As a cybersecurity expert and a history nut (particularly when it comes to WWII), I tend to quickly see correlations between tactics and strategies used in physical wars and those used in today’s “cyber-wars” and cyber-attacks.
While watching the History Channel recently, I saw a program on the Maginot Line. The Maginot Line was a fortification that the French constructed along its borders to deter invasion from Germany. At the time of its construction, military experts considered it a brilliant defense strategy. If Germany had attempted to attack using trench warfare, as they did in World War I, the French would have definitely had the defensive advantage. Unfortunately, the Germans were using new technology that enabled them to break through the soft spot of Belgium.
In some of my recent meetings with customers we’ve discussed how they deal with today’s cyber threats, specifically as they relate to threat actors, file-less malware and the use of their own tools against them, like PowerShell. I noticed that there are many commonalities between these customers’ defense tactics and those of the French’s Maginot Line in the Second World War. They are using the tactics that won the last war, but aren’t up to date with the current war.
Often, we see firms counting on technology that is over five years old—Anti-Virus and logs—while also not deploying advanced features in the older versions of their software or services. Ask yourself: are you waiting to be notified of a problem, or do you have a team for threat detection, actively hunting down vulnerabilities?
It is also not uncommon to find that businesses are not listening to the intelligence gathered from the field. Many of these customers have not modified their environments according to industry best practices.
Finally, it seems that many organizations don’t actually understand how well their defenses are working. This is an example of the “set it and forget it” mentality. In this scenario, businesses don’t find out that their defenses aren’t working until after attack strikes.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure that this doesn’t happen to your organization.
Assess your security maturity regularly
Have a third party evaluate your security maturity annually to ensure you’re making progress in the correct areas of people and processes, and not just technology.
Think of this is as penetration test of your people and policies. When your environment or threat landscape changes, evaluate the technologies, tactics and configurations you are using. Do they still fit the current threat environment? Has there been a recent upgrade? Are you using all the features, and if not, should you deploy them? Listen to your intelligence and modify your strategy when necessary. Security isn’t static, so you need to always be looking at the bigger, broader picture.
Operationalize your cybersecurity programs
When you deploy a security technology or tactic understand how you will measure if it is doing a good job or not? What are the metrics and Key Risk Indicators (KRI)? Who will monitor them? How do these metrics roll-up into your overall security metrics? Too often the technology deployed is forgotten about until there is a situation, which is when you find out no one has been watching after all.
In closing, it is extremely important that anyone dealing with the cybersecurity of an organization doesn’t get too comfortable with their achievements thus far. This is the easiest way to get outflanked by new technology or tactics. Instead, evaluate your technology and tactics, listen to your intelligence, measure if it is working, and fight today’s war.