The IT-security divide is limiting full cyber attack chain analysis, expert warns

Despite years of technological progress, many companies are deploying security defences with an eye to blocking malware and command-and-control (C&C) traffic but fail to build internal relationships that ensure regular cyber attack chain gap analysis becomes an ongoing part of business as usual, an operational-security expert has warned.

This operational gap had emerged as many businesses implement appliance-based security without “a commitment to making prevention part of the architecture,” Tim Treat, cyber operation and defence expert with Palo Alto Networks, told CSO Australia.

“We often find a vacuum between the IT and security communities,” he said. “They need to understand that what theyre doing impacts the organisation, and we work to build more cohesion between the IT and security professionals so they understand what it means to operate, maintain and defend this environment.”

Gartner's cyber attack chain model outlines six key stages of an attack including delivery, exploit/install, C&C, privileged operations, resource access, and exfiltration.

Blocking any element of this chain can defend networks by hindering attackers or blocking them completely – but IT-security partnerships were essential for cyber attack chain gap analysis and the relative immaturity of those internal business relationships often made such an analysis difficult.

“The cyber attack chain allows us to look at the way the attacker is going to attack us,” Treat explained. “With IT and security professionals working together, we can align all of our projects and ensure that we're delivering, deploying, integrating and installing technology – and capabilities – that directly counter the attackers' techniques.”

This level of scrutiny had become harder to provide in environments where organisational or historical separation had seen IT and security functions administered separately; this had often engendered a point-security mentality that saw security acquisitions focused on point tools for dealing with a few parts of the cyber attack chain .

“In the past, because of best-of-breed strategies, even in what we would consider a mature organisation, the predominant focus was on the delivery and C&C areas,” Treat said, noting that many customers believe the point solutions are enough to build their defences without realising the opportunity to address the entire cyber attack chain.

“They are not always focused on the back end, and we are often able to show them how to cover the latter part of the attack chain,” he explained. “People by and large want to get better and IT and security professionals want to work better together.”

“CISOs and CIOs cannot defend their enterprise in a vacuum,” he added, “and gap analysis isn't a one-time deal; it's a commitment we make with them, and every quarter we go in with IT architects and security architects to assess how fully the technologies are deployed. It comes down to knowing your environment: you have to know what's happening in the environment at all times.”

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