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Four Trends to Consider Before Developing a Cyber Security Plan

Rob Chee, Iron Bow Technologies

October 4, 2017  |  Cyber Security  •  Networking  •  Software-defined Networking

With the threat of cyber attacks rapidly evolving, federal agencies need to ensure they have a security foundation in place that allows the flexibility to adapt quickly. That means keeping an eye on trends to make sure they’re procuring solutions that can be easily integrated into their existing systems. The difficulty for agencies is acknowledging those trends before it’s too late.

At Iron Bow, we make it our business to predict what threats could be down the road. Here are four things to remember when planning your cyber security strategy:

Threat landscape

This one is the easiest to explain, but most the difficult to assess. The continuous rise in sophistication of attackers combined with the rapid evolution of attacker techniques and tools present the first and biggest problem when choosing any cyber security solution. It’s imperative to assess the current threat landscape and beyond. Though the terrain is constantly shifting, one thing has held true: email and web browsing present the biggest threats. User behavior now goes well beyond the constraints of IT controlled places, apps and devices. So when prioritizing where to spend your money, attention needs to be paid to solutions that can adapt to the latest threats when protecting emails, links and attachments.

Threat visibility

With the increased sophistication of cyber attackers, the efficacy of classical detection methods is quickly deteriorating. An agency’s network can become a black box where it takes days and weeks to figure what computers are affected. To truly understand what’s moving through the network, you need sensors to monitor and analyze the traffic. The best way to do this is through a NetFlow analysis tool. This real-time record acts like a phone bill, which lists who called and the duration, but no details about the conversation. NetFlow analysis captures sessions entering and exiting the network without looking at the actual data being transmitted. While the tool can be used to monitor network congestions and the general nature of traffic, diving into the raw data can help understand how threats are entering the system.

Once you have that information it’s easy to get a very granular view using Cisco’s Next Generation Firewall and Next Generation Intrusion Prevention systems, which can determine legitimate traffic by looking into the payload. You can see from what countries the traffic flow is coming and going, as well as whether the parameters are actually associated with the IP addresses. That means once you see a threat, you can limit the time the attack can be effective. These tools can be integrated to share information efficiently between products within a single vendor or multiple vendors.

Threat protection

Once you have the visibility, you have to figure out how to protect your network based on that information. Long gone are the days of point-in-time security, when it was adequate to use a single gatekeeper to assess network threats. Now endpoint security, which monitors individual devices like cell phones and computers rather than simply protecting entry into the network, is the most viable way to prevent an attack.

Threat remediation

Threat protection and remediation work hand-in-hand. It’s almost inevitable that a network will be hit by a cyber attack at some point. That’s just the reality of the evolving sophistication of bad actors. And while it’s always preferable to catch the incursion before it starts, containing the problem is equally as important.

One way to quickly quell an attack is to use a security-as-a-service. Not only does this method give you staff with that are experts at defending against and investigating attacks on a regular basis, but it also takes much of the burden off your own operational IT staff, allowing them to focus on mission-specific tasks. These services use tools to detect attacks and provide the intelligence to work with the customer to explain the severity of attacks in understandable terms as well as eliminating potential false positives.

From a security perspective, Software-defined networking (SDN) defines a scalable way to segment traffic on the network. It does this by creating a centrally controlled overlay network that run on top of the underlying physical infrastructure. This allows for a scalable way to define different tiers of access across the network. For example, rather than one campus network, an agency can scalably create multiple virtual networks that are only available to certain devices. Not only can SDN make your entire system safer, but it can accelerate application deployment, reduce human error, and potentially cut costs through automation. SDN also allows for the greatest flexibility as you can constantly customize the network to mitigate the most current and sophisticated threats.

The right approach

Every agency’s needs are different and they’re evolving just as fast as the cyber threats that are thrown at them. It’s more important than ever to deploy a fast and flexible security plan for your network. That means junking legacy systems that take days or weeks to update when a new threat is noticed and employing a cyber security system that not only comes with the best and newest technology but also a brain trust of engineers off-site to make sure you have the best protection possible. Check out our options at Iron Bow for a cyber security plan that fits your needs.

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