – or did not properly decommission – their assets. But, I don’t want anyone to believe that that this is a problem that is unique to regulated industries, like financial services. The move to the cloud has given many organizations a false sense of security, and it seems that the more data running in the cloud, the more pronounced this false sense of security becomes. It’s a mistaken assumption to think that when hardware goes missing, the security problem is solved by shutting down password access and that all the data is protected because it is stored in the cloud. That’s just not true. When devices aren’t calling in anymore, it’s a major vulnerability – and the longer the device sits without being properly wiped or decommissioned, the greater the opportunity for bad actors to take advantage of those assets.

The other piece that should be top of mind is that once a device is decommissioned, it’s often sold. We want to ensure that nothing on that device gets passed on to the next owner, especially if it’s going to a service or leasing program. So, we’ve concentrated on making asset decommissioning as precise as possible and something that can be done at scale, anytime and anywhere.

Matt:  Historically, reclaiming and decommissioning devices has required physical interaction. The pandemic has limited face-to-face encounters, so , we’re leveraging many different software solutions to give our customers the ability to wipe the device clean if they aren’t able to get the asset back in their possession, so that at least they know it is secure. Since we’re all now distributed, we’re looking at several different solutions that will help with decommissioning, several of which are promising and scale well given today’s constraints. Our goal is to provide our enterprise customers with decommissioning flexibility, from ten units to several thousand.

Louis:  Paradoxically, having everyone remote has made the business case for improving endpoint security more compelling too. What do you hear from enterprises about accelerating digital transformation initiatives that include the latest-generation endpoint devices?

Christy:  The same acceleration that I spoke about on the education side, we absolutely see on the enterprise side as well, and with rapid transformation comes increased complexity. There has been a lot of conversation about moving to Zero Trust, moving more services to the cloud and putting more controls on the endpoint – and not having these sort of layers in between. Our data tells us that the average enterprise device today has 96 unique applications, and at least 10 of them are security applications. That is a massive amount of complexity to manage. So, we don’t believe that adding more controls to the endpoint is the answer; we believe that what’s most important is knowing the security controls you have are actually working. And we need to help devices and applications become more intelligent, self-aware, and capable of fixing themselves. This concept of resiliency is the cornerstone of effective endpoint security, and a critical part of the shift to a more modern security architecture.

Matt: I think there are two major forcing functions: connection and security. Because we are all now remote, there’s a huge desire to feel connected to one another even though we aren’t sitting in the same room together. We’re modifying our products in real-time with the goal of removing shared pain points and optimizing for the new reality in which we’re all living and working. Things like microphone noise suppression and multiple far field microphones, so that if the dog barks or kids run into a room, the system will mute before you’ve even pressed the mute button. We’re improving camera technology from a processing standpoint to make things look better. Ultimately, our goal is to provide an immersive and connected experience.

Security, however, transcends specific features that deliver customer experiences – security is the experience. The features that make hardware more secure are those that lie beneath the operating system, in the firmware. That is why we have such a deep network of partners, including Absolute. Because you need to have a full ecosystem, and a program that takes advantage of all the best capabilities, in order to deliver the best security solution possible.

Louis: How is Absolute helping enterprise customers ensure greater endpoint security and resiliency in 2021 and beyond?

Christy: We spend a lot of time sitting with customers to understand their needs and how and where we can extend our endpoint security solutions to fit. We believe in taking a layered approach – which is the framework for defense in-depth, and an effective endpoint security strategy. The foundational piece, which we are able to deliver, is a permanent digital tether to every device; this is the lifeline. Not having an undeletable connection to every endpoint means you have a very large security gap, which must be closed fast. A layered, persistence-driven approach ensures our customers know their security controls are actually working and delivering business value. It enables our customers to pinpoint where a vulnerability is and take quick action to mitigate it.

Lenovo’s unique, high value-add approach to integrated security has both helped drive innovation at Absolute, while also providing Lenovo customers the strongest endpoint security possible. Their multilayer approach to their endpoint strategy capitalizes on Absolute’s many BIOS-level strengths to help their customers secure every endpoint they have. As our companies work together, we are both benefitting from a collaboration that seeks to strengthen and enrich all layers of endpoint security. Best of all, our shared customers are the benefactors of this collaboration and the results we are driving at the forefront of endpoint security.

Louis:  How has the heightened focus on enterprise cybersecurity in general, and endpoint security specifically, influenced Lenovo’s product strategy in 2021 and beyond?

