The Key to Furthering the Security Industry

Instead of a technical topic, this week I wanted to discuss an interaction I had with another Information Security professional recently because I believe it exemplifies how we as professionals can interact and share ideas in a way that furthers the security industry.

A couple of weeks ago, DFLabs released a whitepaper titled: Increasing the Effectiveness of Incident Management, which I authored discussing how the Incident Command System utilized for decades by emergency services in the US and across the world could be applied to streamline security incident management in the enterprise. Weeks later, Adam (whose last name I will not use since I did not ask his permission) reached out to me to express a problem with one of the premises of that whitepaper. What I want to highlight here is not that someone disagreed with me on a point (it happens often), or who is right (I don’t think there is any right or wrong in this case), but how the interaction itself occurred because I think it exemplifies how we can work together to further ideas in our industry.

First, I would like to thank Adam for reaching out at all. As an author of papers such as this, it lets me know that people are actually reading the content and taking the time to give it some thought. Many of us in the security industry (and I am guilty of this as well) are great consumers of information, but often do not take the time to contribute our own thoughts. You don’t need to write blogs, whitepapers or speak at conferences to contribute. Providing meaningful feedback and collaboration is what turns good ideas into great ideas that can revolutionize the security industry.

It is common to receive positive feedback regarding a certain point or the content as a whole. While positive feedback is beneficial in letting you know you are on the right track, I would argue that constructive criticism is equally, if not more important. Perhaps it is a resistance to what we might perceive as confrontation, or just not taking the time to put our thoughts to words to share with others, but I would also argue that constructive criticism is often even more beneficial than positive feedback.

Notice that I said constructive criticism and not negative feedback. I think there is an important differentiation here. If you have a Twitter account, you know what I mean by negative feedback. Negative feedback is very seldom the spark for new ideas and creates more divides than bridges. What I really appreciated about Adam’s feedback was the way in which he provided it. Adam was not negative, he was not attempting to poke holes in my premise or tell me why I was wrong. Instead, Adam provided an alternate view in a professional and constructive manner. This lead to additional dialogue which broadened my understanding of the topic and allowed me to consider a viewpoint that I had not previously considered.

Based on my conversation with Adam, I now have a better understanding of a different viewpoint, and the topic as a whole, which will help me continue to evolve my ideas and apply them to a wider array of situations. We are all very busy, but taking 10 minutes from your day to share your thoughts and constructive criticism with someone else is a tremendous way to contribute to the community. Please, be like Adam!

If you are interested in reading the whitepaper Increasing the Effectiveness of Incident Management” is it still available to download.

Security Event Automation and Orchestration in the Age of Ransomware

We have recently experienced a devastating wave of ransomware attacks such as Wannacry or ‘WannCrypt’ which spread to more than 200 countries across the globe. While Russia was hit hard, Spain and the United Kingdom saw significant damage to their National Health Services. Hospitals were forced to unplug their computers to stop the malware from spreading even further. This is just one of the security threats posed by special malware that encrypts computer files, network file shares, and even databases thereby preventing user access (Green 18-19). It happens in spite of heavy investments in a wide array of security automation and orchestration solutions and staff required to triage, investigate and resolve threats.

The primary problem is that organizations seem to be losing the battle against cyber attackers (Radichel, 2). The security administrators are overburdened and compelled to manually perform time-consuming and repetitive tasks to identify, track, and resolve security concerns across various security platforms. Notwithstanding the time and effort, it is difficult to analyze and adequately prioritize the security events and alerts necessary to protect their networks. Still, the inadequate visibility into the present activities of the security teams, metrics and performance leave security managers struggling to justify additional resources. It has long been accepted that the organizational efficiency depends heavily on the ability of the security system to reduce false positives so that analysts can focus on the critical events along with indicators of compromise.

Security event automation and orchestration ensures that an organization detects a compromise in real time. A rapid incident response ensures a quick containment of the threat. Through the automation of common investigation enrichment and response actions, as well as the use of a centralized workflow for performing incident response, it is possible to minimize response times and thus make the organization more secure. Security events automation and orchestration expedites workflows across the threat life-cycle in various phases. However, for the security team to deploy security automation and orchestration of event-driven security, there must be access to data concerning events occurring in the environment that warrant a response. To effectively employ event-driven security, automation should be embedded into processes that could introduce new threats to the environment (Goutam, Kamal and Ingle, 431). The approach requires that there be a way to audit the environment securely and trigger event based on data patterns that indicate security threat or intrusion. Of particular importance, continuous fine tuning of processes is required to make certain the events automation and orchestration being deployed is not merely automating the process, but providing long-term value in the form of machine learning and automated application of incident response workflows that have previously resolved incidents successfully.

At a time of increased cybersecurity threats, a structured approach can expedite the entire response management process from event notification to remediation and closure through automated orchestration and workflow. An automatic gathering of key information, the building of decision cases and the execution of critical actions to prevent and/or remediate cyber threats based on logical incident response processes are enabled. With security orchestration and event automation, various benefits are realized such as cost effectiveness, mitigation of security incidents and improved speed and effectiveness of the response. Hence, security event automation and orchestration is the real deal in containing security threats before real damage takes place.