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

7/21/2015
10:30 AM
Joshua Goldfarb
Joshua Goldfarb
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail vvv
50%
50%

Detection: A Balanced Approach For Mitigating Risk

Only detection and response can complete the security picture that begins with prevention.

With breaches making headlines nearly weekly, many people have begun asking a simple question. Why does this keep happening? Having worked in operational roles as a security practitioner for most of my career, the reason has long been clear to me. 

For decades, the security profession has focused overwhelmingly, if not entirely, on prevention.  Prevention can never be 100% effective, as anyone who opens a newspaper can deduce. The paradigm shift from a sole focus on prevention to a shared focus on both prevention and detection/response is already well underway in the security profession. Prevention is necessary, but not sufficient, for a robust and mature security program. Only detection and response can complete the security picture that begins with prevention.

To illustrate the importance of detection and simultaneously celebrate the career of the great David Letterman, please join me in tonight’s top 10 list: “Top 10 reasons why detection is the wave of the future in security.”

10. Would you take that bet? I’m not a betting man, but if I were, I wouldn’t bet solely on prevention. Would any of the people in the pro-prevention camp bet a year’s salary on prevention stopping 100% of all intrusions and breaches?  I don’t think so.

9. Pro-detection also means being pro-prevention. Prevention is a good thing when combined with detection. But relying solely on prevention is extremely dangerous. Attackers have shown us time and time again that they will find a way into our organizations. Both prevention and detection/response are required elements of a successful security program.

8. Theory is good in theory, but not in practice. I am a realist and a pragmatist. Why?  Because I come from an operational background, I know better than to put all my eggs in one basket. Whether it’s a technology, a methodology, or a philosophy, what sounds flawless in theory seldom works as well in practice.

7. Not all intrusion involves malware. The simple truth is that, all other arguments aside, 100% prevention is impossible for the simple reason that not all intrusions involve malware.  Therefore, a philosophy focused on preventing malware, even if 100% effective (as unlikely as that is), is only going to prevent a fraction of intrusions and breaches.

6. Many points of entry. The electronic footprint of most organizations, even modest-sized ones, is large and complex. A security strategy solely focused on prevention requires preventing intrusion at every path into and out of an organization flawlessly 100% of the time. In contrast to this, the attacker only needs to be right once. That doesn’t seem like a game I want to be playing.

5. Life is about balance. We all believe in good hygiene. But no one realistically expects that routine hand washing will be 100% effective in combatting the common cold. That’s why we have tissues and sick days. Security is much the same. Hygiene is a good thing, but it does not imply that there will never be an infection.

4. There is no silver bullet. The beauty of detection is that it augments prevention and balances out an organization’s risk mitigation strategy. If an intrusion gets by prevention measures, we can use detection as an added layer of protection. Relying solely on prevention creates a single point of failure, which is generally not a good idea.

3. Preventing intrusion is a partial goal. One additional issue with prevention is that it is focused on the wrong goal. The attacker’s objective is not to compromise systems within an organization. That is a means to an end. The attacker’s objective is to steal an organization’s most prized information, and there are many ways in which an attacker can realize that objective. Some of them can be prevented, but many of them cannot. Detection gives us an added tool with which to mitigate that risk.

2. Security is about mitigating risk. If we step back and focus on what security is at a higher level, it’s really about mitigating risk. Prevention focuses on preventing systems from becoming compromised. But is that really the risk that needs to be mitigated within an organization? Not really. Even if our organization saw 100 compromised systems per week, if we detected those compromises and responded to them before the attackers could steal any information, then we have successfully mitigated that risk. Prevention focuses on the symptoms of the disease, whereas detection gets to the root of the issue.

1. Throw away your old SOCs. If prevention is really a sound and reliable strategy, why have a Security Operations Center (SOC), Incident Response Center (IRC), and/or Cyber Defense Center (CDC) at all? After all, if we are so sure we can prevent everything, why bother practicing continuous security monitoring and preparing for incident response? Clearly, with most organizations maturing their security operations and preparing for incident response, a prevention-focused philosophy would not appear to be the prevailing trend.

As illustrated by tonight’s top 10 list, a sole focus on prevention is not a wise strategy for mitigating risk. Transitioning from a sole focus on prevention to a balance between prevention and detection/response is the only proven way to successfully mitigate the risks presented by the modern attacker. It is for this reason that a paradigm shift is underway in the security field, and why so many organizations have already made the change in the way they approach security.  Detection provides a balanced approach for mitigating risk and that makes it the wave of the future in security.

[Read an opposing view favoring prevention over detection by Simon Crosby in Time’s Running Out for the $76 Billion Detection Industry.] 

Josh (Twitter: @ananalytical) is currently Director of Product Management at F5.  Previously, Josh served as VP, CTO - Emerging Technologies at FireEye and as Chief Security Officer for nPulse Technologies until its acquisition by FireEye.  Prior to joining nPulse, ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Edge-DRsplash-10-edge-articles
7 Old IT Things Every New InfoSec Pro Should Know
Joan Goodchild, Staff Editor,  4/20/2021
News
Cloud-Native Businesses Struggle With Security
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  5/6/2021
Commentary
Defending Against Web Scraping Attacks
Rob Simon, Principal Security Consultant at TrustedSec,  5/7/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
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
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-27734
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-17
Hirschmann HiOS 07.1.01, 07.1.02, and 08.1.00 through 08.5.xx and HiSecOS 03.3.00 through 03.5.01 allow remote attackers to change the credentials of existing users.
CVE-2021-27342
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-17
An authentication brute-force protection mechanism bypass in telnetd in D-Link Router model DIR-842 firmware version 3.0.2 allows a remote attacker to circumvent the anti-brute-force cool-down delay period via a timing-based side-channel attack
CVE-2021-31727
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-17
Incorrect access control in zam64.sys, zam32.sys in MalwareFox AntiMalware 2.74.0.150 where IOCTL's 0x80002014, 0x80002018 expose unrestricted disk read/write capabilities respectively. A non-privileged process can open a handle to \.\ZemanaAntiMalware, register with the driver using IOCTL 0x8000201...
CVE-2021-31728
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-17
Incorrect access control in zam64.sys, zam32.sys in MalwareFox AntiMalware 2.74.0.150 allows a non-privileged process to open a handle to \.\ZemanaAntiMalware, register itself with the driver by sending IOCTL 0x80002010, allocate executable memory using a flaw in IOCTL 0x80002040, install a hook wit...
CVE-2021-32402
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-17
Intelbras Router RF 301K Firmware 1.1.2 is vulnerable to Cross Site Request Forgery (CSRF) due to lack of validation and insecure configurations in inputs and modules.