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Mind the gap: Upskilling cyber security teams

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By Matt Cable, VP Solutions Architects & MD Europe, Certes Networks, is of interest at all?

At the end of 2019, it was reported that the number of unfilled global IT security positions had reached over four million professionals, up from almost three million at the same time the previous year. This included 561,000 in North America and a staggering 2.6 million in APAC. The cyber security industry clearly has some gaps to fill.

But it’s not just the number of open positions that presents an issue. Research also shows that nearly half of firms are unable to carry out the basic tasks outlined in the UK government’s Cyber Essentials scheme, such as setting up firewalls, storing data and removing malware. Although this figure has improved since 2018, it is still far too high and is a growing concern. 

To compound matters, the disruption of COVID-19 this year has triggered a larger volume of attack vectors, with more employees working from home without sufficient security protocols and cyber attackers willingly using this to their advantage.

Evidentially, ensuring cyber security employees and teams have the right skills to keep both their organisations and their data safe, is essential. However, as Matt Cable, VP Solutions Architects & MD Europe, Certes Networks explains, as well as ensuring they have access to the right skills, organisations should also embrace a mindset of continuously identifying – and closing – gaps in their cyber security posture to ensure the organisation is as secure as it can be.

Infrastructure security versus infrastructure connectivity

There is a big misconception within cyber security teams that all members of the team can mitigate any cyber threat that comes their way. However, in practice this often isn’t the case. There is repeatedly a lack of clarity between infrastructure security and infrastructure connectivity, with organisations assuming that because a member of the team is skilled in one area, they will automatically be skilled in the other. 

What organisations are currently missing is a person, or team, within the company whose sole responsibility is looking at the security posture; not just at a high level, but also taking a deep dive into the infrastructure and identifying gaps, pain points and vulnerabilities. By assessing whether teams are truly focusing their efforts in the right places, tangible, outcomes-driven changes can really be made and organisations can then work towards understanding if they currently do possess the right skills to address the challenges. 

This task should be a group effort: the entire IT and security team should be encouraged to look at the current situation and really analyse how secure the organisation truly is. Where is the majority of the team’s time being devoted? How could certain aspects of cyber security be better understood? Is the current team able to carry out penetration testing or patch management? Or, as an alternative to hiring a new member of the team, the CISO could consider sourcing a security partner who can provide these services, recognising that the skill sets cannot be developed within the organisation itself, and instead utilising external expertise.

It’s not what you know, it’s what you don’t know

The pace of change in cyber security means that organisations must accept they will not always be positioned to combat every single attack. Whilst on one day an organisation might consider its network to be secure, a new ransomware attack or the introduction of a new man-in-the-middle threat could quickly highlight a previously unknown vulnerability. Quite often, an organisation will not have known that it had vulnerabilities until it was too late. 

By understanding that there will always be a new gap to fill and continuously assessing if the team has the right skills – either in-house or outsourced – to combat it, organisations can become much better prepared. If a CISO simply accepts the current secure state of its security posture as static and untouchable, the organisation will open itself up as a target of many forms of new attack vectors. Instead, accepting that cyber security is constantly changing and therefore questioning and testing each component of the security architecture on a regular basis means that security teams – with the help of security partners – will never be caught off guard. 

Maintaining the right cyber security posture requires not just the right skills, but a mindset of constant innovation and assessment. Now, more than ever, organisations need to stay vigilant and identify the gaps that could cause devastating repercussions if left unfilled. 

Breaking down AI’s role in cybersecurity

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Data security is now more vital than ever. Today’s cybersecurity threats are incredibly smart and sophisticated. Security experts face a daily battle to identify and assess new risks, identify possible mitigation measures and decide what to do about the residual risk. 

This next generation of cybersecurity threats require agile and intelligent programs that can rapidly adapt to new and unforeseen attacks. AI and machine learning’s ability to meet this challenge is recognised by cybersecurity experts, the majority of whom believe it is fundamental to the future of cybersecurity. Paul Vidic, Director, Certes Networks, outlines how AI and machine learning will play a fundamental role in enabling organisations to detect, react to – even prevent – emerging cyber threats more promptly and effectively than ever before...

