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IT security must become service

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Combating cybercrime cannot be done with technology alone, but requires a service model that prioritises intelligence, sharing and using technology to support this, says VENIAMIN LEVTSOV, Vice President, Enterprise Business, Kaspersky Lab.

There is a change in the corporate IT Security industry. Many believe it is driven by the ever-changing threat landscape and the urgency a business experiences during a targeted attack.

However, many companies become a victim of a successful cyberattack these days – and not because of some major breakthrough on the cybercriminal front. In fact, it’s the quantity, not quality of threats that is growing; and this, together with the complexity of corporate infrastructure as well as the lack of security intelligence, which makes businesses vulnerable. As a result, addressing these challenges requires a major perception change by both businesses and security vendors. We believe that technology alone is not able to solve all corporate IT security troubles. What is required is a service model that prioritises intelligence sharing, and uses technology to support this.

The challenge

Kaspersky Lab rolled out its first security products for businesses more than 15 years ago. That era was the golden age of traditional threat prevention products. Highly sophisticated campaigns like Stuxnet or The Equation did exist back then, but they remained invisible at the time, and it was possible to detect and block the majority of old-school malicious programmes. Despite all of this, a one-size-fits-all solution never existed in our industry. Every now and then we had to deal with a new attack, we had to adjust the various peculiarities of how our products interacted with corporate infrastructure, and we had to change our protection accordingly.

Eventually, the customisation of technology for businesses evolved into consulting on security strategy. Companies were happy if they were able to purchase a security solution to solve all their troubles, but that was no longer enough. Every day businesses face new challenges: mobility, cloud services and infrastructure, and social engineering, to name a few. New technologies like legal apps, for example, can now become part of complex multicomponent attack – and the traditional endpoint security approach does not work for this at all.

Our customers came to us and asked for a solution. But is it even possible to solve every corporate security challenge with new technology? Is there a definitive solution to prevent an employer from opening a suspicious e-mail attachment? Could we address, even with the most sophisticated know-how, all vulnerabilities in hardware and software, taking into account the numerous possible combinations? Two years ago we understood the need to find a way to deliver this intelligence to our clients in an actionable form.

The solution

Security is best understood as a process, and every company out there deals with four distinct, universal phases of it. Threat prevention is the better understood phase, and is mostly covered by technology: you have to block each and every one of the generic threats that are emerging at a rate of 310,000 a day.

Detection of sophisticated and targeted attacks is more complex: it requires advanced tools and expertise, but more importantly, this requires time to identify the indicators of attack, spot an incident, investigate it and mitigate the threat. The latter is covered by threat response, where the unique skills of forensic experts are needed the most.

Finally, the prediction of future attacks, and understanding the attack surface, defines the long-term strategic defense capabilities of a company. This is done through running penetration testing and other kinds of security assessment. We have found that non-IT tools – like security awareness campaigns delivered in a game format – can be more influential on employees than security policies or annoying wall posters.

Today a security officer and his team has to pursue all four phases simultaneously and each requires a unique set of skills. Mitigating the future threats means regular security assessment, training employees on general security hygiene, and the analysis of current and future attack methods. Detection is all about identifying anomalies in a regular corporate workflow, covering web, e-mail, network traffic and observing corporate user behaviour. Response is all about localising the incident and closing the initial attack vector.

It’s painstakingly hard to develop this kind of expertise in-house. It’s expensive too, and most times only larger enterprises can afford it. Another serious issue faces businesses that invest in an advanced training programme for their internal security experts. Experts are just people, and it’s natural for them to start looking around for a better job offer if training has increased their market value. There is no universal tactic to keep experts inside a company, other than to continuously raise their salaries. In these circumstances it seems much more reasonable to use an external service from a professional IT security consultant or global player. As a security vendor, we have grown a network of experts around the world with all the necessary skills. The question is how we share this expertise with our clients.

The service model is the only viable solution here. The service model prioritises the real problems of a company and applies the most appropriate measures to solve it. Our services start with online and on premise training programmes for employees and IT specialists, mostly based on the knowledge gathered in our virus lab and emergency response teams in digital forensic and malware analysis. In fact, we let some external frameworks to leave the lab room and start serving our customers. Predicting future attacks means knowing how other companies were hacked, and this is covered by extensive and actionable threat reports. The detection of targeted assaults, and the prevention of dangerous widespread attacks requires a technology and expertise-as-a-service, often a combination of both.

The service model is always focused on solving one security challenge at a time, in a form that is understandable for businesses. On the high level it’s just someone taking responsibility for solving a problem and assuming all corresponding risks. This is a complex model, but we believe it’s the only solution that actually works. The good old approach – when a security vendor could just ship a product license key though the channel and return in a year for renewal – is disappearing very fast.

Empowering a partner network

The model raises questions about how you can share your vast, but not infinite, expert resources with all of your customers around the world, whilst keeping up with response time commitments. Our business has always relied on our partner network and that’s not going to change. It’s not possible to save the world by yourself. We share our expertise with our partners, who in turn gain more capabilities to help their clients. This is especially important for incident response: often this service requires a specialist to start collecting crucial data on premise as fast as possible. Without partners operating locally in every country this would be impossible. The role of a service vendor here is to provide a general investigation framework and tool set.

Although we are taking a step towards the security services area, we are staying in the vendor camp. We still perceive our main role as the producer of effective software solutions, which become the tools for our partners to provide their own services across the globe.

We also see huge potential in delivering the Threat Intelligence to Managed Security Service Providers. This could be useful in different forms including threat data feeds, customer specific reports or notifications about suspicious criminal activity targeting a customer’s IT assets. This model is capable of protecting smaller businesses, who also frequently become victims of targeted attacks, during attempts to infiltrate larger companies.