Matt:  We have always been focused on our unique cybersecurity strengths from the device side and making sure we have all of the control points in manufacturing to ensure we build a secure platform. So, we’ve had to be open-minded about endpoint security, and diligent in envisioning how potential vulnerabilities and attack strategies can be thwarted before they impact our customers. Because of this mindset, we’re fortunate to have a very active partner community. We’re always scouring the earth for the next hot cybersecurity technology and potential partner with unique capabilities and the ability to scale with our model. This is a key reason we’ve standardized on Absolute for endpoint security, as it can accommodate a wide breadth of deployment scenarios. It’s a constant and very iterative process with a team of very smart people constantly looking at how we can excel at cybersecurity. It is this strategy that is driving us to fortify our Lenovo Security Assurance architecture over the long-term, while also seeking new ways of providing insights from existing and potentially new security applications.

Louis: What advice are you giving CISOs to strengthen endpoint security in 2021 and beyond?

Christy: One of our advisors is the former Global Head of Information Security at Citi Group, and former CISO of JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank. He talks a lot about his shared experiences of enabling business operations, while defending organizations from ever-evolving threats, and the question that more IT and security leaders need to be asking – which is, “Is it working?” Included in his expert opinion is that cybersecurity needs to be integral to business strategy – and endpoint security is essential for creating a broader secure ecosystem that can adapt as a company’s needs change.

I believe there needs to be more boardroom-level conversations around how compliance frameworks can be best used to achieve a balance between cybersecurity and business operations. A big part of that is identifying resiliency as a critical KPI for measuring the strength of endpoint controls.

 

7 Signs It’s Time To Get Focused On Zero Trust

7 Signs It’s Time To Get Focused On Zero Trust

When an experienced hacker can gain access to a company’s accounting and financial systems in 7 minutes or less after obtaining privileged access credentials, according to Ponemon, it’s time to get focused on Zero Trust Security. 2019 is on its way to being a record year for ransomware attacks, which grew 118% in Q1 of this year alone, according to McAfee Labs Threat Report. Data breaches on healthcare providers reached an all-time high in July of this year driven by the demand for healthcare records that range in price from $250 to over $1,000 becoming best-sellers on the Dark Web. Cybercriminals are using AI, bots, machine learning, and social engineering techniques as part of sophisticated, well-orchestrated strategies to gain access to banking, financial services, healthcare systems, and many other industries’ systems today.

Enterprises Need Greater Urgency Around Zero Trust

The escalating severity of cyberattacks and their success rates are proving that traditional approaches to cybersecurity based on “trust but verify” aren’t working anymore. What’s needed is more of a Zero Trust-based approach to managing every aspect of cybersecurity. By definition, Zero Trust is predicated on a “never trust, always verify” approach to access, from inside or outside the network. Enterprises need to begin with a Zero Trust Privilege-based strategy that verifies who is requesting access, the context of the request, and the risk of the access environment.

How urgent is it for enterprises to adopt Zero Trust? A recent survey of 2,000 full-time UK workers, completed by Censuswide in collaboration with Centrify, provides seven signs it’s time for enterprises to get a greater sense of urgency regarding their Zero Trust frameworks and initiatives. The seven signs are as follows:

