Security Is Not a Technology Problem but a Process and People Problem

Thoughts coming out of AGC and RSA conferences

The recent AGC and RSA conferences in San Francisco at the end of February proved to be very successful, well attended events around topics facing the security industry. The overall theme of customer comments, keynotes and roundtables centered on cloud adoption—specifically the risks and gaps associated with fragmented, non-standardized security controls that affect visibility into risks across a hybrid, on-premise or cloud architecture. True, the benefits of the cloud are evident, yet without unified visibility into threats that target an entire enterprise, attackers can easily penetrate defenses and move laterally throughout an organization.

We are actively working to close this gap, using multiple techniques, partnerships and strategies to simplify network design and unify visibility to threats across hybrid architectures. Addressing the obstacles inherent in distributed network architectures and the risks associated with embracing the cloud is crucial.

In cloud security, knowing the geolocation of the data and how that data is secured is significant but what most organizations don’t think about is that cloud has unique requirements. These requirements should have a full security package where security leaders should be thinking about how do I get from where I am to the next level of maturity and what’s the strategy or roadmap?

From my perspective, security is not necessarily a technology problem but rather a process and people problem. In thinking about the full security package in the context of cloud security,  you should consider aspects such as mobile security, social media implications and the evolution of your role as a security leader.

Mobile, Social Media and the Evolution of Your Role as a Security Leader

As security leaders and thought leaders gathered to discuss the current state of the threat landscape, I made three key observations that emerged from the events that might help you:

1. Mobile security remains one of the hottest, most vulnerable operating spaces within the IT security industry.

This is rapidly becoming a trust issue for end-users and must be addressed by validating the security of hardware and software platforms. Customer confidence and consumer safety can only be maintained through such vigilance. This should extend far beyond mobile phones, BYOD and MDM to include smart, embedded devices and the discovery of vulnerabilities direct from the factory. Smart device manufacturers reduce their risk and protect their brands as they deliver new innovative products in an increasingly interconnected world.

2. The evolution of the Chief Information Security Officer.

For those who are new CISOs my advice is to not necessarily learn security; first learn how to communicate the priorities that your security folks have to the business. For those of you who have been with the business for a while and are now taking on a different role as a CISO, you have the opposite challenge. What you need to be focusing on is learning the business. Think about your role as being one foot in the business and one foot in security and then act as the interpretation between those two organizations.

3. The hacker’s playground is social media.

Social media accounts with a large number of followers provided another type of a central strategic target that serves as a key communication platform for the enterprise, providing news, promotions, business updates, and other types of announcements and alerts. It is more important than ever to ensure the integrity and safety of these accounts and profiles, and to ensure users entrusted with accounts associated with the enterprise understand strong security practices. Any organization is only as secure as its weakest link.

Security monitoring and SIEM are certainly prerequisites in today’s threat landscape. However, without the right amount of expertise and intelligence, today’s security practices can leave gaps that result in front page headlines.

So how do you build threat intelligence into your strategy? It’s both an art and a science but in order to build your strategy you have to understand risk. To understand risk, you have to understand threats, because threat management is part and parcel of that entire process of risk identification.

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Kristin Lovejoy is the former general manager of the IBM Security Services division, where she developed and delivered...