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Intelligent Data Storage Contributions to Cyber Security – Part 2

Audie Hittle, Federal CTO, Emerging Technologies Division, EMC Corporation

June 30, 2015  |  Cyber Security  •  Data Center

Welcome back!  In my last post, I noted how the data center of the future would benefit greatly from a breakthrough security concept known as “cyber resiliency,” and the potential of “intelligent data storage,” sometimes referred to as Software Defined Storage (SDS), in support of cyber resiliency missions. In this post, I’d like to drill down a bit deeper to highlight some of the key features and functions of intelligent data storage, and address several of the ways this new SDS supports cyber operations.

By definition, cyber resiliency is the ability to withstand, recover from, and evolve to improve capabilities in the face of adverse conditions or attacks. While many traditional cyber strategies are focused on keeping the bad guys out, resiliency is focused on ensuring mission-critical operations continue. Intelligent data storage may provide some of the best Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) technologies available for the detection of intentional or accidental changes to an information management system or data storage system. Designed to protect the data from unauthorized changes, this technology addresses the Federal mandate for electronic storage media to preserve records in a non-rewritable and non-erasable format, consistent with SEC Rule 17a-4.This same technology generates a log file that can be used to monitor, alert, and protect vital information from cyber attacks, thereby addressing some of the new cyber resiliency objectives.

Beyond the traditional and apparent cyber threats, such as denial-of-service attacks, other cyber attackers use stealth and less obvious resources to gain access to and interrupt, alter, or impact data integrity – thereby affecting decision support. According to a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) known as MITRE, these threats are referred to as an Advanced Persistent Threat (APT). These threats constitute a type of refined cyber attack and are frequently conducted over relatively long durations – such as weeks, months, or even years. Intelligent data storage has efficiencies of 40-50 percent better than the closest competition, as documented by industry analyst groups such as IDC. It can play a vital role in creating and evolving a cyber resiliency capability by dramatically improving the amount of data available to support forensic analyses and increase the odds of detecting APT attackers.

Other intelligent data storage features, such as Role Based Access Control (RBAC) and Access Zones, provide software defined capabilities, more commonly associated with operating systems, at the data storage level. This is because the intelligent data storage is essentially an advanced operating system seamlessly integrated with enterprise-grade storage, processing, cache, and network connectivity, which provides tremendous automation and insight to the data center and enterprise operations. For instance, the RBAC and Access Zones preclude those without proper credentials from gaining access to or being able to administer the data storage.

In summary, intelligent data storage or SDS is a recent innovation that has the potential to fundamentally change cyber security operations. The automation and sophistication associated with this new type of data storage can significantly contribute to the new security paradigm of cyber resiliency. Leveraging the inherent simplicity, efficiency, and security of intelligent data storage promises to introduce a new type of data-driven cyber security. This will enable the data, and even attempted changes to the data itself, to act as flags or triggers to advanced cyber Security Information Event Management (SIEM) and Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) solutions – thus creating a new era of cyber early warning solutions.

Audie Hittle, Federal CTO, Emerging Technologies Division, EMC Corporation

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