  1. 77% of organizations’ workers admit that they have never received any form of cybersecurity skills training from their employer. In this day and age, it’s mind-blowing that three of every four organizations aren’t providing at least basic cybersecurity training, whether they intend to adopt Zero Trust or not. It’s like freely handing out driver’s licenses to anyone who wants one so they can drive the freeways of Los Angeles or San Francisco. The greater the training, the safer the driver. Likewise, the greater the cybersecurity training, the safer the worker, company and customers they serve.
  2. 69% of employees doubt the cybersecurity processes in place in their organizations today. When the majority of employees don’t trust the security processes in place in an organization, they invent their own, often bringing their favorite security solutions into an enterprise. Shadow IT proliferates, productivity often slows down, and enterprise is more at risk of a breach than ever before. When there’s no governance or structure to managing data, cybercriminals flourish.
  3. 63% of British workers interviewed do not realize that unauthorized access to an email account without the owner’s permission is a criminal offense. It’s astounding that nearly two-thirds of the workers in an organization aren’t aware that unauthorized access to another person’s email account without their permission is a crime. The UK passed into law 30 years ago the Computer Misuse Act. The law was created to protect individuals’ and organizations’ electronic data. The Act makes it a crime to access or modify data stored on a computer without authorization to do so. The penalties are steep for anyone found guilty of gaining access to a computer without permission, starting with up to two years in prison and a £5,000 fine. It’s alarming how high the lack of awareness is of this law, and an urgent call to action to prioritize organization-wide cybersecurity training.
  4. 27% of workers use the same password for multiple accounts. The Consensus survey finds that workers are using identical passwords for their work systems, social media accounts, and both personal and professional e-mail accounts. Cybersecurity training can help reduce this practice, but Zero Trust is badly needed to protect privileged access credentials that may have identical passwords to someone’s Facebook account, for example.
  5. 14% of employees admitted to keeping their passwords recorded in an unsecured handwritten notebook or on their desk in the office.  Organizations need to make it as difficult as possible for bad actors and cybercriminals to gain access to passwords instead of sharing them in handwritten notebooks and on Post-It notes. Any organization with this problem needs to immediately adopt Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) as an additional security measure to ensure compromised passwords don’t lead to unauthorized access. For privileged accounts, use a password vault, which can make handwritten password notes (and shared passwords altogether) obsolete.
  6. 14% do not use multi-factor authentication for apps or services unless forced to do so. Centrify also found that 58% of organizations do not use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for privileged administrative access to servers, leaving their IT systems and infrastructure unsecured. Not securing privileged access credentials with MFA or, at the very least, vaulting them is like handing the keys to the kingdom to cybercriminals going after privileged account access. Securing privileged credentials needs to begin with a Zero Trust-based approach that verifies who is requesting access, the context of the request, and the risk of the access environment.
  7. 1 out of every 25 employees hacks into a colleague’s email account without permission. In the UK, this would be considered a violation of the Computer Misuse Act, which has some unfortunate outcomes for those found guilty of violating it. The Censuswide survey also found that one in 20 workers have logged into friend’s Facebook accounts without permission. If you work in an organization of over 1,000 people, for example, 40 people in your company have most likely hacked into a colleague’s email account, opening up your entire company to legal liability.

Conclusion

Leaving cybersecurity to chance and hoping employees will do the right thing isn’t a strategy; it’s an open invitation to get hacked. The Censuswide survey and many others like it reflect a fundamental truth that cybersecurity needs to become part of the muscle memory of any organization to be effective. As traditional IT network perimeters dissolve, enterprises need to replace “trust but verify” with a Zero Trust-based framework. Zero Trust Privilege mandates a “never trust, always verify, enforce least privilege” approach to privileged access, from inside or outside the network. Leaders in this area include Centrify, who combines password vaulting with brokering of identities, multi-factor authentication enforcement, and “just enough” privilege, all while securing remote access and monitoring of all privileged sessions.

10 Ways AI And Machine Learning Are Improving Endpoint Security

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

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

AI & Machine Learning Are Redefining Endpoint Security

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

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

Passwords Are The Weakest Defense In A Zero Trust World

  • 90% of security professionals have witnessed security incidents stemming from the theft of credentials, according to a recent MobileIron study conducted by IDG.
  • 86% of CIO, CISO and Security VPs would abandon password authentication if they could.
  • Another survey by EMA found that mobile devices secured by biometric authentication methods present the best option for replacing passwords.
  • There is a direct correlation between the number of times a user authenticates and the number of user access problems that need to be addressed.

These and many other fascinating insights make it clear that passwords are now the weakest defense anyone can rely on in a Zero Trust world. Two recent research studies quantify just how weak and incomplete an IT security strategy based on passwords is, especially when the need to access mobile apps is proliferating. Combined, these two MobileIron reports pack a one-two punch at passwords, and how they’re not strong enough alone to protect mobile devices, the fastest proliferating threat surface in a Zero Trust world.

The first, Say Goodbye to Passwords (4 pp., PDF, opt-in) by IDG, is based on interviews with 200 IT security leaders in the US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand working in a range of industries at companies with at least 500 employees. The survey’s goal is to uncover and quantify the major authentication pain points facing enterprises.  The second, Passwordless Authentication: Bridging the Gap Between High-Security and Low-Friction Identity Management (34 pp., PDF, opt-in) by Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), is based on interviews with 200 North American-based IT professionals who are knowledgeable about their organization’s use of identity and access management services. Please see page 4 of the study for additional details regarding the methodology.

