Microsoft Vulnerability – Never Scramble To Patch Again

On March 2nd, 2021 Microsoft informed the world of a vulnerability in Microsoft Exchange. This vulnerability is active in the wild and has already been exploited by malicious actors from China and beyond. This well documented attack found by the security researchers at Volexity in Reston VA, exploits four different vulnerabilities in Exchange to gain access to emails without authentication.

Fact is, software teams are always under pressure to continuously release new features at breakneck pace. This is driven by the urgent need to keep up with market demands and competitive pressures.

This means that the vulnerability posture of all software continuously deviates with every update and upgrade. Software that at some point was free from vulnerabilities, may be riddled with them after updates. Even if the update includes security patches, the patches themselves along with new features may introduce new vulnerabilities.

So how can you defend against these popup vulnerabilities?

The traditional recommendations have been to implement “defense in depth”  — the layering of multiple security products. However, not only is this model expensive, it also does not address the challenges new exploits introduce. In most cases, it creates complexity that further weakens security.  This is especially true for hybrid infrastructure, where many different tools have to be implemented across offices, clouds, SaaS, data centers and remote users.

So “defense in depth” is not a viable security approach moving forward. It costs a lot of money and burns a lot of resources to actually make security worse. There is more information here: 5 Reasons Security Products Make You Less Secure.

Lots of attention and budget is going to the hip new security model “Detection and Response” (xDR). But what does xDR really buy you? It tells you when something bad has happened and  that you should do something about it — patch all systems, find the compromise and inform customers.

If there was ever a whack-a-mole approach to security, it is xDR. This is often referred to as the “you’re screwed” approach to security. Not particularly proactive, resource efficient or preventative, is it?

The key to prevention is reduction of the attack surface. Today, many applications have to be exposed to the Internet at-large so users can access applications before being authenticated. This is called “Access before Auth”.

Acreto however, uses a very different approach where there is a transparent authentication before users can gain any access to applications. This is called “Auth before Access”.  This approach completely shields the application from exposure to the Internet at-large.

The Acreto approach altogether eliminates the threats and exposures from Internet connected systems. And if authorized users mis-behave, the bad behavior is automatically mitigated.

Limiting access to the attack surface avoids mass exposure. In the case of the Exchange vulnerabilities, it would limit access of the Exchange server to authorized users only, no matter where they are located or what network or networks they operate on.

Reducing your attack surface in this case basically means that the Exchange servers — or any other system, server or application for that matter — will not be exposed on the Internet.

Access is allowed only after authenticating to Acreto and going through a set of controls, as well as ongoing threat and validation checks. This ensures that 1) the user is authorized, 2) the device is authorized, and 3) they never behave maliciously.

This is the default model with Acreto SASE+, where all customer systems benefit from a reduced attack surface — without any special effort, architecture or consideration.

Remote users connect to Acreto, and are transparently authenticated before access to systems,  servers, applications, SaaS, clouds or networks including Exchange or Office365. Acreto protects against Internet or internal attacks, even if the Exchange server or other application is left unpatched.

 

Get more detail on this best practice approach to reduce your exposure to Internet-born, Ransomware or zero-day attacks.  Contact us at info@acreto.io

https://www.microsoft.com/security/blog/2021/03/02/hafnium-targeting-exchange-servers/

Top 5 Reasons Security Products Make You Less Secure

So, how can the security technologies we’ve relied on for the last thirty years make you less secure? The answer is simple. Security products were designed to secure offices and data centers of twenty plus years ago. Not today’s distributed hybrid infrastructures.

Today, organizations function beyond offices and data centers to operate in the cloud, on Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms, with third-party vendors and customers, all-the-while using remote and mobile devices. Remote users have become the norm, from the fractional fringe they used to be. And let’s not forget Operationalized Technologies (OT) or Internet-of-Things (IoT) that everyone swears they don’t have, but make up roughly 40% of infrastructures according to Cisco. Examples of OT / IoT are ATMs, smart TVs, surveillance cameras and vending machines.

All of the above technologies collectively are called Hybrid Infrastructure.

Security products produce diminishing value when used for hybrid infrastructure, especially compared to alternatives such as Security-as-a-Utility. Security-as-a-Utility delivers all the functions of security products and more – but without the products. It is cloud-delivered security that works particularly well for hybrid infrastructure and the way organizations work today.

Just connect any component of your hybrid infrastructure to the Security-as-a-Utility and it is immediately protected. This is true for any technology, anywhere in the world, using any network – including the Internet.

