The Need for a New Security Approach
by Mairtin O'Sullivan - Senior Security Consultant at Espion
Historically the goal of security for most companies was nice and simple: keep the bad guys out. And it was easy to classify who the bad guys were. The bad guys were everyone outside the company on untrusted external networks.

This approach worked pretty well until a number of reports emerged starting that internal threats accounted for around 50 to 60 percent of the total security threats to a company. Now the bad guys were more difficult to classify. This revelation required a new approach to security that revolved around keeping the bad guys out, even if they were inside the network. Companies ensured they had all their systems patched and ďhardenedĒ so that no attacker would be able to break in. This approach too has lasted a number of years and been very successful.

Recently, however thereís been a marked move towards a new security approach. This approach revolves around securing the data itself as opposed to just the systems and networks that hold the data.

Why the somewhat radical shift in focus and need for a new approach? There are a multitude of reasons but the primary drivers are the increased awareness of the value of data and the failure of the existing security approaches to secure the data.

Companies now more than ever are realizing that their confidential data is in many cases the lifeblood of their business and loss or theft of the data could be critical.

A simple example would be the prior approach to dealing with lost laptops. Previously a laptop left in the back of a taxi would have been written off as just the replacement cost of the laptop. The total cost to the business would be Ä500 maybe. Now however companies realize that the data stored on the laptop may be worth a whole lot more. How much would that laptop be worth if it currently held all your customer records? While itís hard to determine you can guarantee itís a lot more than Ä500, especially if you hadnít backups of the data!

Of course this is just one example of how former security controls donít adequately secure the data. Another major source of new risks to data is the fact that companies now want to share and integrate more with their customers and suppliers than ever before. Integration is no longer a competitive advantage, itís a requirement. This often involves giving external users access to internal systems and applications, many of which were previously hidden from public view by layers of firewalls. This increased requirement to expose internal applications to the public has emerged in conjunction with the explosion in web application security research. The problem here is that many of the vulnerabilities within web applications are exploited through the normal functionality of the application of which firewalls and traditional security measures have no visibility.

So what does this shift in approach actually entail for the average security manager? One of the most significant shifts is that the security manager must now interact more with the data owners. Previously if a new financial application was being introduced the security team would harden the server and then restrict access to it using a firewall. At that point their job was often done. The finance team would administer the application and that would be the end of it. Under the new data security approach however, the security team would also have to speak with the finance team to determine what kind of data will be stored in the new system, how sensitive that data will be, who will require access and where will the data flow both within and outside of the application.

Essentially the main elements of data security revolve around data classification, data encryption, data integrity and data access control.


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