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RSAC Fireside Chat: A breakthrough in securing cloud collaboration — decentralized key storage

By Byron V. Acohido

Back in 2002, when I was a reporter at USA Today, I had to reach for a keychain fob to retrieve a single-use passcode to connect remotely to the paper’s publishing system.

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This was an early example of multifactor authentication (MFA). Fast forward to today; much of the MFA concept is being reimagined by startup Circle Security to protect data circulating in cloud collaboration scenarios.

I learned about this at RSA Conference 2023 from company Co-founder and CEO Phani Nagarjuna, who explained how Circle extends the use of encryption keys fused to biometrics and decentralizes where copies of the keys are stored. For a full drill down, give the accompanying podcast a listen.

Guest expert: Phani Nagarjuna, CEO, Circle Security

According to Nagarjuna, Circle’s technology places a small agent on the endpoint device. This facilitates the creation of an asymmetric key pair and a symmetric AES256 key. Together these keys authenticate the user’s identity and enable secure and private access to cloud-stored data and resources.

Access to cloud-stored files can then be shared widely. But only authorized individuals, with proof of identity originating from their authenticated device, can open the files. All access attempts get audited using a built-in distributed ledger, allowing policy enforcement and quick remediation.

This iteration of my old-school keychain fob thus eliminates the need for usernames and passwords while much more robustly protecting sensitive data, Nagarjuna asserts. How much traction will it get? I’ll keep watch and keep reporting.


Pulitzer Prize-winning business journalist Byron V. Acohido is dedicated to fostering public awareness about how to make the Internet as private and secure as it ought to be.

(LW provides consulting services to the vendors we cover.)


RSAC Fireside Chat: Dealing with the return of computing workloads to on-premises datacenters

By Byron V. Acohido

A cloud migration backlash, of sorts, is playing out.

Related: Guidance for adding ZTNA to cloud platforms

Many companies, indeed, are shifting to cloud-hosted IT infrastructure, and beyond that, to containerization and serverless architectures.

However, a “back-migration,” as Michiel De Lepper, global enablement manager, at London-based Runecast, puts it, is also ramping up. This is because certain workloads are proving to be too costly to run in the cloud — resource-intensive AI modeling being the prime example.

I had an evocative discussion about this with De Lepper and his colleague, Markus Strauss, Runecast product leader, at RSA Conference 2023. For a full drill down, please give the accompanying podcast a listen. The duo outlined how a nascent discipline — Cloud-Native Application Protection Platforms (CNAPP) – factors in.

Guest experts: Markus Strauss, Product Leader, and Michiel De Lepper, Global Enablement Manager, Runecast

CNAPP solutions focus on monitoring and enforcing security policies on workloads and in applications – during runtime. This is no small feat in an operating environment of co-mingled on-prem and cloud-hosted resources.

Runecast, for instance, takes a proactive approach to risk-based vulnerability management, configuration management, container security, compliance auditing, remediation and reporting.

This helps with compliance, at one level, but also continually improves detection of any soft spots and/or active attacks, while also paving the road to automated  remediation.

“It’s no longer about creating shields,” De Lepper told me, “Instead, we’re helping our customers plug all the gaps the bad guys can use.”

CNAPP solutions show promise for helping overcome the complexities of fragmented defenses; will they ultimately lead to more resilient business networks?  I’ll keep watch and keep reporting.


Pulitzer Prize-winning business journalist Byron V. Acohido is dedicated to fostering public awareness about how to make the Internet as private and secure as it ought to be.

(LW provides consulting services to the vendors we cover.)

GUEST ESSAY: Using generative AI to support — not replace — overworked cybersecurity pros

By Zac Amos

As the threat of cybercrime grows with each passing year, cybersecurity must begin utilizing artificial intelligence tools to better combat digital threats.

Related: Leveraging human sensors

Although AI has become a powerful weapon, there’s concern it might be too effective compared to human cybersecurity professionals — leading to layoffs and replacements.

However, the truth is that automated AI tools work best in the hands of cybersecurity professionals instead of replacing them. Rather than trying to use AI to get rid of your security team, seek to use automated tools in conjunction with your existing professionals to ensure the strongest cybersecurity defense.

Generative AI wild card

The newest breakthrough in artificial intelligence technology is machine learning and generative AI. Unlike traditional AI, machine learning can be taught to act on data sets and make accurate predictions instead of being limited to only analyzing.

Machine learning programs use highly complex algorithms to learn from data sets. In addition to analyzing data, they can use that data to observe patterns. Much like humans, they take what they have learned to “visualize” a model and take action based on it.

RSAC Fireside Chat: Reinforcing ‘Identity and Access Management’ to expose ‘shadow access’

By Byron V. Acohido

The world of Identity and Access Management (IAM) is rapidly evolving.

Related: Stopping IAM threats

IAM began 25 years ago as a method to systematically grant human users access to company IT assets. Today, a “user” most often is a snippet of code seeking access at the cloud edge.

At the RSAC Conference 2023, I sat down with Venkat Raghavan, founder and CEO of start-up Stack Identity. As Raghavan explained, the rapid growth of data and subsequent application development in the cloud has led to a sprawling array of identities and access points. This, he warned, has created a new problem: shadow access.

