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August 3, 2011 / David Bleeker

Advanced persistent threats force IT to rethink security priorities

The biggest business challenge today, in the minds of many information security officers, is the stealthy online infiltration by attackers to steal valuable proprietary information. The reality, they say, is that these so-called “advanced persistent threats” are so rampant and unrelenting they are forcing IT to rethink network security.

“Tackling advanced persistent threats means giving up the idea that it’s possible to protect everything. This is no longer realistic,” states the Security for Business Innovation Council, the group of 16 security leaders from companies that include eBay, Coca-Cola Company, SAP, FedEx Corp., Johnson & Johnson, and Northrop Grumman. The council today published a report called “When Advanced Persistent Threats Go Mainstream” that outlines the problems and challenges facing large organizations.

“Focusing on fortifying the perimeter is a losing battle,” their report bluntly states. “Today’s organizations are inherently porous. Change the perspective to protecting data throughout the lifecycle across the enterprise and the entire supply chain.” And the report adds: “The definition of successful defense has to change from ‘keeping attacks out’ to ‘sometimes attackers are going to get in; detect them as early as possible and minimize the damage.’ Assume that your organization might already be compromised and go from there.”

The end user is often targeted through spear phishing techniques an attacker will use to get the victim to open dangerous malware-filled attachments that can then compromise the machine and provide a jumping-off point to move further into the organizational network.

The rise of cloud computing platforms seems to make the question of APT even more complicated, but IT security managers are going to have to be actively involved in contract negotiations for cloud use to determine if security needs can be met, Cullinane says. [read more]

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