Widen The Approach

Widen The Approach

IT professional must review skill sets to meet new threats

Remember the Jurassic Age of organizational security? You built the stronghold, hardened the perimeter, established a set of rules and walked away. Security? Done.

With those days no longer even in the rear view mirror, IT professionals face a new threat landscape. Cyber criminals nowadays are doing a lot more than merely trying to pick the front door lock. They are scraping away at the siding, burrowing under walls and sending in Trojan horses. Then there are the most ominous of threats: the insider whose security mistakes are accidental, due to carelessness or ignorance.

The quick evolution of information security may prompt you to believe that you must overhaul your organization’s entire security technology. Happily, that is not the case. To meet today’s threats, you combine old and new security approaches. First, you think beyond architecture and border controls to add security operations as a new layer to watch for threats actively and continuously. Second, you and your staff acquire and polish professional skills you may not ordinarily associate with IT. Think of it as the soft side engineering if that is a more comfortable way to express the concept.

New Technologies Need Smart Guards

Protecting an organization today requires a multifaceted strategy that takes advantage of evolving technologies: the Internet of Things, Big Data and analytics. Then, in addition to external defense, organizations need guards who can monitor, detect and respond to threats across the entire network in real time.

Analytics and Big Data capabilities are a necessary part of today’s cyber defense. Turning the entire network into a sensor enables IT professionals to see the needles in the haystack, hone in on malicious activity, and shut it off. This transformational technology poses a distinct contrast to the time-consuming and problematic manual sorting through alarms that used to occupy so much of IT professionals’ time or was ignored altogether due to the impossibility of sorting through the sheer scope logs or false alarms.

Today, organizations have the ability to leverage analytics engines that then deliver exactly the security data the organization seeks, and it permits you to use a prioritized approach to gain actionable intelligence. This pervasive level of network visibility, available due to today’s technology, is essential to protecting against threats and is a core element in today’s cybersecurity arsenal.

Implementing this shift in defense tactics is where new skills sets come in. The industry needs IT professionals with the skills to monitor and analyze threat intelligence from across the network. As a result, security teams today must include more than just those focused on infrastructure and static rules. To capitalize on technology that enables network visibility, security professionals must know what normal network activity looks like in their organization, and be able to spot anything that deviates from it. The ability to separate out normal behavior from abnormal hands security teams the advantage of designing defense systems that know what to look out for.

Security Thinking is Now Holistic

To flesh out the implications of this shift toward holistic security thinking, imagine two types of security guards. One, the smart guard, is a longtime organization employee. The other is a temp. The smart security guard knows the business owner, knows how the building’s layout has changed over the years and knows the delivery staff and employees by sight and even by name in many instances. This guard is familiar enough with the property and the people to tell immediately when something just isn’t right.

Most critical, the smart guard is known and trusted by the office staff. When employees see things that don’t look right (Example: That car tailgated me into the parking lot, and the driver didn’t use an access card.), they do not hesitate to provide details to the guard who can then look into the event.

In sharp contrast is the temp security guard. This guard is usually not familiar with the property and is simply not capable of performing more than superficial checks of the building based on a map that may be outdated. The temp guard also has no established relationships with employees or property and so is not capable of noticing that something is amiss.

People Skills Play a Role in Cyber Defense

To keep today’s organization truly secure, you as an IT security professional must be plugged into your colleagues as well as the network. Yes, the ability to pull actionable data from the network is the first line of defense. But the second line, and growing in importance, is security teams who are active in all of the business. By engaging with the rest of the organization, IT professionals gain the human intelligence that reduces risk and adds nuance to determine whether activities are harmful or benign.

You want to earn the trust and partnership of business units so you and the other security team members can work as partners with all employees to keep the organization and its data safe. Above all, avoid being regarded as hall monitors who show up only to sold staff for doing something wrong. You don’t want to become isolated and disliked because that will deter employees from reaching out to you without being asked to provide valuable intelligence. You don’t want to dampen the “if you see something, say something” approach that is holistic to security. Ultimately, you as an IT security professional and every security team member must communicate well with everyone in the organization because security now is everyone’s job. These socalled soft side engineering skills include:

  • An ability to listen actively.
  • Coordinating between IT security team members, and working as a team to coordinate responses to complex security issues.
  • A knack for conveying complex concepts in written and oral form clearly and succinctly. How else will you explain to colleagues the steps they can take to help keep the organization secure?
  • A willingness to think of organization employees as customers and provide the highest level of customer service to them.

The Future of Security is Multidiscipline

Hardened security with walls is essential to organizations to protect their infrastructure. Emerging technologies such as cloud, IoT, automation and network programmability make it critical for that security to be embedded in the mindset and information flow of an organization.

Today’s IT professionals must be engineers with the technical and people skills and awareness to design, deploy and manage an operations approach to security. By combining fortified walls with smart guards throughout the infrastructure, organizations will benefit from a multidiscipline approach to protecting their most sensitive data.

This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of Security Today.

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