The two studies provide insights into the perils of passwords and the merits of mobile when it comes to enterprise security, user experiences, and workforce productivity:

  • 90% of respondents to the EMA survey have experienced significant password policy violations in just the last year. The most frequently reported was that identical passwords are being used to support multiple accounts (39.06%). The following graphic from the EMA study reflects password management worst practices that put an organization at a high risk of a breach. A recent survey by Centrify found that 74% of all breaches involved access to a privileged account. Hackers aren’t breaking into systems; they’re obtaining privileged access credentials and walking in the front door as the graphic below shows.

  • 88% of global security leaders believe that mobile devices will soon serve as a digital ID for accessing enterprise apps and data. In the US, the percentage rises to 91%. With cyberattacks on the rise and the disadvantages of passwords and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) apparent to security leaders—from both a user and a security standpoint— it’s clear that new authentication methods are needed. Hardware tokens, seen by many security leaders as a more secure option for authentication than passwords, take a hit on user-friendliness compared to biometrics on a mobile device according to the survey’s results. Among the security leaders, 72% see biometrics as more user-friendly than passwords, versus just 58% favoring tokens over passwords for ease of use.

  • Four of the top five authentication technologies IT leaders prefer over passwords are biometrics-based. What’s encouraging from the EMA study is that the majority of IT departments are actively evaluating biometrics with 82% of respondents identifying at least one of the four basic biometric approaches as a passwordless solution.

  • 87% of enterprises anticipate an increase in users needing business app access over the next 24 months. 85% of respondents reported seeing an increase in the number of users who need to access business apps from a mobile device over the past 12 months. Mobile apps dominate enterprises’ internal software development efforts according to 91% of respondents to the IDG study.

  • Eliminating passwords reduces the friction or hassles required to gain access to apps and resources while improving organization-wide security. The paradox of how to improve productivity and increase security is solved when passwords go away. Low-friction identity management approaches improve user experiences while simultaneously enhancing security and reducing management efforts as the graphic below shows:

Conclusion

Hackers would instead find ingenious ways to steal passwords and privileged access credentials than spend time attempting to hack into an organization’s systems. Mobile devices and the apps they use are the fastest growing and most unprotected threat surface there is for businesses today, making them a high priority for hackers. Relying on passwords alone to protect mobile devices makes them the weakest defense in a Zero Trust World. Eliminating passwords for more effective authentication and security approaches that are more consistent with Zero Trust is needed now.

CIO’s Guide To Stopping Privileged Access Abuse – Part 2

Why CIOs Are Prioritizing Privileged Credential Abuse Now

Enterprise security approaches based on Zero Trust continue to gain more mindshare as organizations examine their strategic priorities. CIOs and senior management teams are most focused on securing infrastructure, DevOps, cloud, containers, and Big Data projects to stop the leading cause of breaches, which is privileged access abuse.

Based on insights gained from advisory sessions with CIOs and senior management teams, Forrester estimates that 80% of data breaches have a connection to compromised privileged credentials, such as passwords, tokens, keys, and certificates. In another survey completed by Centrify, 74% of IT decision makers surveyed whose organizations have been breached in the past, say it involved privileged access abuse. Furthermore, 65% of organizations are still sharing root or privileged access to systems and data at least somewhat often. Centrify’s survey, Privileged Access Management in the Modern Threatscape, is downloadable here.

The following are the key reasons why CIOs are prioritizing privileged access management now:

  • Identities are the new security perimeter for any business, making privileged access abuse the greatest challenge CIOs face in keeping their businesses secure and growing. Gartner also sees privileged credential abuse as the greatest threat to organizations today, and has made Privileged Account Management one of the Gartner Top 10 Security Projects for 2018, and again in 2019Forrester and Gartner’s findings and predictions reflect the growing complexity of threatscapes every CIO must protect their business against while still enabling new business growth. Banking, financial services, and insurance (BFSI) CIOs often remark in my conversations with them that the attack surfaces in their organizations are proliferating at a pace that quickly scales beyond any trust but verify legacy approach to managing access. They need to provide applications, IoT-enabled devices, machines, cloud services, and human access to a broader base of business units than ever before.
  • CIOs are grappling with the paradox of protecting the rapidly expanding variety of attack surfaces from breaches while still providing immediate access to applications, systems, and services that support their business’ growth. CIOs I’ve met with also told me access to secured resources needs to happen in milliseconds, especially to support the development of new banking, financial services, and insurance applications in beta testing today, scheduled to be launched this summer. Their organizations’ development teams expect more intuitive, secure, and easily accessible applications than ever before, which is driving CIOs to prioritize privileged access management now
  • Adapting and risk-scoring every access attempt in real-time is key to customer experiences on new services and applications, starting with response times. CIOs need a security strategy that can flex or adapt to risk contexts in real-time, assessing every access attempt across every threat surface and generating a risk score in milliseconds. The CIOs I’ve met with regularly see a “never trust, always verify, enforce least privilege” approach to security as the future of how they’ll protect every threat surface from privileged access abuse. Each of their development teams is on tight deadlines to get new services launch to drive revenue in Q3. Designing in Zero Trust with a strong focus on Zero Trust Privilege is saving valuable development time now and is enabling faster authentication times of the apps and services in testing today.