Here are some reasons why product-based security is a failed model for how organizations work today.

 

1. Fragmented Security

Product-based security requires piecemeal tools for each silo of technology. One set of tools for each office, another for each data center, yet other tools for each cloud, SaaS, remote user — and there still aren’t good security options for OT/IoT.

Each security tool has to be selected, purchased, implemented, integrated, operationalized, monitored, updated and upgraded. Meanwhile, each product functions in its own independent dimension, unaware of the functions any other security product performs.

Each silo of technology that needs to be secured requires a different security product. Often these products are from different vendors and perform their security functions in very different ways. The differences in how they perform their security functions translate into security gaps. It is these gaps that malicious people exploit.

Sometimes certain critical security functions are just not available for some components. For example, OT / IoT like ATMs or ITMs are very unique and don’t have the horsepower or accessible resources to run the necessary security functions like threat prevention (preventing exploits and malware).

All of this adds to disjointed and fragmented security, which translates to security gaps, meaning greater risk and compliance challenges.

Security-as-a-Utility delivers a cohesive, fully integrated platform that does not require any of the legwork or logistics that needy security products demand. Security-as-a-Utility delivers uniform and consistent security across all of your technologies.

 

2. Triple The Cost

So, why does budget make you less secure? Having to pay for different security tools for each office, cloud, SaaS, data center and device is overwhelming. Moreover, all the products need to be implemented, maintained and managed, which means hiring more experts.

Having to pay for many security products and associated experts means that many organizations just can’t afford to buy all of the products and hire all of the experts they need. Hence, along with managing security they will have to manage an unreasonable amount of risk.

Because Security-as-a-Utility is turned on, not built out, it avoids products, implementations and expensive experts. The efficiencies that Security-as-a-Utility offers reduces hard and soft costs by as much as 75%.

 

3. Access To The Right Talent

Security products need many experts. Experts that are hard to find, expensive to hire and even harder to keep.

Security professionals are also very much like doctors. You won’t want a dentist to do thoracic surgery, nor would you want a thoracic surgeon to do a root canal. There are many different security skill-sets; however, two very distinct skill-sets are a must for effective cyber-security. The Architect and the Analyst.

The Architect designs, implements and performs the appropriate house-keeping to keep the security infrastructure up-and-running. The Analyst is the security operator.

Most organizations spend near 100% of their resources on implementations and house-keeping and little to nothing on security operations. Most mid-tier and smaller organizations just can’t afford a single full-time security resource, much less two distinct teams.

And even if you could afford the right resources, often, by the time they learn enough about your business to be effective, they’re poached away by another desperate organization who is willing to pay a premium.

This means a long list of different hands with varying expertise and philosophies handling your security infrastructure. Worse yet, if you can’t find or afford the needed resources, there are no hands to manage the tools or operate security.

Security-as-a-Utility altogether eliminates the need for hardware, significantly simplifying security. It eliminates the burdens of product house-keeping, opening up budgets for a security operator role or outsourced Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP).

 

4. Never-Ending Refresh Cycles

Security products have a 3 – 5 year life-cycle, where every few years they have to be completely replaced. This is because products are static and in order to keep up with the constantly evolving technology and threat landscape, wholesale displacement is required.

Security technology updates and upgrades are never-ending. As soon as one technology is upgraded, refresh cycles for another two are due. It’s not uncommon for an organization to be so far behind on technology refreshes, that the replacement products become outdated before they can be implemented. This is referred to as “Shelf-ware” and is very common in the cyber-security industry.

Buy – Install – Replace – Lather – Rinse – Repeat is not viable or sustainable. Security-as-a-Utility never needs updates, upgrades or refreshes – ever.

 

5. Complexity

Even if you could afford all the products, had the time to manage all the vendors, had access to and could afford to hire and keep all the needed experts, you would still end up with a complex mess. Just think about how many product management interfaces your team would have to contend with.

Each management interface is people driven – and people-driven-processes are security’s greatest weakness. In one bank, just one product had at least three separate management interfaces that required three different levels of experts. All the security products for all the platforms they protect translate to convoluted interconnections and integrations as well as dozens of management interfaces. It is not realistic to expect a team, much less a part-time resource, to effectively manage security for this many technologies and still be effective.

It’s just too complex. And complexity is the enemy of security.

Security-as-a-Utility consolidates all security functions into a single, simple platform – with only one interface to manage security for offices, data centers, remote users, clouds, SaaS, 3rd parties and OT / IoT.

