It's time to rethink a bunch of security truisms, Gartner analysts said at the company's annual Symposium/IT Expo here this week.
The security rules companies have relied on for decades are ready for retirement. These include: Prevention is better than cure, humans are the weakest link, and access should be limited to just an employee needs to do his or her job. These old saws have been "exploded" by today's tech trends, said Tom Scholtz, Gartner research vice president.
For one thing, employees are now mobile, digitally literate, embrace new tools without fear and expect access to whatever they need from wherever they're working.
For another, the old rules don't work, and never really did, Scholtz said. Even in a conventional environment, locking down systems to prevent access isn't a good strategy, given the number of hacks and data thefts in recent years. Instead, companies should assume they'll be hacked, and focus on detection and response rather than prevention.
By 2020, Scholtz said, Gartner expects 60% of an organization's security budget to be spent on highly adaptive, context-aware detection and response systems -- up from 10% in 2012. These systems are connected to a company's other major applications, and would be able to, say, understand that a procurement request made at 3 a.m. in Singapore by an employee usually based in London is actually okay.
The security system would check the travel app, see the employee in question had a flight and hotel booked in Singapore, and approve the procurement request. There could be other variables, too: The employee's usual maximum spend might be lowered, or another person's approval could be required when it's typically not.
"All this happens pretty much in real-time," Scholtz said, "and it becomes the basis for a contextual, trust-based security environment." It's adaptive and dynamic, "which is why we're going to spend so much on this stuff."
In the meantime, companies must rethink the basic premise that humans are the weakest security link because "that underestimates the value and potential of human assets," he said. Instead, he urged a people-centric security approach that understands employees have a right to decide what information they need and how much risk to take when using new technology.
The corollary is that employees must be held responsible and accountable. Trust, but verify -- and educate employees that their actions are being watched. If mistakes occur, they will be notified and retrained. And if mistakes keep happening, disciplinary action could follow.
"The traditional approach is to treat 100% of people with suspicion, even though only 2% or 3% misbehave," Scholtz said. "That's probably not the most effective way of going about it."
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