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Exploring the science and magic of Identity and Access Management
Thursday, April 19, 2018

Cyber Security as a Business Enabler

Information Security
Author: Mark Dixon
Thursday, April 19, 2018
11:28 am

Enable business

This morning, I reviewed a proposal for improving a company’s security against data breach.  The main reasons giving for the investment in security technology were:

  • Improve security posture
  • Reduce risk for internal and external data breach
  • Increase compliance reporting capability
  • Increase confidence by locking down data

These are all valid reasons for making the proposed investment, but shouldn’t there be more? Doesn’t good security support good business results in a positive way?

By happy coincidence, just before I reviewed the proposal, I read a thought-providing article, “Reframing Cybersecurity As A Business Enabler,” published by Innovation Enterprise.  The introductory paragraph states the obvious:

Innovation is vital to remaining competitive in the digital economy, yet cybersecurity risk is often viewed as an inhibitor to these efforts. With the growing number of security breaches and the magnitude of their consequences, it is easy to see why organizations are apprehensive to implement new technologies into their operations and offerings. The reality is that the threat of a potential attack is a constant.

But rather than dwelling on the problem, this article challenges traditional thinking:

Though the threat is real, instead of viewing cybersecurity in terms of risk, organizations should approach cybersecurity as a business enabler. By building cybersecurity into the foundation of their business strategy, organizations will be able to support business agility, facilitate organizational operations and develop consumer loyalty.

The article explores each of these three business value areas in more detail. I have included a brief excerpt in each area:

Security supports business agility

Instituting strong security measures enables organizations to operate without being compromised or slowed down. Companies that invest in cyber resilience will be better able to sustain operations and performance – a definite competitive advantage over those caught unprepared by an attack.

Security facilitates business productivity

One survey of C-level executives revealed that 69% of those surveyed said digitization is ‘very important’ to their company’s current growth strategy. 64% also recognized that cybersecurity is a ‘significant’ driver of the success of digital products, services, and business models. 

Security develops customer loyalty

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 21st Global CEO Survey found that 87% of global CEOs say they are investing in cybersecurity to build trust with customers. 

I recognize the need for strengthening security defense mechanisms for the sake of risk mitigation. However, if we restrict ourselves to the traditional “security as insurance policy” mindset, we are missing the greater value of good information security in supporting positive business success. 

 

Security and ROI?

Information Security
Author: Mark Dixon
Monday, April 16, 2018
9:49 am

Meeting2

Justifying investment in security technology is tough. Because it is difficult to measure ROI for Security controls, many companies justify security investments in terms of risk reduction.

Recognizing this difficulty, Slavik Markovic, CEO of Demisto, proposes “10 best practices for bolstering security and increasing ROI.” He introduces the topic in part, with this statement:

CISOs are being asked to provide proof that the money spent [on security] — or that they are asking to be spent — will lead to greater effectiveness, more efficient operations or better results.

Rather than proposing a specific ROI calculation method, Markovic recommends taking a more holistic approach to the problem.  His recommended 10 best practices are:

  1. Articulate the purpose.
  2. Dovetail with other projects
  3. Automate and orchestrate
  4. Create an integration plan
  5. IT and security synergy
  6. Leverage analytics
  7. Start small
  8. Go beyond compliance
  9. Shoot straight
  10. Measure and course-correct

I recommend that you read the commentary supporting each best practice.

Two of these recommendations entail leveraging technology to expand the expertise and capabilities of security professionals, rather than relying on just hiring more expensive staff:

3. Automate and orchestrate. Strive for security orchestration and process automation. The current threat landscape is vast, complex and constantly changing. Even a well-staffed security operations center cannot keep pace with the volume of alerts, especially with the ever-increasing number of duplicates and false positives. Use automation for threat hunting, investigations and other repetitive tasks that consume too much of analysts’ time.

6. Leverage analytics. Adopt advanced analytics. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are delivering truly innovative solutions. CISOs should research these two fields carefully to determine which analytics tools best fit their agencies, taking into account the organization’s strengths and weaknesses related to skills, personnel and risks.

I like the way Markovic looks broadly at how to justify security investment.  Security, after all, touches almost every aspect of modern business, and is strategically vital to business success.

