Recruit C-levels to defence in security “team sport”: IBM strategist

CSOs need to engage executives around the changes wrought by cloud and mobile

Kevin Skapinetz, director of strategy, product marketing and alliances with IBM.

Kevin Skapinetz, director of strategy, product marketing and alliances with IBM.

CSOs need to engage executives around the changes wrought by cloud and mobile adoption to keep up with the changing security threat landscape, an IBM security expert has advised.

Noting the rapid change in attitude towards information security – including its ascendance to the highest echelons of the executive board – Kevin Skapinetz, director of strategy, product marketing and alliances with IBM, warned that it was incumbent on organisations to ensure that greater attention to security translated into a stronger technological and procedural defence.

“Whether or not it's a technologically sophisticated attack, make no mistake,” he told attendees at IBM's Solutions Connect 2014 conference. “It's always operationally sophisticated.”

While security tools and experience helps CSOs intercept and defend against many types of security issues – for example, he said, “we have many ways to stop a SQL injection” – many organisations find it much harder to eradicate those vulnerabilities from their organisations.

“What has changed in the last years, and has led to this rash of breaches, is the fact that it's no longer only someone who is curious and trying to impress somebody. It's now organised teams of people that wake up each day, grab a cup of coffee, and work with other people to achieve a common goal – which is to break into a specific targeted organisation.”

Even though some IBM clients had reported having up to 85 different security tools from 45 vendors, the ever-present spectre of new security threats meant security executives need to look well past the technology to ensure that those tools form part of comprehensive security models.

“We have to use tools that are smarter than just blocking ports on a network,” Skapinetz warned, noting the importance of intelligence, innovation and integration in developing complete security defences. “We have to use protection, defence in depth, and build more protections around certain systems.”

This meant revisiting often long-held security conceits: “You have to be smarter about the data you're collecting, listen to what's going on across the network, consider users and how important they are to the business, and build intelligence into what's going on inside the environment.”

With surging cloud and mobile adoption creating new avenues for attack and pressuring organisations to bolster their security defences in new ways, the need to find suitable skills had left many organisations exposed in ways they didn't fully understand yet, Skapinetz warned.

“Companies are scared about the new risks from cloud and mobile, because they don't have the people and strategies they need to protect their environments,” he said.

“It's very hard to find people with security skills and a skill set that understand threats, or how to design a system and work within the policies of the organisation,” he said.

Yet doing just that was critical to ensuring ongoing security, which is where the support of newly-empowered business executives is becoming increasingly valuable.

Security had become “absolutely a boardroom discussion” these days, particularly in the wake of breaches such as the Target compromise that claimed the scalp of CEO Gregg Steinhafel and CIO Beth Jacob, among others.

While the CIO is the “custodian” of corporate data and security, it was incumbent on them and CSOs to engage other C-level executives on their own terms – and to consider their priorities in the context of new changes in technological architectures.

“We continuously leave doors and windows open to our enterprise because we're not protecting against the most simple vulnerabilities out there,” he said.

“And you can't stop mobile and other trends, so you must get ahead of it. Security is a team sport. Think ahead, and try to define what the problems are because there are real solutions that can help.”

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

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