Tuesday, September 18

Convergence is the Key to Future-Proofing Security

I published a new article today on the Oracle Security blog that looks at the benefits of convergence in the security space as the IT landscape grows more disparate and distributed.

Security professionals have too many overlapping products under management and it's challenging to get quick and complete answers across hybrid, distributed environments. It's challenging to fully automate detection and response. There is too much confusion about where to get answers, not enough talent to cover the skills requirement, and significant hesitation to put the right solutions in place because there's already been so much investment.

Here's an excerpt:

The whole of your security portfolio should provide significantly more value than the sum of its parts.

The challenge facing security professionals seems to grow bigger and more complex by the hour. New threats and risk factors are constantly emerging while the IT landscape continuously evolves. At times, it feels like we’re patching holes on a moving target that’s endlessly shape-shifting. One of the major contributing factors to those feelings of chaos and disorder is the sheer quantity of security products that we rely on to cover our vast IT landscapes.

The Oracle and KPMG Cloud Threat Report 2018 found that cybersecurity professionals manage an average of 46 different security products. 7% of respondents reported being personally responsible for managing over 100 different products. 100 different security products! I don’t imagine that those folks can possibly have a complete understanding of what’s happening across 50 or 100 different security products or what value each of those products is contributing to reducing their risk. This quantity of products alone contributes to the overall challenge in several ways, including:

  • Product Overlap: Security products often have significant functional overlap. In an environment with several security products, it quickly becomes unclear which product will answer which questions. The result is wasted time and effort and longer delays getting critical answers. When addressing an on-going attack or a breach, the speed of the response effort is critical. The longer it takes, the broader the damage will be.
  • Skills Shortage: Organizations spend too much time finding or developing talent across security products. It’s rare for security professionals to have the exact mix of skills and experience that an organization needs. And with an on-going skills shortage, it’s difficult to retain top talent over long periods of time. Again, not having the right expertise in place means that you’re more likely to miss the signals of developing attacks or on-going breaches and to demonstrate longer response times to security events.
  • Delays in Addressing Gaps: Nobody likes wasted money or shelfware. When a gap is found in an organization’s security posture, security professionals are less likely to find and deploy the right solution if they have numerous other security solutions in place that may (or may not) fix the problem. Of course, without a complete understanding of where the limits are on each of those products, it could take months to sort through them and to formulate an approach. It’s the classic human response of freezing in indecision when there are too many factors to consider. When it comes to addressing information security issues, the last thing you want to do is freeze.

So, what can be done and how can we address the issue?

Here’s the good news: Security solutions are evolving toward cloud, toward built-in intelligence via Machine Learning, and toward unified, integrated-by-design platforms. This approach eliminates the issues of product overlap because each component is designed to leverage the others. It reduces the burden related to maintaining skills because fewer skills are needed and the system is more autonomous. And, it promotes immediate and automated response as opposed to indecision. While there may not be a single platform to replace all 50 or 100 of your disparate security products today, platforms are emerging that can address core security functions while simplifying ownership and providing open integration points to seamlessly share security intelligence across functions.

For example, you know that you need an identity and access component for addressing access management needs across numerous SaaS applications and IaaS services. And you need a Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) to scan SaaS applications and Cloud Infrastructures for insecure configurations and to monitor user activity. But, for the most part, these functions are silo’ed today. One doesn’t talk to the other. But they can. And they should.

Understanding what a user is doing across cloud applications (visibility often provided by CASB) enables you to create a risk score for that user that can then be used by the Identity function to make decisions and take actions such as stepping up authentication, requesting approvals, initiating an access review, or denying access. Understanding that a target system’s configuration was modified recently or that it doesn’t conform to the organization’s security policies also increases risk. And there are numerous sources of additional risk data: identity, CASB, security configuration scanning, SIEM, UEBA, external threat feeds, session context, etc.

Forward-looking security platforms will leverage hybrid cloud architecture to address hybrid cloud environments. They’re autonomous systems that operate without relying on human maintenance, patching, and monitoring. They leverage risk intelligence from across the numerous available sources. And then they rationalize that data and use Machine Learning to generate better security intelligence and feed that improved intelligence back to the decision points. And they leverage built-in integration points and orchestration functionality to automate response when appropriate.

In other words, your security platform should serve as a central brain that doesn’t only import the various security data points but also makes sense of it without relying on human eyes to catch potential threats. And it adds intelligence, identifies patterns, recognizes anomalies, and responds appropriately and within seconds. This is much more advanced than the old SIEM model which simply aggregates data from numerous sources and tries to raise alerts for humans to evaluate. This is a system that thinks for you and leverages advanced analytics to make decisions across those numerous disparate systems. It’s a cloud service so you don’t need to administer and manage it. You become a user; a consumer of its benefits rather than a caretaker. And the result is much more value and further reduced risk than you’d get from the parts alone.