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Steps forward


RSAC insights: Concentric AI directs Google’s search techniques towards locking down data sprawl

By Byron V. Acohido

In order to extract value from the Internet, data sprawl first must get reined in. This has always been the case.

Related: Equipping SOCs for the long haul

What good is connecting applications, servers and networks across the public cloud if you’re unable to securely operationalize the datasets that these interconnected systems store and access?

Solving data sprawl has now become a focal point of cybersecurity. It’s about time. Much of the buzz as RSA Conference 2022 happens this week (June 6 – 9)in San Francisco will be around innovations to help companies make sense of data as it gets increasingly dispersed to far-flung pockets of the public cloud.

I had the chance to visit with Karthik Krishnan, CEO of San Jose, Calif.-based Concentric AI, which is in the thick of this development. Concentric got its start in 2018 to help companies solve data sprawl — from the data security and governance perspective – and has grown to 50 employees, with $22 million in venture capital backing. For a full drill down of our discussion, please give the accompanying podcast a listen. Here are a few key takeaways.

Crawling, classifying

Jeff Bezos solved data sprawl for selling books and gave us Amazon. Larry Page and Sergey Brin solved data sprawl for generalized information lookups and gave us Google.

In much the same sense, companies must now solve data sprawl associated with moving to an increasingly interconnected digital ecosystem. And addressing data security has become paramount.

RSAC insights: Why vulnerability management absolutely must shift to a risk-assessment approach

By Byron V. Acohido

Vulnerability management, or VM, has long been an essential, if decidedly mundane, component of network security.

Related: Log4J’s long-run risks

That’s changing — dramatically. Advanced VM tools and practices are rapidly emerging to help companies mitigate a sprawling array of security flaws spinning out of digital transformation.

I visited with Scott Kuffer, co-founder and chief operating officer of Sarasota, FL-based Nucleus Security, which is in the thick of this development. Nucleus launched in 2018 and has grown to over 50 employees. It supplies a unified vulnerability and risk management solution that automates vulnerability management processes and workflows.

We discussed why VM has become acutely problematic yet remains something that’s vital for companies to figure out how to do well, now more so than ever. For a full drill down, please give the accompanying podcast a listen. Here are the key takeaways:

GUEST ESSAY: Deploying ‘XDR’ can help companies avoid the security ‘vendor-silo’ trap

By Christian Espinosa

According to recent data from Oracle and KPMG, organizations today employ over 100 cybersecurity products to secure their environments. These products play essential roles in detecting and preventing threats.

Related: Taking a ‘risk-base’ approach to security compliance

However, because they generate thousands of alerts every day, this vast sprawl of security sources adds even more work to already over-stretched security teams. It could create a cybersecurity ticking time bomb.

Many organizations have recently undertaken rapid digital transformations in response to the ongoing pandemic and a societal shift toward a “work from anywhere” future. This hybrid model has created exciting opportunities for employees and organizations and significantly raised the security stakes.

Most combine the cloud, Office 365, and Active Directory to store and transfer sensitive corporate data, and they need security solutions to protect their entire environment as it grows and evolves. The once “protective perimeter” surrounding enterprise IT has dissolved, transforming it from a closed environment into one that spans far and wide with copious entry points.

To address this security challenge, organizations are deploying more security products today. This seems to be creating new problems in vendor sprawl, further burdening security teams with more to do. The challenge is that disparate vendors do not represent data in the same way, so there is no correlation between dashboards and metrics.

When organizations have two or three security platforms protecting their environment, security teams must toggle between them and make sense of disparate data sets. This often results in a lack of clarity, inhibiting them from seeing the big picture of what is really happening in their security environment. This is why cyber gangs tend to favor layered attacks. They’re harder to identify across disparate security data sets.

MY TAKE: Businesses gravitate to ‘passwordless’ authentication — widespread consumer use up next

By Byron V. Acohido

Google, Microsoft and Apple are bitter arch-rivals who don’t often see eye-to-eye.

Related: Microsoft advocates regulation of facial recognition tools

Yet, the tech titans recently agreed to adopt a common set of standards supporting passwordless access to websites and apps.