Thanks to efforts from the industry and our customer demands, in the future we will find ourselves in a much more protected environment, where all flavours of security intelligence are easily accessible. After all, cybersecurity is not about computer algorithms fighting each other. On the other side there are people with malicious intent, tools and knowledge. To protect businesses from them, it is essential to have the right combination of experienced external and internal people, together with a high level of trust, shared intelligence and reliable technology.

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Revealing the real cost of ‘free’ online services

A free service by Finnish cybersecurity provider F-Secure reveals the real cost of using “free” services by Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon, among others.

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What do Google, Facebook, and Amazon have in common? Privacy and identity scandals. From Cambridge Analytica to Google’s vulnerability in Google+, the amount of personal data sitting on these platforms is enormous.

Cybersecurity provider F-Secure has released a free online tool that helps expose the true cost of using some of the web’s most popular free services. And that cost is the abundance of data that has been collected about users by Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon Alexa, Twitter, and Snapchat. The good news is that you can take back your data “gold”.

F-Secure Data Discovery Portal sends users directly to the often hard-to-locate resources provided by each of these tech giants that allow users to review their data, securely and privately.

“What you do with the data collection is entirely between you and the service,” says Erka Koivunen, F-Secure Chief Information Security Officer. “We don’t see – and don’t want to see – your settings or your data. Our only goal is to help you find out how much of your information is out there.”

More than half of adult Facebook users, 54%, adjusted how they use the site in the wake of the scandal that revealed Cambridge Analytica had collected data without users’ permission.* But the biggest social network in the world continues to grow, reporting 2.3 billion monthly users at the end of 2018.**

“You often hear, ‘if you’re not paying, you’re the product.’ But your data is an asset to any company, whether you’re paying for a product or not,” says Koivunen. “Data enables tech companies to sell billions in ads and products, building some of the biggest businesses in the history of money.”

F-Secure is offering the tool as part of the company’s growing focus on identity protection that secures consumers before, during, and after data breaches. By spreading awareness of the potential costs of these “free” services, the Data Discovery Portal aims to make users aware that securing their data and identity is more important than ever.

A recent F-Secure survey found that 54% of internet users over 25 worry about someone hacking into their social media accounts.*** Data is only as secure as the networks of the companies that collect it, and the passwords and tactics used to protect our accounts. While the settings these sites offer are useful, they cannot eliminate the collection of data.

Koivunen says: “While consumers effectively volunteer this information, they should know the privacy and security implications of building accounts that hold more potential insight about our identities than we could possibly share with our family. All of that information could be available to a hacker through a breach or an account takeover.”

However, there is no silver bullet for users when it comes to permanently locking down security or hiding it from the services they choose to use.

“Default privacy settings are typically quite loose, whether you’re using a social network, apps, browsers or any service,” says Koivunen. “Review your settings now, if you haven’t already, and periodically afterwards. And no matter what you can do, nothing stops these companies from knowing what you’re doing when you’re logged into their services.”

*Source: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/09/05/americans-are-changing-their-relationship-with-facebook/
**Source: https://www.theverge.com/2019/1/30/18204186/facebook-q4-2018-earnings-user-growth-revenue-increase-privacy-scandals
***Source: F-Secure Identity Protection Consumer (B2C) Survey, May 2019, conducted in cooperation with survey partner Toluna, 9 countries (USA, UK, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Brazil, Finland, Sweden, and Japan), 400 respondents per country = 3600 respondents (+25years)

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WhatsApp comes to KaiOS

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By the end of September, WhatsApp will be pre-installed on all phones running the KaiOS operating system, which turns feature phones into smart phones. The announcement was made yesterday by KaiOS Technologies, maker of the KaiOS mobile operating system for smart feature phones, and Facebook. WhatsApp is also available for download in the KaiStore, on both 512MB and 256MB RAM devices.

“KaiOS has been a critical partner in helping us bring private messaging to smart feature phones around the world,” said Matt Idema, COO of WhatsApp. “Providing WhatsApp on KaiOS helps bridge the digital gap to connect friends and family in a simple, reliable and secure way.”

WhatsApp is a messaging tool used by more than 1.5 billion people worldwide who need a simple, reliable and secure way to communicate with friends and family. Users can use calling and messaging capabilities with end-to-end encryption that keeps correspondence private and secure. 

WhatsApp was first launched on the KaiOS-powered JioPhone in India in September of 2018. Now, with the broad release, the app is expected to reach millions of new users across Africa, Europe, North America, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.

“We’re thrilled to bring WhatsApp to the KaiOS platform and extend such an important means of communication to a brand new demographic,” said Sebastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS Technologies. “We strive to make the internet and digital services accessible for everyone and offering WhatsApp on affordable smart feature phones is a giant leap towards this goal. We can’t wait to see the next billion users connect in meaningful ways with their loved ones, communities, and others across the globe.”

KaiOS-powered smart feature phones are a new category of mobile devices that combine the affordability of a feature phone with the essential features of a smartphone. They meet a growing demand for affordable devices from people living across Africa – and other emerging markets – who are not currently online. 

WhatsApp is now available for download from KaiStore, an app store specifically designed for KaiOS-powered devices and home to the world’s most popular apps, including the Google Assistant, YouTube, Facebook, Google Maps and Twitter. Apps in the KaiStore are customised to minimise data usage and maximise user experience for smart feature phone users.

In Africa, the KaiOS-powered MTN Smart and Orange Sanza are currently available in 22 countries, offering 256MB RAM and 3G connectivity.

KaiOS currently powers more than 100 million devices shipped worldwide, in over 100 countries. The platform enables a new category of devices that require limited memory, while still offering a rich user experience.

* For more details, visit: Meet The Devices That Are Powered by KaiOS

* Also read Arthur Goldstuck’s story, Smart feature phones spell KaiOS

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