IT security isn’t one size fits all

The security landscape today is highly complex, which can largely be attributed to the increasingly sophisticated nature of cyber attacks, particularly from an execution perspective. DDoS attacks, for example, are now reaching speeds of up to 400Gbps, targeting both the network and application layer.

Evidently, attackers are progressing towards other methods to bypass traditional security defences, including the firewall. And the challenge for organisations when it comes application-layer DDoS attacks is to differentiate human traffic from bot traffic.

The motivation behind attacks are also becoming more complex especially from a political and economic standpoint. The NSA leaks by Edward Snowden, which revealed classified information from governments including the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand is a recent example of a high profile hacking incident that certainly reminds us of this fact.

Moreover, one of the biggest threats to IT security is now organised cyber theft and fraud, as the smartest criminals in the world are increasingly realising the substantial financial gains that can be made via online crime.

Hence, the need for enterprises to ensure they are adequately protected against cyber attacks is becoming increasingly critical. An effective security strategy will cover all devices, applications and networks accessed by employees, beyond the enterprise infrastructure itself.

Traditional security methods such as next generation firewalls and reactive security measures are losing the fight of being effective against the new breed of attacks. Security is now very much about the protection of the application, enforcement of encryption and the protection of the users identity, and less about the supporting network infrastructure. This is because it has become far less static in recent times and has truly proven to be nothing more of a commodity transport vehicle for the complex applications that run on top of it.

What organisations need is a security strategy that is flexible and comprehensive, with the ability to combine DNS security and DDoS protection, network firewall, access management, and application security with intelligent traffic management.

Security won’t be one size fits all during 2014. End users will expect high performance, but organisations must ensure they deploy security solutions that don’t become a bottleneck.

This year, we can expect to see a rise in a multi-dimensional or 'cocktail' style attacks: DDoS attacks combined with application layer attacks and SQL vulnerabilities. As such, the traditional firewall is no longer a viable security defence, and organisations need to have a multi-stack security approach, combined with a process to handle internal control. With attacks from multiple angles on different devices, single-purpose security machines will be phased out in favour of sophisticated multi-purpose machines.

Matt Miller is field systems engineering (FSE) manager for Australia and New Zealand at F5 Networks.

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