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.
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.
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.