 

Summary

Compute has moved to clouds, SaaS, OT / IoT and remote users, yet the security industry in a large part has not adapted. Thus, if you use a product-based approach to security you are at a distinct disadvantage. This means complexity, higher cost, dependence on hard-to-find expertise, absence of any agility and finally, greater risk and exposure.

The most viable path forward is security delivered as a utility. A single, fully integrated platform to connect and secure all offices, data centers, clouds, SaaS, remote users, mobile devices, OT / IoT under one umbrella. Security delivered as a utility provides better, in fact much better, efficacy, is more agile, costs less and you never, ever have to worry about updates, upgrades or refresh cycles.

Security-as-a-Utility eliminates the hassles and head-aches of security products to give organizations a fighting chance against hackers, malware and ransomware.

 

About Acreto:

Acreto is the first cloud-delivered, end-to-end connectivity and security platform that can connect and protect any technology, on any network, anywhere. Acreto SASE+ Plus delivers Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) functionalities for access technologies such as devices, networks, IoT / OT and third-parties; while Acreto Secure Application and Data Interconnect (SADI) connects and protects application delivery infrastructure such as clouds, SaaS, data centers and co-locations. Acreto SASE+ Plus is SASE plus SADI — one platform, with one interface, from one provider for all of your technologies around the world.

Undercutting the IT/OT Collaboration Delusion

Lately, I have seen two common themes whenever IoT security is brought up; 1) complete acceptance that IoTs pose unique security challenges, and 2) how they have an IT/OT collaboration process to address them. Everybody knows what IT is, but as a reminder, OT, or operationalized technologies, are network/Internet-connected technologies whose primary function is not IT related. Think network connected HVAC units, vending machines, elevator control systems, and the like.

I recently attended a Smart Building conference, and one of the stalwart technology companies was making a big deal about the addition of their fourth intelligent building. One of their talking points was how much they have learned from their last three smart building operations. With lessons learned, they continued, this fourth building incorporates an IT and OT collaboration process. This process is intended to ensure that their IoTs do not pose a risk to the organization.

Let’s get real. A people-driven process for cybersecurity has never, ever, ever worked– not even once. Perhaps a few got lucky, but last time I checked, luck is not a reliable component of security.

People-driven processes are what a lot of organizations fall back on when there are no meaningful legitimate security options and an issue is too center-stage to be brushed under the proverbial rug. People-driven processes work for business, not cybersecurity because an inevitable byproduct is exceptions. Managing exceptions in a business model is not only acceptable but a feature that can deliver good results. With cybersecurity, exceptions are a bug and can have a catastrophic impact. Why? Because exceptions add up quickly and require manual intervention. These exceptions can easily overwhelm teams and often wind up unaddressed.

IT/OT collaboration translated to practical terms means that OT needs to get approval from IT for whatever they need to purchase. This interaction results in one of three responses. “We can secure your IoTs right away!”, “We can secure your IoTs, but there’s a backlog and there will be some delay,” or “No, you can’t use this technology.”

Anything other than the first response will result in the user immediately focusing their attention on bypassing IT. So, the collaboration has now turned into a cat and mouse game where the user tries to circumvent IT, and IT tries to implement restrictive controls to prevent being bypassed.

Have we not learned our lesson from the use of Cloud and SaaS in business? The users beat IT and executive management so overwhelmingly that there was no option other than complete and utter surrender.

The learning lesson is, don’t turn your users against you because you will not win. Any delay in facilitating the requirements of OT will result in scorn from the user community. And to further exacerbate the issue, there are far more IoTs that tend to be unique.

So, what’s the answer? The right answer requires re-imagining how we secure. Our current model for security dates back to medieval times. How is the industry standard of securing networks any different than securing a castle with a moat and drawbridge? The right answer needs innovation — and not just innovative technology, but also a whole new innovative model for cybersecurity. This model must accomplish two major tasks:

The first major task is to Simplify Security:

Today’s security tools demand well over 90% of the security team’s attention. Simply put, eliminating security tools eliminates distractions. Buying and stringing together a bunch of different products to fulfill various security functions creates complexity and is overwhelming to any size organization. In fact, security tools should be so simple to use that even quasi-technology people could operate them with ease.

Moreover, what if you had one security across all those technology silos like offices, data centers, clouds, SaaS, mobile devices, and yes, even the IoTs. This single security non-tool will not be network sensitive. It should not matter which type of network technologies use. Eliminating complexity not only improves security but offers agility and cost savings.

