Just like sharks off the Florida coast, encrypted threats are lurking in network traffic. And as the volume of transport layer security (TLS) encrypted traffic rises exponentially, organizations become even more vulnerable to attacks. Ouch!
We all cringe at the reports of shark sightings each summer. If you're one of the 35 million viewers planning to partake in the cultural feeding frenzy that is Shark Week, I offer you a primer. Here we marry our shark appreciation with some serious discussion around the following four network security mistakes bound to bite you:
1. Letting familiarity fool you into complacency
Most shark attacks occur less than 100 feet from the shore, says National Geographic. But even when sharks are in close proximity to you — for example, just a few feet away from these swimmers at Daytona Beach — they're really hard to see. The same can be said for the network. It's a familiar environment, yet more than half of malware is now hiding right beneath your nose in encrypted traffic.
Pro tip: Treat encrypted traffic as an attack vector. Make sure you can quickly expose encrypted attacks, hidden command and control channels, malware, and unauthorized data exfiltration exploits.
2. Misjudging the effectiveness of your gear
It's important to wear a hat and lather on sunscreen at the beach, but while you're focused on blocking the sun, let's not forget you could still be acting as a shark magnet, according to one researcher, depending on your tattoos, nail polish, and jewelry. Allowing for pockets of risk is much like the way operations teams want visibility into encrypted traffic, but encryption also blinds security and application monitoring tools. In order to gain visibility, decryption via Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is needed, but it is extremely computationally intensive and can introduce network latency.
Pro tip: Before deploying any SSL decryption solution, be aware of the total volume of network traffic and how much of it is encrypted with SSL/TLS. Know how and where traffic is traversing the network. For an SSL/TLS solution to work effectively, it needs to see both directions of traffic. Asymmetric traffic can cause incomplete decryption if all traffic is not combined and fed to the solution.
3. Ignoring cloud considerations
From dusk until dawn and when dipping into murky waters, cloudy conditions carry an increased risk of shark encounters. Security leaders are navigating similar visibility challenges that come as a result of enterprises deploying more and more software to private and public clouds and making wider use of software-as-a-service applications.
Pro tip: Remember to establish a clear line of sight and to secure all data in motion, not just across the enterprise, but also cloud environments. Don't get caught like a shark out of water, which can happen when you can't see where and how network data is increasing and you end up caught in a period of catch-up that can hurt business transformation projects such as cloud adoption. Effective network visibility helps scale the network — and the business.
4. Not knowing the response plan if there's an attack
Shark Week programming will likely strike fear, but will you walk away knowing what to do if faced with an attack? (See here for advice.) When it comes to cyber sharks, only 58% of organizations feel highly confident that they could detect an important security issue before it has a significant impact.
Pro tip: Honestly appraise your threat detection and incident response tools and processes, and evaluate any architectural improvements you might need to make to stay a step ahead. Intentionally engineer your security strategy to overcome data and tool-set silos to get information to the right place at the right time, and base your architecture on a deliberate attempt to identify, respond to, and counter threats.
No security posture — or open-water swim — is absolutely safe. But taking appropriate safety measures like the ones outlined above can go a long way toward a reliable and maintainable security infrastructure. Bottom line: When it comes to swimming with sharks, visibility matters.
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