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Vulnerabilities / Threats

At RSA Conference, Analysts Will Focus On Security's 'Big Issues'

Cloud security, sophisticated attacks will be among hot topics, industry watchers say

You gonna be at RSA? What's gonna be good there?

These questions are on many security professionals' lips this week, as the security industry's biggest annual convention -- RSA 2010 -- prepares to open in San Francisco on Monday. Earlier today, three of the industry's best-known security industry analysts -- all of whom are gonna be there -- weighed in on what's gonna be hot at the show.

Scott Crawford, research director for security at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), says cloud security will be a hot topic, but not because everybody's doing it. In fact, Crawford reports that in a recently completed EMA study, only 11 percent of enterprises expressed definite plans to implement cloud technology in the next 12 months -- and about three-quarters of those enterprises are planning to implement a "private cloud," rather than using a shared public service.

"What that says is that a lot of the hype about cloud services out there is out of proportion to what companies are really doing," Crawford says.

Security continues to be a key factor in cloud technology's adoption -- or lack thereof, Crawford says. In the EMA study, 53 percent of respondents said security and access issues are the chief inhibitors to implementation of cloud technology. "There's a lot of concern about the need to give up some control of the data," he says.

What's needed, particularly in the public cloud space, is a better set of open standards that define what cloud services are and how they interact, Crawford says. "The A6 initiative and the MashSSL Alliance are a start, but a lot more needs to be done," he says.

Khalid Kark, a vice president at Forrester Research, says he'll be looking for signs of security's "three big shifts" while he's at the show. The first is the shift toward next-generation technologies, particularly the "consumerization" that brings Web 2.0, social networking, and personal devices into the enterprise.

"The adoption of social networking inside the organization has doubled in the last year, to about 22 percent," Kark says. "One user I talked to called it a freight train -- there's no stopping it." Companies will need to decide how to secure these emerging technologies and the data they carry, he says.

A second shift is in the business expectations of security managers, Kark says. "More and more, the CSO is not only responsible for the tactical and technical, but also for the strategic aspects of security," he says. Security teams find themselves more tied into the business and its data, rather than focusing solely on securing networks and devices, he observes.

A third shift is the shift in "ownership" of security, Kark says. Many companies are embracing security-as-a-service (SaaS) and other security outsourcing initiatives, bringing a new set of strategies to the layered security model, he states.

Crawford agrees. "We're seeing more and more companies looking at SaaS-based solutions," he says.

A third industry analyst, IDC's Chris Christiansen, says he will be on the lookout for new information on next-generation attacks at the RSA show.

"What we're seeing is that all information is useful to somebody," Christiansen says. "Whether it's being gathered by fully legitimate companies, direct marketers, spammers, or fraudsters, information extraction is becoming a theme."

To get this data, the bad guys are becoming evermore sophisticated, targeting companies and individuals based on their plans and interests, Christiansen says. By assembling even seemingly inconsequential information from Websites and social networks, attackers can engineer exploits that enable them to penetrate very specific targets, he notes.

"This sort of information-gathering and targeting is nothing new, but with the availability of so much information out there today, a lot more sophistication is possible," Christiansen says.

Crawford concurs. "I think the industry needs to spend more time focusing on who the adversary is and the data they are trying to gather, rather than spending so much time on tactics and techniques," he says. "What we're finding is that smart attackers will choose tactics that are best-suited for the target. These may not be particularly sophisticated in some cases."

All three analysts will be moderating panel sessions at the show.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. 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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