Why is Cybersecurity so Important?

Cybersecurity is important because it encompasses everything that pertains to protecting our sensitive data, personally identifiable information (PII), protected health information (PHI), personal information, intellectual property, data, and governmental and industry information systems from attempted theft and damage.

As the whole world is becoming more digitalised, cybercrime is now one of the biggest threats to all businesses and government organisations around the world.

According to recent reports, cyber criminals exposed 2.8 billion consumer data records in 2018, costing US organisations over $654 billion. Meanwhile, the 2019 Ninth Annual Cost of Cybercrime Study calculated the total value of risk as $US5.2 trillion globally over the next five years. 

The same report identified the use of automation, advanced analytics and security intelligence to manage the rising cost of discovering attacks.

Enter AI and Machine Learning

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies address these challenges and are giving rise to new possibilities for cybersecurity threat protection. AI in cybersecurity plays an important role in threat detection, pattern recognition, and response time reduction. Adopting AI in cybersecurity offers better solutions when it comes to analysing massive quantities of data, speeding up response times, and increasing efficiency of often under-resourced security teams.

AI is designed and trained to collect, store, analyse and process significant amounts of data from both structured and unstructured sources. Deploying technologies such as machine learning and deep learning allows the AI to constantly evolve and improve its knowledge about cybersecuritythreats and cyber risk.

For example, by recognising patterns in our environment and applying complex analytics, AI enables us to automatically flag unusual patterns and enable detection of network problems and cyber-attacks in real-time. This visibility supplies deeper insights into the threat landscape which in turn informs the machine learning. This means that AI-based security systems are constantly learning, adapting and improving. 

Risk Identification

Risk identification is an essential feature of adopting artificial intelligence in cybersecurity. AI’s data processing capability is able to reason and identify threats through different channels, such as malicious software, suspicious IP addresses, or virus files.

Moreover, cyber-attacks can be predicted by tracking threats through cybersecurity analytics which uses data to create predictive analyses of how and when cyber-attacks will occur. The network activity can be analysed while also comparing data samples using predictive analytics algorithms. 

In other words, AI systems can predict and recognise a risk before the actual cyber-attack strikes.

Conclusion

Of course, fundamental security measures such as malware scanning, firewalls, access controls, encryption, and policy definition and enforcement remain as important as ever. AI does not replace these; rather, it complements them.

However, as AI and machine learning technologies continue to mature, it is possible to imagine a time when the cybersecurity industry – having long been at the mercy of the malevolent hacker – may finally have the tools to take the lead. 

Proving ROI in cyber security

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Research shows that almost half of businesses have reported cyber security breaches or attacks in the last 12 months. Amongst these businesses that identified breaches or attacks, more have experienced these issues at least once a week so far this year.

Moreover, the unprecedented events of recent months have seen the number of attempted data breaches continue to rise, with cyber hackers using the increase in remote working and individuals’ fears over the coronavirus to their advantage. In fact, a survey showed that 50% of organisations were unable to guarantee that their data was adequately secured when being used by remote workers.

The issue is serious and many businesses are stepping up their cyber security strategies accordingly, with CIOs and their teams increasingly taking a seat at the executive board table. But one thing is still lacking: cyber security ROI. To truly engage with a strategy, board members need to see ROI from every department of an organisation, and cyber security is not exempt from that. However, demonstrating business value in areas such as compliance, risk management or data assurance, has always been challenging. 

Consequently, data security has historically been looked upon as a necessary cost of doing business. However, this no longer needs to be the case. As CIOs, CISOs and network security teams mature into their C-Suite role, proving the value of data security is now both a realistic and achievable corporate objective. Frank Richmond, Vice President Sales Europe, Certes Networks, explains just how CISOs and CIOs can get the Board on board… 

Cyber security as a strategic investment

Today’s current network and data security approaches focus primarily on keeping the cyber hackers out with threat detection and vulnerability management at the core. But modern CIOs and CISOs want – and need – more than this when reporting to the Board; they want “provable security”.

