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Ticking Time Bombs in Your Data Center

The biggest security problems inside your company may result from problems it inherited.

While the news focuses on external threats to data center security — international hackers clacking away on their computers from the privacy of an unmarked building, for instance — some of the most menacing dangers are caused by IT decisions that companies have inherited.   

Decisions a company made about its IT processes, procedures, and applications five, 10, even 15 years ago can suddenly and catastrophically affect a company today. The result is that security breaches can be caused by complex issues that are poorly understood outside of one or two people who might not even be at the company anymore. I've outlined a few these inheritance issues to highlight how companies can identify and mitigate this risk.

Managing SSH Keys
Bring-your-own-device policies and remote office environments are a new norm for the modern workforce, providing greater convenience, efficiency, and, in some cases, cost savings — and SSH (Secure Shell) keys are the foundation by which these practices can run securely. In theory, SSH keys ensure that endpoints are encrypted and secure, only accessible by those in possession of these keys. But the unfortunate reality is that SSH keys are easily propagated and "misplaced," which is a huge regulatory compliance risk. Moreover, by granting access to every nook and cranny of the data center, SSH keys also open up the potential for users to access areas of the data center they're not authorized to touch, and in more malicious cases, increase their access privileges unchecked.

To combat these misplaced keys and guarantee compliance, an enterprise should invest in technologies that implement additional security controls that can be used to augment SSH keys. They need to bring in automation to seamlessly manage existing and rogue SSH keys in their infrastructure. This will eliminate human errors and will help an enterprise stay on top of any threat arising from mismanagement of SSH keys.

Reining in Complex Legacy Code
Programming is the linchpin of the modern data center, the building block for developing all manner of software that makes navigating enterprise IT easier. That being said, one of the data center's biggest threats lies in this foundation of its composition: complex legacy code. If you look at the flaws that lead to most breaches, they aren't so much on algorithmic levels as they are on primary levels, rooted in the legacy code. As the data center moves to the cloud and is forced to update existing protocols, reining in the small but powerful lines of stray programming becomes more critical than ever.

In order to compensate for these Achilles' heels, IT teams must ensure that there are proper measures in place to both spot these errors and revise them. If the software is too far down the rabbit hole to be revised at a foundational level, additional layers of security can be enforced through management and automation controls that prevent these time bombs from allowing breaches.

Enforcing Application Security
The second point brings us to the third and final hand-me-down security challenge in your data center: application security. IT teams are constantly adding to the portfolio of third-party vendors they're bringing into the fold, hoping to make processes run quicker, cheaper, and more efficiently. The developers who build and understand these applications, however, are at a fundamental level not the ones who are securing them. For them, security is approached as a point in time rather than as an integral part of the application development process and ongoing maintenance.  

Management and automation tools to regulate these applications can ensure that these data center processes retain compliance across the enterprise. The most practical solutions for maintaining application security are able to adapt to the guidelines enforced by an IT team's specific industry, whether that's healthcare, retail, banking, or something else. If the technology is able to provide a single pane-of-glass view of a multivendor environment, all the better.

Security, management, and automation are intricately linked in the modern data center, and the proper combination of the three can ensure that the inherited time bombs in your data center don't wreak havoc on your enterprise.

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Black Hat Asia returns to Singapore with hands-on technical Trainings, cutting-edge Briefings, Arsenal open-source tool demonstrations, top-tier solutions and service providers in the Business Hall. Click for information on the conference and to register.

As Chief Technology Officer, Murali Palanisamy is responsible for the overall product vision, development, and technical direction of AppViewX. Before joining the company, he served as senior vice president at Bank of America, where he led an architecture and engineering team ... View Full Bio
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