Each year around this time, the computer and networking industries anxiously await the release of Mary Meeker's Internet Trends 2017 report. Meeker is a former Wall Street securities analyst and now a partner at Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. This year, her 355-page report contains news on security trends, and (spoiler alert) pretty much none of it is good.
The major software and service trends are surprising only in their scale and velocity. According to Meeker, the average financial services, banking and insurance company has more than 1,100 cloud applications and services in its current technology portfolio. And that sector isn't alone; cloud applications and services in use range from a low of 893 for, of all things, technology and IT services, to a high of 1,206 for retail, restaurant and hospitality. From a flexibility and business agility standpoint, all this cloud use is a fine thing. From a security POV, there's a problem.
The problem is that every one of these individual applications and services, and every interface between two or more applications or services, represents a new attack vector and possible point of vulnerability. While some cloud applications have made great strides in their security posture during the last few years, many others haven't -- and the scale of the "haven't" side of the ledger is immense.
Meeker quotes the Netskope Cloud Confidence Index numbers to report that, in application areas like marketing and IT service/application management, 98% of all cloud services are "not enterprise ready." That is, they received a rating of “medium” or below in the Netskope Cloud Confidence Index. While that is a terrifying number, users of other types of cloud services have little room to relax since the "best" type of cloud service, cloud storage, is 72% not enterprise ready.
Security risks don't limit themselves to the cloud, of course. Meeker reports that spam volume, especially that which contains a malicious payload, has increased by more than 350% in the last 18 months. Much of that malicious payload is phishing, though we've seen from the recent WannaCry attacks that email doesn't have to ask you for personal information to cause trouble. (See WannaCry Continues at a Slowed Pace and New Insight on WannaCry's Roots.)
The bottom line is that attacks are increasing in frequency and successful attacks are increasing in their damage. What are organizations to do? The perfect solution has yet to be found, but every company should at least:
- Armor up -- Put firewalls, filters and other necessary defenses in place. And make sure they're consistently enforcing best-practice policies.
- Encourage paranoia -- Monitor traffic in every direction and understand what is normal and what is not. Don't neglect IoT and embedded systems in your paranoia, either. To be most effective, automate as much of the monitoring and response as possible.
- Train your users -- Don't click on every attachment that comes through email. Or Twitter. Teach employees to be paranoid and vigilant -- it will pay off in the end.