Shadow access refers to ungoverned and unauthorized access that arises due to the speed and automation of cloud deployment.For a drill down, please give the accompanying podcast a listen.

Guest expert: Venkat Raghavan, CEO, Stack Identity

Stack Identity’s solution quickly onboards a customer’s cloud accounts, methodically identifies potential pathways to data and comprehensively assesses risk. Once all human and non-human access points are identified, automated remediation kicks in to eliminate shadow access.

Notably, this process happens at runtime, watching access in real-time, and looking at how access is utilized, Raghavan told me.

“We have seen that in live customer environments that over 50 percent of identities are over-permissioned and should have access permissions revoked,” he says.”This represents a substantial risk for companies.”

This risk is material; just ask Capital One or LastPass. Here’s another example of directing ML and automation at shrinking the attack surface. Stack Identity emerged from stealth just last month with $4 million in seed funding. I’ll keep watch and keep reporting.


Pulitzer Prize-winning business journalist Byron V. Acohido is dedicated to fostering public awareness about how to make the Internet as private and secure as it ought to be.

(LW provides consulting services to the vendors we cover.)


Author Q&A: Former privacy officer urges leaders to prioritize security as part of cloud migration

By Byron V. Acohido

Cyber threats have steadily intensified each year since I began writing about privacy and cybersecurity for USA TODAY in 2004.

Related: What China’s spy balloons portend

A stark reminder of this relentless malaise: the global cyber security market is on a steady path to swell to $376 billion by 2029 up from $ 156 billion in 2022, according to Fortune Business Insights.

Collectively, enterprises spend a king’s ransom many times over on cyber defense. Yet all too many companies and individual employees till lack a full appreciation of the significant risks they, and their organizations, face online. And as a result, many still do not practice essential cyber hygiene.

Perhaps someday in the not-too-distant future that may change. Our hope lies in leveraging machine learning and automation to create very smart and accurate security platforms that can impose resilient protection.

Until we get there – and it may be a decade away — the onus will remain squarely on each organization — and especially on individual employees —  to do the wise thing.

A good start would be to read Mobilizing the C-Suite: Waging War Against Cyberattacks, written by Frank Riccardi, a former privacy and compliance officer from the healthcare sector.

RSAC Fireside Chat: Uptycs emulates Google, Akamai to protect cloud-native apps and endpoints

By Byron V. Acohido

The inadequacy of siloed security solutions is well-documented.

Related: Taking a security-first path

The good news is that next-gen security platforms designed to unify on-prem and cloud threat detection and remediation are, indeed, coalescing.

At RSA Conference 2023 I visited with Elias Terman, CMO, and Sudarsan Kannan, Director of Product Management, from Uptycs, a Walthan, Mass.-based supplier of “unified CNAPP and EDR ” services.

They described how Uptycs is borrowing proven methodologies from Google, Akamai, SAP and Salesforce to harness normalized telemetry that enables Uptycs to correlate threat activity — wherever it is unfolding. Please give a listen to the accompanying podcast for a full drill down.

Guest experts: Elias Terman, CMO, Sudarsan Kannan, Director of Product Management, Uptycs

Kannan described how Uptycs technology platform was inspired by Google’s dynamic traffic monitoring, Akamai’s content distribution prowess and Salesforce’s varied use cases based on a single data model, to help companies materially upgrade their security posture. The aim, he says, is to think like attackers, who certainly don’t operate in silos.

Terman offered the analogy of a “golden thread” stitching together varied threat activities and serving as a cloud security early warning system. The entire value chain is thereby protected, Kannan added, from the developers writing the code to automated connections to critical cloud workloads.

Terman detailed how Uptycs’ platform, indeed, touches everything within the modern attack surface and, in doing so, breaks down legacy silos and facilitates  better security outcomes.

This is part and parcel of the helpful dialogue that will carry us forward. I’ll keep watch and keep reporting.


Pulitzer Prize-winning business journalist Byron V. Acohido is dedicated to fostering public awareness about how to make the Internet as private and secure as it ought to be.

(LW provides consulting services to the vendors we cover.)


GUEST ESSAY: A primer on NIST 207A — guidance for adding ZTNA to cloud-native platforms

By Zack Butcher

Zero trust networking architecture (ZTNA) is a way of solving security challenges in a cloud-first world.

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NIST SP 800-207A (SP 207A), the next installment of Zero Trust guidance from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), has been released for public review.

This special publication was written for security architects and infrastructure designers; it provides useful guidance when designing ZTNA for cloud-native application platforms, especially those in enterprises where applications are hosted in multi-cluster and multi-cloud deployments.

I co-authored SP 207A, and it’s a great blueprint for any organization working to implement a ZTNA, whether they’re working with the U.S. federal government or not.

The 4th Annual Multi-Cloud Conference and Workshop on ZTNA is an upcoming event for anyone interested in how the federal government is advancing standards in ZTNA. The event—May 24-25; in-person and virtual—is hosted by NIST and Tetrate.