Securing data should be a strategic investment in an organisation’s risk strategy and should quantifiably contribute to the overall value of the business. CISOs expect their network security teams to be equipped with tools that will enable them to make real-time changes to applications based on observable network flow. They want to see that securitypolicies are being enforced properly and, most importantly, prove that their security strategy is actually effective.

To put this into practice, cyber security should be quantifiable, measurable and outcomes-driven. It shouldn’t just be a case of successfully keeping a cyber attacker out of the network after a single breach; a successful cyber securitystrategy is effective only when it is continuously putting data security first and measuring impact against key performance indicators (KPIs) that will instantly show Board members how imperative the strategy – and the technology behind it – really is.

In order to truly demonstrate the effectiveness of the organisation’s security strategy, CIOs and CISOs need to be able to visualise and understand their data, the associated applications, workloads and behaviour, with real-time contextual insight. This, in turn, will enable this understanding to be passed on to other executive Board members. 

The real value of cyber security

Armed with this insight, organisations can then take actionable steps not only to measure the effectiveness of their security strategy, but to gain deep understanding into how to enhance their security posture and to manage and enforce policies. With a data-driven approach to cyber security, the guesswork can be removed and CISOs and CIOs will be able to clearly demonstrate to the Board that ROI has been achieved.

With buy-in from the Board, data security is now more than a ‘necessary cost’, and is instead a fundamental of business operations. The businesses that succeed in enforcing this way of thinking will then truly be able to continuously evolve their cyber security practices to keep their data safe.

The rise of the Chief Cybercrime Officer

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Matt Cable, VP Solutions Architects & MD Europe, Certes Networks, discusses the role of the CCO and how the CCO and CISO should work in harmony to achieve the common cyber security goals…

The TalkTalk data breach in 2015 was monumental for the cyber security industry. At the time, data breaches were hardly new, but this particular breach resulted in UK MPs recommending that an officer should be appointed with day-to-day responsibility for protecting computer systems from cyber attack.

This governmental guidance was not a consequence of the size of the breach. With the personal details of 157,000 customers accessed, including bank account numbers and sort codes of over 15,000 customers, it certainly was not the largest the industry had seen. Rather, the guidance resulted from the way in which the immediate situation and the following aftermath, were handled.

In most organisations, the responsibility of following this guidance has historically fallen to the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), with support from the CEO. In the wake of the TalkTalk data breach in particular, the CISO was given ‘free rein’ to strengthen the organisation’s cyber security capabilities.

The many faces of the CISO 

Yet, the role of the CISO was not a new concept. In fact, the CISO dates back to 1994 when Steve Katz was hired to run the world’s first formal cyber security executive office, and was subsequently given the title of CISO. Unsurprisingly, the role has many aspects to it, from security operations, cyber risk and cyber intelligence, data loss and fraud prevention, security architecture, identity and access management, programme management and compliance and governance, to name but a few.

Recently however, the role has come under increasing scrutiny and with the rise of cyber crime and the sophistication of cyber attacks, it’s easy to see why. Research shows that over two-thirds of organisations have experienced at least one security breach in the past year and that the majority of both CISOs and the entire C-Suite believe the CISO is ultimately responsible for the response to a data breach. However, with so many ‘hats’ to wear and multiple day-to-day responsibilities, it is clear to see why, with the increasing threat landscape, many organisations feel that it’s time to add another role to the C-Suite. 

Enter the CCO 

Enter the Chief Cybercrime Officer (CCO), whose remit will entail ensuring the organisation is cyber-ready and who will bear the responsibility of mitigating breaches, taking the lead if a breach does occur and providing the necessary link between the Board and the rest of the company to mitigate risk and work collaboratively to resolve issues as they arise.

