Averting another Stuxnet will require new cybersecurity approach

High-profile breaches prove traditional IT network defenses are not enough, experts say

Now that the scope of malicious cyberattacks has been proven, the traditional model of defending against them needs to evolve, according to two security experts who spoke at the FOSE conference in Washington July 20.

A rash of recent high-profile breaches confirm that conventional defenses against cyber threats aren't working — including breaches that have cost Citigroup upwards of $2.7 million, RSA an estimated $100 million and untold money from the numerous attacks on Sony, Jimmy Sorrells, senior vice president, INTEGRITY Global Security, told the conference.

“It’s going to be painful, but we’ve got to change the mindset of security ... from the traditional model of perimeter defense to a modern, contemporary security," Sorrells said. "We have to move to a new philosophy of security.”

Sorrells said a big part of the problem is IT systems that were built too fast to meet demands, but without proper security considerations.

“People didn’t think about, ‘This is going to be the backbone of my business for the next 50 to 60 years,' " he said.

Today’s security requirements go beyond perimeter defenses such as firewalls and virtual private networks, what Paul Williams, executive director of security services at White Badger Security, called a “castle-like mentality.”

Williams said Stuxnet's penetrations were enabled by a number of mistakes, including ineffective anti-virus software, no zero-day exploit protection, unblocked peer-to-peer machine connections and undetected malware covert communications and critical application changes.

According to Sorrells, the recipe for security is built on five key tenets:

  • Making a comprehensive inventory of assets that includes all data.
  • Categorizing assets based on confidentiality, integrity and availability.
  • Compartmentalizing and segmenting infrastructure.
  • Mapping assets into compartments, such a zones or enclaves.
  • Using common criteria as a scorecard for critical IT components.

Even with critical IT network defense components in place, nothing works better than the human eye, Williams said.

“There’s no product on the market that can match manual analysis,” he said.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

Reader Comments

Tue, Aug 16, 2011 Mike Victorville, CA

So basically we're hearing that multiple protection mechanisms are needed in response to multiple threats? Yeah, it's called "defense in depth". Just ask the military. They'll school you on its importance (since no one seems to listen to "us security people").

Thu, Jul 21, 2011

I think I read about this "new" security. I think it was in Shon Harris' All-In-One CISSP book which describes the concept known as Defense-In-Depth. It's also taught in SANs critical controls course. Problem is no-one wants to pay for the non-flashy analytical stuff and a complete cyber-security tool-kit. Nor do they want to pay for the fixes. See-no, hear-no, say-no evil.

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