 

Oracle and KPMG – Cloud Threat Report 2018

Cloud Computing, Information Security
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, April 13, 2018
10:42 am

OracleCTR

This morning, I was delighted to finally download and read the new “Oracle and KPMG – Cloud Threat Report 2018.”  I have known this was coming for a few months, but was delighted by how it turned out.  The report contains a wealth of timely, insightful information for those who need to know how to not only cope, but excel, in the rapidly changing information systems infrastructures of modern business.

Mary Ann Davidson, CSO, Oracle Corporation, stated in the report’s Foreword:

In the age of social media, it is popular to speak of what’s “trending.” What we are seeing is not a trend, but a strategic shift: the cloud as an enabler of security.

The dazzling insights in the Oracle and KPMG Cloud Threat Report, 2018 come not from professional pundits, but from troops in the trenches: security professionals and decision makers who have dealt with the security challenges of their own organizations and who are increasingly moving critical applications to the cloud.

CTRFindings

A few key research findings are summarized in the following list and illustrated by the numbers the “Key Research Findings” chart:

  • The threat landscape is increasingly complex and varied.
  • Detection and response is critical—but not always easy in the cloud.
  • Customers don’t always understand their cloud security obligations.
  • Security professionals worry about the impact of attacks on business operations.
  • Cloud and mobile-centric employees beget the need for new identity and access management strategies.
  • Technology alone isn’t enough.
  • Machine learning can help.

KPMG offers this Call to Action:

C-level, finance, HR, risk, IT, and security leaders are responsible for ensuring that the organization has a cybersecurity program to address risks inherent in the cloud.

Beyond making sure that risks are mitigated and compliance requirements are addressed, leaders should accept and assert their responsibility for protecting the business. A critical first step is to understand the “shared responsibility” principles for cloud security and controls. Knowing what security controls the vendor provides allows the business to take steps to secure its own cloud environment.

To further protect an organization, it is crucial that everyone in the organization—not just its leaders—is educated about the cloud’s inherent risks and the policies designed to help guard against those risks. This requires clear communication and training to employees on cloud usage. KPMG and Oracle’s research found that there may be considerable room for improvement in this area, as individuals, departments, and lines of business within organizations are often in violation of cloud service policies.

I have really just skimmed the report.  I look forward to digesting the content more completely.  Stay tuned for more analysis and commentary from my perspective.

 

InfoSec Evolution – At What Cost?

Information Security
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, August 4, 2017
12:00 pm

Riskmanagement

As I read a recent Risk Management Monitor article “Companies Must Evolve to Keep Up With Hackers,” I couldn’t help but think – at what cost?  Perhaps you can calculate the amount a company spends on tools and processes to defend against cyberattacks, and perhaps even justify that expense by attempting to estimate the cost of a data breach were it to occur.

But what about cost of lost opporutunity?  Has anyone tried to estimate how much time, attention and resources are diverted from managing and innovating in the core business to defend against cyberattacks? I would guess that such diversion robs more from the overall business than the more visible expenses that show up on a balance sheet – which is growing at an alarming rate.

So, Mr. or Ms. Hacker, whoever you are, you are robbing our society blind – in ways that are really tough to measure. Man up and do something productive for a change!

 

P.S., Jerry Dixon, author of the article, is not related to me that I know of, but he writes a good article!

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Oracle White Paper: Helping Address GDPR Compliance

Information Security, Oracle, Privacy
Author: Mark Dixon
Thursday, July 27, 2017
12:00 pm

GDPR

May 25, 2018 is bearing down on us like a proverbial freight train. That is the date when the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) becomes binding law on all companies who store or use personal information related to EU citizens. (Check out the count down clock on the GDPR website).

Last week, Oracle published a new white paper, “Helping Address GDPR Compliance Using Oracle Security Solutions.”

Leveraging our experience built over the years and our technological capabilities, Oracle is committed to help customers implement a strategy designed to address GDPR security compliance. This whitepaper explains how Oracle Security solutions can be used to help implement a security framework that addresses GDPR.

GDPR is primarily focused on protecting fundamental privacy rights for individuals. By necessity, protection of personal information requires good data security. As stated in the white paper, 

The protection of the individuals whose personal data is being collected and processed is a fundamental right that necessarily incorporates IT security.