With the need for cyber security to become far more central to C-Suite strategies, this new role should ease the load on the CISO and ensure the organisation can get one step ahead of hackers in the cyber crime race. However, organisations must take into account the need for both the CISO and CCO to work in harmony, with clearly defined roles and support from the Board. 

Aligning to boundaries

With both the CISO and CCO working towards keeping the company’s data safe from cyber threats, it is essential for each role to be clearly defined. This definition may look different to each organisation: each role, and the teams working with them, should have clear parameters and responsibilities so that in the event of a data breach, the organisation clearly understands the steps that should be taken, and who should take them.

In practice, this should make every CISO breathe a big sigh of relief. Many CISOs would identify cyber security as the greatest risk within their role, and when they’re also trying to juggle multiple other responsibilities, it’s a lot to have on their shoulders. With the CCO focused on the system architecture and the CISO focused on the security of the information within the organisation, there should be no reason that both roles can’t work collaboratively towards keeping the organisation safe.

Making decisions 

With both roles working in tandem, the next step that organisations need to take is ensuring the CISO and the CCO have enough influence with the Board to make critical decisions and resolve issues immediately. By ensuring that all members of the Board have visibility of the entire cyber security strategy and that the strategy is regularly reviewed and updated in line with new threats and intelligence, the CCO and CISO can be given the responsibility to report and respond to incidents and make rapid decisions on behalf of the business. In the event of a data breach, removing unnecessary approval and authorisation steps ensures that the organisation can respond quickly and put remediating measures in place to minimise potentially catastrophic repercussions.

In a world where cyber security threats can’t be ignored, now is the time for the structure of organisations to truly be considered. Has cyber security been given enough prominence at Board level? Can decisions be made quickly? Can space be made for both the CISO and CCO to work in harmony? By asking these questions and making changes, organisations can ensure they are in a far better position to keep their data safe and protect their reputation.

Who keeps the keys to the smart cities?

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By Sean Wray, VP NA Government Programs, Certes Networks

Smart cities seem inevitable. According to IDC, Smart City initiatives attracted technology investments of more than $81 billion globally in 2018, and spending is estimated to grow to $158 billion in 2022. Similarly, in 2018, the number of major metropolitan cities relying on or developing a comprehensive smart city plan – as opposed to implementing a few innovative projects without an overall smart plan – dramatically increased. 

In the US, for example cities like Philadelphia, Newark and Chicago all have goals to upgrade and to become leading ‘SMART’ cities, while UK innovation is being spearheaded by major conurbations such as Bristol, London and Manchester.

A significant investment is being made by cities in data connectivity providing a number of new technologies such as Wi-Fi 6, smart grid, and IoT sensor devices, all promising to enhance overall visibility and security. However, as we extend the reach of technology and connectivity, there will increasingly be cyber-risks to take into account. As part of their transformation, smart cities serve as a technology hub and gateway to major institutions such as banks, hospitals, universities, law enforcement agencies, and utilities. This means the storage and transmission of customer data such as social security numbers, addresses, credit card information, and other sensitive data, is a potential goldmine for malicious actors. Not to mention an increasing number of projects monitoring roads, traffic, traffic light and metro services, all of which must be kept secure from threats at all times…

Click here to read the full article on sister-site Total Security Briefing.

Shining a spotlight on UK cyber security standards

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Public sector organisations in the UK are in the midst of changing cyber security regulations. In mid-2018, the Government, in collaboration the NCSC, published a minimum set of cyber security standards. These standards are now mandated, along with a focus on continually “raising the bar”. The standards set minimum requirements for organisations to protect sensitive information and key operational services, which – given the way in which these services are increasingly dispersed – is driving significant changes in public sector network architecture and security.  

In addition to setting today’s ‘minimum’ standards, however, the guidance also sets a target date of 2023 by which public sector organisations will be expected to have adopted a ‘gold-standard’ cyber security profile.

