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Hacking breach made us stronger says RSA

Attack causes rethink on security skills

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RSA 2012 RSA president Art Coviello has said the hacking attack that breached its servers ended up making the company stronger and more effective.

“Since the breach we've dedicated ourselves to regaining and maintaining your confidence in us, with a sense of urgency as never before to apply the lessons we've learned first hand,” he told delegates at the opening keynote of RSA 2012 in San Francisco. “We are sharing and using them to drive strategy and investments and our product roadmap. We hope the attacks on us will strengthen the urgency and resolve of everyone because we are not alone – we've never witnessed so many attacks by hackers.”

The SecureID attacks should put the last nail in the coffin of perimeter defense he said, and it had caused a rethink within RSA as to what was needed and the skills and tools needed by the modern security professional. He outlined three areas that need to be managed.

First, companies have to get a lot better at risk management. This means acknowledging the vulnerability of everyone to attack, the likelihood of being a target and the value of what can be stolen. Reaching an acceptable level of risk is the goal, he explained. IT managers need to know not only their own networks, but also know their enemies and what they are after.

Secondly security needs to be a lot more agile. The sheer volume and skill of attackers means security systems have to be much more responsive to new threats. This will require a high level of automation he said - there's no way an IT manager can be faster than the attackers, so companies need to use automatic controls in all levels, from corporate systems (real and virtual) to any personal hardware used on the network.

Finally, big data is coming to security, he proclaimed. Companies need to absorb and analyze vast volumes of threat data and formulate policies to counter threats. This is possible with the increases in computing power, storage and data analysis tools, and there are products out there to do this, he said. But not everyone is using them.

The IT security industry seldom hired from the military he said, but the military mindset is what's needed. The security professional needs to be “offensive in their mindset,” a master of big data analysis and have excellent situational awareness so they can constantly be tweaking the security model.

A sign of hope was that the industry is now sharing threat data much more openly than it has in the past. The industry wasn't waiting for government or big business to force standards, but instead a grassroots information sharing effort was coming from the security community. RSA will be bringing out new products to help this, he promised, and the balance of power will remain with the security professional.

“We're right, we're free, we'll fight, we'll see - to quote the immortal words of Twisted Sister,” he concluded. “To take the title from that song, we're not going to take it any more.” ®

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