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MY TAKE: How SASE has begun disrupting IT — by shifting cybersecurity to the ‘services edge’

By Byron V. Acohido

One of the hottest topics at RSA Conference 2021 taking place virtually this week is the Secure Access Services Edge (SASE) security framework.

Related: Cybersecurity experts react to Biden’s EO

SASE (pronounced sassy) essentially is a roadmap for infusing privacy and security deeply into the software coding that gives life to our smartphones, IoT devices and cloud infrastructure, i.e. at the “services edge,” where all the action is taking place.

Coined by Gartner in late 2018, SASE is gaining momentum as a generational disruptive force. It calls for organizations to start proactively managing the myriad new attack vectors they’ve opened up in the pursuit of digital agility — by embracing a bold new IT architecture that extends network security far beyond the traditional perimeter

However, disruption doesn’t happen without displacement. And at this early stage, things are a bit chaotic. As established and newer cybersecurity vendors scramble to catch the SASE wave, marketing messages have sometimes been less than clear.

From the customer’s point of view, some early-adopter enterprises have experienced buyer’s remorse trying out SASE services that don’t really make the grade, says Mike Spanbauer, security evangelist at Juniper Networks, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based supplier of networking technology.

“What we’ve heard from out in the marketplace is that a number of SASE solutions that supposedly could deliver everything as promised, were found to be lacking in many capacities,” Spanbauer says.

ROUNDTABLE: Experts react to President Biden’s exec order in the aftermath of Colonial Pipeline hack

By Byron V. Acohido

As wake up calls go, the Colonial Pipeline ransomware hack was piercing.

Related: DHS embarks on 60-day cybersecurity sprints

The attackers shut down the largest fuel pipeline in the U.S., compelling Colonial to pay them 75 bitcoins, worth a cool $5 million.

This very high-profile caper is part of an extended surge of ransomware attacks, which  quintupled globally between the first quarter of 2018 and the fourth quarter of 2020, and is expected to rise 20 percent to 40 percent this year,  according to insurance giant Aon.

Ransomware is surging at at time when the global supply chain is being corrupted from inside out, as so vividly illustrated by the SolarWinds supply chain debacle.

In response, President Biden last week issued an executive order requiring more rigorous cybersecurity practices for federal agencies and contractors that develop software for the federal government. Last Watchdog asked a roundtable of cybersecurity industry experts for their reaction. Here’s what they said, responses edited for clarity and length:

Chenxi Wang, founder & general partner, Rain Capital

The new executive order is a swift response from the administration. It’s refreshing to see a government executive order that understands technology trends such as “zero trust”, is able to delineate “Operational Technology (OT)” from “information technology (IT,)” and can talk intelligently about supply chain risks.

While some of the measures stipulated in the order are considered table stakes like multi-factor authentication, the fact that the order exists will help to raise the collective security posture of products and services. It will not be sufficient to defend against sophisticated adversaries, but it will help organizations on the lower end of the capability spectrum to improve their cyber posture and defense.

Keatron Evans, principal security researcher, Infosec Institute

President Biden’s order was drafted with heavy involvement from actual cybersecurity experts, and this is encouraging. Requiring federal agencies to produce an actionable plan to implement Zero Trust Architecture is … more

MY TAKE: How consumer-grade VPNs are enabling individuals to do DIY security

By Byron V. Acohido

Historically, consumers have had to rely on self-discipline to protect themselves online.

Related: Privacy war: Apple vs. Facebook.

I’ve written this countless times: keep your antivirus updated, click judiciously, practice good password hygiene. Then about 10 years ago, consumer-grade virtual private networks, or VPNs, came along, providing a pretty nifty little tool that any individual could use to deflect invasive online tracking.

Consumer-grade VPNs have steadily gained a large following. And over the past two to three years, adoption has climbed steeply.

It only recently dawned on me that this rise in popularity of VPNs is probably directly related to the chaotic social unrest, not to mention the global health crisis, we’ve all endured over the past few years.

We’ve become accustomed to hunkering down. As part of this mindset, more consumers are subscribing to a personal VPN service which they use to shield themselves from disinformation sweeps and to protect themselves from Covid 19-related hacks and scams.

GUEST ESSAY: ‘Identity Management Day’ highlights the importance of securing digital IDs

By Jerome Becquart

The second Tuesday of April has been christened “Identity Management Day” by the Identity Defined Security Alliance, a trade group that provides free, vendor-neutral cybersecurity resources to businesses.