Strategies For Stopping Privileged Credential Abuse – Part 2  

Recently I wrote a CIO’s Guide To Stopping Privileged Access Abuse – Part 1 detailing five recommended strategies for CIOs on how to stop privileged credential abuse. The first five strategies focus on the following: discovering and inventorying all privileged accounts; vaulting all cloud platforms’ Root Accounts; auditing privileged sessions and analyzing patterns to find privileged credential sharing not found during audits; enforcing least privilege access now within your existing infrastructure as much as possible; and adopting multi-factor authentication (MFA) across all threat surfaces that can adapt and flex to the risk context of every request for resources.

The following are the second set of strategies CIOs need to prioritize to further protect their organizations from privileged access abuse:

  1. After completing an inventory of privileged accounts, create a taxonomy of them by assigning users to each class or category, personalizing privileged credential access to the role and entitlement level for each. CIOs tell me this is a major time saver in scaling their Privileged Access Management (PAM) strategies. Assigning every human, machine and sensor-based identity is the goal with the overarching objective being the creation of a Zero Trust-based enterprise security strategy. Recommended initial classes or categories include IT administrators who are also responsible for endpoint security; developers who require occasional access to production instances; service desk teams and service operations; the Project Management Office (PMO) and project IT; and external contractors and consultants.
  2. By each category in the taxonomy, automate the time, duration, scope, resources, and entitlements of privileged access for each focusing on the estimated time to complete each typical task. Defining a governance structure that provides real-time access to resources based on successful authentication is a must-have for protecting privileged access credentials. By starting with the attributes of time, duration, scope and properties, organizations have a head start on creating a separation of duties (SOD) model. Separation of duties is essential for ensuring that privileged user accounts don’t have the opportunity to carry out and conceal any illegal or unauthorized activities.
  3. Using the taxonomy of user accounts created and hardened using the separation of duties model, automate privileged access and approval workflows for enterprise systems. Instead of having administrators approve or semi-automate the evaluation of every human- and machine-based request for access, consider automating the process with a request and approval workflow. With time, duration, scope, and properties of privileged access already defined human- and machine-based requests for access to IT systems and services are streamlined, saving hundreds of hours a year and providing a real-time log for audit and data analysis later.
  4. Break-glass, emergency or firecall account passwords need to be vaulted, with no exceptions. When there’s a crisis of any kind, the seconds it takes to get a password could mean the difference between cloud instances and entire systems being inaccessible or not. That’s why administrators often only manually secure root passwords to all systems, cloud platforms and containers included. This is the equivalent of leaving the front door open to the data center with all systems unlocked. The recent Centrify survey found that just 48% of organizations interviewed have a password vault. 52% are leaving the keys to the kingdom available for hackers to walk through the front door of data centers and exfiltraticate data whenever they want.
  5. Continuous delivery and deployment platforms including Ansible, Chef, Puppet, and others need to be configured when first installed to eliminate the potential for privileged access abuse. The CIOs whose teams are creating new apps and services are using Chef and Puppet to design and create workloads, with real-time integration needed with customer, pricing, and services databases and the systems they run on. Given how highly regulated insurance is, CIOs are saying they need to have logs that show activity down to the API level in case of an audit. The more regulated and audited a company, the more trusted and untrusted domains are seen as the past, Zero Trust as the future based on CIO’s feedback.

Conclusion

The CIOs I regularly meet with from the banking, financial services, and insurance industries are under pressure to get new applications and services launched while protecting their business’ daily operations. With more application and services development happening in their IT teams, they’re focusing on how they can optimize the balance between security and speed. New apps, services, and the new customers they attract are creating a proliferation of new threat surfaces, making every new identity the new security perimeter.

How To Protect Healthcare Records In A Zero Trust World

  • There’s been a staggering 298.4% growth in the reported number of patient records breached as a result of insider-wrongdoing this year alone according to Protenus.
  • The total disclosed number of breached patient records has soared from 1.1M in Q1 2018 to 4.4M in Q3 2018 alone, 680K of which were breached by insiders.
  • There were 117 disclosed health breaches in the last 90 days alone.
  • On average it’s taking 402 days to discover a healthcare provider has been breached.

