Insecurity Through Technology

Insecurity Through Technology

Some time ago I gave a presentation on BrightTalk titled ‘Insecurity Through Technology: Back to Basics‘ with the premise that the uncontrolled purchase of security technology to satisfy a perceived need may actually INCREASE your risk (go to Downloads if you just want the presentation).

Despite the crayon-esque diagrams, and the majority focus on PCI, I wanted to expand upon this concept in light of my current focus on simplifying security into “core concepts”, “appropriate / proportional security”, and “business-first”.

PCI lends itself as the perfect example of how a perceived need for technology can result in some very poor purchasing decisions.  Just look through the 12 sections of the PCI DSS and you may, in some form – and if you’re very unlucky – need ALL of the following; firewalls / routers, encryption, anti-virus, web application firewall, access control mechanisms, physical security measures, logging mechanism, vulnerability scanning, penetration testing, wireless scanning, file integrity monitoring, and a ton of ‘paperwork’.

All too often budgets are spent on items such as these at the beginning of a compliance project instead of when, and IF it’s really necessary. A lot goes into a compliance before you should be buying anything other than expert guidance or an education series.

The problem is on both sides of the sales process. The salesperson only knows how to sell either what they are being asked for, or more usually, as much as they possibly can. The purchaser has probably not done their proper due diligence and is asking the wrong questions. The best way to resolve this is if at least one side of the equation is aware of the The 6 Security Core Concepts, and follows the established good practice for the institution of a security program.

Analogy; If your doctor tells you you’re going to require an operation, you will of course learn all you can about the procedure. You may even become something of an authority in your condition (to laymen anyway). What you will NOT do is try to perform the operation yourself. Why would you treat cybersecurity any differently if you’re not an expert?

Know enough to ask the right questions, then let the experts take over. How do I…

  • choose the right technology?
  • ensure it can be integrated with current processes?
  • manage and monitor it?
  • measure it?
  • show the benefit to senior leadership?
  • …and so on…

If new technology is not properly configured, baselined, monitored, and maintained, you have added another potential vulnerability to your infrastructure. Any appliance is just another hardened server running an application of some sort, and should be treated the same way as the ones you build yourself.

Also, the more data you receive the more important baselining and tuning becomes, as you don’t want the important stuff to be obscured under layers of false positives. I do not believe there is room for Big Data analysis in security (per Don’t Get Me Started on ‘Big Data’), so integration of new technology with less-is-more security processes is paramount.

This has been, and will continue to be a theme throughout my blogs; 1) don’t buy anything until you know why you need it, 2) install nothing in production until you have figured out how to use and manage it, and 3) integrate all processes around it with a single overarching operations centre.

The threat landscape is intimidating enough without making things easier for the bad guys.

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