The past month has been national cyber security awareness month in the US, this was designated by President Obama to engage and educate the public and private sector in cyber threats and online safety. Although the message of cyber awareness month is a positive one it has been somewhat overshadowed with media coverage dominated by cyber-attacks and data breaches.
It is very easy to get swept up in the drama of advanced cyber-threats and what is portrayed as an unstoppable deluge of attacks. In the InfoSec industry we are often guilty of going along with this hype, leaving organizations confused about what if anything works. So at the end of cyber security awareness month I would like to share a few words of wisdom by my colleague Brian Hanrahan:
"Detection isn't dead, neither is prevention; these things have to work in concert, together."
Brian was talking at the Intel Security FOCUS conference about the bigger picture of security and how you can protect your organization from attacks both advanced and opportunistic. The fundamentals of security are not something you can just buy as a network appliance or cover in a software update, they are key principles around control and risk management. At Avecto we often talk about removing admin rights, controlling applications and defense in depth, these are really important parts of the security journey but they are milestones not the destination.
Defense in depth and least privilege extends beyond the endpoint software stack, it should include device encryption, hardware controls and limiting access to sensitive data. When we look at all the major cyber events in the media we see a pattern of attackers exploiting these very weaknesses. From 3rd party contractors with unrestricted access, malicious insiders or phishing links you can often see how an advanced attack could have been prevented if basic measures had been implemented and if the security stack was working in concert.
When we look at security we can easily see why things have to work in concert, for example why try and detect threats from 1000's of unknown applications when you can block them using allow listing. Why fall victim to compromised admin accounts when you implement least privilege. Why fight a losing battle with URL block lists when you can isolate the browser. This approach cuts out noise and allows an organisation to focus on other events moving from firefighting to improving security.
So as cyber security awareness month draws to a close let us start thinking about what lessons we can learn from the past year. It's time to forget about the hype, cut through the jargon and prove that prevention is possible.
James Maude, Lead Cyber Security Researcher
James Maude is the Lead Cyber Security Researcher at BeyondTrust’s Manchester, U.K., office. James has broad experience in security research, conducting in-depth analysis of malware and cyber threats to identify attack vectors and trends in the evolving security landscape. His background in forensic computing and active involvement in the security research community makes him an expert voice on cybersecurity. He regularly presents at international events and hosts webinars to discuss threats and defense strategies.