Contributor:
Andrew Avanessian
August 31st, 2014

Take an in-depth look at your IT security

Over the past few months we’ve seen a spate of IT security breaches in the US. Retailers, Supervalu, Albertsons and the courier, UBS recently revealed they’d suffered significant data attacks, with customers debit and credit card details compromised. Meanwhile in the healthcare sector, Community Health Systems, which operates 206 hospitals across the United States, announced that hackers recently broke into its computers and stole data on 4.5 million patients.

All of this comes just weeks after the retail giant, Target, announced that expenses tied to its data breach in the run up to last year’s holiday season could reach up to $148 million.

Of course it’s not just outside threats that have caused security headaches. The scale of Snowden’s data theft is still having an impact over 12 months on. In a post Snowden era, the threat from within is just as likely to cause sleepless nights for CIOs and CISOs as those from outside sources. Research from Trustwave found that 52% of cyber attacks originate externally while 48% are caused by internal sources, whether malicious or accidental.

What steps can businesses take to restore harmony?

There are many approaches and recommendations within the IT security community, some basic quick win steps and others more rigorous and time-consuming.

In recent years, the spotlight has been on Defense in Depth (DiD) strategies and their ability to tackle multiform cyber treats by extending and layering security measures. But with attacks becoming increasingly diverse and more sophisticated, the question of whether DiD remains a valid solution raises its head.

What is Defense in Depth and how does it work?

The concept of DiD originated from a military defense strategy that forces an attacker to spend up its resources by overcoming a series of obstacles. However, in the realm of cyber security, DiD refers to a layered security strategy that combines both reactive and proactive measures to create an all-inclusive security solution.

DiD works by layering assets in a series of defensive measures that will deter attackers. The overlap of these layers of defense aim to ensure that the shortcomings of one security control are covered by another.

The success of any DiD strategy however depends on how the strategy is layered. If a strategy contains the essential and proactive layers of application whitelisting, operating system and application patching and privilege management at its heart, evidence suggests it will be robust enough to offer protection. These are strategies that are always recommended as essential by analysts and security experts such as SANS.

If your strategy only includes a few of these areas, then holes start to appear that can be easily exploited by external or internal sources. You don’t need to have a sophisticated and elaborate security strategy to prevent attacks, simply implementing these standard best practices can be hugely beneficial.

Of course the reality of the situation is that with hackers becoming increasingly savvy, smart and targeted in their criminality, no IT security strategy is 100% foolproof. There is no silver bullet.

But by taking lessons from history, learning from real-world attack data and creating layers of security, you can face the post-Snowdon era with much more confidence.

You can learn more about Defense in Depth by downloading our latest ebook, with tips on how to layer, prioritize and ultimately defend against targeted attacks.

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