Sometimes ambiguity has power — the power to capture the zeitgeist of a movement, culture, or vision without getting dragged into the weeds about what really is or isn’t included; it provides time for an idea to crystallize, become defined, or reach critical mass.
That (somewhat arcane opening paragraph) sums up where I feel we are with regard to the term "cyber." We all know that it has crept into the security and risk (S&R) lexicon over the past few years, but, by managing to avoid clear definition, it’s become all things to all men — a declaration that “information security is different now” but not quite saying how. Think about it: If the US Department of Defence and the standards body NIST aren't aligned on their definitions of cybersecurity, how can we expect CISOs and business execs to be?
I have spoken to numerous S&R leaders recently, and, although there was a fair amount of discord, the CISO of one global financial services organization best summarized the prevailing perception:
"’Cyber’ is something coming from the Internet attacking our infrastructure assets. We're not classifying internal incidents as cyber, otherwise it makes no sense for us to have another word for something that is a classical security incident. It's about the external and internal distinction."
Cartoon included by kind permission of http://www.kaltoons.com/
During the past 18 months or so, we have seen the emergence of innovative endpoint security solutions. The list is long; it is hard to keep track of all the solutions in the space. In no particular order, here is a sampling: Bromium, Invincea, IBM Trusteer, Cylance, Palo Alto Networks Next-Gen Endpoint Protection (Cyvera), Microsoft Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET), Bit9 + Carbon Black, Confer, CounterTack Sentinel, Cybereason, CrowdStrike Falcon Host, Guidance Software Cybersecurity, Hexis HawkEye G, FireEye HX, Triumfant, Tanium, and Verdasys Digital Guardian.
I take many briefings from these types of vendors (primarily the ones I cover in Forrester’s Endpoint Visibility and Control category) and within the first 5 minutes of the conversation, the vendor mentions that their solution has a “small footprint.” The use of this phrase is the equivalent of nails scratching their way across a chalkboard for me. When was the last time you heard anyone say that they have a “large footprint?” Please provide more information: Do you run in user or kernel land? What are the impacts to utilization? Even if a vendor truly has a “small footprint,” when that new agent is deployed to a host that already has four or five agents running, the collective footprint is far from small.
Critical infrastructure is frequently on my mind, especially the ICS/SCADA within the energy sector. I live in Texas; oil and natural gas are big here ya'll. I'm just a short distance away from multiple natural gas drilling sites. I cannot help but think about the risks during the extraction and transport of this natural gas. North Texas has seen an attempt to bomb the natural gas infrastructure. In 2012, Anson Chi attempted to destroy an Atmos Energy pipeline in Plano, Texas. As a security and risk professional, I wonder about the potential cyber impacts an adversary with Chi's motivations could have.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a hot phrase right now, and every vendor is talking about the huge potential of continual connectivity and interaction with smart devices to optimize the asset and transform the customer experience. The potential is undeniably huge and developers are right to be excited, but it’s not all "hugs and puppies."
As S&R professionals, we have to balance the excitement of innovation with pragmatism and caution, and the IoT is a turmoil of innovation right now. With so much change, it can be difficult to focus in on the key issues, so let's choose an area where there has been a lot of discussion and hype for years (or even decades) but not much in the way of actual consumer adoption; let's use the "connected car" as an example to crystalize a few of the risk scenarios.
Picture courtesy of Dave Gray on Flikr
Today’s cars operate on computers, and mechanical functionality breaks down when the computer is not there to manage it. It’s not quite an aerodynamically unstable plane, such as the B-2, or indeed most modern fighter jets, which are kept in the sky by instantaneous computer feedback and corrections, but it’s not dissimilar. As we move toward the connected car, think through these scenarios: