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.


03:32 PM
John H. Sawyer
John H. Sawyer

When To Choose: Preventive VS Reactive Security

Information security is an area of IT that can have an extremely varied budget based on the parent organizations' belief of whether or not they'll be hacked. It's a mentality that seems silly if you've been in the infosec biz for a while because you most likely have realized by now that everyone gets hacked or has a data breach at some point.

Information security is an area of IT that can have an extremely varied budget based on the parent organizations' belief of whether or not they'll be hacked. It's a mentality that seems silly if you've been in the infosec biz for a while because you most likely have realized by now that everyone gets hacked or has a data breach at some point.We're faced with a tough question. How do we get management to buy into that mentality? Better yet, do we want them to? It's not easy telling your boss that a data breach is inevitable. That's not what bosses like to hear, but either way, someone is going to lose a cell phone or USB flash drive, have a laptop stolen, or an attacker is going to break in through a SQL injection vulnerability in your Web app or via information socially engineered over the phone.

You know what your boss is going to say next…"We need to prevent those things!" And, that's where we stuck with trying to prevent every possible breach scenario that we can think of, even those we can't think of via methods that haven't been discovered. One of the things you have to decide is how to balance preventive security with that of reactive security. In other words, do you spend money on laptop encryption and patch management or intrusion detection and centralized log monitoring?

I keep thinking back to Dave Shackleford's blog entry, "5 Reasons Your Security Program is a Failure." There are several great points there, but the one that I keep thinking about is #2, Lack of monitoring capabilities. Where does monitoring fall in terms of preventive and reactive security?

In the incident response process, monitoring fits nicely in the identification stage. Alerts coming from an intrusion detection system can identify a compromised host because an attack was seen followed by a command shell.

But, can't monitoring be preventive, also? For example, monitoring changes on workstations could turn up an employee plugging in an external USB drive and trying to access documents that he or she isn't authorized to access. Security could respond immediately and prevent a potential data breach before the employee has a chance to copy files and leave. Hmm…doesn't that still seem a little reactive?

So, where does monitoring fit? We all know we need to have log analysis and intrusion detection systems in place, but where do we draw the line? Should we ever place the need to have monitoring technologies over patch management and application whitelisting that could prevent infections and compromises that we'd be using the monitoring systems to detect?

My choice would be the preventive technologies first, then the monitoring because I know I can implement cheap, open source monitoring tools in the interim while waiting for additional budget for more costly, enterprise monitoring solutions. The problem is when you don't have the budget for both. What then? I'd love to get some feedback from those of you facing shrinking budgets and what choices and sacrifices you've had to make. Send me an e-mail or leave a comment below.

John H. Sawyer is a senior security engineer on the IT Security Team at the University of Florida. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are his own and do not represent the views and opinions of the UF IT Security Team or the University of Florida. When John's not fighting flaming, malware-infested machines or performing autopsies on blitzed boxes, he can usually be found hanging with his family, bouncing a baby on one knee and balancing a laptop on the other. Special to Dark Reading.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Former CISA Director Chris Krebs Discusses Risk Management & Threat Intel
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  2/23/2021
Security + Fraud Protection: Your One-Two Punch Against Cyberattacks
Joshua Goldfarb, Director of Product Management at F5,  2/23/2021
Cybercrime Groups More Prolific, Focus on Healthcare in 2020
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  2/22/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
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
Building the SOC of the Future
Building the SOC of the Future
Digital transformation, cloud-focused attacks, and a worldwide pandemic. The past year has changed the way business works and the way security teams operate. There is no going back.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2021-02-25
A server-side request forgery (SSRF) vulnerability in Upgrade.php of gopeak masterlab 2.1.5, via the 'source' parameter.
PUBLISHED: 2021-02-25
Triconsole Datepicker Calendar <3.77 is affected by cross-site scripting (XSS) in calendar_form.php. Attackers can read authentication cookies that are still active, which can be used to perform further attacks such as reading browser history, directory listings, and file contents.
PUBLISHED: 2021-02-25
Stored cross-site scripting (XSS) in form field in robust.systems product Custom Global Variables v 1.0.5 allows a remote attacker to inject arbitrary code via the vars[0][name] field.
PUBLISHED: 2021-02-25
Magento UPWARD-php version 1.1.4 (and earlier) is affected by a Path traversal vulnerability in Magento UPWARD Connector version 1.1.2 (and earlier) due to the upload feature. An attacker could potentially exploit this vulnerability to upload a malicious YAML file that can contain instructions which...
PUBLISHED: 2021-02-25
Adobe Bridge version 11.0 (and earlier) is affected by an out-of-bounds write vulnerability when parsing TTF files that could result in arbitrary code execution in the context of the current user. Exploitation of this issue requires user interaction in that a victim must open a malicious file.