Lessons on Forecasting Hacks from the RSA Conference

By | Mar 7, 2012

Scott Charney of Microsoft and Art Coviello of RSA opened the recent RSA conference by telling the audience members that they should no longer focus on attempting to defend the perimeter of cyber networks from potential hackers. Instead, they should place more emphasis on containing any damage a potential hacker could inflict. The old-fashioned notion that any IT department could add enough security to protect company data is outdated, especially with the massive number of employees insisting on using their own personal devices in the workplace, according to GSN. Network lines must stay open to employees, and thus, open to the potential attack.

Firewalls and multiple layers of security may give a company a sense of security from cyber attacks, but with major corporations falling victim to attacks each day, including a recent breach of the Vatican by the hacker group Anonymous, as reported by The New York Times, no one is safe. Once a company's security is breached, all the information contained on the network becomes vulnerable. It is this vulnerability that IT departments must focus on and begin to look for potential weaknesses in their security systems that hackers would target.

With hackers developing new ways to launch cyber attacks, IT departments must begin to assume their security walls have been breached. Companies must begin investing in ways to detect a security breach and stop information from bleeding out over the Internet. CNN Money reports that once a hacker has gained access into a company's network, it could take weeks before IT discovers a breach; in fact, less than five percent of cybersecurity breaches are discovered within the first few hours.

Coviello and Charney also urged the RSA conference audience to stop thinking about security products that only focused on one area, but to begin using security methods that can check wider network areas. Companies and their IT departments must begin to look at why a potential attack could occur and what its potential ramifications are. Security risks need to be identified and responded to immediately.

It appears that the current number of trained IT associates needed to fight against cyber attacks is short of what could be necessary to stay on top potential breaches. Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is helping foster community networks that are sharing information about cyber attacks their companies have experienced, and what defenses they mounted to defend their networks. Still, Coviello urged the deployment of massive computing power and high-speed analytics against attacks and reduce the window of vulnerability.

In conclusion, both Coviello and Charney agreed that it may be more important to limit the amount of damage a hacker might cause rather than placing all the emphasis on attempting to block a hacker from entering the company's networks.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

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