Takeaway #1: Implement a common security platform that delivers uniform and consistent security across all technology silos in the form of a security utility.

The second major task is to achieve User Empowerment:

With security simplified, everyone is empowered to self-serve. This puts the power of security in the hands of users. Now users are contributing positively and in the best interest of the company rather than fighting to bypass the security edicts. User empowerment drives much more collaboration than the IT overlord model that has been dubbed “collaboration.”

Takeaway #2: Empower users to self-serve so they are aligned with the best interest of all rather than fighting IT in their own interest. 

Today, more so than innovative technologies, we need a sound, well-thought-out security model. After hundreds of years in practice, we need to retire the medieval model for cybersecurity– especially in areas that depend on people-driven processes. Aside from simply not working, people-driven cybersecurity actually increases workloads and has inherent gaps in the form of exceptions. How can this possibly contribute to better security? Ultimately, there are no well-known cybersecurity technologies or models that can claim to be simple or sustainable. Perhaps the cybersecurity industry just needs to dream bigger or stop playing it unreasonably safe — or both. I am announcing that Acreto is making a play for both simple and sustainable security that empowers people. The above rules are fundamental to the foundation of Acreto’s platform, which is intended to take on and overcome the challenges of generation IoT.

About Acreto:

Acreto is the first cloud-delivered, end-to-end connectivity and security platform that can connect and protect any technology, on any network, anywhere. Acreto SASE +Plus delivers Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) functionalities for access technologies such as devices, networks, IoT / OT and third-parties; while Acreto Secure Application and Data Interconnect (SADI) connects and protects application delivery infrastructure such as clouds, SaaS, data centers and co-locations. Acreto SASE +Plus is SASE plus SADI — one platform with one interface from one provider for all of your technologies around the world. Learn more at https://acreto.io or @acretoio.

IT vs. OT – The Cybersecurity Supernova

The universally accepted rule is that the Information Technology (IT) team has the final say on all things technology — right? Not so fast! Every day new technologies are introduced and connected to organizational networks without the permission, or even notification, of the IT team. These same electronic components surround us all, yet they remain hidden in plain sight.

So, what exactly are these miraculously hidden technologies that bypass the IT organization? They are called Internet-of-Things or simply IoT. These IoT devices fall into the Operationalized Technologies (OT) category. They are “tag-along” technologies embedded into tools that aren’t typically selected by, or even involve, the IT team.

One of the many reasons that IoTs are invisible in plain sight is due to the sheer number and broad spectrum of assets that they’re embedded in. Many people do not see IoTs; they see a smart TV, surveillance camera, key card access sensor, vending machine, or HVAC system. However, all of these, and more, are IoT devices. And chances are someone other than the IT team made the decision to connect said device to the organization’s network.

Perhaps the facilities team ordered a new HVAC system, which they may or may not know is Internet-Connected. There could also be an office manager who ordered brand new desks with embedded IoTs, or even the cafeteria manager who selected food and drink vending machines.

Picture this real-life scenario: a financial organization is moving into a new office location. Among the many responsibilities that fall on the office manager, one task happens to be evaluating and selecting the office furniture. After assessing all requirements, the manager evaluates several different desks and finally picks one that’s able to convert from a sitting desk to a standing desk with the push of a button. Six hundred desks are then ordered and delivered on-site.

Some seven months later, the IT team finds out, by chance, that these desks are connected to a remote application and have been delivering ongoing “productivity” data on each user. Apparently, it turns out that the furniture people had asked someone for the WiFi password and connected to the network. The rest is history.

Also, there is the now infamous case where a casino got compromised through a water heater in a fish tank. You see, IoTs have introduced a completely new compute model called “Dependency Compute”. With this model, IoT devices share a common network, but each IoT is connected to a different remote application, and more often than not these applications are owned and controlled by a third-party.

What does this mean exactly?

It means that a third-party now has privileged access to a device on your “protected” network, but that’s not even the worst of it. Imagine all types of devices sharing a common network which offers privileged access to all types of remote applications that are controlled by a variety of third-parties.

This interconnected web creates a scenario that is untenable for security, meaning that the traditional “securing-the-network” model is short-lived. Just calculate the risk stats for a few hundred different IoT technologies that are each connected to a different remote application that you don’t control.

