Next-generation security tips for a next-gen world

An analyst from an independent research and advisory firm offers four things IT departments should keep in mind to protect themselves from the variety of forces threatening their network

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More than a decade ago, the infamous ILOVEYOU or Love bug virus forever altered the evolutionary course of network security. At the time, it was a true wake up all for the industry; research firm Computer Economics estimated total costs ultimately exceeded $5 billion.

Today, cyber thieves are even craftier and the security breach threats loom larger than ever before, but according to one industry expert, it’s not about simply buying a next-generation firewall (NGFW) and thinking the problem is solved.

Mike Rothman, an analyst with independent security research and advisory firm Securosis, made the comments during a breakout session during the SecTor security conference in Toronto earlier this month.

The attack landscape is forever evolving, notes Rothman, and the possibility of having your network hacked is now higher than ever, no matter the size of the organization. According to research firm IDC, the security appliance market is widely expected to be a $10.17 billion dollar business by the year 2017, up nearly 500 per cent compared to today. It’s an industry response for the growing business need to be ahead to the game when it comes to protecting the network perimeter: “With security threats evolving and cyber attacks escalating, organizations are looking for new approaches that allow them to leverage the potential of technology in a safe manner,” according to IDC.

It appears to be a no-brainer: boost the level of network security reduces the potential for data theft and privacy spoofing. And with innovative technologies such as virtualization and the cloud, Rothman added, network security is that much harder than ever.With this in mind, Rothman offered up a few tips on protecting the network perimeter:

Think like a hacker:  Despite all the technology advances around network security in recent years, in some respects things aren’t advancing fast enough, offered Rothman. We’ve come far beyond that days where a simple predicative firewall is enough, said Rothman; with this in mind, IT security pros should stay on top of cyber threat trends and developments to both keep up with malware advances and effectively lock down mobile and tablet devices across the enterprise.

Understand the security tools that are out there — and understand that they aren’t instant cure-alls: Rothman offers that organizations should be “tracking technology evolution,” they would be best served by not getting caught up in the “hyperbole” of next-generation security applications like NGFW, particularly around believing they represent instant cure-alls around network data protection.  “There are a lot of cool technology innovations that are happening in this space,” said Rothman, adding that it’s not just about dumping a next-gen solution in a rack and forgetting about it. It about effective access controls as well: Rothman noted that taking a look at endpoint solutions that leverage next-generation key generation algorithms — and testing them in the environment — is a way to keep ahead of the curve in terms of strong security protection and performance.

Effective policy management is key: In today’s network environment, think about creating flexible and adaptive policy enforcement around applications, especially considering that some organization enable and support social media applications such as Facebook, said Rothman. That said, carefully consider the needs of today’s organization from a security perspective — think about technology is evolving, review and adapt the restrictive firewall policies, and consider how it is now it’s about protecting information in an “anywhere, any device” type of world.  “People want their information, they want their devices, and they’re going to use them whether you like it or not…it’s a nightmare for someone who’s job is (about) protecting information,” he said.

For more advice on how to protect your network, download Allstream’s The Internet Security eBook: A Self-Assessment Guide

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

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