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MY TAKE: PKI, digital certificates now ready to take on the task of securing digital transformation

By Byron V. Acohido

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Just five years ago, the Public Key Infrastructure, or PKI, was seriously fraying at the edges and appeared to be tilting toward obsolescence. Things have since taken a turn for the better.

Related: Why PKI is well-suited to secure the Internet of Things

PKI is the authentication and encryption framework on which the Internet is built. The buckling of PKI a few years back was a very serious matter, especially since there was nothing waiting in the wings to replace PKI. Lacking a reliable way to authenticate identities during the data transfer process, and also keep data encrypted as it moves between endpoints, the Internet would surely atrophy – and digital transformation would grind to a halt.

The retooling of PKI may not be sexy to anyone, outside of tech geeks. Nonetheless, it is a pivotal chapter in the evolution of digital commerce. One of several notable contributors was DigiCert, the world’s leading provider of digital certificates and certificate management solutions.

I had a chance to interview Brian Trzupek, DigiCert’s senior vice president of emerging markets products, at the company’s Security Summit 2020 in San Diego recently. For a full drill down on our discussion, please give the accompanying podcast a listen. Here are a few key takeaways:

PKI’s expanding role

PKI revolves around the creation, distribution and management of digital certificates issued by companies known as certificate authorities, or CAs. In the classic case of a human user clicking to a website, CAs, like DigiCert, verify the authenticity of the website and encrypt the data at both ends.

Today, a much larger and rapidly expanding role for PKI and digital certificates is to authenticate devices and encrypt all sensitive data transfers inside highly dynamic company networks. We’re not just talking about website clicks; PKI comes into play with respect to each of the millions of computing instances and devices continually connecting to each other – the stuff of DevOps and IoT. It can be as granular as a microservice in a software container connecting to a mobile app, for instance. Each one of these digital hookups requires PKI and a digital certificate to ensure authentication. …more

MY TAKE: Why new tools, tactics are needed to mitigate risks introduced by widespread encryption

By Byron V. Acohido

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It was just a few short years ago that the tech sector, led by Google, Mozilla and Microsoft, commenced a big push to increase the use of HTTPS – and its underlying TLS authentication and encryption protocol.

Related: Why Google’s HTTPS push is a good thing

At the time, just 50 % of Internet traffic used encryption. Today the volume of encrypted network traffic is well over 80% , trending strongly toward 100%, according to Google.

There is no question that TLS is essential, going forward. TLS is the glue that holds together not just routine website data exchanges, but also each of the billions of machine-to-machine handshakes occurring daily to enable DevOps, cloud computing and IoT systems. Without TLS, digital transformation would come apart at the seams.

However, the sudden, super-saturation of TLS, especially over the past two years, has had an unintended security consequence. Threat actors are manipulating TLS to obscure their attack footprints from enterprise network defenses. The bad guys know full well that legacy security systems were designed mainly to filter unencrypted traffic. So cyber criminals, too, have begun regularly using TLS to encrypt their attacks.

TLS functions as the confidentiality and authenticity cornerstone of digital commerce. It authenticates connections that take place between a smartphone and a mobile app, for instance, as well as between an IoT device and a control server, and even between a microservice and a software container. It does this by verifying that the server involved is who it claims to be, based on the digital certificate issued to the server. It then also encrypts the data transferred between the two digital assets. …more

GUEST ESSAY: Strategic tactics are key to a robust Cloud Security Posture Management regime

By Yuri Diogenes and Dr. Erdal Ozkaya

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A cyber strategy is a documented approach to handling various aspects of cyberspace. It is mostly developed to address the cybersecurity needs of an entity by focusing on how data, networks, technical systems, and people are protected. An effective cyber strategy is normally on par with the cybersecurity risk exposure of an entity. It covers all possible attack landscapes that can be targeted by malicious parties.

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from  Cybersecurity – Attack and Defense Strategies, Second Edition, a detailed overview of Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) and an assessment of the current threat landscape.

Cybersecurity is the focal point of most cyber strategies because cyber threats are continuously becoming more advanced as more sophisticated exploit tools and techniques become available to threat actors. Due to these threats, organizations are advised to develop cyber strategies that ensure the protection of their cyber infrastructure from these various threats.

In this article, we introduce how you can build effective cyber defense strategies. Please note, the steps given are meant to help you formulate your own cyber defense strategy and can be customized according to your need.

