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At Interop, Plethora Of New Services Leaves Questions About Risk

GRC tools may offer security, risk answers as enterprises rely more heavily on service providers

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- Interop New York 2013 -- Here at one of the networking industry's best-known trade shows, you can get help with cloud networking, mobile device deployment, virtual private networks, email security, and much more. But finding a provider that can help you manage your enterprise's risk, compliance, or security posture is not so easy.

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"When it comes to setting up a risk profile, measuring the effect of your supply chain -- particularly your service providers -- is crucial," said John Pironti, president of IP Architects and the security and risk track chair for the Interop conference. "But too often, service providers aren't much help on measuring risk. They can give you their view, but they can't help you build your own profile."

As technology advances and businesses seek ways to become more flexible in their support of applications and devices, the enterprise is increasingly relying on third-party service providers, vendors and experts agreed.

"Businesses are finding that they don't have the resources in-house to do everything they want, and so outsourcing is becoming more and more of an option," said Tom Buoniello, senior vice president of product management for AppRiver, which provides secure email and antivirus services. "They're looking to us to increase their capabilities and reduce their risk."

Indeed, implementation of next-generation technologies, such as cloud services and mobile devices, means finding a range of new service providers that the enterprise can trust.

"A lot of companies still have a black-and-white attitude about security -- they feel that anything they do on their premises has no risk, and anything that's done off-premises is all risk," said Bernard Golden, vice president of enterprise solutions at Enstratius, a business unit of Dell that helps businesses implement cloud computing. "One of the reasons they come to us is that they are looking for ways to build consistent governance across the cloud environment."

In other cases, such as in the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) arena, service providers are a swift path to deployment. "A lot of the enterprises we work with don't have a clear [BYOD] plan or policy in place," said Amith Nair, vice president of sales and marketing at CloudPath, which helps enterprises speed the onboarding of mobile devices. "We give them a template to do that and a workflow that makes it easier to administer."

NCP Engineering, another Interop exhibitor, offers similar assistance with the deployment of virtual private networks. "We simplify remote access by enabling companies to roll out those capabilities using a central administration, without having to touch the device at the endpoint," said Patrick Oliver Graf, general manager for the Americas at NCP Engineering. "We make the technology easier to roll out to the user, no matter what device they are using."

But while these providers are helping enterprises to implement crucial capabilities, such as secure email, cloud computing, BYOD, and VPNs, most enterprises still don't have an accurate way to measure the impact of these services on security, compliance, or risk.

"We can help you to reduce risk by moving away from open [mobile] environments that might open you up to threats," CloudPath's Nair said. "But we don't normally drill into the customer's overall risk assessment."

That view was common among the service providers at the show. Like specialist physicians, each was able to provide a risk and compliance assessment for its own area of specialty -- cloud, BYOD, secure email, or VPNs -- but none of the providers could deliver a picture of the enterprise's overall security posture.

"They can see what they're doing, but they can't tell you how what they're doing might affect [the security of] all of the rest of the things that the enterprise does," Pironti said.

Experts say enterprises' increasing reliance on third parties for critical networking and security services may drive a new demand for governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) systems that can collect data from many different service providers and help paint a customized picture of the overall risk faced by a specific enterprise.

"The rising use of service providers increases the need for a well-defined GRC program that can help enterprises recognize the risks associated with each of those services and make good choices about how and when to use them," said Chris Caldwell, CEO of LockPath, a leading GRC platform provider.

Service providers that offer security, compliance, or risk data can provide a piece of the picture, but they can't tell an enterprise how to manage risk, Caldwell observed. "You may outsource the capability, but you're not outsourcing the risk or the liability if there's a breach or a service interruption," he said. "Risk management [and] compliance management are your responsibility, no matter how many service providers you have."

GRC tools can help enterprises recognize the potential effects of using different types of network and security services, and how the addition of a new service provider might affect a company's risk or security posture, Caldwell said.

"With so many services coming out, you need a structure to manage your risk and make better decisions," Caldwell added. "Dropbox is a great service for sharing large files, but it can increase your risk significantly if you don't lock it down properly. Similarly, enterprises need ways to audit their service providers to make sure that what the providers are telling them [about security] is true."

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Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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