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Strong Medicine for Complex IT Security Maladies

Strong Medicine for Complex IT Security Maladies

The number of attacks on enterprise systems continues to climb, as does the cost of protecting them. The path to reducing risks, even as the threats escalate, is to confront security at the framework and strategic level, and to harness the point solutions approach into a managed and ongoing security enhancement lifecycle.

By Dana Gardner E-Commerce Times ECT News Network
12/12/11 5:00 AM PT

Enterprises face a rapidly growing threat from complex IT security breaches. In just the past year, the number of attacks are up, the costs associated with them are higher and more visible, and the risks of not securing systems and processes are therefore much greater. Some people have even called the rate of attacks a "pandemic."

The path to reducing these risks, even as the threats escalate, is to confront security at the framework and strategic level, and to harness the point solutions approach into a managed and ongoing security enhancement lifecycle.

As part of the series of recent news announcements from HP, this discussion examines how such a framework process can unfold, from workshops that allow a frank assessment of an organization's vulnerabilities, to tailored framework-level approaches that can transform a company based on its own specific needs.

Here to describe how a "fabric of technology," a "framework of processes," and a "lifecycle of preparedness" can all work together to help organizations become more secure -- and keep them secure -- is Rebecca Lawson, director of worldwide security initiatives at HP. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.


Listen to the podcast (29:47 minutes).

Here are some excerpts:

Dana Gardner: Why has the security vulnerability issue come to a head?

Rebecca Lawson: Open up the newspaper and you see another company getting hit almost every day. As an industry, we've hit a tipping point with so many different security-related issues -- for example, cyber crime, hacktivism, nation-state attacks. When you couple that with the diversity of devices that we use, and the wide range of apps and data we access every day, you can see how these dynamics create a very porous environment for an enterprise.

So we are hearing from our customers that they want to step back and think more strategically about how they're going to handle security, not just for the short term, when threats are near and present, but also from a longer term point of view.

Gardner: What do you think are some of the trends that are supporting this vulnerability?

Lawson: In HP's recent research, we've found that 30 percent of the people know that they've had a security breach by an unauthorized internal access, and over 20 percent have experienced an external breach. So breaches happen both internally and externally, and they happen for different reasons. Sometimes a breach is caused by a disgruntled customer or employee. Sometimes, there is a political motive. Sometimes, it's just an honest error ... Maybe they grab some paper off a printer that has some proprietary information, and then it gets into the wrong hands.

There are so many different points at which security incidents can occur; the real trick is getting your arms around all of them and focusing your attention on those that are most likely to cause reputation damage or financial damage or operational damage.

We also noticed in our research that the number of attacks, particularly on Web applications, is just skyrocketing. One of the key areas of focus for HP is helping our customers understand why that's happening, and what they can do about it.

Gardner: It also seems to me that, in the past, a lot of organizations could put up a walled garden, and say, "We're not going to do a lot of Web stuff. We're not going to do mobile. We're going to keep our networks under our control." But nowadays that's really just not possible.

If you're not doing mobile, not looking seriously at cloud, not making your workers able to access your assets regardless of where they are, you're really at a disadvantage competitively. So it seems to me that this is not an option, and that the old defensive posture just doesn't work anymore.

Lawson: That is exactly right. In the good old days, we did have a walled garden, and it was easy for IT or the security office to just say "no" to newfangled approaches to accessing the Web or building Web apps. Of course, today they can still say no, but IT and security offices realize that they can't thwart the technology-related innovation that helps drive growth.

Our customers are keenly aware that their information assets are the most important assets now. That's where the focus is, because that's where the value is. The problem is that all the data and information moves around so freely now. You can send data in the blink of an eye to China and back, thru multiple application, where it's used in different contexts. The context can change so rapidly that you have to really think differently about what it is you're protecting and how you're going to go about protecting it. So it's a different game now.

Gardner: And as we confront this "new game," it also appears that our former organizational approach is wanting. If we've had a variety of different security approaches under the authority of different people -- not really coordinated, not talking to each other, not knowing what the right hand and left hand are doing -- that's become a problem.

So how do we now elevate this to a strategic level, getting a framework, getting a comprehensive plan? It sounds like that's what a lot of the news you've been making these days is involved with.

Lawson: You're exactly right. Our customers are realizing that there is no one silver bullet. You have to think across functional areas, lines of business, and silos.