One comment I always hear is: “What’s the big deal – we can segment them!” Well, good luck with that. You’d typically get this response from someone without much practical experience, with a whole lot of wishful thinking, or with an overly simple network. Most organizations can barely keep track of what’s on their network, much less go through a process of adding hundreds of network segments, where each one requires VLANs, netblocks, routing, and ACLs.

It isn’t necessary to impose many complex tasks and processes which can make a whole security team rethink their life choices. A superior approach relies on an entirely new security model that takes “Dependency Compute” into consideration.

 

About Acreto:

Acreto is the first cloud-delivered, end-to-end connectivity and security platform that can connect and protect any technology, on any network, anywhere. Acreto SASE +Plus delivers Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) functionalities for access technologies such as devices, networks, IoT / OT and third-parties; while Acreto Secure Application and Data Interconnect (SADI) connects and protects application delivery infrastructure such as clouds, SaaS, data centers and co-locations. Acreto SASE +Plus is SASE plus SADI — one platform with one interface from one provider for all of your technologies around the world. Learn more at https://acreto.io or @acretoio.

Hacking A $Trillion Fund – Why HTTPS is Not Secure

Some years back, a trillion dollar financial fund hired me as an Ethical Hacker to test their security system. They had just spent millions with Cisco to implement a brand new security infrastructure. We started the project and within a day had compromised them 139 different ways. Of the 139 compromises, 138 of them were over HTTPS encrypted connections.

When we reported this to the client, they were miffed. Their director of security asked “How could that be? We just spent millions with Cisco. Their engineers approved the design!” And as soon as he got his bearings, he snapped, “You have to write in your report that there was no data exposed or accessed.”

“No data was taken because we chose not to take any data,” I replied.

Instead, we had successfully planted a flag on their systems. This is a practice used by white hat hackers of installing a file at some deep point on a compromised system to demonstrate privileged access. The ensuing three months involved a ton of back and forth in educating the customer on precisely why we were able to compromise them, and the wording of the final report. However, over that same time they had successfully managed to fix only one of the 139 vulnerabilities — the non-HTTPS exploit.

So, why were we able to compromise them, and how did HTTPS play into this?

Contrary to the implications in its name, Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) does not offer security. It is privacy. That means it purely serves to ensure that 1) the communications destined to the application server is validated against DNS, and 2) the communication is encrypted. Because this encryption was between the client and the server, their gateway security tools were bypassed. The only visibility and enforcement their tools could provide was access control allowing network protocol TCP using network port 443 to communicate to the appropriate server. Because of the encryption, their intrusion detection system (IPS) could not look inside the payload to identify the content’s intention — well or mal intended.

We found multiple systems on their network that were accessible externally via HTTPS and then, we had at them. One advantage for the hacker / disadvantage for the company is that HTTPS-based attacks do not need to be tempered. We could be as aggressive as we wanted to be because their security tools had no sense that any of the communications were malicious. Once we identified vulnerabilities, we exploited them and compromised the first system.

Another limitation in their security was that it was a thin hard shell on the outside with a soft gooey mess inside. Because they used gateway security, once we were in, we had access to cross-contaminate everything. And that is precisely what we did, until we gained access to some pretty critical systems.

So, what did the customer learn from this experience?

Well, he was successful in lawyering the report to not look bad, yet not lie. But what you should learn from their experience is that when HTTPS makes a connection private, it makes it private to everyone — including you and your security tools. This applies to communications you originate and communications destined to you.

Today, every SaaS company is in a mad dash to roll out HTTPS. The term they keep using is that it’s “for your security!” And I get pissed off every time I hear this. It is not for your security, it is to ensure that your communication to their systems remains private.  They continue to tout this even though many of these same SaaS companies have learned from the experience to decrypt before a communication hits their threat management tools. This protects them – but not their users.

For the user of these applications, the HTTPS communications initiated outbound to third-party sites are significantly harder to protect. The result is that any site that uses HTTPS can behave maliciously toward the user, and it is very difficult for the user to identify and mitigate the attack. Yes, perhaps we could learn to trust some companies, but would you trust Google, or worst yet, Facebook? Would you trust some small unknown arbitrary site you may find yourself on?

A monster security hole.

Considering that over 60% of all Internet communications are encrypted, an investment in robust security tools without an effective means of decrypting all the HTTPS connections in and out of your network leaves a monster security hole.

The tunnel-visioned focus on preventing man-in-the-middle attacks has created a much greater security challenge for many organizations.