Matt Cable, VP Solutions Architect and MD Europe, Certes Networks, outlines the essential considerations that will help organisations select an encryption solution provider that can easily integrate into any network infrastructure as they migrate from Legacy MPLS to SDN or SD-WAN network architectures...

The Principles

For both public and private sector organisations, customer experience is key. From finance and utilities, to local authorities and smart cities, customer touchpoints are increasingly dispersed, remote and application-driven, necessitating a move from Legacy MPLS to SDN or SD-WAN. However, under the Government’s new minimum cyber security standards framework, ensuring sensitive information and key services are protected is a critical consideration. 

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has therefore issued principles for cyber secure enterprise technology to organisations, including guidance on deploying and buying network encryption, with the aim of reducing risks to the UK by securing public and private sector networks. This guidance bears parallels with the US National Institute of Standard and Technology’s (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework and therefore applies equally to US and other federal organisations in a similar scenario. 

Similar to the NIST framework, the NCSC guidance shares the same principle that networks should not be trusted. It recommends that to keep sensitive information protected, encryption should be used between devices, the applications on them, and the services being accessed. IPsec is the recommended method for protecting all data travelling between two points on a network to provide an understood level of security, with further guidance outlining a specific ‘gold-standard’ cipher suite profile known as PRIME.

The guidance is based on the network vendor being CAS(T) certified (CESG (Communications Electronics Security Group) Assured Services (Telecommunications)), which involves an independent assessment focused on the key security areas of service availability, insider attack, unauthorised access to the network and physical attack.

However, there are challenges.

Challenge #1 – Public Sector Adherence to CAS(T)

Many public sector organisations are no longer mandating CAS(T) based services and therefore the risk appetite is expected to be lowered, mainly to support the emergence of internet and SD-WAN suppliers network solutions. This is key as the current NCSC recommendation Foundation standards for IPsec will expire in 2023, and users are being encouraged to move quickly off legacy platforms. 

Challenge #2 – Impact to Cloud Service Providers and Bearer Networks

This guidance, such as the protection of information flows on dedicated links between organisations, also applies to cloud service providers, or in the inter-data-centre connections in such providers’ networks.

The underlying bearer network is assumed not to provide any security or resilience. This means that any bearer network (such as the Internet, Wi-Fi 4/5G, or a commercial MPLS network) can be used. The choice of bearer network(s) will have an impact on the availability that an encrypted service can provide.

Challenge #3 – Partner Collaboration

NCSC explicitly states in its guidance that establishing trustworthy encrypted network links is not just about technology. It is also important that the management of these networks links is carried out by appropriate individuals, performing their assigned management activities in a competent and trusted fashion, from a management system that protects the overall integrity of the system. Thus, for encryption solution providers, the partner’s service credentials impact how the end user may use the technology. 

The Solution

IPsec helps protect the confidentiality and integrity of information as it travels across less-trusted networks, by implementing network-based encryption to establish Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). 

Under PRIME principles, devices which implement cryptographic protection of information using IPsec should:

  • Be managed by a competent authority in a manner that does not undermine the protection they provide, from a suitable management platform
  • Be configured to provide effective cryptographic protection
  • Use certificates as a means of identifying and trusting other devices, using a suitable PKI
  • Be independently assured to Foundation Grade, and operated in accordance with published Security Procedures
  • Be initially deployed in a manner that ensures their future trustworthiness
  • Be disposed of securely

Keeping the network design simple is one of the most effective ways to ensure the network provides the expected security and performance. The use of certificates generated in a cryptographically secure manner allows VPN gateways and clients to successfully identify themselves to each other while helping to mitigate brute force attacks.

Conclusion

There are many encryption solutions to help agencies and federal governments who want to move from Legacy MPLS to SDN or SD-WAN.  Layer 4 encryption, for example, can integrate easily into any network and encrypt data in transit without disrupting performance or replacing the current network architecture.

