Protect Your Critical Assets in a Landscape of Expanding Attack Surfaces

Imagine: You just received an alert that threat actors infiltrated your network, leaked mission-critical data and posted it in publicly accessible forums on the dark web. What do you do?

As a security leader, you knew that a breach was inevitable. Your data, applications and endpoints were expanding at an alarming rate — far faster than your organization’s ability to track and control its critical assets. Still, you never imagined you’d find out about the leak via a third-party notification, or just how frightening it would be to learn that your cyber resiliency strategy was insufficient to protect customer data.

If this scenario is familiar, don’t worry — you’re not alone. Traditional approaches to asset identification and protection have failed businesses around the world and across verticals as security leaders struggle to address challenges such as lack of visibility into enterprise data, outdated risk frameworks and the mind-bending acceleration of the threat landscape. To keep pace with opportunistic bad actors looking to take advantage of these security gaps, chief information security officers (CISOs) must implement more sophisticated controls before it’s too late.

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Attack Surfaces Are Expanding Faster Than IT Awareness

With critical assets channeled between multiple clouds, on-premises systems, and multiplatform applications on both company-owned and personal endpoints, it’s no wonder security leaders are stuggling to see the full security picture. And this lack of visibility into enterprise data is more expensive than ever: The cost of a successful endpoint attack now exceeds $5 million, according to The Ponemon Institute, and the compromise rate of enterprise systems has more than doubled in the past five years, according to McKinsey & Company.

CISOs are increasingly called upon to report on security risks in business terms to the board. However, security leaders struggle to speak to invisible data risks, since not all business applications in use are known to IT security. In fact, 57 percent of CISOs said a lack of visibility into the location and protection of sensitive data is “what keeps them up most at night,” as reported by Forbes.

New Frameworks for Asset Protection

Traditional asset protection frameworks have involved time-consuming work to catalog assets, evaluate controls, assign risks and create remediation plans.

“In an increasingly digitized world, protecting everything equally is not an option,” wrote Piotr Kamiski, Chris Rezek, Wolf Richter and Marc Sorel of McKinsey & Company. “The digital business model is, however, entirely dependent on trust.”

Today’s security leaders need new frameworks to find, use and manage critical assets in an evolving enterprise security landscape. Failure to adapt to the new realities of data risk has weighty consequences. The Ponemon Institute’s “2018 Cost of a Data Breach” study, sponsored by IBM, reported an average cost of $3.86 million, a 6.4 percent increase from the previous year. The cost of noncompliance with data security and privacy standards, meanwhile, has risen 45 percent since 2011 to a staggering $14 million, according to SC Magazine. Security leaders must also consider the weightiest consequence of failure to protect sensitive data and assets: loss of consumer trust.

As the risks associated with critical assets continue to shift, a proactive response is necessary to keep up with the evolving threat landscape. The new standard for critical asset protection is a three-part framework to achieve intelligent visibility, proactive mitigation and continuous control.

Intelligent visibility means unified oversight across data, cloud networks and endpoints, with insight into the most critical risks and assets. Proactive mitigation is defined by the ability to create, apply and enforce security across endpoints, apps and data at scale. Continuous control is the ability to create security policies at scale, optimize asset protections, and comply with regulatory requirements and policies.

Smarter Security for Critical Assets: 5 Use Cases

An Aberdeen Group study sponsored by IBM revealed that best-in-class firms are 74 percent more likely than others to view asset statuses via real-time dashboards. These industry leaders are also 40 percent more likely to connect disparate systems for end-to-end control of sensitive data. Use cases for artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive computing, extensibility, automation and human intelligence demonstrate the value of a comprehensive security immune system.

1. Artificial Intelligence

The average security operations center (SOC) logs 200,000 events each day, according to IBM research. Separating false positives from significant risks is a real challenge for overworked and understaffed SOC teams.

Applied AI excels at analyzing structured and unstructured data assets to prioritize risks, classify critical assets and detect anomalies. Integrating AI solutions for testing and compliance enables DevOps to achieve privacy by default and design.

2. Cognitive Computing

Critical asset protection requires the organization to fight false positives and respond immediately to significant threats. Cognitive computing, an advanced application of AI, machine learning and deep learning networks, augments human intelligence and grows smarter with use. Organizations can automatically investigate and respond to indicators of compromise (IoCs) to reduce the workload on SOC analysts.

3. Extensibility

Even with dozens of security solutions, enterprises are struggling to achieve the integration needed for true asset transparency. Over 58 percent of IT executives recently cited a lack of infrastructure-agnostic visibility as their primary challenge, according to Security Boulevard.

By investing in a collaborative threat sharing platform, organizations can scale the capabilities of security solutions in nearly real time and exchange knowledge with a vibrant collective of partners and peers.

4. Automation

One of the most significant risks facing the enterprise is innocent and malicious insider threats. Insider-caused incidents are nearly twice as costly as the average global data breach, according to a Ponemon Institute study. There’s a need for solutions to introduce total transparency and automated action against the most critical risks. An adaptive security ecosystem of solutions can intelligently uncover insights into external and internal threats, orchestrate responses and share actionable threat intelligence.

5. People

SOC analysts must be knowledgeable to defend against evolving threats. CISOs can improve internal skill sets and outsource critical capacities by partnering with managed security services providers (MSSPs). These experts can provide training and expertise to SOC analysts while delivering endpoint and data protection services for a resilient enterprise. Offensive security partnerships can offer expert penetration testing, vulnerability analytics and threat intelligence.

Protecting Customer Trust

Unlocking the ability to find and secure critical assets with leading security solutions can enable the enterprise to achieve regulatory compliance, reduce operational costs and improve security talent retention. Most importantly, critical asset protection is a tool for securing customer trust. Trust is a currency, and solutions for data protection can provide a remarkable advantage for customer confidence.

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Rob Patey

Storyteller/Dreamweaver, IBM

I started 15 years ago trying to make B2B copy something people want to read versus something they have to read. Thanks...