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BEST PRACTICES: Why pursuing sound ‘data governance’ can be a cybersecurity multiplier

By Byron V. Acohido

Deploying the latest, greatest detection technology to deter stealthy network intruders will take companies only so far.

Related: What we’ve learned from the massive breach of Capitol One

At RSA 2020, I learned about how one of the routine daily chores all large organizations perform — data governance — has started to emerge as something of a cybersecurity multiplier.

It turns out there are some housekeeping things companies can do while ingesting, leveraging and storing all of the data churning through their complex hybrid cloud networks. And by doing this housekeeping – i.e. by improving their data governance practices — companies can reap higher efficiencies, while also tightening data security.

This nascent trend derives from a cottage industry of tech vendors in the “content collaboration platform” (CCP) space, which evolved from the earlier “enterprise file sync and share”  (EFSS) space. I had the chance to sit down with Kris Lahiri, CSO and co-founder of Egnyte, one of the original EFSS market leaders. For a drill down on our discussion about how data governance has come to intersect with cybersecurity, give a listen to the accompanying podcast. Here are key takeaways:

Storage efficiencies

With so much data coursing through business networks, companies would be wise to take into consideration the value vs. risk proposition of each piece of data, Lahiri says. The value of data connected to a live project is obvious. What many organizations fail to do is fully assess – and set policies for — data they hang on to after the fact.

One reason for this is storage is dirt cheap. It has become common practice for companies to store a lot of data without really thinking too hard about it. In fact, there’s a strong case to be made for meticulously archiving all stored data, as well as getting on a routine of purging unneeded data on a regular basis.

SHARED INTEL: FireMon survey shows security lags behind fast pace of hybrid cloud deployments

By Byron V. Acohido

Corporate America’s love affair with cloud computing has hit a feverish pitch. Yet ignorance persists when it comes to a momentous challenge at hand: how to go about tapping the benefits of digital transformation while also keeping cyber exposures to a minimum level.

Related: Why some CEOs have quit tweeting

That’s the upshot of FireMon’s second annual State of Hybrid Cloud Security Report of 522 IT and security professionals, some 14 percent of whom occupy C-suite positions.

Nearly 60 percent of the respondents indicated the pace of their cloud deployments have surpassed their ability to secure them in a timely manner. Notably, that’s essentially the same response FireMon got when it posed this same question in its inaugural hybrid cloud survey some 14 months ago.

That’s not a good thing, given migration to cloud-based business systems, reliance on mobile devices and onboarding of IoT systems are all on an upward sweep. “It doesn’t seem like we’ve moved the needle on security at all,” says Tim Woods, vice president of technology alliances at FireMon, the leading provider of automated network security policy management systems.

I had the chance to visit with Woods at RSAC 2020 in San Francisco recently. For a full drill down on our discussion, please give a listen to the accompanying podcast. Here’s a summary of key takeaways:

Shared burden confusion

Hybrid cloud refers to the mixing and matching of on-premise IT systems, aka private clouds, with processing power, data storage, and collaboration tools leased from public cloud services, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. Hybrid clouds are being leveraged to refresh legacy networks, boost productivity and innovate new software services at breakneck speed, to keep pace with rivals.

NEW TECH: Can MPC — Multi Party Computation — disrupt encryption, boost cloud commerce?

By Byron V. Acohido

Encryption is a cornerstone of digital commerce. But it has also proven to be a profound constraint on the full blossoming of cloud computing and the Internet of Things.

Related: A ‘homomorphic-like’ encryption solution

We know very well how to encrypt data in transit. And we’ve mastered how to encrypt — and decrypt — data at rest. However, we’ve yet to arrive at a seminal means to crunch encrypted data – without first having to decrypt it.

Math geniuses and data scientists have been trying to solve this problem for more than half a century. It has only been in the past 10 years or so that commercial versions of homomorphic encryption, which I’ve written about, have slowly gained traction. Another solution is something called Multi Party Computation, or MPC, which I was unfamiliar with when heading to RSA 2020 recently.