Selecting a provider that can offer a PRIME compliant solution – such as Layer 4 encryption – is key in conforming to both today and tomorrow’s cyber security standards. And with NCSC starting to treat all networks as untrusted networks (especially those agencies using internet), PRIME is becoming the gold standard for which NCSC will measure regulatory compliance.

Therefore, it is important to consider a vendor that can offer a security solution that is not only compliant but is simple and uncomplicated, minimising disruption, resources and costs.

Keeping data secure in the oil and gas industry

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By Jerry Askar, Managing Director Middle East, Levant & Africa, Certes Networks

As automation continues to evolve, the utilities sector is finding that encryption of their network data is a critical to safeguard against cyber-attacks.  And, as organisations across the globe continue to prioritise cybersecurity, the threat landscape continues to expand.  Although good progress is being made, it is evident that critical network vulnerabilities are still being left unprotected. 

This is particularly the case in the oil and gas sector, which is the latest to enter the cyber security spotlight according to the latest threat report by security firm Dragos that highlighted that the sector is a valuable target for adversaries seeking to exploit industrial control systems (ICS) environments.

The report revealed a new activity group targeting the industry, bringing the total number of tracked ICS-targeted activity groups to nine, five of which directly target oil and gas organisations. What’s more, the increased deployment of automation within the oil and gas industry to manage costs, extract the most value from current assets and maximise up-time, only causes the threats to ICS and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) networks to rise.

The threat is clearly high, as are the potential consequences of a cyber-attack on this sector. An attack on an oil or gas organisation would not only have severe political and economic impacts, but it would also have a direct effect on civilian lives and infrastructure. Much of how the population lives and works is dependent upon the energy from oil and gas production, from communication, the use of electronic devices and appliances, and even heating, cooling and cooking. The smallest attack on this sector could result in devastating effects. 

Beyond consumer impact, an oil or gas company hit by a cyber-attack could experience a plant or production shutdown, utilities interruptions, equipment damage or loss of quality, undetected spills and of course safety measure violations. For example, in December 2018, Saipem, an Italian oil and gas industry contractor, fell victim to a cyber-attack that hit servers based in the Middle East, India, Aberdeen and Italy, which led to the cancellation of data and infrastructures.

Mitigating cyber-attack damage 

Understanding not just the threats faced by this sector, but also how the attacks are taking place and the behaviours and capabilities of activity groups targeting oil and gas companies, is essential. As the Dragos report warned, there is currently limited visibility – or observability –into the network ecosystem, including communications to and from operations centers, distribution substations and even home “smart grid” networks. This means that intruders can dwell for longer and the root cause of the attack can remain undetected. As is widely documented, the longer an attacker remains in a network, the more damage the breach will cause.

To protect data in ICS/SCADA environments, organisations in the oil and gas industry need an encryption solution that not only safely encrypts data enterprise-wide, but that is also scalable and easy to implement, without disrupting, replacing or moving the network infrastructure. Furthermore, some encryption technologies will provide organisations with greater visibility of their data to monitor deployed policies. By defining and deploying policies and keys based only on which users should have access to what data, organisations can ensure that only those who need to send or receive the data have the access to do so. In addition, many Observability network features can provide crucial flow data so that IT operators can observe policy enforcement and quickly shut down a policy if compromised to stop further damage and potential escalation.

Conclusion

Lessons need to be learned from the past attacks on the oil and gas industry, such as the Saipem attack which had global consequences. With the sector facing such a high cyber risk, it’s more crucial than ever for oil and gas organisations to inhabit a cyber security culture and move from reactionary to proactive. 

This means employing an encryption management solution, along with the right forensic intelligence tools, to understand and safeguard against future cyber-attacks and their potential for devastating consequences.

Image by Robson Machado from Pixabay

Under lock and key: how can the public sector keep data safe?

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Dan Panesar, VP EMEA, Certes Networks

The public sector faces intense public scrutiny, especially when it comes to cybersecurity.

