Effective security: what works?
Cyber criminals have become devastatingly good at their deeds. They are using the connected world to attack targets at an industrial scale. There are many statistics to reinforce this narrative. Everyone is a target, and it's when – not if – you get attacked. Some organised cyber crime groups are as large and elaborate as legitimate technology vendors. A few even have office buildings, paid for by proceeds that exceed the earnings from the illicit drug and weapons trades.
Yes, cyber crime is more significant than guns or drugs, because the connected digital world has a lot of layers and cracks where they can hide. Low risk, high reward: a criminal’s dream.
"Cyber criminals are exploiting the complexities in modern systems," explains Adeshni Rohit, manager of Axiz's Cisco business unit. "Business IT environments are a mishmash of different systems, protocols and users. There are many places to get in and places to hide. Some companies had hackers in their systems for years – one hotel chain only realised this when it found stolen data on the dark Web. The criminals were in their systems for four years already!"
Too many chefs
Yet security interventions have made things even more complicated. If a problem exists in a specific area, it's addressed with a particular security solution. There isn't an emphasis on integrating solutions or tackling the bigger picture. So the bad guys still slip through.
"Criminals look for those places where two systems don't talk to each other when they should. When you have a large variety of security interventions that don't integrate, you just create more gaps. But worse, you also create a false sense of comfort, because you've invested so much into these systems."
The introduction of cloud and remotely hosted services have not helped. Now digital assets exist outside of the traditional security sphere, which means even more security products that complicate the landscape. Providers often play this down by trying to simplify security conversations. Rohit believes the opposite must happen: "Salespeople like to talk about saving money and time, and keeping things simple. But those are not compatible. If you want to save time and money, you have to realise how complicated your situation is, then respond appropriately. You need a security partner who can be honest and hold tough conversations."
Getting back your security focus
The right partners make all the difference. Security is not an isolated function – treating it as such is where the complexity creep appears. So the security partner must be able to work with other partners and bake security into different projects for the customer. Such dedication requires an exceptional level of agility and personal investment, which is why Axiz puts a lot of its partner focus on SME providers.
Rohit explains: "We create a division of labour between the partner, ourselves and the vendor. As a rule, we don't engage directly with customers but rather support the SME partner, which uses its smaller size to be focused and agile for the customer. It's not unusual for a good SME provider to have many more field engineers than salespeople. That means they are focused on the task and not on the next big deal. We have found that if we support them correctly with the right services, they are willing to be a journey companion for the customer."
From there, it becomes easier to decrypt complexity and select solutions that reduce it. Several SME providers can work together on different services: "You don't have security over there and business systems over here. If you want to implement a new e-mail management suite, you'll want good security for that. If two partners work together – one on the e-mail system and another on the security, they can manage any complexity problems."
The security industry has not been passive. One reason why the criminals keep moving is that security innovations keep thwarting them. Managed security services and cloud-based monitoring are two of several strategies used to track and stop attacks. But security failures happen when these aren't implemented correctly or holistically with other digital investments.
"We have so many choices," says Rohit, referring to the channel. "The challenge isn't what we can do about security, but how we do it without giving the bad guys more opportunities or making it too expensive for customers. This is what separates effective security partners from the rest: do they care about reducing complexity? Are they interested in the big picture, not just one project? Are they backed by distributors and vendors who do their share? If you want effective security, those are the ingredients that matter."