You Need a Plan B for Endpoint Security

You need a Plan B.

Plan A in endpoint security is to prevent malicious software from infiltrating a machine.  Most of the software on the exhibit floor of any IT security show is Plan A software with the remainder aimed at identity management.  As the number and complexity of attacks steadily increase, the amount of Plan A tools deployed at any given site has gone up proportionately.  Every year brings out a new “it” Plan A product and another layer of shields.

In spite of all of this Plan A activity, the number of successful infiltrations is on the rise.  Malware detection rates vary from study to study, but if you are RSA, NASDAQ, Sony, or any of the scores of recent breaches you realize that the bickering over the numbers on these studies is meaningless once you are attacked.  Add targeted attacks and the Advanced Persistent Threat to the mix, and the picture is less than rosy.

You need a Plan B.  Plan B is not a difficult concept to grasp or justify.  It simply says that there are no 100% shields, no fool-proof Plan A.  It accepts the hard truth that motivated, well-funded attackers will infiltrate your systems.  Therefore, you need a Plan B to detect the attacks that evade your Plan A software and so you can take informed action based on that knowledge.

The “Verizon Business 2011 Data Breach Investigations Report”, Published May 2011 had two interesting facts that scream for the need for a Plan B:

  • 60% of the breaches they studied went undetected for over a month.  The bad guys had free access to internal systems for extended periods.
  • 86% of the breaches were discovered by an external party.  The organizations would have never known they had been breached if someone from the outside had not told them.

Don’t take for granted that you have not been infiltrated because your Plan A software has not detected the presence of an attack.  That is self-deceiving logic.  If the attack gets past the protection of Plan A it has already evaded the detection capabilities of Plan A.

Here is something else to consider:  most of the Plan A software are shields to defend the increasingly porous perimeter.  Successful infiltrations are obviously at the endpoint.  Furthermore, the shields are often concerned with the attack vector and not the payload.  Once an attack makes it to the machine, it is all about the payload.  So again, we are back to the need for a Plan B that has a different focus and methodology than Plan A.

Having a Plan B is not an admittance of failure or running up a white flag on the idea of prevention.  It is a prudent, pragmatic and necessary response to the current threat environment.  You need a Plan B that focuses on detecting successful attacks and provides the analysis necessary to take immediate and informed action.  You need a Plan B that is not tied to traditional techniques that rely on prior knowledge such as signatures.  Finally, you need a Plan B that lives where the attacks happen – the endpoint.

It all goes back to the opening line: You need a Plan B.

About The Triumfant Blog
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5 Responses to You Need a Plan B for Endpoint Security

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