In another instance, at an IoT event, I asked the CTO of a IoT system integrator who builds large-scale “smart city” platforms, how he secures his technologies. His response: “We use HTTPS.” I waited for the rest, but it never came. This issue is not clearly understood even by technology, even some security, professionals.

As an industry we have done a piss-poor job of building clear and concise awareness that security is not any one of six things, but a harmonious combination of control, threat management, identity and yes, privacy. So the next time someone tells you they use HTTPS for security, nudge them to this article before they commit security suicide.

 

About Acreto:

Acreto is the first cloud-delivered, end-to-end connectivity and security platform that can connect and protect any technology, on any network, anywhere. Acreto SASE +Plus delivers Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) functionalities for access technologies such as devices, networks, IoT / OT and third-parties; while Acreto Secure Application and Data Interconnect (SADI) connects and protects application delivery infrastructure such as clouds, SaaS, data centers and co-locations. Acreto SASE +Plus is SASE plus SADI — one platform with one interface from one provider for all of your technologies around the world. Learn more at https://acreto.io or @acretoio.

The Security of Business vs. Business of Security

The security industry has spent a lot of time over the past 30 years thinking of imaginative ways to put lipstick on today’s cybersecurity pig.

It’s like a one hit wonder band who never adapted, playing the same song and putting on the same show over and over, even though their fans, the industry and the zeitgeist as a whole have evolved and transitioned.

We are more distributed and mobile than ever. Yet the security industry remains unevolved, putting on the same show – playing their all-time favorites like “On-Device Security” and their mega-hit “Gateway Security”. Gateway security is an especially nuanced piece with broad range. There’s the firewall, intrusion prevention, VPN gateway, the proxy, url and content filters, and the component that binds them – SIEM. And that’s the consolidated version of a lengthier and more complicated original score.

Compute has changed and continues to change dramatically in front of our eyes. Clouds, SaaS, Mobile devices and the big daddy of them all – IoT – are contorting traditional security models and tools in ways never intended – until something breaks. And today, everything is breaking since security as we know it dates back to the medieval ages.

Let’s Get Medieval On Security.

The king builds a castle (the network), puts a moat and draw-bridge around it (gateway security) and posts sentries at the gate with special instructions (security policy).

Need to operate outside the castle? If you have the strength (compute resources) and are wealthy enough to afford it (budget), you can put on custom armor (on-device security) and head out as a knight (remote user). Being a knight is exhausting though. Yes, you are well protected, but it burns a lot of energy (security team resources).

However, commoners have to assume risk and live in a state of constant vulnerability. Clouds and IoT have driven the vast majority of our functions and users to operate “outside the castle”. In fact, the business of the king’s court is now distributed. Commoners live and work remote, never needing to step foot in the castle.

There are even scenarios where some commoners operate and service other kingdoms near and far. When the court subjects are remote and distributed, the king has two options – insist on keeping the castle, moat and drawbridge or adapt. So far the security industry has bitterly resisted adapting. Why — Tradition? Lack of alternatives? It’s what they know? Or a combination of these.

Gateway security still has its uses, however, the gateway security model is long in the tooth and its use-cases diminishing by the week. And on-device security has been an expensive, ineffective and unsustainable failure. How can you package up an entire data center’s worth of security functions in a $5 sensor with the compute resources of a Timex watch.

What the cloud started, IoTs have finished. In the past compute was network-centric, now it is distributed all over and even mobile. And we like it. Initially CISOs tried to control users by saying no to cloud and SaaS. Users wouldn’t have it. They shrugged, walked away, and did it anyway. There was no putting that toothpaste back in the tube once they got a taste of cloud and SaaS.

Compute and technology has been democratized, however the way we secure is still medieval.

We have offered hackers the overwhelming advantage all the while spending billions and billions on security. Vendors continue to monetize on medieval security tools ill-suited to the new dominant compute model. How does this make sense?

There are a few reasons:

First, it’s what people know and have bought into. There are 30 plus years of approaches and methods, tools and technologies, processes and performance indicators that have been developed around medieval security. It has become muscle memory for many who spent years honing their skills around these approaches.

Just imagine if suddenly, through magical circumstances, the rule of thumb became NOT to apply pressure to bleeding wounds. The countless developed methods, processes, tools, and even tangential functions like billing would be impacted. The result would be chaos! Arguably security is experiencing a mild form of chaos now.

Second, there are a lot of vendor-centric security professionals that know and understand security through the prism of a particular vendor. This is not meant to be derogatory since these professionals are the backbone of the security industry. However many are not security operators, they are security product managers.

