Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Endpoint

1/19/2017
02:00 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail vvv
50%
50%

Cyber Lessons From NSAs Admiral Michael Rogers

Security teams must get better at catching intruders where we have the advantage: on our own networks.

The Russians spent a year inside the Democratic National Committee before they were discovered. It took five months for OPM to catch the thieves that stole the records of more than four million federal employees. Intruders broke into Yahoo’s systems in 2013, and we don’t even know how long they were inside; Yahoo only discovered the hack when stolen data turned up for sale on the dark web. We invest more and more in our security, but the breaches just get bigger. How many more times does this have to happen before we accept that what we’re doing isn’t working?

Earlier this month, during a Senate Armed Service Committee hearing, Admiral Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, told us what we need to do to fix the problem, recognizing two different kinds of cybersecurity:

  1. Keeping intruders out of networks.
  2. Identifying, containing, and ejecting them once they get inside.

We must be able to do both, Admiral Rogers argued, noting that there is an entirely “different thought process, methodology, prioritization, and risk approach to dealing with someone who is already in your network versus trying to keep them out in the first place.”

The head of the best offensive agency in the world is telling us exactly what we’re missing, but we aren’t listening. Most organizations still focus heavily on keeping attackers out, rather than trying to catch the ones that get in.

A common bit of security wisdom is that hackers have the advantage because they only need to be right once to get in. This is largely true today - hackers can launch assault after assault to try to break through your defenses, probing for a weakness until you slip. And every security team, no matter how good, slips up eventually. But once inside, the intruders are in your network - unfriendly territory. They have to hide inside your environment, and they only have to slip up once to get caught.

Consider the White House, one of the most secure buildings on the planet. Jumping the wrought iron fence on Pennsylvania Avenue isn’t the challenge. The challenge is dealing with the Secret Service agents that tackle you as soon as your feet hit the lawn. Cybersecurity teams should play to our strengths, and follow the example of both Admiral Rogers and the Secret Service. We should always work to keep intruders out, but some will always get in. We should heavily invest where we have the advantage: on our own networks.



At the White House, it is the Secret Service’s visibility and control inside the grounds that shuts down intruders. Crossing that lawn is exposed, and the Secret Service detects intruders in seconds. Access within the compound is limited to only where you need to go for purposes of your meeting, so visitors that step out of bounds are easy to spot. And once an intruder is detected, there is almost always an agent nearby, with a wide range of tools at their disposal to contain the intrusion. This is the essence of the defender’s advantage: visibility linked with control means that intruders are at a huge disadvantage once they get in.

Unfortunately, we have largely ceded this advantage on our networks. Security teams often don’t know what devices are connected, or how those devices are talking to each other. This offers an incredible opportunity for intruders, because by understanding our networks better than we do, they can operate at their strongest when they should be at their weakest.

If we are going to take Admiral Rogers’ advice, this is what we must correct. There are emerging technologies that could help us correct this imbalance. Organizations need real-time visibility into how their devices are communicating so they can identify intruders quickly. We should limit access to important systems; segment networks and important data; patch vulnerable systems; encrypt data. Each of these steps increases visibility and control. They enable organizations to quickly identify intruders, act to constrain their movements, and eject them from the network. None of these tools are rocket science, but they require that we focus not just on keeping intruders out, but on catching them when they get in.

This reality makes Admiral Rogers’ comments during the Senate hearing all the more poignant. If there are two types of cybersecurity, why have we invested so heavily in the one where we are at a disadvantage, and given up the advantage we hold for the other?

Related Content:

As head of cybersecurity strategy, Nathaniel is responsible for thought leadership, public engagement, and overseeing Illumio's security technology strategy. Nathaniel is a regular speaker at leading industry events, and his writing has appeared in industry publications, the ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
ClarenceR927
50%
50%
ClarenceR927,
User Rank: Strategist
1/23/2017 | 2:06:42 PM
Prevention is good detection is a MUST.
No matter how good you think your defense are, no matter how good they really are, if someone wants to own you they can, and will, find a way. Prevention should make that effort as hard as is humanly possible but never ever think that prevention actually works. More time and resources need to be focused on finding intruders fast and limiting the damage they can do. Going back to ask for more money from CEOs who assume they are safe because they have a firewall is painful but the lessons of the past are very clear: even the best orginizations with competent security have been hacked so you better assume you are or soon will be and work at finding and stopping those already inside,
JohnN734
50%
50%
JohnN734,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/20/2017 | 3:29:33 PM
Blame Endpoint Security Vendors
The mainstream endpoint AV software makers are still selling their black-list based solutions as if they were still effective. Of course, in a world where polymorphic malware is the norm, those products don't stand much of chance at being effective. Truly effective endpoint protection tools (application whitelisting, for example) are out there, but they are few, far between, and out of reach of most individuals and organizations.
News
Former CISA Director Chris Krebs Discusses Risk Management & Threat Intel
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  2/23/2021
Edge-DRsplash-10-edge-articles
Security + Fraud Protection: Your One-Two Punch Against Cyberattacks
Joshua Goldfarb, Director of Product Management at F5,  2/23/2021
News
Cybercrime Groups More Prolific, Focus on Healthcare in 2020
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  2/22/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
Building the SOC of the Future
Building the SOC of the Future
Digital transformation, cloud-focused attacks, and a worldwide pandemic. The past year has changed the way business works and the way security teams operate. There is no going back.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-4931
PUBLISHED: 2021-02-24
IBM MQ 9.1 LTS, 9.2 LTS, and 9.1 CD AMQP Channels could allow an authenticated user to cause a denial of service due to an issue processing messages. IBM X-Force ID: 191747.
CVE-2020-11987
PUBLISHED: 2021-02-24
Apache Batik 1.13 is vulnerable to server-side request forgery, caused by improper input validation by the NodePickerPanel. By using a specially-crafted argument, an attacker could exploit this vulnerability to cause the underlying server to make arbitrary GET requests.
CVE-2020-11988
PUBLISHED: 2021-02-24
Apache XmlGraphics Commons 2.4 is vulnerable to server-side request forgery, caused by improper input validation by the XMPParser. By using a specially-crafted argument, an attacker could exploit this vulnerability to cause the underlying server to make arbitrary GET requests.
CVE-2021-21974
PUBLISHED: 2021-02-24
OpenSLP as used in ESXi (7.0 before ESXi70U1c-17325551, 6.7 before ESXi670-202102401-SG, 6.5 before ESXi650-202102101-SG) has a heap-overflow vulnerability. A malicious actor residing within the same network segment as ESXi who has access to port 427 may be able to trigger the heap-overflow issue in...
CVE-2021-22667
PUBLISHED: 2021-02-24
BB-ESWGP506-2SFP-T versions 1.01.09 and prior is vulnerable due to the use of hard-coded credentials, which may allow an attacker to gain unauthorized access and permit the execution of arbitrary code on the BB-ESWGP506-2SFP-T (versions 1.01.01 and prior).