Outgunned: How Security Tech Is Failing Us — InformationWeek.
Our testing shows we’re spending billions on defenses that are no match for the stealthy attacks being thrown at us today. What can be done?
Greg Shipley has written an excellent article about the state of information security. The hard copy version in this week’s InformationWeek magazine sums up the situation – “Epic Fail.”
…collectively, we’ve spent billions of dollars on security technologies, and we still can’t curb these threats. Intruders trot through firewalls deployed to block them, while malware flourishes on systems that antivirus vendors pledge to immunize. Meantime, our identity management efforts guzzle funds faster than politicians before a crucial vote.
Recent events suggest that we are at a tipping point, and the need to reassess and adapt has never been greater. That starts with facing some hard truths and a willingness to change the status quo.
Greg points out what we’ve been saying for the last three years:
…sometime in the last few years a number of our key security technology controls crossed that threshold and ceased to be effective, yet as an industry we have yet to adjust. We’re pouring billions of dollars–literally–into security products that are gaining us very little. We don’t retire anything but rather pile on more layers, leading to increased complexity, expense, and exposure.
One of the big three security technology controls Greg calls out is firewalls. I would be more specific and say “stateful inspection” firewalls. These have been the staple of network security for 15 years. But Web 2.0 applications and social networking breeze right by the stateful inspection firewall. In fact, the stateful inspection firewall provides practically no control or protection at all.
Fortunately, we have begun to see the rise of what Gartner calls the Next Generation Firewall as exemplified by Palo Alto Networks. NextGen Firewalls are application aware and more importantly enable you to build policies based on applications and users rather than ports, protocols, and IP addresses.
Greg’s four recommendations are:
1) Start spending money on controls that are more in line with threats. This is in fact why Cymbel has embraced (and enhanced) the SANS 20 Critical Security Controls for Effective Cyber Defense. Controls were selected based knowledge of exploits. For example, Controls #1 and #2 are about Discovery of network assets and the software running on them. Unknown and/or unmanaged devices will thwart a patch management program every time.
2) Adjust assumptions and put to rest some age-old debates. For example the insider vs. outsider debate. Due to what we call the ‘inside-out” attack vector, the outside attacker becomes an insider once the attacker steals the insider’s credentials. We discuss this in more detail in the Threats section of the Five Forces of Change. This is why internal network segmentation based on application and user policies has become critical.
3) Stop rewarding ineffectiveness and start rewarding innovation. Here Greg repeats his observations about the ineffectiveness of (stateful inspection) firewalls and antivirus. It is for this reason that we developed our Next Generation Defense-in-Depth architecture, which features real, proven, innovative solutions which mitigate these new threats. Another good example is FireEye, which prevents 0-day and unknown malware attacks using heuristics plus virtual sandboxes to test suspicious code. The virtual sandbox capability practically eliminates false positives, the bane of heuristics-based intrusion prevention systems.
4) Know when security products cannot help you. Technology is not always the answer. Our Approach, based on the SANS 20 Critical Controls acknowledges this as well. While the first 15 are automation oriented, the last five are not: Secure Network Engineering, Penetration Testing, Incident Response Capability, Data Recovery Capability, Security Training.
The validation of our approach to information security is gratifying. Thanks Greg.