However, the launch of the National Cyber Security Centre in (NCSC) in 2016 suggests that the sector is beginning to take the issue of cybersecurity seriously, marking the Government’s commitment to making the UK a safe place to live and work online.

And it’s not just public scrutiny the sector has to contend with, but the global digital revolution means that changes are happening rapidly, and technology adoption is not happening as quickly as it should.

On top of this, the public sector has numerous regulatory and Information Assurance (IA) based obligations they are required to fulfil, making some organisations within the sector too scared to make changes or enforce new policies for fear of breaking the rules. 

Restricted budgets, small teams and intense workloads can often make cybersecurity a low priority. Rather than enforcing and developing proactive, robust strategies to keep the organisation’s data safe, teams end up working reactively to mitigate threats as they arise. Not to mention the complex and wide-reaching nature of public sector organisations, making coordinating the array of essential services, stakeholders and functions a near impossible task. 

Keeping up with digital change 

The digital transformation means that traditional connectivity solutions are being replaced to reflect cloud deployments, network function virtualisation and the ability to deploy meaningful orchestration-based management. To reflect the update of digital and online services, public sector networks are expected to grow at 15-25% per year; in order to keep up with this demand, users are becoming increasingly reliant on both high-speed and high-availability transport networks, whether they are MPLS, SD-WAN or 5G or a combination of networks to deliver information when and where needed. 

In the not so distant future, dependency on traditional hardware will become more challenging as additional capacity means the user may have to continuously upgrade its network to reflect growth. However, current and conventional approaches to data protection create numerous challenges particularly around scalability, performance, complexity, key management and key rotation.

Don’t shy away from new technology

The public sector needs to start embracing new technology; the prospect of digital transformation should be exciting, rather than daunting. As a sector with a reputation for being slow to adopt mobile technology, potentially due to concerns over its lack of security, there is a tendency to instead lock down data and restrict the use of technology altogether. However, this just isn’t sustainable, and a lack of mobile technology won’t keep the hackers out. 

If changes don’t happen soon, the public sector will get left behind. To keep up, it needs to recognise that a digital network with a mix of connected users, devices and applications, does not need to make an organisation vulnerable; no matter how complex it may be. Flexibility and digital agility are undoubtedly at the top of every government’s agenda, making it essential for organisations to embrace the technology available. However, instead of putting adopting technology that attempts to secure each entity itself, or worse, layering technology on top of technology with a security solution tied into the network, organisations need to focus on what’s really important – and that’s Information Assurance (AI). In order for organisations in the public sector to really be secure, rather than securing the network, the focus needs to be on protecting the data.

An organisation’s biggest asset

Data is arguably an organisation’s biggest asset; it’s the crown jewels that must be protected, and what the hackers will inevitably set their sights on when planning an attack. In reality, a fine won’t be enforced under regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for a breach to an organisation’s network; the fine comes into play when a breach results in data being lost or stolen. That’s the difference in value between an organisation’s network and its data. 

And the fact is, the public sector is quickly becoming a prime target for hackers. But how can organisations ensure their data is really protected? Firstly, organisations need to move to a data-centric, IA security model underpinned by a robust and strategic security overlay, on top of an organisation’s existing network and independent of the underlying transport infrastructure, making the network itself irrelevant. A software-defined security overlay enables a centralised orchestration of IA policy and by centrally enforcing capabilities such as software-defined application segmentation using cryptography, key management and rotation, data is protected in its entirety on its journey across whatever network or transport it goes across. 

For the public sector, this means organisations no longer need to fear technology; each application on the network and the data it holds will be kept secure, irrespective of any changes made. Furthermore, if a data breach does occur, as long as it’s encrypted it will be rendered useless to hackers, mitigating the potential damaging consequences of a breach. 

Quite simply, cybersecurity must be at the forefront of business strategy. Public sector organisations need to embrace technology, coupled with the right security architecture, or risk being left behind.