Treat cloud, mobility as security tools rather than threats: IBM expert

Faced with dramatic change in their roles, CSOs need to re-evaluate their security strategies in terms of capitalising on the new capabilities of cloud and mobile rather than perceiving them simply as security threats, an IBM security expert has advised.

Noting that growth in the capabilities of mobile platforms had given CSOs new tools for tracking and controlling the flow of data, director of strategy, product marketing and alliances Kevin Skapinetz said at the recent IBM Solutions Connect that it was no longer enough just to remove threats from the network; CSOs “must monitor and analyse” their environments on an ongoing basis.

“The whole scenario is flipping,” he explained. “Now that cloud and mobile are inevitable, CSOs are saying they're going to start adopting them – and they're asking how they use cloud and mobile to do things they couldn't do in a traditional environment.”

“There are new ways of operating that you can't do in traditional environments – and ways to use things like the cloud to your advantage.”

The proliferation of virtual data centres, for example, has offered new ways for the commissioning and securing of new resources – simplifying previously burdensome processes such as desktop commissioning and installation of new software.

“In a traditional world if you were to secure a server, you had to install the software and policies through manual processing that took time,” he said. “In a virtual data centre, you have APIs and the ability to be very dynamic; if it's architectured correctly, you could have that workload scanned, put into the domain and the security software automatically installed.”

Such capabilities reflect the changing nature of the CSO as the cloud-based operating paradigm grabs hold, Skapinetz said, noting the results of a series of 140 customer interviews in which executives' philosophical alignment put organisations into one of three core buckets.

'Responders' were “very vulnerability focused” and relied on compliance and security metrics to understand their security exposure, but as a result were “less confident” than a group that Skapinetz called 'protectors' – who had started to think strategically about the needs of the business, trying to align their security and business strategies with their overall goals.

The most-transformative executives, he said, were those in the small number of organisations where 'influencers' had begun a deliberate campaign to use metrics “around not just vulnerabilities and compliance – the classical security elements – but had started to think more about security awareness, cost, and technology innovations.”

Influencers were twice as likely as other groups to have a dedicated CSO and twice as likely to have information security regularly addressed at a boardroom level, Skapinetz said. “At the end of the day was what they thought about in terms of metrics.”

Those metrics are helping new security systems deliver better results when it comes to operational intelligence: “we're working to help you take as much information as you possibly can, to take what might be millions of events and priorities into just 10 to 15 things that the security team needs to focus on during their day,” Skapinetz said, highlighting the importance of building a more-integrated security response platform.

“It allows you to detect subtle indicators of the attacks. We're moving more into the forensics phase of security where we can prepare for the inevitable, and want to have the historical data. We can recreate the exact path of attack that was being accessed. Prevention absolutely is possible, and that you can stop some of the latest and most sophisticated threats.”

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

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