Understand the Business

The more you know about your business, the better you can secure it. It’s really important to know the Goals of your organization, Objectives, the People you work with, the Industry, the current Trends, your Business risks, how to Risk appetite and tolerance the risks, as well your Most valuable assets. Everything we do must be a reflection of the business requirements which is approved by the senior leadership, as it has been manded also in ISO 27001. …more

GUEST ESSAY: Cyber insurance 101 — for any business operating in today’s digital environment

By Cynthia Lopez Olson

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Cyberattacks are becoming more prevalent, and their effects are becoming more disastrous. To help mitigate the risk of financial losses, more companies are turning to cyber insurance.

Related: Bots attack business logic

Cyber insurance, like other forms of business insurance, is a way for companies to transfer some of numerous potential liability hits associated specifically with IT infrastructure and IT activities.

These risks are normally not covered by a general liability policy, which includes coverage only for injuries and property damage. In general, cyber insurance covers things like:

•Legal fees and expenses to deal with a cybersecurity incident

•Regular security audit

•Post-attack public relations

•Breach notifications

•Credit monitoring

•Expenses involved in investigating the attack

•Bounties for cyber criminals

In short, cyber insurance covers many of the expenses that you’d typically face in the wake of cybersecurity event. …more

GUEST ESSAY: When cyber risks rise in 2020, as they surely will, don’t overlook physical security

By Vidya Muthukrishnan

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Physical security is the protection of personnel and IT infrastructure (such as hardware, software, and data) from physical actions and events that could cause severe damage to an organization. This includes protection from natural disasters, theft, vandalism, and terrorism.

Related: Good to know about IoT

Physical security is often a second thought when it comes to information security. Despite this, physical security must be implemented correctly to prevent attackers from gaining physical access and taking whatever they desire.

This could include expensive hardware, or access to sensitive user and/or enterprise security information. All the encryption, firewalls, cryptography, SCADA systems, and other IT security measures would be useless if that were to occur.

Traditional examples of physical security include junction boxes, feeder pillars, and CCTV security cameras. But the challenges of implementing physical security are much more problematic than they were previously. Laptops, USB drives, and smartphones can all store sensitive data that can be stolen or lost. Organizations have the daunting task of trying to safeguard data and equipment that may contain sensitive information about users. …more

MY TAKE: Why it’s now crucial to preserve PKI, digital certificates as the core of Internet security

By Byron V. Acohido

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For decades, the cornerstone of IT security has been Public Key Infrastructure, or PKI, a system that allows you to encrypt and sign data, issuing digital certificates that authenticate the identity of users.

Related: How PKI could secure the Internet of Things

If that sounds too complicated to grasp, take a look at the web address for the home page of this website. Take note of how the URL begins with HTTPS.  The ‘S’ in HTTPS stands for ‘secure.’ Your web browser checked the security certificate for this website, and verified that the certificate was issued by a legitimate certificate authority. That’s PKI in action.

As privacy comes into sharp focus as a priority and challenge for cybersecurity, it’s important to understand this fundamental underlying standard.

Because it functions at the infrastructure level, PKI is not as well known as it should be by senior corporate management, much less the public. However, you can be sure cybercriminals grasp  the nuances about PKI, as they’ve continued to exploit them to invade privacy and steal data.

Here’s the bottom line: PKI is the best we’ve got. As digital transformation accelerates, business leaders and even individual consumers are going to have to familiarize themselves with PKI and proactively participate in preserving it. The good news is that the global cybersecurity community understands how crucial it has become to not just preserve, but also reinforce, PKI. Google, thus far, is leading the way. …more

BEST PRACTICES: Resurgence of encrypted thumb drives shows value of offline backups — in the field

By Byron V. Acohido

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Encrypted flash drives, essentially secure storage on a stick, are a proven technology that has been readily available for at least 15 years. A few years back, it seemed like they would fade into obsolescence, swept aside by the wave of streaming services and cloud storage.

Related: Can Europe’s GDPR restore data privacy?

And yet today there is a resurgence in demand for encrypted flash drives. What’s happened is this: Digital transformation has raced forward promoting high-velocity software innovation, with only a nod to security. This trend has opened up vast new tiers of attack vectors – and threat actors are taking full advantage.

Security-conscious companies – the ones who are proactively responding, not just to threat actors having a field day, but also to the specter of paying steep fines for violating today’s stricter data privacy regulations – are paying much closer attention to sensitive data circulating out in the field, as well they should.

Highly secure portable drives make perfect sense in  numerous work scenarios; encrypted flash drives, specifically, are part of a global hardware encryption market on track to climb to $296.4 billion by 2020, up 55% as compared to 2015, according to Allied Market Research. …more