API: ‘Threat is Bad,’ Solutions Available

Wednesday, November 12, 2014 @ 12:11 AM gHale


By Gregory Hale
It is an age old problem: “The reason why we don’t use it is because we never did it before.”

That is tired old thinking in this new age of the dynamic, evolving security environment.

“There is no computer system on the globe that cannot be penetrated,” said Mike McConnell senior executive advisor, Booz Allen Hamilton, former vice admiral in the United States Navy and former director of the National Security Agency from 1992 to 1996, during his keynote address Tuesday at the 9th Annual API Cybersecurity Conference and Expo in Houston. “The threat is really, really bad and it is going to get really worse.”

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While all the doom and gloom may seem like security is a no win situation and that could not be further from the truth. Yes, the bad guys do have an advantage, but if users are smart and diligent, they can win out in the end.

“We need to look at protection in a holistic way,” he said. The good thing about criminals attacking, he said, was it forced us to pay attention to weaknesses in our defenses. Now, we need to pay attention to nation states.

“Some nation states go beyond just the economic factor,” McConnell said. “China is creating thousands of Zero Day attacks every day. Their plan is to grow by any means possible.”

They adopted the idea of ‘anything necessary’ to get an advantage in technology,” McConnell said. “That means whatever you hold dear, they will take. Drilling rights, bidding plans, you name it. The U.S. is an innovator and others want to get that information.”

With that in mind, he said, “There are two companies out there: One company that is aware they have been penetrated and the other that is not aware they have been penetrated.”

“As a nation we are digitally dependent,” he said. That means attackers can focus on that dependence and find holes and take advantage.

“The U.S. economy is $16 trillion a year. On a daily basis, $13 trillion clears through the U.S. banks on a daily basis. Of that $13 trillion just over half goes through two banks in New York. If I am a terrorist I am looking at the banking system,” he said.

Yes, the open environment gives the industry a series of potential vulnerabilities, but it also gives us great opportunities that can help eradicate the problems by taking advantage of Big Data where you can analyze the reams of information and get to the point of predictive behavior and predictive analytics, which will be the next great frontier in the industry.

Big Data will help reduce some of the security threats, said Chandra McMahon, vice president of Commercial Markets at Lockheed Martin.

“Attacks are becoming more sophisticated and the ferocity and velocity of attacks are increasing,” McMahon said during the second API keynote address Tuesday.

She mentioned the critical areas chief information security officers (CISO) think about today:
• External threats
• Supply chain
• Process control networks
• Insider threats

When you think about external threats, it is a given they will continue.

“There is not a day that goes by where you don’t hear about a cyber attack and we all know it is just the tip of the ice berg,” she said. We know the threat actors, she said, like advanced persistent threats, cyber crime threats, hacktivists, insider threat, nuisance threats and cyber terrorism.

Looking at the supply chain is where McMahon sees Big Data analytics coming into play. She said Lockheed Martin has over 25,000 active suppliers and keeping an eye on securing them is a difficult task to say the least.

One thing they do is use open source intelligence to understand what is going on with the suppliers.

“It is important to leverage Big Data analytics to cover supplier security,” she said. “With 25,000 suppliers, they can’t all be at the same level of security. It would be crazy to think that way.”

Process control networks is a big issue in the oil and gas industry as quite a few users have outdated legacy equipment or systems never intended to plug into the Internet. McMahon reiterated a continuing message often heard from the IT side of security, there is a difference between IT and OT, but “there is some commonality. There needs to be an increase in shared intelligence.”

When it comes to securing against insider threats, McMahon said one study showed 59 percent of people leaving a company take proprietary information with them.

“I would encourage a lot of you to think a bit differently at insider threats,” McMahon said. “We are committed to stay ahead of this. It has a tremendous impact on the business.”



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