UK Construction Media

Managing the cyber security complexity gap

News   •   Aug 16, 2017 09:34 BST

Managing a company’s security infrastructure is a bit like a circus act. And with so many different entities involved in the completion of a construction or engineering project, security teams are under tremendous pressure to not drop the ball as they juggle managing the company’s infrastructure while detecting and preventing cyber-attacks from infiltrating and shutting down the systems.

Michael CallahanMichael Callahan

Unfortunately for them, they lack the resources and transparency to continually maintain the firewalls and keep the high standards needed for the company to function. The problem: firewall infrastructures have grown complex resulting in a calamitous final act with data breaches costing millions in damages and the company left with pie on its face.

The Firewall

Firewalls have long been the guardians of the enterprise, controlling traffic in and out of an organisation using rules and policies set by security teams in order to adhere with various requirements both corporate and industry-wide compliance regulations. According to FireMon’s latest State of the Firewall Report, a global benchmarking study of over 400 organisations’ security environments, the firewall isn’t going anywhere. In fact, its role is expanding to include protection of cloud and SDN environments, and organisations continue to spend at least a quarter of their budgets on the firewall. No matter which route organisations go down to meet their networking requirements, firewalls continue to support it all, from traditional to next-generation to native or cloud options.

And while the significance of firewalls cannot be disputed, they still remain as a sticking point for many organisations in terms of management and using the technology to its fullest potential.

Top Challenges

The number one issue surrounding firewall management for 27% of the organisations surveyed was complexity. With the number of firewall management challenges mounting so too are the risks and costs as IT security personnel find it increasingly difficult to adequately prioritise resources.

Today’s corporate network infrastructures are highly likely to consist of multiple vendor firewalls with two thirds stating they have up to ten or more, further adding fuel to the IT security fire.

Network systems have become so complex that a single malfunction or error could shut down a company’s system, exposing the business to cyber-attack. Even more shocking was the fact that 60% of organisations admitted to tracking changes manually via Word documents, emails and spreadsheets.

Where projects that involve collaboration are involved, using cloud applications is a useful way to manage these projects, but can throw up challenges, specifically regarding where the security accountability lies. In fact, more than one third of respondents stated responsibility for cloud security falls outside of security operations, which adds an extra layer of complexity to security management. This will require a change management process to adapt to a faster, more diverse environment.

Reducing complexity

To better manage the threat from cyber attackers, the objective has to be to close the complexity gap - or the discord between the growing number of threats, the technology in place to prevent them and the lack of cyber skills to keep pace - before its damage is irreversible. The key to improving security will be effectively managing the inherent complexity of the technologies and keeping pace with the environments in which they reside.

Now there are less security resources to monitor and manage the increasing number of technologies that are used within organisations. To tackle this, management technology systems that utilise automation in a clever way have been identified as the ideal remedy. Security management is more important than ever to remediate the complexity gap and offers visibility, intelligence, integration and automation.

Security management adds an additional layer of protection which can work in tandem with any firewall, regardless of vendor, to quickly and accurately assess risk and control policies in a centralised way.

Using Automation

A recent study conducted by Forrester Consulting found that “Managing and auditing firewall rules on a manual basis can expose an organisation to greater risk of a breach, not to mention the additional time and senior resources needed to add new rules and address change requests.”

For organisations looking to reduce the likelihood of breaches and adapt their practices to meet networking demands in diverse collaborative environments, they need a global view of their policies that spans infrastructure types. Manual, device-by-device management is not sustainable. Automation will be critical to enabling dynamic management - from automating data intake to automating workflows to automating intelligence based action.

As networking evolves to meet the needs of an “on-demand” society, security will have to evolve too or risk becoming a bottleneck or, worse, ignored altogether. With better management of security technologies, organisations can start to realise the true potential of their security investments and greatly reduce risk from data breaches and cyber attacks that jeopardise large scale construction or engineering projects.

Article submitted by Michael Callahan, a FireMon VP. Michael leads the global marketing team and is responsible for maintaining FireMon’s leadership position in the security management market. FireMon is paving the way in the cybersecurity industry across the globe.