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CSO on the Road: Why Your Security Strategy Needs to Change

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Saturday, Sep 10, 2011

In my last post I discussed a push toward a more unified security strategy within the public and private sector. Today, I want to discuss why companies need to change their security strategy to stay ahead of the threats they face. This topic was something that came up a lot last week at the Austin NG security summit.

Ten years ago a great security program consisted of anti-virus, IDS, and firewalls – but now those protections have lost their effectiveness. Unfortunately, those three outdated security technologies now make up a huge portion of InfoSec spend. And the remaining small pittance is allocated to deal with the most advanced threats we have seen. Doesn’t seem like a fair fight does it?

Research from Poneman says 90 percent of all companies have been compromised in the last year. Many were targets of advanced malware that compromised web and email channels. Traditional signature-based security measures DO NOT catch these threats. They are too complex and change too fast for those old security measures to keep up.

Compound that with the fact that IT security is now on the CEO’s radar and the board is asking questions about security strategy. I’ve spoken to hundreds of CISOs and CSOs over the last year and the recent data breach headlines are catching their attention. More than ever the IT team is being asked: What is our current risk posture? How do we reduce risk? What is our situation? Are we going to be compromised? What is our strategy? This is our chance. Using this momentum and interest we must change the way we operate and the way executives think about security programs.

The first step is acknowledgement: You have to realize that at some point you will be compromised and the bad guys will get in. It’s not a matter of IF an APT or a targeted attack will strike; it’s a matter of WHEN. There is no silver bullet. 

But, all is not lost! Once you’ve accepted this, the next step is to begin to change the way you plan. You need to be able to get the tools in place to be able to communicate to executives:  

“I am going to prevent X amount of attacks. And of the guys that get in, I’m going to know in X amount of time, and I will have them contained in X amount of time. We can significantly reduce the probability that they will be able to access, our most important data.” Make sure you have the technology, people, and processes to back up your claims.

This is the new strategy we have to adopt and share. In the next blog, I’ll share the successful strategies I’ve seen from some of the best organizations and CSOs who have adopted this approach. We’ll look at the most common entry and exit points of attacks and how these successful CSOs are focusing their technology investments in those areas.

In the meantime, how many of you have had conversations with your executive team about your security posture? Has this increased in frequency in the last year? Let me know in the comments below.

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