Obscurity Hampers Security: The Latest Survey

Lack of visibility is the number one obstacle to security, according to a new study released this week.

"Security through obscurity" says that you can't attack what you can't see. In far too many cases, though, it's the defenders who are flying blind when it comes to the configuration and status of their own network. "Visibility" was one of the five words that defined this year's Black Hat conference, and its importance to security professionals is amplified in the results of the Vanson Bourne survey sponsored by Gigamon.

In the report on the survey results, Vanson Bourne notes that more than two thirds of those responding noted that they have a lack of visibility into all aspects of their IT operation. Around half of those responding that they have a lack of visibility noted that the blind spots represent an active hurdle to good security in their network.

Where is all this hidden data? Are there vast distributed networks of virtual nooks and crannies just waiting for unsuspecting data to fall in? According to those taking the survey, some of the data gets lost in the data gyre that exists between the network operations center and security operations center, while the rest is hidden between and amongst the various cloud services that make up the modern hybrid IT architecture.

When you add to this the security difficulties that can arise when organizations take expert advice and encrypt data both in motion and at rest, you quickly find situation in which administrators have an out-of-date image of the network infrastructure and very little insight into the contents of all the packets flowing back and forth between their mysterious IT boxes.

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As if all this wasn't complication enough, in many organizations there is confusion over which organization has responsibility for security planning an operations. According to the report,

In general, it would appear that the SecurityOps (69%) team is accountable for cloud security in respondents' organizations. However, in around half of organizations, CloudOps (54%) and NetworkOps (47%) are also involved.
When looked at in conjunction with the fact that over a third (36%) of respondents believe that there is confusion within their organization over which team owns the cloud security problem, potential problems begin to arise.

So how should organizations begin to resolve the issues that come with lack of visibility and a clear security management structure? Though it seems obvious, the answers are relatively straightforward. First, develop a clear chain of command and control when it comes to security functions. While cloud and network operations should legitimately be involved in security roles, there should be no confusion about the group that is charged with planning security and coordinating the security operations of all teams.

Next, visibility into the architecture of the network as it currently exists should be a top priority. Invest in the tools and processes required to give security professionals access to the existing network configuration and the contents of the traffic flowing through that network. Only then can you begin to see real results in your security operations.

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— Curtis Franklin is the editor of Follow him on Twitter @kg4gwa.

Editors' Choice
Tara Seals, Managing Editor, News, Dark Reading
Jim Broome, President & CTO, DirectDefense
Nate Nelson, Contributing Writer, Dark Reading