In an era of digital transformation, it can be tempting to relentlessly pursue state-of-the-art technology projects. But savvy business leaders need to know when to call "time out!" and focus on security fundamentals, starting with authentication.
Businesses are under more pressure than ever to “keep up with the times” when it comes to technology. Start-ups like WeWork will style themselves as tech companies - even if they’re not - and throw around buzzwords like algorithms, AI, machine learning, behavioural analytics, Internet of Things and more. But taking on technology “toy projects” increases cyber risk and can set companies up for premature failure and long-term reputational damage.
In this post, we'll discuss how to avoid costly mistakes by focusing first on security fundamentals.
Start with Authentication
No matter how sophisticated a business’ technology is, it is only as secure as its approach to authentication and its insights will be limited by the quality and consistency of its data supply chain.
Enterprise authentication is a particularly critical area for companies, especially now that virtually all companies communicate and share private information on internet-connected systems and devices. American Express, Samsung, JP Morgan, eBay and Target are just some of the many established companies that have garnered unfavourable headlines when hackers infiltrated their security to steal customer data and other proprietary information.
Imagine setting up a CCTV system to monitor your business’ premises but the power goes out and there is no back-up battery or generator system. The feed goes dark. Accumulation of this kind of "technology debt" can render even sophisticated technology useless and leave companies open to attacks and significant losses. For example, when Los Angeles airport upgraded its software to the En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) air traffic control system, it was supposed to be the best-in-class. But when an unexpected military spy plane passed through LAX's air space, ERAM unexpectedly crashed as it attempted to route a plane for a 10,000 foot flight path when it was actually flying at 60,000 feet. A potentially deadly event almost occurred because a state-of-the-art system ran out of computer memory. (The US Federal Aviation Administration has since upgraded airports’ computer systems with more memory.)
Beware: Technology Debt
Businesses can also be felled by short-term thinking. That's why leaders within an organization should agree first on the company’s priorities. In the realm of information security, this includes things like enterprise authentication, continuous security monitoring, data supply chain mapping and data provenance management. More broadly: customer experience and oversight procedures should be a priority.
When it comes to cyber risk: rather than obsess about the latest headline-grabbing threat or attack, ask whether your company has the ability to observe its end-to-end data processing systems. Can your firm ensure the viability of its end product for its customers? Could you tell if bad data entered into a business process or influenced a business decision?
Rather than diving into complex technology projects headfirst, companies need to think about establishing the foundations for success.
Build a Strong Security Foundation
Think about building your business as you would build a house. Are your architectural plans solid? Hove you set the right conditions to pour concrete and create a solid foundation? What are the best materials for the main supporting frame? After the structure is erected and built out, you can think about the carpets and curtains. First: get the basic architecture right or risk ending up with a lopsided glass Jenga tower instead of a solid home.
Similarly, in the business context, why throw millions at mammoth technology projects if you haven't first got the basics right: authentication controls, quality data models, and adequate oversight of data management? Still, we see evidence of this all the time. Failed Hadoop data lakes litter the financial services world, driven by a lack of fundamental data modeling and architectural design to support business objectives. More generally: overspending on unnecessary or poorly conceived technology projects is one of the most commonly cited reasons for businesses falling behind.
Blaming business failures on an algorithm or technology gone awry might feel good, but it won't cut it with customers, board members or investors. And it certainly won't prevent long-term reputation damage.
Some Security Tips
So before ploughing ahead with a million-dollar software upgrade, analytics tool or yet another security appliance, take a step back and first get the basics right. Here are some steps to consider:
Blaming business failures on an algorithm or technology gone awry doesn’t cut it either, nor does it prevent long-term reputational damage.
Enterprise Authentication 101
Here are some security measures to consider as you build a security foundation for your organization.
1. Monitor Active Directory and other Directory Services to make sure that everyone logged on to your system is who they say they are. This takes more than just log collection – you need specialized security tools to ensure identities are knowable and enforced.
2. Keep a close eye on the Windows Event Logs and Sysmon data to see a vast amount of system messages, including errors, warnings and information about user actions. It’s low cost and can provide high quality data if paired with the right streaming analytics – making it one of the most economically prudent ways to boost enterprise security.
3. Read more information about the Active Directory and how to avoid a cyberattack in this QOMPLX blog post: The Importance of Lateral Movement Detection. You might also want to check out our special report "ManyKatz: How Active Directory Hacks went Mainstream."