Related: The role of facial recognition

Today, indeed, is a good a time as any to raise awareness about cyber exposures that can result from casually or improperly managing and securing digital identities. Here are five tips for securely managing identities across the new, hybrid work environment:

•Think granularly. The first mistake a lot of organizations make when planning their identity management strategy is not considering every identity on their network. Sure, a lot think about their users and what types of credentials they’ll need for their various systems. But what about the numerous machines on a company’s network, like mobile devices, servers, applications, and IoT devices?

Machines are dramatically increasing, and require a solution that will identify these identities, authenticate them, and then secure their interactions across the network.  IT leaders need to consider PKI-based solutions for managing their machine identities, so their IT teams can issue certificates to their machines, track what is on their network, and encrypt the communication between the devices. This will prevent falsified entities from entering the network and putting data at risk.

•Verify email. In the face of phishing threats, many companies focus their investments on anti-malware software or new technology to prevent threats from getting through. Unfortunately, some of these emails will inevitably slip through the cracks.

ROUNDTABLE: Mayorkas’ 60-day cybersecurity sprints win support; also a prove-it-to-me response

By Byron V. Acohido

The Biden Administration is wasting no time fully re-engaging the federal government in cybersecurity.

Related: Supply-chains become top targets

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has assumed a very visible and vocal role. Mayorkas has been championing an extensive portfolio of initiatives to rally public-private collaboration to fend off cyber criminals and state-sponsored threat actors.

The need is great, of course. The Solarwinds hack and Microsoft Exchange breach, not to mention the latest rounds of massive thefts of personal data from Facebook and LinkedIn demonstrate this in spades.

Mayorkas announced a series of 60-day sprints to quell ransomware and to bolster the cyber defenses of industrial control systems, transportation networks and election systems. Mayorkas also pledged to increase the diversity of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s workforce, noting that roughly a third of CISA’s workers are part of minority groups.

This reminds me of how President Obama used his bully pulpit back in 2015 to promote accelerated sharing of threat intelligence and to push for a consumers’ bill of rights for online privacy.

SHARED INTEL: IT pros gravitate to ‘passwordless’ authentication to improve security, boost agility

By Byron V. Acohido

Passwordless authentication as a default parameter can’t arrive too soon.

Related: Top execs call for facial recognition to be regulated

The good news is that passwordless technologies are not only ready for prime time, they appear to be gaining traction in ways that suggest we’re on the cusp of a period of wide-scale adoption. That’s the upshot of a new report, The State of Passwordless Security 2021, put out by HYPR, a New York City-based supplier of advanced authentication systems.

HYPR polled 427 IT professionals and found a high level of awareness about passwordless authenticators — and not just for enhanced security. The IT pros also recognized how passwordless systems contribute to operational agility, as well, and they’ve begun to factor this into their planning.

Some 91 percent of the respondents agreed that passwordless authentication was important to stop credential theft and phishing. Meanwhile, 64 percent saw value in improving user experiences and 21 percent said it could help achieve digital transformation.

“Adoption of passwordless authentication is moving faster than we expected,” says George Avetisov, HYPR’s co-founder and chief executive officer. “The rise of remote work has created a huge urgency around adopting passwordless multifactor authentication, and the no.1 use case is remote access.”

I recently sat down with Avetisov to discuss a few other notable findings in HYPR’s study. For a full drill down on our conversation, please give a listen to the accompanying podcast. Here are a few big takeaways.

GUEST ESSAY: Remote workforce exposures exacerbate cybersecurity challenges in 2021

By Nick Campbell

The start of 2021 brings forth a cyber security crossroads. Many people are in the process of shifting back into office operations while balancing the potential risks and benefits of remote work.

Related: Breaches spike during pandemic

For some malicious hackers and IT experts, this could represent an opening. From the known compromise vectors to the most recent threats, hackers are constantly on the lookout for new strategies to bypass IT notice, out maneuver defense setups, and take advantage of new weaknesses.

Targeting remote workers

One of the most concerning cybersecurity trends this year is closely connected to 2020. Many IT experts are warning that it won’t be long before hackers compromise several unprotected home networks simultaneously to manufacture a forceful and large-scale breach of vital services and systems.

Many employees don’t have a wide range of security protections. They’ll most likely use broadband connections for their work and for personal reasons. This increases the corporate attack surface to dangerous levels.

To minimize the chances of attack, enterprises need to double down on IAM with devices that can effectively monitor user activities, corporate connective behaviors, and resource requests in a bid to streamline sign-in. Additional authentication is also needed in case potential complications are indicated.

Ransomware and fileless malware breaches will rapidly continue to destabilize businesses in 2021. These kinds of attacks are configured to evade most detection control measures and compromise critical systems by taking advantage of the approved software and platform tools found within the corporate network.