Diagnosing Healthcare’s Breach Epidemic

Using access credentials stolen from co-workers or stolen laptops, unethical healthcare insiders are among the most prolific at stealing and selling patient data of any insider threat across any industry. Accenture’s study, “Losing the Cyber Culture War in Healthcare: Accenture 2018 Healthcare Workforce Survey on Cybersecurity,” found that the most common ways healthcare employees financially gain from stealing medical records is to commit tax return and credit card fraud.

Treating healthcare’s breach epidemic needs to start by viewing every threat surface, access point, identity, and login attempt as the new security perimeter. Healthcare providers urgently need to take a “never trust, always verify” approach, adopting  Zero Trust Security to protect every threat surface using Next-Gen Access for end-user credentials and Privileged Access Management (PAM) for privileged credentials. One of the leaders in Next-Gen Access is Idaptive, a newly created spin-off of Centrify. Centrify itself is offering Zero Trust Privilege Services helping over half of the Fortune 100 to eliminate privileged access abuse, the leading cause of breaches today. Centrify Zero Trust Privilege grants least privilege access based on verifying who is requesting access, the context of the request, and the risk of the access environment.

18% of healthcare employees are willing to sell confidential data to unauthorized parties for as little as $500 to $1,000, according to a recent Accenture study. 24% of employees know of someone who has sold access to patient data to outsiders. 58% of all healthcare breaches are initiated by insiders. Confidential patient diagnosis, treatment, payment histories, and medical records are the most valuable on the Dark Web, selling for as much as $1,000 per record according to Experian.

Key insights from Protenus’ Breach Barometer illustrate how healthcare’s breach epidemic is growing exponentially:

  • There’s been a staggering 298.4% growth in the number of patient records breached as a result of insider-wrongdoing this year alone. In Q1 of this year, there were 4,597 patient records exfiltrated by insider wrong-doing, jumping to 70,562 in Q2 and soaring to 290,689 in Q3. Healthcare insiders can easily thwart healthcare systems’ legacy security approaches today by using compromised access credentials. Zero Trust Security, either in the form of Next-Gen Access for end-user credentials or Zero Trust Privilege for privileged access credentials has the potential to stop this

  • The total number of breached patient records has soared from 1.1M in Q1 of this year to 4.4M in Q3, a 58.7% jump in less than a year. Protenus found a total of 117 incidents were disclosed to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or the media in Q3 2018 alone. Details were disclosed for 100 of these incidents, affecting 4,390,512 patient records, the highest level ever recorded. Jumping from 1.1M medical records in Q1 to 4.4M in Q3, healthcare providers could easily see over 6.5M records breached in Q4 2018 alone.

  • Hackers targeted healthcare systems aggressively in Q3 of this year, exfiltrating 3.6M patient records in just 90 days. Compromised access credentials are hackers’ favorite technique for exfiltrating massive quantities of medical records they resell on the Dark Web or use to commit tax and credit card fraud. Healthcare providers need to minimize their attack surfaces, improve audit and compliance visibility, reduce risk, complexity, and costs across their modern, hybrid enterprises with Zero Trust. Healthcare providers need to shut down hackers now, taking away the opportunities they’re capitalizing on to exfiltrate medical records almost at will.
  • It takes 71 days on average for healthcare providers to realize their data is breached with one breach lasting over 15 years. Protenus found a wide variation in the length of time it takes healthcare providers to realize they’ve been breached and one didn’t know until 15 years after the initial successful breach. All breaches tracked by Protenus found that the insiders and/or hackers were successful in gaining access to a wealth of patient information including addresses, dates of birth, medical record numbers, healthcare providers, visit date, health insurance information, financial histories, and payment information.

Conclusion

Zero Trust is the antidote healthcare needs to treat its raging breach epidemic.  It’s exponentially growing as insiders’ intent on wrongdoing turn to exfiltrating patients’ data for personal gain. Hackers also find healthcare providers’ legacy systems among the easiest to access using stolen access credentials, exfiltrating millions of records in months. With every new employee and device being a new security perimeter on their networks, the time is now for healthcare providers to discard the old model of “trust but verify” which relied on well-defined boundaries. Zero Trust mandates a “never trust, always verify” approach to access, from inside or outside healthcare providers’ networks.

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