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Breaking Down the Threat of Going All-In With Microsoft Security

Limit risk by dividing responsibility for infrastructure, tools, and security.

Did the SolarWinds attack set a precedent for hackers to target companies that rely on Microsoft security infrastructure? That question is top of mind for cybersecurity experts.

Ransomware attacks that halted operations at Colonial Pipeline and JBS are some of the latest examples of how hackers and cybercriminals exploit network security vulnerabilities to get inside organizations to steal information and disrupt operations. The rise of ransomware and malware attacks is terrible news for companies that rely on a single vendor security infrastructure, such as Microsoft.

Recent cyber events over the last several months have highlighted a critical need for enterprises to break free from depending on one vendor for security to limit risk.

Understanding the Risks
To fully comprehend the perils of this strategy, picture enterprises that rely on a single vendor for infrastructure, tools, and security as ships with one wide-open hull. Having an unsegmented body of the ship means it would be prone to sinking very quickly when damaged. On the other hand, companies that segment their security infrastructure with multiple vendors are like ships with several compartments. When one area is compromised, the whole ship isn't immediately exposed.

The SolarWinds attack is a prime example of what can happen when enterprises use only one vendor for infrastructure, tools, and security. In this case, the exclusively Microsoft architecture proved to be an uninterrupted connected surface that let cybercriminals move from a single compromised laptop to the Azure Active Directory and then Office 365. Once hackers have access to email, they can pretend to be anybody in the organization, ultimately gaining complete control.

Since Microsoft's business applications are widely used across enterprises, hackers can easily access the same set of products used by thousands of organizations. That means they can perfect their infiltration strategies at leisure and mount them on high-value targets after they're refined and proven highly effective.

Diversify Your Tech Stack
Microsoft is selling companies applications for their business and also offering the security to safeguard these tools. While it may seem wise to bundle these two entities, it actually puts enterprises at greater risk.

Organizations must split the application stack and the security stack. Inserting third-party security products creates a barrier to the flow of an attack and prevents cybercriminals from operating without restrictions.

Deploy Consistent Cloud Security
While it is important to separate the applications from the security, the security itself should be integrated and consistent. Individually, cloud access security brokers (CASBs), zero-trust network access (ZTNA), and secure Web gateways (SWGs) offer varying degrees of protection against threats. However, the weakest link will be compromised first.

Businesses cannot be adequately prepared to face today's sophisticated threat environment without consistent security across their various cloud and network security solutions. Fortunately, secure access service edge (SASE) can streamline security by substituting fragmented solutions that have to be managed and updated separately for one unified platform that delivers comprehensive security across every segment of your infrastructure. Key functionalities include:

  • A modern CASB that delivers end-to-end protection for data in any cloud service and any device
  • An on-device SWG that decrypts and inspects traffic directly on users' devices for content filtering and threat protection
  • A unique ZTNA approach that provides comprehensive and secure remote access to on-premises resources

Protecting the Distributed Workforce
Today's distributed work environment means data and users exist outside the corporate network. Legacy security investments and strategies cannot keep up, and enterprises that call themselves a "Microsoft shop" need to realize that this all but guarantees that the time from an initial compromise to impact can be very brief.

By deploying the safeguards outlined above, security teams can develop a resilient IT infrastructure capable of ensuring business stability and minimize the spread of a cyberattack.

[Editor's note: The author's company is one of a number of companies that offer SASE, CASB, SWG, and ZTNA services.]

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Amichai Shulman, CTO and Co-founder of AirEye
Biagio DeSimone, Enterprise Solution Architect, Aqua Security