Security outside agencies’ comfort zone depends on automation, experience

Embracing automation for most network analysis leaves security analysts time to consult playbooks, focus on unique problems, experts say.

During a time that is anything but normal for government agencies, experts say the key on cybersecurity is not going it alone.

Speaking during a recent ACT-IAC webinar on the security of future networks moderated by GCN Editor-in-Chief Troy Schneider, panelists touted the advantages of using advanced technologies such as machine learning to automatically filter data for known threats so that security experts can focus on more complex ones.

“We’ve got to get away from the mindset of ‘you can account for every alert.’ You’ve got to embrace orchestration and [security orchestration, automation, and response] technologies – artificial intelligence, machine learning. You have to embrace this,” said Mike Witt, associate CIO for cybersecurity and privacy at NASA. “You have to take advantage of playbooks and push your teams to basically do a lot of these automated responses so that you can focus your limited analyst power … on some of the more interesting things.”

For instance, as the coronavirus pandemic first started making its way across the globe, Witt and his team took action. They closed three centers, sent employees home to work and performed a “pressure check” on the system. That went well, so the NASA then conducted its first-ever enterprisewide mandatory telework test.

“We knew the pandemic was heading to the U.S.,” Witt said. NASA took advantage of the telework exercise to actively test its security operations centers from a COVID standpoint. It also looked at performance of its network operations centers, he said, “because we’ve got certain functions that have to stay onsite,” adding that today, more than 95% of the agency’s workforce is remote.

Other steps NASA is taking to shore up systems include moving to a zero-trust model, an effort that was underway before the pandemic hit; shrinking its public footprint; and performing continuous red teaming.

ACT-IAC CEO Dave Wennergren touted current federal efforts for setting the stage for agencies’ expedited cybersecurity response during the pandemic. He cited the updated Federal Cloud Computing Strategy, which shifts the emphasis to managing risk; Trusted Internet Connection 3.0, which pushes security adoption; and zero-trust models, which move from protecting agency boundaries and everyone within them to relying on strong identity attributes, data-level security and continuous monitoring and evaluating.

“This new normal that we face has shown that you have to be ready, to be any place, any device, trusted or untrusted and be able to get the mission done,” Wennergren said. “You’re not in this alone,” he reminded attendees. “When you try to deal with security issues and challenges and moving past the comfort zone that we’ve had, when you do it on your own, that’s when you stumble most, and you don’t have to.”

Today, best practices include ensuring that the network and security teams work together, said Zain Ahmed, vice president for civilian and law enforcement sales at CenturyLink, which sponsored the webinar. “Network and security used to be two different paths,” Ahmed said. “They are one thing, and if you start to think about one without the other, it will never be successful. You’ve got to overlay your security and build it into your network.”

He also recommended that agencies take advantage of the 80/20 principle, which states that 80% of what’s happening on the network is noise, while 20% needs attention. Let machine learning handle the former so that skilled analysts can focus on the latter, Ahmed suggested.

“What we’ve found is that a great combination of broad visibility and very specific forensic work … is the right combination” for security, added Mike Benjamin, senior director of threat research at Black Lotus Labs, the threat intelligence and research team at CenturyLink. “If you think about it, finding a needle in a haystack is impossible, but what if you could use the math to find a very small amount of hay – just enough to fit in our hand? We could find the needle at that point.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.