Francis Trentley was the CIO of the White House during the George W. Bush administration and oversaw that office's biggest ever technical transformation. Today, he is the Senior Director at Akamai Technologies. At the recent Gartner Security and Risk Management Summit, he delved into the ever-evolving cyber-threat-landscape and examined how traditional defences need to evolve.
Trentley is responsible for overseeing Akamai In the Cloud (ITC) Security Services providing DDoS mitigation, remote authorisation and visualization services for global private and public-sector customers.
In 1964, Trentley and his father visited the World Fair and saw a video call being placed between two adjacent booths. Then, 25 years ago, we saw the emergence of the World Wide Web. Since then the pace of change has been relentless with technology getting closer and closer to us as individuals. We've moved from mainframes to PCs to laptops to mobile devices and, soon, to implants.
It's clear that technology will be able to help us overcome some of the challenges that the world is facing as populations are aging. According to Trentley, wearables will change how we do business.
However, we also live in a world where assessing the risks associated with such a rapid uptake of technology that is becoming increasingly embedded into our lives and very being are almost impossible to properly assess. Trentley noted that the famous insurer Lloyds isn’t able to assess risk for cyber insurance.
Trentley, for the purpose of security threat management divides the world into three sorts of people; Zombies, Cyborgs, and Knights.
The zombies represent an asymmetric threat. While you are one target, there are thousands of zombies prepared to attack you. Think of any zombie movie and you'll get the picture - the zombies always outnumber the living humans.
In today's world the attacks are larger and faster than ever before and they can’t be mitigated at the ISP as they're too big - enterprise infrastructure can't handle big attacks of three million hits per second. And the impact of these attacks is significant. Trentley said 60% of small and medium businesses shut down within six months of a cyber attack.
However, Trentley did note that there are some ways to ensure you're ready for upcoming attacks. Citing data from Akamai's systems, he told the audience that every major event that takes place correlates to a spike in cyber attacks. For example, specific matches during the recent FIFA World Cup saw attacks increase. Specifically, when a country was defeated, attacks initiated in the losing country against the victor were common.
Trentley sees the cyborgs as his customer base or end-users. They receive the data and services and rely on what they receive to be correct and clean. Although Akamai is often associated with it's largest clients such as Apple, NASA, and many major broadcasters and content creators, Trentley told us that Akamai's services are being used by smaller organisations as well. Their capability in managing large attacks is an important part of the services they offer.
The knights are those that defend against the zombies. Trentley's advice is simple - build the best the team. That doesn’t necessarily mean having the best individuals in your team. Trentley said it was about ensuring you had the best team who complemented each other's skills and worked together.
Investing in ongoing training, continuously engaging in red-blue team exercises in order to build experience. "You can never spend enough developing your teams. The threats are never done changing", added Trentley.
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