I had the chance to visit with Nigel Smart, co-founder of Unbound Tech, a company which uses MPC technology to solve the problem of private key protection and key management. The company, based in Petach Tikvah, Israel, addresses the problem via a “virtual Hardware Security Module” as opposed to the traditional method of using physical infrastructure. Smart told me about how MPC has attracted the attention of the cryptocurrency community, in particular the purveyors of crypto currency exchanges and the suppliers of digital wallets.

And he explained how advanced encryption technologies, like MPC and homomorphic encryption, are on the cusp of enabling much higher use of the mountains of data hoarded in cloud storage by companies and governments. For a full drill down on our discussion, give the accompanying podcast a listen. My big takeaways:

NEW TECH: Devolutions’ ‘PAM’ solution helps SMBs deal with rising authentication risks

By Byron V. Acohido

The cybersecurity needs of small- and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) differ from those of large enterprises, but few solutions cater to them. A 2018 Cisco Cybersecurity Special Report found that 54 % of all cyber attacks cost the target company more than $0.5 million — damages that would crush most SMBs. However, smaller companies rarely have the IT talent, tools, or budget to prevent such attacks.

Related: SMBs are ill-equipped to deal with cyber threats

Without a cohesive cybersecurity framework, SMBs are falling further behind as digital transformation, or DX, ramps up.  Embracing digital transformation becomes even more of a challenge without a dedicated platform to address vulnerabilities.

I spoke with Maurice Côté, VP Business Solutions, and Martin Lemay, CISO,  of Devolutions, at the RSA 2020 Conference in San Francisco recently. Devolutions is a Montreal, Canada-based company that provides remote connection in addition to password and privileged access management (PAM) solutions to SMBs. You can get a full drill down on our discussion in the accompanying podcast. Here are some of the key takeaways:

PAM 101

PAM is crucial to all companies because it reduces opportunities for malicious users to penetrate networks and obtain privileged account access, while providing greater visibility of the environment. Current PAM solutions cater almost exclusively for large organizations.

Suppliers simply strip down their enterprise versions to sell to SMBs, with their solutions being prohibitively expensive for SMBs. Poorly implemented authentication can also lead to network breaches and compliance headaches.

SHARED INTEL: Former NSA director says cybersecurity solutions need to reflect societal values

By Byron V. Acohido

Is America’s working definition of “national security” too narrow for the digital age?

Yes, observes retired Admiral Michael Rogers, who served as a top White House cybersecurity advisor under both Presidents Obama and Trump. 

Related: The golden age of cyber espionage

The United States, at present, operates with a “nebulous” definition of what constitutes a cyber attack that rises to the level of threatening national security, asserts Rogers, who was   commander, U.S. Cyber Command, as well as director, National Security Agency, and chief, Central Security Service, from March 2014 until he retired from military service in May 2018.

“National security in the digital age, to me, is the confluence of the traditional ways we used to look at security issues as a nation-state, as well as taking into consideration how economic-competitiveness and long-term economic viability play in,” Rogers told an audience of cybersecurity executives, invited to attend the grand opening of Infosys’ state-of-the art Cyber Defense Center in Indianapolis earlier this week.

Rogers made his remarks as part of a panel discussion on securing digital transformation moderated by Infosys CISO Vishal Salvi. It was a wide-ranging, eye-opening discussion. Here are a few key takeaways I came away with:

Rising cyber exposures

Enterprises today are engaged in a struggle to balance security and agility. Leveraging cloud services and IoT systems to streamline workloads makes a ton of sense. Yet cyber exposures are multiplying. Compliance penalties, lawsuits, loss of intellectual property, theft of customer personal data and loss of reputation — due to poor cyber defenses — are now getting board level attention.

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

By Byron V. Acohido

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 … more

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

By Cynthia Lopez Olson

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.