Gary Audin
Gary Audin is the President of Delphi, Inc. He has more than 40 years of computer, communications and security...
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Gary Audin | June 26, 2015 |


Who's on Your Network?

Who's on Your Network? To answer this question definitively, security specialists need to be as imaginative as any potential intruders.

To answer this question definitively, security specialists need to be as imaginative as any potential intruders.

If you don't know who is on your network, accessing your resources (systems and people), how do you know that the network is secure? How vulnerable is the network? It appears that many security solutions are a catch up to prevent future security problems. You need to be proactive as well as reactive.

Cisco's Perspective
Cisco has published its 53-page "2015 Annual Security Report." The report covers:

  • Threat Intelligence
  • Cisco Security Capabilities Benchmark Study
  • Geopolitical and Industry Trends
  • Changing the View Toward Cybersecurity -- From Users to the Corporate Boardroom

Cisco presents a tremendous amount of data in the report. This blog focuses on the fourth part, "Changing the View Toward Cybersecurity."

The report points out the disconnect in the perceptions vs. reality concerning security readiness. The report highlighted that:

  • While 59% of chief information security officers (CISOs) believe their security processes are optimized, less than half -- 46% -- of security operations managers think they have optimized their security operations. In either case, there is a real gap in security optimization.
  • About 75% of CISOs see their security tools as very or extremely effective, while the remainder perceive their tools as only somewhat effective. The most successful security breaches go undetected, so the 75% response may be optimistic. It is hard to prove.
  • At 91%, there seems to be little doubt among respondents that their corporate executives consider security to be a high priority. This may be true, but what I found troubling is that only about half of the respondents regularly used patching and configuration control to help prevent security breaches.
  • Size matters with security. The larger the organization, the better the security investment.

Changing the View Toward Cybersecurity
The report recommends that security personnel re-evaluate their positions with a different perspective. People and systems should be better aligned with security. Security should be at the boardroom level because the health of the organization is at stake. Security problems may actually cause the demise of an organization. Network hardening, more sophisticated endpoint tools, and better user training -- even the monitoring of their actions for security infractions -- are often in order.

Network Access Control (NAC) Evolution
NAC devices have existed for years, primarily focused on basic measures. But the NAC is evolving into a much more sophisticated device that offers endpoint visibility, acess control, and improved security controls. This is accomplished by collecting and analyzing more granular information, then using the insight to strengthen and enforce security access policies. Blocking incoming and outgoing access is better than assuming it is OK. Learning of an incorrect block on access is better than leaving the door open.

Source: "Cisco 2015 Annual Security Report 2015
Endpoint Visibility Access and Security (EVAS) uses more granular information such as user role and location, business process, and the risks in managing the access. The problems increase with the use of mobile devices and the support of Internet of Things-connected devices. EVAS is a network sensor allowing or blocking access based on multiple criteria. EVAS can improve the security of a network in three areas:

  • Before the attack - This includes identifying risky assets. It involves continuous monitoring. Locating noncompliant users, systems, devices, and applications and then correlating information with vulnerability measurement tools is the first step. Improving risk mitigation is a second element. Third is enforcing granular access policies to limit access and prevent intrusions.

  • During the attack - This involves network defense systems that can correlate the policy enforcement and thereby limit access to network resources. A kill function that terminates any compromised asset should be in place. The EVAS should limit the attack by isolating the asset that demonstrates abnormal behavior by placing it under quarantine.

  • After the attack - Networks will be attacked. Remediating after the attack is just as important as preventing the attack. This involves using the EVAS database to assess the endpoint profiles that can be valuable in prioritizing the fix. The EVAS information can be used to modify the endpoints to prevent such actions in the future. This leads to tuning the policies and controls, a never-ending process since endpoints are constantly being exposed to new vulnerabilities.

Security specialists need to be as imaginative as the intruders. Complacency has no place when it comes to network security.


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