Contributor:
Paul Kenyon
September 1st, 2015

Prevention is possible

This blog is meant as a rallying cry for anyone who has a vested interest in their organization’s security. My aim is to spearhead a new era where all companies take a proactive approach to their security. No longer will historic methods of blocking and defense after the event be the only tenets of a security strategy.

Of course, this piece alone will not lead to a complete culture change. But the evidence for a proactive approach is so strong that I am amazed that the message hasn’t got through to every IT department and board in the country.

The message became crystal clear during Neil MacDonald’s presentation at the Gartner Security & Risk Management Summit in June, which Avecto was lucky enough to attend. Neil is a VP and distinguished analyst in Gartner Research. His presentation analyzed new approaches to combatting advanced and insider threats, and made a number of compelling arguments.

Attacks are bypassing our historic defenses – the antivirus, the firewalls, the intrusion detection systems. Once in, a piece of malware typically stays on the systems for almost a year on average, undetected. We’re blind too – 67% of attacks are discovered externally. It might be from a third party spotting records for sale on a website and letting the company know. But either way, our detection of breaches just isn’t up to scratch.

But what can we do? Let’s run through it in Gartner’s stages as Neil did at the summit – block, prevent, detect, respond.

Firstly, let’s block out what we can of the ‘bad stuff’ and let’s prevent it from executing. Whitelisting is an easy way to start. On an application level this means that known apps are good and can be allowed, unknown apps are bad and can be blocked. The Council on Cyber Security lists application control as the most essential strategy for mitigating threats, based on real-world data.

Secondly, prevent the risk of vulnerabilities by taking away admin rights and run all users as standard users. It might sound like an IT helpdesk nightmare but call upon software which can assign privileges to applications – not users – and you’ll provide huge protection for the operating system. It’s worth remembering that the removal of admin rights would have mitigated 97% of known Microsoft vulnerabilities in 2014.

Many IT managers and CIOs can be defeatist and believe that prevention is not possible. They’ve been let down too many times by poor anti-virus and firewalls. But the likes of privilege management, application control and sandboxing can genuinely eliminate the vast majority of threats.

While we would always advocate preventing as much as possible and taking a proactive stance, especially on the endpoint, detection and response strategies complement the defense in depth strategy. These technologies focus on remediating and making changes after the attack.

My hope is that more influencers like Neil MacDonald really get behind the proactive approach and convince organizations that this is the only way to approach modern security.

Leave the old, tired technologies behind and embrace more effective, modern and innovative blocking and prevention strategies. I believe it’s an achievable goal and more importantly, that prevention is possible.

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