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Cisco Security and the Layered Defense Approach

Over the past month, many of the Cisco Security Blog contributors have provided their view on Cybersecurity and its implications for customer network designs, architectures, protections, and services. These, in aggregate, stress what we all know: security is best achieved using a layered defense that includes securing endpoints, hosts, and network and services infrastructures. Cisco adds some unique layers to this defense, which stems from our experience developing capabilities and solutions that meet the needs of critical infrastructure and government networks. We are applying these lessons, capabilities, and our layered defensive approach to critical business infrastructures, as well.

Cisco takes a “build-in security” approach to provide device, system, infrastructure, and services security, and is the basis of the development approach that we use called the Cisco Secure Development Lifecycle (CSDL). Our development processes leverage product security baseline requirements, threat modeling in design or static analysis and fuzzing in validation, and registration of third-party software to better address vulnerabilities when they are disclosed. In the innermost layer of our products, security is built-in to devices in both silicon and software. The use of runtime assurance and protection capabilities such as Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR), Object Size Checking, and execution space protections coupled with secure boot, image signing, and common crypto modules are leading to even more resilient products in an increasingly threatening environment.

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One Small Step…

More and more, we ask technology to play critical roles in our businesses, and our lives.  Pondering that for a moment, that dependance (versus use), requires careful thought on how much we trust that the technology is working as we want it, only as we want it, and nothing more.  For many businesses or governments, testing via FIPS or Common Criteria increases that confidence level, combined with detailed operational plans to ensure running the services after they are installed is going correctly. For many technology vendors, innovation and commitment, can help here.

Our commitment at Cisco, and our innovation, for trustworthiness have never been stronger than they are today.  Nearly 5 years ago, we started down a road which ultimately led to Cisco’s Secure Development Lifecycle (CSDL), and in our most recent FY12 SEC 10-K, acknowledged that work, our secure supply chain work, and our innovation efforts for Secure Boot and Anti-Tamper.  For reference, that 10K, or 2012 Annual Report, is posted here: http://investor.cisco.com/

We foresaw the need for trustworthiness by listening to our customers, and we started early.  Early results are in, and we’ve both reduced externally found security flaws, as well as increased the resiliency for multiple products anti-tamper.  Have we done it on every product? Not yet, although rest assured, that’s exactly where we are going. I’ll keep you posted.

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