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A is for Application, J is for Jacked

Security is a tough beast to tame for typical IT departments

Security Track at Cloud Expo

…Criminal-toasty Application Jacked, Data’s tasty stolen too, You’re Application’s Hacked.  Application’s Jacked, Application’s Jacked – hum hum the rest in your head, glad to plant a jingle in you, to sing out all day!

Almost every day now, there seems to be a report about some ‘important’ system getting breached or some credit cards/identities being stolen or insecure infrastructures getting exposed with schools, universities, municipalities, states and even entire countries being the latest victims.  The recent 7Safe UK Security Breach Investigations Report stated, “86% of all attacks, a weakness in a web interface was exploited” and in his blog last week, Jeremiah Grossman wrote about the discrepancy in security spending verses the types of attacks that occur.  He breaks down the numbers to show that most of the security spending goes to perimeter defense like firewalls and says, ‘Organizations spend their IT security dollars protecting themselves from yesterday’s attacks, at the network/infrastructure layer, while overlooking today’s real threats.’

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IMG00003This got me thinking – will we ever get ahead of the game?  Is it a question of habit?  Is it being uninformed or not understanding the true nature of the threats?  Is it just checking the compliance box and not really going after true protection?  Is it a budget, education, staffing or perception issue?  Are the crooks way smarter?  Are there too many areas to secure – applications, code, infrastructure, DNS, data, and any other piece that needs to be protected?  Are there just a whole mess of insecure systems on the internet just waiting to get jacked?  Or a combination of all these?  Probably depends on many, mixed factors depending on organization, personnel, region and what can be accomplished within whatever boundaries are placed on those who are tasked to implement a solution.  Many security professionals over the years focused on a particular discipline like network, database, application and so forth yet many of those same folks are now tasked with understanding and securing all areas of the organization.

Almost every second of our life, we make choices/decisions hopefully based on the best information we have at the time.  Maybe we ask for additional advice, if available, to make a more informed decision.  Sometimes emotions come into play when trying to come to a rational conclusion and we all know the head and the heart can pull you in opposite directions.  There’s a part of me that wants to scold those who are lazy with securing data.  (Incidentally, I did that last night at the Disney on Ice show – one of the vendors had a clipboard with a stack of credit card receipts sitting right in front of the register for people to use to sign their slips – I could have easily slipped that into my jacket while he wasn’t looking and disappeared into the crowd with a stack of signed CC receipts.  I informed him that his ‘ease of use’ was actually not so smart.  He pulled it and later, while the clipboard was still there, the receipts were absent.)  Then there’s the other side that feels the need to educate and help those who might not understand the ramifications of their actions – the softer side of psilva.

In our personal life, while we might ponder or struggle with the huge, life changing decisions like a job change or moving the family, and after careful consideration we usually make the right choice but it’s all the little miniscule, insignificant decisions we make throughout the day that defines our character.  When the basis for our decisions is coming from several different factors and the outcome can effect many swaths both across the organization and the public at large, that can make it a much more difficult endeavor, especially when it comes down to Infrastructure vs. Application, even though both should get attention.  We can yell, bang our head against the wall, plead and beg, but security is a tough beast to tame for typical IT departments.  Even if they do declare Application Security is top priority, there may be many other factors holding them back.  We probably still have a way to go when it comes to prioritizing dollars based on actual attack stats until it hits close to home – by then, it’s too late.

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More Stories By Peter Silva

Peter is an F5 evangelist for security, IoT, mobile and core. His background in theatre brings the slightly theatrical and fairly technical together to cover training, writing, speaking, along with overall product evangelism for F5. He's also produced over 350 videos and recorded over 50 audio whitepapers. After working in Professional Theatre for 10 years, Peter decided to change careers. Starting out with a small VAR selling Netopia routers and the Instant Internet box, he soon became one of the first six Internet Specialists for AT&T managing customers on the original ATT WorldNet network.

Now having his Telco background he moved to Verio to focus on access, IP security along with web hosting. After losing a deal to Exodus Communications (now Savvis) for technical reasons, the customer still wanted Peter as their local SE contact so Exodus made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. As only the third person hired in the Midwest, he helped Exodus grow from an executive suite to two enormous datacenters in the Chicago land area working with such customers as Ticketmaster, Rolling Stone, uBid, Orbitz, Best Buy and others.

Writer, speaker and Video Host, he's also been in such plays as The Glass Menagerie, All’s Well That Ends Well, Cinderella and others.

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