In modern society, IT systems are ubiquitous and GDPR requirements call for good IT security. In particular, to protect and secure personal data it is, among other things, necessary to:

  • Know where the data resides (data inventory)
  • Understand risk exposure (risk awareness)
  • Review and, where necessary, modify existing applications (application modification)
  • Integrate security into IT architecture (architecture integration)

Oracle proposes the following framework to 

… help address GDPR requirements that impact data inventory, risk awareness, application modification, and architecture integration. The following diagram provides a high-level representation of Oracle’s security solutions framework, which includes a wide range of products and cloud services.

OracleGDPR SecuritySolutions july17

 

The paper primarily focuses on the “Enforcement” portion of this model, postposing that:

… four security requirements are a part of many global regulatory requirements and well-known security best practices (i.e. ISO 27000 family of standards, NIST 800-53, PCI-DSS 3.2, OWASP and CIS Controls).

Enforcement

In conclusion, the paper states:

The path towards GDPR compliance includes a coordinated strategy involving different organizational entities including legal, human resources, marketing, security, IT and others. Organizations should therefore have a clear strategy and action plan to address the GDPR requirements with an eye towards the 25 May, 2018 deadline.

Based on our experience and technological capabilities, Oracle is committed to help customers with a strategy designed to achieve GDPR security compliance.

 

May 25, 2018 is less than ten short months away.  We all have a lot of work to do.

 

 

 

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Passwords and Buggy Whips, Revisited

Identity, Information Security
Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
10:02 am

Whip

StrongPassword large

Eight years ago this month, I posted a short article on this blog entitled, Passwords and Buggy Whips.

Quoting Dave Kearns, the self proclaimed Grandfather of Identity Management:

Username/password as sole authentication method needs to go away, and go away now. Especially for the enterprise but, really, for everyone. As more and more of our personal data, private data, and economically valuable data moves out into “the cloud” it becomes absolutely necessary to provide stronger methods of identification. The sooner, the better.

I commented:

Perhaps this won’t get solved until I can hold my finger on a sensor that reads my DNA signature with 100% accuracy and requires that my finger still be alive and attached to my body.  We’ll see …

So here we are.  Eight years have come and gone, and we still use buggy whips (aka passwords) as the primary method of online authentication.

Interesting standards like FIDO have been proposed, but are still not widely used.

I was a beta tester for UnifyID‘s solution, which used my phone and my online behavior as multiple factors.  I really liked their solution until my employer stopped supporting the Google Chrome browser in favor of Firefox. Alas, UnifyID doesn’t support Firefox!

We continue to live in a world that urgently needs to be as rid of passwords as we are of buggy whips, but I don’t see a good solution coming any time soon.  Maybe in another eight years?

 

 

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Oracle Identity Cloud Service

Cloud Services, Identity, Information Security
Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
10:28 am

This morning, I watched the launch webcast for the Oracle Identity Cloud Service  a cloud native security and identity management platform designed to be an integral part of the enterprise security fabric.

This short video, shown on the webcast, provides a brief introduction:

 

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Data Breaches – The New Certainty?

Information Security
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, July 22, 2016
10:43 am

In 1726, Daniel Defoe stated, in The Political History of the Devil, “Things as certain as death and taxes, can be more firmly believed.”

Yesterday, 290 years later, I heard an Oracle colleague add a third certainty, “Now three things in life are certain: Death, Taxes and Data Breaches!

How will you cope?

DTD

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State of the Market: IoT 2016

Information Security, Internet of Things
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, May 27, 2016
1:52 pm

VerizonIoT1

This afternoon, I read a recently released Verizon report, “State of the Market: Internet of Things 2016.” It provides a quick, but fascinating read about Internet of Things market forces, real-life industry adoption, key trends and real-world successes.  The report states:

The Internet of Things (IoT) is much more than the result of seemingly fragmented and complex technologies smashed together … forward-thinking business and public sector leaders, as well as consumers and developers, are turning to the Internet of Things to address some of society’s most pressing social, economic and business challenges.

Five macro trends— data monetization, consumer expectations, the regulatory landscape, network connectivity/IoT platforms and security—are helping to speed IoT adoption and deliver measurable results across several industries and sectors.

Verizon believes we just completed the year where IoT graduated from the neat new idea stage to mainstream adoption:

In our view, 2015 was the year IoT gained legitimacy. Businesses moved beyond a “start small think big” mindset. Today, they’re building IoT into future strategies and business models. Companies across all industries now have IoT squarely on their radar.