This is one giant leap towards getting rid of passwords entirely. Perhaps not coincidently, it comes at a time when enterprises have begun adopting passwordless authentication systems in mission-critical parts of their internal operations.

Excising passwords as the security linchpin to digital services is long, long overdue. It may take a while longer to jettison them completely, but now there truly is a light at the end of the tunnel.

I recently sat down with Ismet Geri, CEO of Veridium, to discuss what the passwordless world we’re moving towards might be like. For a full drill down on our wide-ranging discussion, please give a listen to the accompanying podcast. Here are a few takeaways.

MY TAKE: ‘Digital trust’ has a huge role to play mitigating cybersecurity threats, going forward

By Byron V. Acohido

Modern digital systems simply could not exist without trusted operations, processes and connections. They require integrity, authentication, trusted identity and encryption.

Related: Leveraging PKI to advance electronic signatures

It used to be that trusting the connection between a workstation and a mainframe computer was the main concern. Then the Internet took off and trusting the connection between a user’s device and a web server became of paramount importance.

Today we’re in the throes of digital transformation. Software-defined-everything is the order of the day. Our smart buildings, smart transportation systems and smart online services are all network-connected at multiple levels. Digital services get delivered across a complex amalgam of public cloud, hybrid cloud and on-premises digital systems.

It is against this backdrop that digital trust has become paramount. We simply must attain —  and sustain — a high bar of confidence in the computing devices, software applications and data that make up he interconnected world we occupy.

NEW TECH: How ‘CAASM’ can help security teams embrace complexity – instead of trying to tame it

By Byron V. Acohido

The shift to software-defined everything and reliance on IT infrastructure scattered across the Internet has boosted corporate productivity rather spectacularly.

Related: Stopping attack surface expansion

And yet, the modern attack surface continues to expand exponentially, largely unchecked. This dichotomy cannot be tolerated over the long run.

Encouragingly, an emerging class of network visibility technology is gaining notable traction. These specialized tools are expressly designed to help companies get a much better grip on the sprawling array of digital assets they’ve come to depend on. Gartner refers to this nascent technology and emerging discipline as “cyber asset attack surface management,” or CAASM.

I sat down with Erkang Zheng, founder and CEO of JupiterOne, a Morrisville, NC-based CAASM platform provider, to discuss how security got left so far behind in digital transformation – and why getting attack surface management under control is an essential first step to catching up.

For a full drill down, please give the accompanying podcast a listen. Here are my takeaways:

NEW TECH SNAPSHOT: Can ‘CAASM’ help slow, perhaps reverse, attack surface expansion?

By Byron V. Acohido

Defending companies as they transition to cloud-first infrastructures has become a very big problem – but it’s certainly not an unsolvable one.

Related: How security teams can help drive business growth — by embracing complexity. 

The good news is that a long-overdue transition to a new attack surface and security paradigm is well underway, one built on a fresh set of cloud-native security frameworks and buttressed by software-defined security technologies.

It strikes me that the security systems we will need to carry us forward can be divided into two big buckets: those that help organizations closely monitor network traffic flying across increasingly cloud-native infrastructure and those that help them keep their critical system configurations in shipshape.

There’s a lot percolating in this second bucket, of late. A bevy of cybersecurity vendors have commenced delivering new services to help companies gain visibility into their cyber asset environment, and remediate security control and vulnerability gaps continuously. This is the long-run path to slowing the expansion of a modern attack surface.

“The challenge is that cyber assets are exploding out of control and security teams are having a hard time getting a grasp on what’s going on,” says Ekrang Zheng, founder and CEO of JupiterOne, a Morrisville, NC-based asset visibility platform. “But at the same time, because everything is now software-defined, we actually can approach this problem with a data-driven and an automation-driven mechanism.”

JupiterOne is in a group of cybersecurity vendors that are innovating new technology designed to help companies start doing what they should have done before racing off to migrate everything to the cloud. What happened was that digital transition shifted into high gear without anyone giving due consideration to the security gaps they were creating.

The need to start doing this is glaring; so the rise of specialized technology to get this done is a welcomed development.

Indeed, research firm Gartner very recently created yet another cybersecurity acronym … more