05:34 PM

Schwartz On Security: First, Know You've Been Breached

Spain's national aeronautics institute found three Mariposa botnet infections on internal PCs, thanks to constant testing. But when it comes to breaches, many organizations still have their heads in the sand.

Until a security incident or data breach gets discovered, does it really exist? The non-existential answer is: of course. And the longer it goes undetected, the greater the potential damage.

One 2010 study found that 41% of organizations can't determine how frequently they're targeted by advanced attacks, and half of organizations take at least a month to detect such attacks.

Likewise, the data breach list maintained by the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) lists numerous breaches that have an estimated start date, sometimes months or even a year prior to an organization publicly declaring that the breach occurred. Half of all organizations involved in known 2010 data breaches also didn't disclose the attack vector or number of affected records. Perhaps they simply don't know the answers.

So as it comes time to make, break, or pursue resolutions for the new year, let's set one for information security. Rather than obsessing over which security technologies are in play, why not ask bigger questions: How do we know when we've been breached, and can we trace the attack back to prevent it from happening again?

One lesson comes from INTA, Spain's national aeronautics institute, where 1,600 scientists demand easy access to information, not to mention WebEx, unencumbered by security policies. How do you secure that environment -- and enforce security policies -- while not strangling people's ability to locate essential information or collaborate?

It's a difficult environment to secure. "They are working with a lot of top secret information," said Jesus Garrido Antonio, INTA's head of information security, speaking this past autumn at an event hosted by Palo Alto Networks. Furthermore, top secret data, such as the range of the Meteor air-to-air missile project, may involve just two numbers. How do you secure that?

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