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.

Operations

10/22/2019
08:00 AM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
Google+
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

How Much Security Is Enough? Practitioners Weigh In

Most IT and security pros surveyed say they could afford some, but not all, of the minimum security needed to protect themselves.

How much security do you need to effectively protect your organization's infrastructure? Most (84% of) IT decision-makers say they can't afford the minimum amount, according to new study from Cisco.

Researchers with Cisco surveyed 80 IT decision-makers on security budgeting and planning and found that more than half (56%) had experienced a significant security event - a breach, intrusion, or malware infection - in the past year, and 94% admit they have further to go to implement effective security practices.

There is a silver lining in that most companies know where they need help: 95% of respondents say they can identify which data and systems in the business require the most protection. The problem is that it's not just money holding them back. Expertise, capability, and influence, along with budget, all play a role in security, says Wendy Nather, Cisco's head of advisory CISOs.

Some organizations have a lot of money and expertise, so they know what they need to do. Some have the influence to communicate their security needs to vendors, partners, and other third parties who can fulfill their requests. But budget, expertise, and influence don't guarantee capability if the organization operates in a heavily regulated industry, for example, she adds.

"It's not that they're incapable, but they have constraints in that environment they might not be able to get around," she says. An airplane manufacturer has influence, Nather continues, but new technology will have to be carefully tested, in one airplane at a time, before it's rolled out. In the public sector, it's difficult to justify upgrading equipment when everything works fine. Public sector technology is designed to maximize taxpayer's dollars, not keep up with security.

"Because there are four factors, if you don't have any one of them, that can really hamper your program," she says. Influence, for one, can make a big difference: 86% of organizations with 10,000+ employees learn of security vulnerabilities and incidents that affect them from affected vendors or partners, compared with just 60% of businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees.

Breaking Down Budgets

Among mid-market organizations (250-999 employees), 46% spend under $250,000 on security each year and 43% spend $250,000 to $999,999. Among enterprise organizations (1,000-9,999 employees), 57% spend between $250,000 and $999,999, 23% spend less than $250,000, and 20% spend at least $1 million. Half of large enterprises (more than 10,000 employees) spend $1 million or more on security each year and 43% spend between $250,000 and $999,999.

To an extent, more money drives confidence: 27% of organizations spending at least $1 million on security say they can afford the minimum level of protection they need, compared with only nine percent of those spending $250,000 to $999,999. However, the smallest organizations reported greater confidence in their security measures than midmarket firms spending more.

"What interests me is the midrange organizations – not so much in how much they're spending, but what effect that spending has or doesn't have," says Nather. "They most often reported feelings of not doing enough … most often the ones to say they couldn't spend as much as they needed." Nineteen percent of the smallest businesses said they could afford the minimum amount of security they needed, compared with seven percent of midmarket organizations.

Could it be that smaller companies don't perceive themselves as targets and aren't as worried? Possibly, Nather notes, but organizations of all sizes can appear on attackers' radar because of their operation or business function; not necessarily for their size. If a business swaps to a new ecommerce platform known to be vulnerable, attackers can take aim no matter how big it is.

Seeking Security Skills

Budget isn't the only factor challenging midrange organizations, Cisco researchers report. Among organizations with 1,000-9,999 employees, only 23% rely most heavily on internal staff for security expertise, compared with 37% of respondents overall. And while it's good businesses feel they can use external resources for help, they should be able to use internal staff for help with critical topics like user experience, process design, risk analysis, and incident response.

"Security talent, especially senior talent, is very hard to find," Nather says. "Unfortunately, a lot of organizations are in the position of competing with security vendors for that talent."

The percentage of those depending on external resources could be admitting there is a limit to how much an organization can know about security, she explains. After all, a business with the expertise to know what it needs to do for security may not have the talent to execute on it. Many companies outsource responsibilities that are hard to hire for, and hard to sustain with skilled workers: security operations monitoring is one example; incident response is another.

Even outsourcing has its limitations, Nather points out. "There won't be anything you can completely outsource because your outsourcer will come back to you and say, 'we don't know what this means,' and 'we need to talk to someone internally who can take care of this.'"

Security Tech: What Do You Really Need?

The report lists 15 different security technologies used among respondents. Some organizations listed four tools they rely on, Nather says, while others listed more than 30 products. On the final list, firewalls and security policy management fall into first place, followed by email security and network malware protection. Of course, not every organization can afford all 15 tools, let alone the expertise needed to configure, maintain, and monitor all of them.

"Whether you have what you need, and whether you're using it right, that's the other big thing to remember," she continues. "You might have a firewall, but if you're letting everything in, it's not a very useful firewall."

Are there technologies an organization must have to achieve strong security? There is no standard blueprint, Nather says, as each business has different needs and different resources. CISOs don't have a one-size-fits-all answer for the type of technologies they need; right now, the closest they have are compliance standards for tightly scoped risk cases like PCI-DSS.

"If we as professionals can't agree on what organizations need, how are they supposed to know?" Nather asks. When you don't know the risks you're trying to manage, it's tough to come up with a specific shopping list. Businesses may need to conduct extensive research and perform a security audit to determine exactly what they need and can afford.

"They should look at where they have better capabilities, and where they have lesser capabilities, and design security accordingly," Nather advises.

Related Content:

This free, all-day online conference offers a look at the latest tools, strategies, and best practices for protecting your organization’s most sensitive data. Click for more information and, to register, here.

