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Challenges of the security industry mostly a “mindset problem”: Amit Yoran, RSA President

Zafirah Salim | April 27, 2015
Yoran lays out five recommendations to address industry’s shortcomings and better combat advanced threats.

At the recently held RSA conference in San Francisco, Amit Yoran, president of RSA, the security division of EMC, challenged the industry to relinquish its legacy approaches to combating cyber attacks - approaches that have failed, but continue to give organisations a false sense of security.

In his keynote speech, Yoran compared the industry's current approach to a mindset stuck in the Dark Ages, whereby companies employ security strategies and solutions that no longer map to the business and threat environment we face.

"To keep the barbarians away, we're simply building taller castle walls and digging deeper moats. Taller walls won't solve our problem," he said.

Yoran also argued that the industry continues to seek a technology solution to what is fundamentally a problem of strategic approach. An iterative approach to improving our defensive strategy is incapable of beating threat actors who are able to evolve their tactics far faster than we can build new walls, according to him.

Based on his decades of experience, Yoran outlined his vision for a path forward:

1.    Stop believing that even advanced protections are sufficient

"No matter how high or smart the walls, focused adversaries will find ways over, under, around, and through." Many of the advanced attacks last year did not even use malware as a primary tactic.

2.    Adopt a deep and pervasive level of true visibility everywhere - from the endpoint to the cloud

"We need pervasive and true visibility into our enterprise environments. You simply can't do security today without the visibility of both continuous full packet capture and endpoint compromise assessment visibility."

3.    Identity and authentication matter more than ever

"In a world with no perimeter and with fewer security anchor points, identity and authentication matter more than ever . . . At some point in [any successful attack] campaign, the abuse of identity is a stepping stone the attackers use to impose their will."

4.    External threat intelligence is a core capability

"There are incredible sources for the right threat intelligence . . . [which] should be machine-readable and automated for increased speed and leverage.  It should be operationalized into your security program and tailored to our organization's assets and interests so that analysts can quickly address the threats that pose the most risk."

5.    Understand what matters most to your business and what is mission critical

"You must understand what matters to your business and what is mission critical.  You have to . . . defend what's important and defend it with everything you have."

Yoran noted that RSA, as a company, is re-aligning to map itself to this new paradigm.

"As an industry, we are on a journey that will continue to evolve in the years to come through the efforts of all of us here today," he said. "We have sailed off the map. Sitting here and awaiting instructions isn't an option. And neither is what we've been doing - continuing to sail on with our existing maps even though the world has changed."

Yoran concluded that many of the technologies exist to provide true visibility, proper threat intelligence and systems that help manage digital and business risk. "This is not a technology problem. This is a mindset problem," he said.


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