Innovation in cybersecurity is driven by the urgent need to defend against the increasing volume of relentless attacks and the constant innovations of attackers. According to the Q1 2016 McAfee Labs Threats Report, every day more than 157 million attempts were made to entice customers to connect to risky URLs, more than 353 million infected files were exposed to customers’ networks, and 71 million potentially unwanted programs attempted installation or launch. As a result, cybersecurity innovation is moving quickly, exploring new detection methods and new uses for analytics, securing different types of devices, and leveraging clouds and automation to augment the skills of security professionals.
The bad guys have historically had the advantage in this contest, as the security industry could only respond to a new attack once it was detected, captured, and analyzed. Many security innovations in recent years have been incremental, aimed at improving detection capabilities, reducing time to conviction, and increasing forensic capabilities. While we probably have not reached the end of our potential incremental enhancements to make things faster and easier, the stakes have grown too high to rely solely on these tactics.
The Potential Of Analytics
If we want to get ahead of the bad guys, we need to come up with new ways of approaching the security problem and transform our security solutions from reactive to proactive and predictive. All threats are not created equal, and we have only just begun to explore the potential of analytics to help predict attacks. Similarly, automation and machine learning hold a lot of promise for managing and filtering the overwhelming volume of security events and finding the anomalous suspicious patterns that are high priority threats. Because of the limited security workforce, the same ideas are propagated as people move around companies. At the same time, competitiveness pushes us to implement similar types of products and limit the amount we share with each other.
When we ask our customers about the value of things such as shared threat intelligence, 97% believe it helps them provide better protection for their companies. Competition, which has driven us to this point, is now holding us back, as we are reluctant to fully share our intelligence and work more as partners in innovation. New innovations in security, as opposed to incremental ones, require human interaction, debate, trust, and input from new sources. We need to join forces, develop the best ideas from our combined resources, and try them out quickly. We also need to look outside the group of usual suspects for ideas and inspiration. For instance, men and women approach many problems differently, and there are few women involved in cybersecurity. How might their input affect our approach? Different generations, both older and younger, have different attitudes toward privacy and very different digital life experiences. What suggestions do they have for solving security challenges?
Finally, while innovation is important to stay ahead of the bad guys, don’t forget to close the gaps in your own infrastructure. For instance, when was the last time you changed your admin password, or reviewed who had access to critical accounts? All the innovations are ineffective if the basic things are missed. It’s like locking all the doors and windows of your home but leaving the key in the lock for someone to walk right in.