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Innovative new way to enforce security uses networks as sensors

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Network Sensors & Security Enforcement

As Cisco Live 2015 launched in California this week, a primary message the company sent out was that it is critical to lock out cybercriminals. But as methods of attack become increasingly sophisticated, and points of infiltration multiply, traditional methods of security are not enough. So instead of seeing computer networks as attack points that must be protected, Cisco sees networks as the key to defending organisations from attack.

Cyber Security Issues Discussed

As the Internet of Everything (IoE) expands and grows, increasing connectivity in all ways, the opportunity for cyber attacks, as well as the attack surface, also grows. Coupled with this, Cisco goes as far to suggest that many international cybercrime organisations understand networks better than those in the business. This often means that the cybercriminals have also identified network defenses, so when a breach occurs, it can take a very long time to identify and reverse it.


One of this week’s innovation talks at Cisco Live by senior vice presidents of Cisco, Bryan Palma and David Goeckeler focused on security innovations, and discussed how protection against cyber attacks can be implemented using “threat-centric security.” Universal connectivity comes with the requirement that companies take strategic steps to “reduce complexity and protect their environments from advanced threats,” they say. With this in mind, the talk focused on innovations in what they termed “threat-concentric security” that can help companies anticipate cyber attacks and guard against them. It also looked at the rapid pace of change in today’s IT market as well as the vital need to provide availability, as well as access and the required performance that today’s IoE economy demands.

Cisco has an advanced cyber threat defense solution that enables businesses to detect threats. It has also partnered with Lancope to offer the Lancope StealthWatch System as part of the Cisco solution, and Lancope’s technical engineer, Matt Robertson also headed a session this week that featured Cisco and highlighted ways to fend off advanced insider threats and external attacks.

Andrew Wild, Lancope’s chief information security officer (CISO) was at the conference. He told CloudTweaks that Cisco’s innovation to use networks as sensors, highlighted the importance that networks should not simply be seen as attack points. Instead, he said, they are “the source of a huge amount of information and of significant investment, which is currently being underutilised as the primary threat identification and mitigation tool for today’s most insidious attacks.”

Cisco points out that the Ponemon Institute has released figures that show it takes on average 80 days to discover malicious attacks on networks, and 123 days to resolve them. In its annual report last year (2014), the company also stated that 100 percent of business networks Cisco teams had analysed had traffic going to websites that hosted malware.

It’s no longer realistic to think that a strong perimeter defense will stop attacks,” says Wild. Instead of focusing on how to keep attackers out, enterprises should be asking what is the quickest way to identify ongoing attacks and mitigate their damage.

Organisations have already spent millions on building out robust, highly-scalable worldwide networks. Now is the time to leverage this investment and empower it to protect itself. “The Network as a Sensor model allows enterprises to activate the network to obtain constant, pervasive visibility and threat detection. All attacks must traverse the network to achieve their objective, and by using your Network as a Sensor, you are more likely to detect malicious activity that could lead to a major breach.

He said it was also possible to “mine your network” for context around who, what, when and where strange activities were happening on the network.

We believe the time is now for the Network as a Sensor to start shifting the balance of power towards those who should truly have the most information about their own networks.”

By Penny Swift

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