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
tdsan
100%
0%
tdsan,
User Rank: Ninja
10/24/2019 | 12:17:08 PM
Accountability and retaining takent should be paramount

"Security talent, especially senior talent, is very hard to find," Nather says. "Unfortunately, a lot of organizations are in the position of competing with security vendors for that talent."
  • I think he meant to say that "...organizations are [not] in the position of competing with the security vendors..." I don't necessarily agree with that especially with the overseas talent coming to America and the existing talent matriculating from all of the various major institutions, schools need to offer more classes from a security standpoint and teachers need to put students in virtual security scenarios where the environment is a virtual synthetic setup (they experience a major hack).

 

Even outsourcing has its limitations, Nather points out. "There won't be anything you can completely outsource because your outsourcer will come back to you and say, 'we don't know what this means,' and 'we need to talk to someone internally who can take care of this.'"
  •  I do agree with that, we won't be able to address every scenario and outcome, however, we can address 90% of them by ensuring the training and talent we have in office are all working togetehr and on the same page (communication), remove the office politics (this needs to come from the top-down) and we as individuals within organization need to take it upon themselves to learn and train while away from the office, that needs to be something that is engrained in the person you hire (continuous learning).

 

"If we as professionals can't agree on what organizations need, how are they supposed to know?" Nather asks. When you don't know the risks you're trying to manage, it's tough to come up with a specific shopping list. Businesses may need to conduct extensive research and perform a security audit to determine exactly what they need and can afford.
  •  I agree with this statement, but executives try to make decision based on what they know or don't know and the friends they have in the market (kickbacks), that needs to be removed. There needs to be a test environment where decisions are made based on the performance of the solution and create a viable application research strategy, identify price and market acceptance (a forum where ideas can be exchanged). Cisco is not the only player, employees need to be open to trying different technologies, train and constant test those solutions (R&D team). Remove the age of adage that individuals are trying to save their job by using something they know, remove that mentality.

 

"It's not that they're incapable, but they have constraints in that environment they might not be able to get around," she says. An airplane manufacturer has influence, Nather continues, but new technology will have to be carefully tested, in one airplane at a time, before it's rolled out. In the public sector, it's difficult to justify upgrading equipment when everything works fine. Public sector technology is designed to maximize taxpayer's dollars, not keep up with security.
  •  Yes, Scada environments have the same thing, but as mentioned earlier, if a test environment was set up, replicate (small version) and determine if the security solution affects how the application performs (place network monitoring tools around and in the application), the user can then determine if the tests affect how the application allowing team members to make any adjustments to alleviate the problems found (consistent and continual testing, ensure the environment is like the one in production, work with the vendors to help resolve the issue).

 

The percentage of those depending on external resources could be admitting there is a limit to how much an organization can know about security, she explains. After all, a business with the expertise to know what it needs to do for security may not have the talent to execute on it. Many companies outsource responsibilities that are hard to hire for, and hard to sustain with skilled workers: security operations monitoring is one example; incident response is another.
  • Look at the big picture, the security team should be an investment (protecting resources), the market for those resources increase, then there should be resources allocated to keep that talent on-site, the NBA, NFL, Hockey and others do it, the security teams are no different.

 

Todd
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: Our Endpoint Protection system is a little outdated... 
Current Issue
The Year in Security: 2019
This Tech Digest provides a wrap up and overview of the year's top cybersecurity news stories. It was a year of new twists on old threats, with fears of another WannaCry-type worm and of a possible botnet army of Wi-Fi routers. But 2019 also underscored the risk of firmware and trusted security tools harboring dangerous holes that cybercriminals and nation-state hackers could readily abuse. Read more.
Flash Poll
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Frustrated with recurring intrusions and breaches, cybersecurity professionals are questioning some of the industrys conventional wisdom. Heres a look at what theyre thinking about.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-2319
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-12
HLOS could corrupt CPZ page table memory for S1 managed VMs in Snapdragon Auto, Snapdragon Compute, Snapdragon Connectivity, Snapdragon Consumer IOT, Snapdragon Industrial IOT, Snapdragon Mobile, Snapdragon Wired Infrastructure and Networking in MDM9205, QCS404, QCS605, SDA845, SDM670, SDM710, SDM84...
CVE-2019-2320
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-12
Possible out of bounds write in a MT SMS/SS scenario due to improper validation of array index in Snapdragon Auto, Snapdragon Compute, Snapdragon Consumer IOT, Snapdragon Industrial IOT, Snapdragon IoT, Snapdragon Mobile, Snapdragon Voice & Music, Snapdragon Wearables in APQ8009, APQ8017, APQ805...
CVE-2019-2321
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-12
Incorrect length used while validating the qsee log buffer sent from HLOS which could then lead to remap conflict in Snapdragon Auto, Snapdragon Compute, Snapdragon Connectivity, Snapdragon Consumer Electronics Connectivity, Snapdragon Consumer IOT, Snapdragon Industrial IOT, Snapdragon IoT, Snapdra...
CVE-2019-2337
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-12
While Skipping unknown IES, EMM is reading the buffer even if the no of bytes to read are more than message length which may cause device to shutdown in Snapdragon Auto, Snapdragon Compute, Snapdragon Consumer IOT, Snapdragon Industrial IOT, Snapdragon Mobile, Snapdragon Wearables in APQ8053, APQ809...
CVE-2019-2338
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-12
Crafted image that has a valid signature from a non-QC entity can be loaded which can read/write memory that belongs to the secure world in Snapdragon Auto, Snapdragon Compute, Snapdragon Connectivity, Snapdragon Consumer IOT, Snapdragon Industrial IOT, Snapdragon Mobile, Snapdragon Wired Infrastruc...