Job number one is to bring the right people together and to assess the situation. The people are going to be from all over the organization -- IT, security and risk, AppDev, legal, accounting, supply chain -- to really assess the situation. Everyone should be not only aware of where vulnerabilities might be, or where the most costly vulnerabilities might be, but to look ahead and say, "Here is how our enterprise is innovating with technology -- Let's make sure we build security into them from the get-go."

There are two takeaways from this. A structured methodical framework approach helps our customers get the people on the same page, getting the processes from top-down really well-structured so that everyone is aware of how different security processes work and how they benefit the organizations so that they can innovate.

[But] it's also about long-term thinking, about building security in from the get-go; this is where companies can start to turn the corner. I'll go back again to Web apps, building security into the very requirement and making sure all the way through the architecture design, testing, production, all the way through that you are constantly testing for security.

Gardner: What are the high-level building blocks to the framework approach?

Lawson: The framework that I just mentioned is our way of looking at what you have to do across securing data, managing suppliers, ensuring physical assets, or security, but our approach to executing on that framework is a four-point approach.

We help our customers first assess the situation, which is really important just to have all eyes on what's currently happening and where your current vulnerabilities may lie. Then, we help them to transform their security practices from where they are today to where they need to be.

Then, technologies and services to help them manage that on an ongoing basis, so that you can get more and more of the security controls automated. And then, we help them optimize that, because security just doesn't stand still. So we have tools and services that help our customers keep their eye on the right ball, as all of the new threats evolve or new compliance requirements come down the pike.

Gardner: What is HP Secure Boardroom, and why is it an important as part of this organizational shift?

Lawson: The Secure Boardroom combines dashboard technology with a good dose of intellectual property we have developed that helps us generate the APIs into different data sources within an organization.

The result is that a CISO can look at a dashboard and instantly see what's going on all across the organization. What are the threats that are happening? What's the rate of incidents? What's going on across your planning spectrum?

To have the visibility into disparate systems is step one. We've codified this over the several years that we've been working on this into a system that now any enterprise can use to pull together a consistent C-level view, so that you have the right kind of transparency.

Half the battle is just seeing what's going on every day in a consistent manner, so that you are focused on the right issues, while discovering where you might need better visibility or where you might need to change process. The Secure Boardroom helps you to continually be focused on the right processes, the right elements, and the right information to better protect financial, operational, and reputation-related assets. ...

Because we've been in the systems management and business service management business for so long, I would elevate this up to the level of the business service management.

We already have a head start with our customers, because they can already see the forest for the trees with regard to any one particular service. Let's just say it's a service in the supply chain, and that service might comprise network elements and systems and software and applications and all kinds of data going through it. We're able to tie the management of that through traditional management tools, like what we had with OpenView and what we have with our business service management to the view of security.

When you think about vulnerabilities, threats, and attacks, the first thing you have to do is have the right visibility. The technology in our security organization that helps us see and find the vulnerabilities really quickly.

Because we have our security technology tied with IT operations, there is an integration between them. When the security technology detects something, they can automatically issue an alert that is picked up from our incident management system, which might then invoke our change management system, which might then invoke a prescribed operations change, and we can do that through HP Operations Orchestration.

It really is a triad -- security, applications, operations. At HP, we're making them work together. And because we have such a focus now on data correlation, on Big Data, we're able to bring in all the various sources of data and turn that into actionable information, and then execute it through our automation engine. ...

For example, we have a technology that lets you scan software and look for vulnerabilities, both dynamic and static testing. We have ways of finding vulnerabilities in third-party applications. We do that through our research organization which is called DVLabs. DV stands for Digital Vaccine. We pull data in from them every day as to new vulnerabilities and we make that available to the other technologies so we can blend that into the picture.

The right kind of security fabric has to be composed of different technologies that are very focused on certain areas. For example, technologies like our intrusion protection technology, which does the packet inspection and can identify bad IP addresses. They can identify that there are certain vulnerabilities associated with the transaction, and they can stop a lot of traffic right at the gate before it gets in.

The reason we can do that so well is because we've already weaved in information from our applications group, information from our researchers out there in the market. So we've been able to pull these together and make more value out of them working as one.


Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, which tracks trends, delivers forecasts and interprets the competitive landscape of enterprise applications and software infrastructure markets for clients. He also produces BriefingsDirect sponsored podcasts. Follow Dana Gardner on Twitter. Disclosure: HP sponsored this podcast.


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