In most instances, along with functional and integration capabilities, security is but one of multiple features that security tools sport. Many security professionals are really, really good at keeping the lights on and packets flowing – and rely on the product do its security stuff.

Some vendors are so big and influential that more security professionals than we like to admit are exclusively committed to their tools. These professionals have done the economic calculus and have built their careers around a single brand, strictly based on market opportunity. Many evolve when vendors say it’s time to evolve for job prospect purposes. And the evolution of certain security professionals is curiously bound to the vendor’s business strategy. An arrangement that benefits the vendor and the professional – just not security.

This brings me to the third point: the security of business.

It takes many years for new and emerging approaches or technologies to become mainstream. Large influential vendors are focused on squeezing every last bit of economic value from their existing technology investments, while small innovative companies just don’t have the market megaphone. And pay-to-play analyst firms confuse matters further by offering tilted and skewed recommendations.

Now, let’s talk about the Cyber Hare vs. the Security Turtle.

Hackers are cutting-edge. They are imaginative. They formulate crazy ideas meant to break the rules. The security industry counters with security professionals who are compelled to be conservative – to a fault.

Hackers don’t care about function and performance, whereas organizations prioritize both over security. Hackers can experiment and fail countless times, forging their own path along the way, while organizations identify gaps by virtue of emerging product categories. Often it takes anywhere between three to five years, depending on the organization, to implement new product categories for an emerging threat type. At that point the threat is not so emerging anymore!

Moreover, organizations befuddle themselves by implementing a process, a very organized one at that, developed to assure failure. This includes assessing requirements, assigning budget, talking to Gartner to see who paid them most, evaluating several brands, selecting a technology, negotiating legal, purchasing, implementation, integration, administration, management, monitoring and troubleshooting. Where is the agility?!

Aside from the security functions the product offers, nothing in the process above even comes close to security operations.

What does this mean? It means that hackers have a significant upper hand. This upper hand is so overwhelmingly one-sided that it has evolved from having the ability to impact business, to the ability to devastate economies and undermine democracies.

Cyber – The Longest War.

Today, everyone talks about the war in Afghanistan as our longest running conflict. In the near future this distinction will easily be awarded to the global cyber-war. Every day, much like other security professionals, I see this war from our operations center. I see Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and even some allies wage war against our infrastructure. If not by Name (IP Address), then by reputation (APT).

If we have learned anything from the Afghani and Iraqi conflicts it’s that success does not always require a standing army. Special Operations have radically shifted the methods of war. Not only is this cheaper and faster, but also more effective to achieve many missions around the world. Today the SpecOps model is being employed in the Syrian conflict.

Maybe we should learn from the military and apply seismic shifts to our security approach. Here’s how:

First, let’s eliminate products from the equation. Building one-off security using tools that are ill-fitted to address the emerging distributed and mobile compute model is security suicide. Products are always out-of-date and security teams burn valuable resources performing technology refreshes, managing and troubleshooting products rather than operating security.

Security as a utility is a much more effective approach. It is simpler and much faster to sign up and turn on, than to buy and build out! Make implementation easy and let the development, upgrades, updates and keeping the lights on be someone else’s problem. The time your team is not spending on babysitting products can be put to better use operating security.

Second, fight hackers with (ethical) hackers. Build or train security teams of operators – not product administrators. Make your team critical thinkers who focus on “how to break things” rather than the mundane keeping the lights on tasks. Not all hackers are foul tempered, tattoo laced, twenty-something rock stars with an ego. There are many agreeable, thoughtful and reliable ethical hackers that can serve in foundational roles on your team. Most importantly, empower them and involve them from the beginning at the application design, development and roll out phases.

The traditional medieval security model is not failing, it has already failed spectacularly. Arguably, it was never successful in achieving any of the objectives for which organizations have paid billions of dollars. The product management approach to security is like trying to change the wheels while the car is doing a 100 mph. You won’t be able to do it and you WILL get hurt along the way.

 

About Acreto:

Acreto is the first cloud-delivered, end-to-end connectivity and security platform that can connect and protect any technology, on any network, anywhere. Acreto SASE+ Plus delivers Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) functionalities for access technologies such as devices, networks, IoT / OT and third-parties; while Acreto Secure Application and Data Interconnect (SADI) connects and protects application delivery infrastructure such as clouds, SaaS, data centers and co-locations. Acreto SASE+ Plus is SASE plus SADI — one platform with one interface from one provider for all of your technologies around the world.

