McAfee boosts critical infrastructure protection

Johannesburg, 31 May 2012
Read time 3min 30sec

Security software vendor, McAfee is strengthening its Intel collaboration to drive a security framework that is comprised of layers of hardware and software security to protect governments and organisations from critical infrastructure attacks.

Brian Contos, McAfee's senior director for emerging markets, says the emergence of new cyber threats means that traditional IT security has become null and void.

McAfee recently acquired Nitro Security this year to mitigate attacks and drive dynamic white listing in order to prevent advanced security attacks. In addition, Contos notes, the company is partnering with other security companies to drive global security intelligence and solutions.

“Intel bought McAfee for $70 million, which was one of the biggest security acquisitions in history. This was part of a strategy to embed McAfee Deep Safe security within the CPU chip itself,” Contos explains.

He says technology has become a massive equaliser in terms of levelling the field in cyber warfare. Contos also notes that the convergence of mobile devices, the increase in Internet penetration and technology development means that it has become easier for organised cyber criminals to shut down large organisations, utilities and even governments.

He explains that before Stuxnet, Code Red was the first targeted attack that could shut down a system within a few hours and caused total damage of $1.2 billion. He adds that it has become easier to hack into radio frequency identification technologies and says even some insulin pumps can be hacked via an iPhone to increase or decrease the level of flow, which could potentially kill someone.

McAfee earlier this year conducted a study with the Security Defence Agenda, a think tank in the US, and found that 56% of cyber security experts believe that the next arms race will be in cyber space.

“Around 45% believe cyber security is just as important as border security. While 36% believe cyber security is more important than missile defence, and 43% identify damage or disruption to critical infrastructure as the greatest single cyber threat,” says Contos.

In light of this, McAfee has created a large partner eco-system to create a single solution that comprises of hardware, software, services and frameworks to prevent attacks on critical infrastructure.

According to McAfee, the solution is comprised of five parts. McAfee's security management tool monitors and reports on security, risk and compliance projects. The network security platform combines real-time threat awareness, next-generation network intrusion prevision, firewall and network access control.

The third part is McAfee information security which is a behavioural-based gateway that focuses on data loss prevention, encryption, Web security, and identity and access management. McAfee endpoint security platform provides application white listing, virtual server and desktop security, endpoint network access control, and host intrusion prevention. Lastly, McAfee says it uses global threat intelligence that detects network connection reputation as well as file and Web reputation.

“McAfee divides critical infrastructure into corporate IT, Scada and the device network. Corporate IT includes services, databases and enterprise applications. Scada refers to Ethernet and legacy computers. Threats can come across these lines to impact the network and disrupt communication.

“Hardware-assisted security as well as context-aware infrastructure intelligence will be a growing trend and the future of security.”

However, according to Professor Von Solms, director of the Centre of Cyber Security and who recently spoke at the ITWeb Security Summit, there are no guarantees of total security of a nation's personal data.

He states that there is no public evidence that the critical personal data in the hands of the government and the private industry is effectively secured, and there is nobody with an oversight role to ensure such security.

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