Whenever a data breach occurs, it’s easy to get caught up in the root cause analysis – a misconfigured device, an un-patched application, an employee falling for a phishing attack trap, and the list goes on.
Really, the root causes of most breaches are not these moment-in-time errors. Instead, they are almost always shortsighted decisions made well before the breach ever occurs. By making better decisions relating to IT security budgeting and operations, organisations can dramatically reduce the likelihood of a security breach months, or even years, down the road.
Here are the 5 common pitfalls that organisations tend to make:
Pitfall #1: Failing to budget for professional services along with product renewal costs
Keeping healthy requires the act of visiting the doctor at regular intervals for checkups. Unfortunately, many organisations do not adapt this practice for personal health to their security environments. This manifests itself in their budgets – they budget for product maintenance renewals, but skim on for professional services to determine if their products are performing the way they should.
This “set it and forget it” mentality has led to an epidemic of sub-optimally configured and deployed security tools that create wide gaps in a business’ defenses. This is why so many organisations today find themselves with massively complex, disparate and expensive-to-manage security infrastructures that, when all is said and done, are largely ineffective against modern adversaries.
One other thing to consider - many organisations assume that security product vendor are the best resource for deploying and optimising their security environments. The reality is, these are manufacturers, not security services integrators and that their expertise is often limited to their own technology suite.
To truly understand one’s infrastructure and security gaps, it’s imperative to have security assessments conducted to provide strategic guidance on infrastructure rationalisation and optimisation.
Pitfall #2: Trying to D-I-Y in-house
Many organisations adopt a “Do It Yourself” approach to security technology implementation. No doubt that security skillsets are more readily available today on the employee market than ever before, it is easy to fall into the trap of trying to save money by using internal staff to deploy new technologies. Not surprisingly, this can lead to problems ranging from configuration issues, to sub-optimal use of product features.
In fact, D-I-Y deployments are one of the most common sources of vulnerability causing data breaches - 95 percent of clients that had a breach were D-I-Y proponents.
While it’s understandable that many IT and security personnel want to take on product deployment in-house – largely due to budget constraints – it often results in one of two undesirable scenarios:
Because the person responsible for implementation is not an expert on the product or service, the technology is incorrectly configured.
The department in charge is so resource-constrained that they rush to deploy the product or service without understanding its capabilities and enabling its advanced features. Replacing a simple port-based firewall with a next-generation firewall and migrating legacy rule sets simply ensures the same problems as before – with more expense.
The first problem opens organisations up to security and compliance risks, while the latter prevents them from optimising their technology investments.
Pitfall #3: Over-engineering
When you buy a new car, it’s all-too-easy to get caught up in fancy bells and whistles, rather than focusing on what really matters – like driver position and the comfort of using acceleration and brake pedals.
Similarly, IT and security teams have a tendency to over-configure new technology with endless custom rules designed to send alerts on every possible scenario – largely because they think this strategy will help them justify their investment to c-suite and board members.
However, configuring too many rules can prevent the security operations team from seeing the forest for the trees. Rather than alerting you to real anomalous events, suspicious activity and potential threats, it can bombard you with an oppressive number of security alerts that turn out to be redundant or false-positives. Devoting so much time to benign alerts causes organisations to waste enormous resources and severely compromises security effectiveness.
Pitfall #4: Failing to understand your entire technology environment
Most security organisations don’t have a complete understanding of the products and services in their IT environments. Rogue IT business units pop up everywhere, introducing complexity and risk for security operations teams. This is dangerous, because you can’t protect systems, services and other assets if you don’t even know you have them.
On top of this, many security organisations don’t fully understand how the technologies in their security environments can potentially integrate together to make life easier on their security operations teams. Once the inventory is done, then security teams can capitalise on the myriad of orchestration and automation options on the market to make them more efficient. Additionally, there is a burgeoning shelf-ware problem in security, where organisations purchase the latest “check list” of security tools but then never get around to deploying them.
It is critical for security organisations to take a step back and understand their complete inventory of security tools and services, as well as the IT assets they are supposed to protect. If nothing else, get help discovering and learning what is in the environment before adding more complexity. Once this is done, it becomes possible to rationalise the security infrastructure into a more manageable and cohesive framework that maps to the organisation’s IT infrastructure and business objectives.
Pitfall #5: Failing to understand your company culture and lack of ability to move quickly
Many security practitioners view their jobs in a vacuum, and fail to realise that their company is unable to move as quickly as they would like. Security projects often affect business users, requiring them to dedicate time in requirements gathering or to testing applications following a cutover. Fairly frequently, we see clients building project timelines for security projects that are simply unreasonable given the size and complexity of the business.
When planning out any security project, it is vital to understand the capabilities of the internal staff to get high-quality work done in a sensible time frame. It does no good to assign overly demanding timelines to overworked or under-skilled staff, because they will make mistakes and, ultimately, miss their deadlines (and miss them badly). It is far better to assign achievable timelines that account for individual workloads and skill sets – this will result in fewer errors and delays.
Overcoming the “Big 5”
Companies impacted by any one of these “big five” pitfalls face increased security and compliance risks. They also aren’t likely to get the full value out of their technology investments, which can be a major problem when it is time to explain to C-suite and board executives how the budget is translating into improved security posture.
When it comes to avoiding these potential pitfalls, awareness is half the battle. The other half is translating this knowledge into sound decision-making on security investments, operations and strategies. Only then can companies reduce the risk of data breaches, compliance failures and wasted resources.
As the saying goes, “The first step to recovery is realising you have a problem.” Get professional help. Security systems integrators have the advantage of seeing many clients make the same mistakes, and getting their help will increase the likelihood that companies will achieve enterprise security that is drastically stronger, simpler, less costly and more accountable.
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