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Responsive Security in Action

In 2013, our internal Information Security team carried out a series of controlled anti-phishing exercises. The purpose was to raise employees’ awareness of potential spear phishing attacks through emails. Spear phishing has been a common first step for Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) attacks to gain access to a user’s system before launching further attacks at internal targets. As such, if employees are vigilant against such attack patterns, we should effectively reduce the risk of successful APT attacks involving email phishing.

Through a series specially designed phishing emails executed over the four quarters, at one to two emails each month, the team captured an average “click” rate of 26%. The lowest click rate was 5%, and a highest was 61%. However, month over month, there was no discernible trend, as some months were low and others suddenly shot up. What was the data telling us? Did the users’ awareness rise or remain indifferent because of this exercise?

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Getting More Responsive Security by Learning From Disaster Responses

Editor’s Note: In the two previous blogs, we discussed some of the issues and dilemmas found within information security knowledge and practice domains. Those challenges arise fundamentally from the traditional approach that many organizations have adopted to address information security requirements. In this fourth installment, we look at how good preparation can improve security outcomes, as illustrated in a few case examples.

As the Dutch philosopher Erasmus once said, “prevention is better than cure.” Most organizations’ security approaches have focused primarily on erecting defensive systems to prevent attackers from compromising information and systems through exploiting security weaknesses associated with technology, process, or people in the organization.

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Issues and Dilemmas in Information Security Practices

Editor’s note: In A Circular Problem in Current Information Security Principles, we highlighted one of the challenges in our knowledge domain that contributes to the ineffectiveness of today’s information security practices. In this third installment, we review the issues and dilemmas that are common in our practice environment.

One of the challenges information security management teams face is justifying their value proposition to the business to ensure that security requirements receive adequate resource allocations. The paradox here is that if security management within an organization is effective, the results typically show no observable outcome (i.e., no security incident). Interestingly, even if a security incident is not present, it does not necessarily mean that good security management practices are in place. They might be missing because of a security detection mechanism flaw, or simply because the attacker has no interest in carrying out an attack during that time period.

On the other hand, when a security breach occurs, the security manager is often questioned for failure to anticipate and prevent the incident. Security managers therefore often fall back on past or external incidents as a form of justification. Business managers frown on these explanations because they normally do not believe they are no better than their peers or competitors in the industry. Read More »

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A Circular Problem in Current Information Security Principles

Editor’s Note: In this second installment of the blog series on more responsive security, we take a closer look at the circular problems associated with four common security principles in managing “weak link” risks in Information Technology organizations.

Before discussing what constitutes this responsive approach to security, let us first look at a few of the fundamental principles of information security to understand the unique challenges organizations face today in managing security risks.

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Cisco Announces Intent to Acquire Neohapsis

Today, businesses are looking at security in a strategic, comprehensive way to protect mission critical processes and assets. There has never been a greater need to understand the impact that security threats can have on a company’s bottom line. For these reasons, experienced security advice is now among the table stakes required to assess and address the threat landscape that faces enterprises today. The skills and capabilities companies need to maintain a strong security posture, keep pace with rapidly evolving threats and take full advantage of new technologies that can protect their businesses are rare and difficult to retain.

The right advisory service can change all of that.

I am pleased to announce Cisco’s intent to acquire privately held Neohapsis, a Chicago-based security advisory company providing services to address customers’ evolving information security, risk management, and compliance challenges. Neohapsis provides risk management, compliance, cloud, application, mobile, and infrastructure security solutions to Fortune 500 customers.

Together, Cisco, Neohapsis and our partner ecosystem will deliver comprehensive services to help our customers build the security capabilities required to remain secure and competitive in today’s markets. This will help our customers overcome operational and technical security vulnerabilities, achieve a comprehensive view of their risks, take advantage of new business models, and define structured approaches for better protection.

The Neohapsis team will join the Cisco Security Services organization under the leadership of Senior Vice President and General Manager Bryan Palma. The acquisition is expected to close in the second quarter of fiscal year 2015. We look forward to Neohapsis’ outstanding team and technology joining Cisco!

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