In the world of IT systems, a little mistrust can sometimes be a good thing. As you read this, a busy executive is glancing at her email inbox. A message from a longtime colleague has a link to an interesting-sounding study — but something doesn’t feel quite right.
The email seems vaguely generic, without the personal tone she’d expect from an old friend. When she checks the return address, it doesn’t match the colleague’s email. Instead of clicking on the link, she deletes the email, thus protecting herself and her company from a spear-phishing cyber attack.
Mistrust can be a good thing, but we cannot live that way. If we had to be suspicious of everything in our inboxes, we would never get through them. Business, like all of social life, depends on networks of trust, and the great challenge for IT systems is building those networks.
A World of IT Systems Threats — and Smart Responses
In today’s Internet of Everything, security threats can pop up anywhere. Large organizations record billions of security events every day; The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports that a leading breakfast cereal maker is taking steps to protect its trade secrets from cyber exposure; and MLB.com reports on a breach that exposed the Houston Astros’ negotiations as last season’s trade deadline approached.
At the same time, enterprises are getting more savvy. As Danny Yadron notes in the WSJ, corporate boards are stepping up to the cyber security challenge. No longer is security regarded as a purely technical matter to be left for the IT department to deal with on its own. Cyber security threats are a fundamental risk of doing business, and business leaders are responding proactively.
New Technologies, New Threats, New Defenses
A new generation of technology is posing new security risks on all sides. Cloud computing, big data and especially mobile devices pose complex and growing challenges. The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend is filling workplaces with mobile devices that IT security teams cannot directly control — and that often have serious security gaps.
At the same time, these new technologies also hold out the promise of better security. In a new e-book, “Staying Ahead in the Cyber Security Game: What Matters Now,” leading security experts Erik van Ommeren, Martin Borrett and Marinus Kuivenhoven look at the current state of play in protecting the security of IT systems.
These experts find plenty of reasons to stay on guard, but also discover grounds for optimism. Big data analytics is allowing organizations to view billions of security events in context, identifying subtle patterns that can signal an attack. The cloud, in turn, can place this wealth of security insights into the hands of the defenders who need it; and while mobile devices pose security challenges, they have the potential to offer better security than the traditional PC.
As van Ommeren, Borrett and Kuivenhoven point out, the evolving IT systems security landscape has not changed some fundamental truths: Security involves everyone, not just IT professionals, and security is all about trust. Using fear alone to promote security is a strategy that is long past its sell-by date. Effective security comes from policies that build trust, and these policies begin at the top.