Integrate Security Silos to Stop APTs

We need a change in the world of security. Specifically, we need to integrate tools and capabilities when it comes to security.

Traditionally, the primary focus in security has been on perimeter defense. While this is still an essential part of a security setup, we need to broaden the focus in order to increase transparency and secure our transactions.

The cyberthreat landscape is evolving at rapid speed, and it is becoming increasingly challenging for enterprises to sustain cyberattacks and ensure a high level of security. In response, IBM developed a layered reference architecture to counter many threats and help customers create a road map to security.

Different security methods have been implemented in each of the four different domains: people, applications, infrastructure and data.

This layered approach has proven very useful in mitigating a broad variety of threats. It also provides enterprises with much more transparency in their transaction monitoring in each of the security domains. With this architecture, it is now possible to understand and utilize the security information collected across different areas.

Challenges Moving Forward

We are still missing a piece in the puzzle: You must integrate and correlate all the information collected in the different domains in a way that makes sense. The right system should be able to analyze real-time events and store data for forensic purposes.

As mentioned, the nature of cybercrime is changing at an unprecedented pace, and the world has witnessed a stream of major breaches across different industries. Cybercriminals are more organized and collaborative, taking advantage of the latest technologies to improve their tactics. In addition, the explosion of data, increasing adoption of cloud and mobile and the extensive use of social media have made it easier for insiders to unintentionally open the door to new risks such as advanced persistent threats (APTs).

The desire to have an agile enterprise that instantly adopts the latest technology and at the same time maintains a high level of security can be a difficult discipline to master. So far, the greatest challenge has been to correlate and understand the extensive amounts of information collected in each domain, but it is now possible.

Why Integrate Security Tools?

By leveraging the intelligence and analytics engine of a security information and event management (SIEM) solution, we can now analyze huge numbers of events and send out a manageable amount of alerts based on the events that actually matter to security operations centers (SOCs), help desks or auditors, all in real time.

With its comprehensive monitoring capabilities, a SIEM solution also makes it possible to determine base-level behavior of the enterprise. The solution can then send alerts if it detects patterns deviating from the base level.

This provides a very strong foundation for mitigating security risks across all domains. The transparency provided by this architecture enables enterprises to control abnormalities such as data leaving the enterprise, which has previously proven to be a very challenging task. Experience shows that often an attacker will analyze each domain for weak points such as:

  • Poor firewall configuration;
  • Poor user ID life cycle management;
  • Poor application security;
  • Poor database management;
  • Poor user context at the time of authentication; or
  • Weak server maintenance.

As attackers take a more sophisticated approach, managing security has become a more complex task. Correlating and analyzing all events and network flows across domains enable security to achieve a much higher level of transparency, uncover threats that might have otherwise entered the environment and create a trustworthy enterprise.

A solution with this type of analytic capability and transparency will also be the cornerstone when it comes time to enforce processes that comply with the EU’s impending data protection act. Because we can collect information from many events, it will be much easier to track data, monitor information flow and ensure compliance with all regulations.

Integrating all event sources, and adding analytics to evaluate and conduct a risk assessment, is the best way to secure the enterprise.

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Sven-Erik Vestergaard

Security Architect, IBM

Sven-Erik has worked at IBM for 38 years, first starting as an HW Engineer and then becoming a Software Engineer to work on mainframes. Sven-Erik began working in security in technical sales in 1999. Since 2006, he has been a Security Architect. He specializes in Identity and Access Management, Federation, XACML and API Security.