In 2015, the emphasis of startup capital began to favor enterprise focused IoT businesses over consumer applications in a big way, and the trend appears to be accelerating:

According to analysis conducted by our venture capital (VC) arm, Verizon Ventures, we estimate that consumer IoT startups raised 15% more VC funding than enterprise-focused startups in 2014. However, in 2015, roles seemed to have reversed with enterprise outpacing consumer by around 75%. In 2016, we believe the enterprise will continue that trend, but by a much larger order of magnitude—roughly 2 – 3 times more than consumer.

The sheer size of the potential IoT market continues to boggle my mind. The following chart shows a few big numbers that barely scratch the surface of the potential for IoT growth.  

VerizonIoT4

Of the many potential IoT areas of emphasis, the Verizon report specifically addresses four:

  • Automotive: Connection, convergence, convenience and the connected car
  • Agriculture: Farming with precision
  • Smart Cities: Making communities smart and sustainable
  • Energy: Providing real-time energy insight.

Of these, the closest one to my heart is Farming with Precision – quite a big step from the old farm where I grew up, where adjusting irrigation meant installing canvas dams in ditches and using a shovel to channel water down the correct rows in a field:

Industry experts have quipped that the agriculture industry is proof that soon, every company will be an IoT business.

One of the biggest trends in farming today is precision agriculture, the practice of sensing and responding to variable soil, moisture, weather and other conditions across different plots. Farmers are deploying wireless sensors and weather stations to gather real-time data about things such as how much water different plants need and whether they require pest management or fertilizer  

Using this data, growers can customize growing processes. Indeed, one of the biggest benefits IoT offers farmers is the ability to gather much more granular data about smaller parcels of land. With site-specific data, growers can then optimize growing conditions on a plot-by-plot basis, boosting yields, improving quality and cutting costs in the process.  

VerizonIoT2

Again, the numbers are immense:

The total market size for digital precision agriculture services is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 12.2% between 2014 and 2020, to reach $4.55 billion.

Security, is, of course, of critical importance across many facets of the IoT landscape. 

The sheer volume of IoT devices constantly producing communications, require careful security and privacy considerations. There is no current IoT protection framework that’s ahead of the implementation of this technology. The industry is keeping up with the development of technology by looking to the rising threat vectors—some old, some new—that will impact deployments and ongoing operations. Authentication of critical data, and baseline triggers for action are the emerging security focus.

VerizonIoT3

 The bottom line?

Innovation, productivity and value will thrive as private companies and the public sector both come to the inevitable conclusion that IoT is imperative to delivering the integrated, easy to use and sustainable products and services demanded by an increasingly mobile, tech-savvy 21stcentury society.

No single company or country can realize the full promise of IoT on its own. We believe collaboration, experimentation and openness will:

  • Create cleaner cities
  • Deliver better healthcare
  • Make transportation systems safer
  • Conserve water
  • Boost productivity
  • And make the digital world work better for consumers and citizens.

We live in an exciting world, at an exciting time.  Hang on for the ride!

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CSA – State of Cloud Security in 2016

Cloud Computing, Information Security
Author: Mark Dixon
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
5:30 pm

CSA2016

The State of Cloud Security 2016, published by the Cloud Security Association Global Enterprise Advisory Board, is a short, but interesting document, focused on articulating the gaps in current cloud security practices to help cloud providers better understand the needs of their customers.

Cloud computing is an incredible innovation. While at its heart a simple concept, the packaging of compute resources as an on demand service is having a fundamental impact on information technology with far reaching consequences. Cloud is disrupting most industries in a rapid fashion and is becoming the back end for all other forms of computing, such as mobile, Internet of Things and future technologies not yet conceived. As governments, businesses and consumers move to adopt cloud computing en masse, the stakes could not be higher to gain assurance that cloud is a safe, secure, transparent, and trusted platform.

With the stakes rising in cloud adoption, cloud providers need to step up with better built-in security:

Cloud computing adoption is solid and increasing. Security and compliance can be adoption barriers. Now is the time to increase the pressure on cloud providers to build security in, not try to bolt it on as an afterthought.

Cloud computing demands new approaches to security:

We need to take a hard look at many of our existing security practices and retire them in favor of new “cloud inspired” approaches that offer higher levels of security.

Finally, solving these tough problems will require cooperative effort between cloud providers and their customers:

Both enterprises and cloud providers need to work together to better align their security programs, architectures and communications.

Let’s work together to conquer these tough challenges.  

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