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.

Perimeter

8/19/2015
11:45 AM
Mark Clancy
Mark Clancy
Commentary
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail vvv
100%
0%

Applying the 80/20 Rule to Cyber Security Practices

How to look holistically across technology and processes and focus resources on threats that create the greatest damage.

The 80/20 rule, or the “Pareto Principle,” states that approximately 80% of effects come from 20% of causes, reinforcing a very powerful point that distributions are rarely equal. In sales, for example, 20% of clients often represent 80% of a firm’s revenues while in the field of software development, a relatively small number of the most-reported bug fixes are likely to create solutions for the overwhelming majority of problems.

For corporate information security officers and others on the front lines in the fight against cybercrime, the key takeaway is that not all threats create the same level of risk and that resources need to be prioritized to fighting those attacks that could do the most damage to your firm or industry.  

Unfortunately, we continue to see too many instances where firms take a one-size-fits-all approach to their cyber defenses, focusing too many resources on lower-level risks, such as wide-scale malware campaigns, and not enough on the most destructive attacks or targeted probing by capable adversaries. In today’s rapidly changing cyber landscape, with threat actors growing in sophistication each and every day, this must change.

As a first step, firms need to assess their end-to-end incident response processes, with an investigation of the discovery, analysis, mitigation and closure phases, and how resources are spent in each area. Typically, firms find significant financial resource drains in many of these areas, which oftentimes can be automated and improved though technology and procedural changes. It is only when firms identify where they spend the most time that they can bring the incident response cycle down and free up resources to target on the most critical issues.

Looking at discovery, this is the phase where firms become aware of an issue. When speaking of a lower risk incident such as non-targeted phishing, many firms manually monitor inbound emails one by one, yet there are solutions to automate the entire inbound email process. Ideally, firms can shorten this discovery phase by building automation that can systematically digest inbound traffic, extract all links and identify issues company wide – promptly alerting security teams to specific threats and machine issues, enabling faster incident detection.

Next is the analysis phase. Security orchestration tools can automatically create help desk tickets, categorizing security event inflows and organizing the entire incident. This is also an area where firms are starting to leverage collaborative industry utilities that share threat information and remediation tactics across institutions and industries in order to speed up incident analysis and resolve issues. 

The call for cyber threat data sharing has been echoed by market participants, regulators and infrastructure providers alike, as firms are increasingly looking to collaborate to prevent and respond to attacks more quickly. Most recently, the US House and Senate took proactive steps to confront the cyber security challenge and are working towards enactment of legislation to improve information sharing to protect critical infrastructure. Collaborative cyber security threat information tools will not only enable firms to identify incidents more quickly, but at their best, should also empower them to either proactively prevent issues or mitigate them quickly.

When it comes to closure, sharing and learning are essential.  Following a plane crash, for example, there is a deep forensic analysis of what happened and discussion around how the aviation industry can prevent a similar occurrence. While this sounds straightforward, it currently does not happen with cybersecurity incidents today. Often firms keep incidents close to their vests out of fear of public disclosure, which has the effect of leaving other firms more vulnerable to that same attack.  We must shift away from this protective thinking to encourage firms to anonymously share details on cyber security incidents using new technologies and solutions. As more firms join in this dialogue, the process of detection and mitigation will become more efficient and the balance of power will shift away from the criminals.

Finally, we must continue to keep a close watch over the infrastructure, avoiding overly complex IT implementations and lack of investment in upgrades and system maintenance that increase our vulnerability.

While there is no easy solution to winning the war against cyber criminals, the Pareto Principle provides sound guidance on how to tackle this challenge. Foremost, we must look holistically across technology and processes to become more efficient and to focus resources on the threats that could create the greatest damage. In other words, we must shift the effort/risk paradigm to 80% effort on the 20% of the most critical incidents if we are to bend the cost and risk curves to our favor. We still have to cover 100%, but we need to close out the 80% of the noise with 20% of our energy.

Stephen Scharf is chief security officer at The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC). In this role he is responsible for centralizing and aligning the firm's global information security, physical security, employee safety, and crisis/incident management functions, ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
MichaelMoshiri
100%
0%
MichaelMoshiri,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/24/2015 | 5:01:51 PM
Great insights...
Thank you, Mark, for the great article. The 80/20 rule is a great reminder that 100% security is not only unachievable but unnecessary. Your suggestion to take on a risk-based approach to identifying the 20% where the marjority of our energy should be concentrated is spot-on.

Since your article is mostly focused on incident response, where would you say is the sweet spot for Soltra and Soltra Edge to help enterprises to apply the 80/20 rule to their incident response activities?
News
US Formally Attributes SolarWinds Attack to Russian Intelligence Agency
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  4/15/2021
News
Dependency Problems Increase for Open Source Components
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  4/14/2021
News
FBI Operation Remotely Removes Web Shells From Exchange Servers
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  4/14/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
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-2021-21981
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-19
VMware NSX-T contains a privilege escalation vulnerability due to an issue with RBAC (Role based access control) role assignment. Successful exploitation of this issue may allow attackers with local guest user account to assign privileges higher than their own permission level.
CVE-2021-20989
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-19
Fibaro Home Center 2 and Lite devices with firmware version 4.600 and older initiate SSH connections to the Fibaro cloud to provide remote access and remote support capabilities. This connection can be intercepted using DNS spoofing attack and a device initiated remote port-forward channel can be us...
CVE-2021-20990
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-19
In Fibaro Home Center 2 and Lite devices with firmware version 4.600 and older an internal management service is accessible on port 8000 and some API endpoints could be accessed without authentication to trigger a shutdown, a reboot or a reboot into recovery mode.
CVE-2021-20991
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-19
In Fibaro Home Center 2 and Lite devices with firmware version 4.540 and older an authenticated user can run commands as root user using a command injection vulnerability.
CVE-2021-20992
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-19
In Fibaro Home Center 2 and Lite devices in all versions provide a web based management interface over unencrypted HTTP protocol. Communication between the user and the device can be eavesdropped to hijack sessions, tokens and passwords.