Secured IoT Just A Delusion Away!

I reached out to an old colleague to get some input on how different organizations are working to achieve secured IoT platforms. To my surprise he did not see it any different from securing anything else. Regardless of the many unique aspects of IoT Security I threw at him, nothing resonated. It was then that I realized that many in the industry just don’t realize the perfect storm that they are being hit with.

My colleague just did not share or buy into the challenges of distributed IoTs, their cloud application dependencies, resource limitations or proprietary hardware and software. He had quick answers for everything. Segmentation via VLAN, Communication — Route Control. Access Control with firewalls. He was convinced the tools, process and procedures he had developed over the past years would work just as effectively for secured IoT as it does for secured enterprise.

For some, unless Cisco has a product to address a problem, the problem does not exist. They have deluded themselves that when it comes down to it, the industry behemoths will provide. But keep in mind that success for the behemoths means squeezing every last bit of profit from their investments in current technologies. So it’s fair to say they are not jumping to be the tip of the spear. They are in the rear, with the gear – literally.

For many, secured IoT is achieved with “proven effective methods” using “proven effective products” to achieve “industry standard” security. But are these methods and products really proven or effective for that matter? And what does industry standard security mean?

For the past 30 years, the industry has been handling security the same way. Identify a singular target silo that needs to be secured and buy a bunch of high-priced disjointed security products, then pay different high-priced security people to set each of them up, and another set of high-priced security administrators to keep them up-and-running. Oh yeah – along the way you keep an eye out on security – when your team gets a chance – and hopefully you have the right products – and the right people – and some means of consolidating the different outputs and piecing them together to have digestible data.

There is a well defined and proper order to this effort: identify, evaluate, select, acquire, implement, integrate, operationalize, monitor, manage, troubleshoot, refresh – Lather – Rinse – Repeat! It’s fair to say that 90% of most organizations’ security resources are focused on keeping their security products functional and not security. And a good portion of the people employed in the security industry are product experts first and foremost.

What has this traditional model gotten us? Between the hacked social media, hacked Internet services, hacked financials, hacked power grid, hacked political parties and hacked elections we are more exposed than ever.  We have compromised records that are in-the-wild numbering in the hundreds of millions. Moreover, the US and EU are both facing their own existential crisis because of it. All of this happened only in the last few years and to organizations that could afford security. What about mid-size and small operators that have limited funding and access to expertise?

It’s time that we as an industry admit that the product-centric security model is not just a failure, it’s a breathtaking failure. And we are only in the early stages of distributed compute era. Imagine the challenges that have to be overcome to have properly secured IoT platforms. Here are some comparisons of what is standard with enterprise security today and the emerging challenges to have secured IoT.

  • Intel based multi-purpose standard hardware vs. imagination driven purpose-built proprietary hardware.
  • Mac, Linux or Windows vs. Many Operating systems that are as of yet undefined.
  • Near unlimited resources and power vs. resource challenged devices with limited access or even finite power resources.
  • Localized technologies you can touch vs. highly distributed devices around the city, state, country or the world.
  • Technologies that operate in concentric networks vs. those that operate on may different public or private networks.
  • Lifespan of 3-5 years for enterprise technologies vs. 8-20 for IoT technologies.



Secured IoT is already starting to devastate today’s industry standard enterprise security approaches. We can either delude ourselves into thinking that the product companies will fix the problem or we can take control and define our own success. As Gene Kranz, the venerable flight director of the troubled Apollo 13 mission said: “Work the Problem”.  Let’s take Gene’s advice in this era of distributed, mobile and dependency compute. Let’s work the problem, not the product!

 

About Acreto:

Acreto is the first cloud-delivered, end-to-end connectivity and security platform that can connect and protect any technology, on any network, anywhere. Acreto SASE+ Plus delivers Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) functionalities for access technologies such as devices, networks, IoT / OT and third-parties; while Acreto Secure Application and Data Interconnect (SADI) connects and protects application delivery infrastructure such as clouds, SaaS, data centers and co-locations. Acreto SASE+ Plus is SASE plus SADI — one platform with one interface from one provider for all of your technologies around the world.

Interested in seeing Acreto SASE+Plus in action? Let’s start with some basic information.




    Interested in seeing Acreto SASE+Plus in action? Let’s start with some basic information.




      Interested in seeing Acreto SASE+Plus in action? Let’s start with some basic information.




        Interested in seeing Acreto SASE+Plus in action? Let’s start with some basic information.