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Cloud Security: Article

A Multi-Layered Approach to Protecting Systems

In the Boardroom with... Mr. Steve Lazerowich Director, Cybersecurity Solutioning, HP Enterprise Services, U.S. Public Sector

Mr. Lazerowich is a security solution leader within the U.S. Public Sector practice for HP Enterprise Services. Prior to joining HP, he served as an Associate Director with Provtiviti Government Services, providing project management and subject matter expertise to a number of government identity management programs including the E-Authentication initiative, the Federal Identity Credentialing Committee (FICC), the Federal Identity, Credential and Access Management (FICAM) Subcommittee of the CIO Council, and has provided support to the Chair of the Federal PKI Policy Authority. He has more than 15 years of experience in the federal information security space.

Steve holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Massachusetts and has done graduate work at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Harvard University Graduate School of Business, and George Washington University. He holds a Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) certification from ISACA, as well as a certified Federal IT Security Professional - Manager from the Federal IT Security Institute.

SecurityStockWatch.com: Thank you for joining us today, Steve, please tell us about your background and your role at HP.

Steve Lazerowich: With over 15+ years' experience with security solutions, I joined HP Enterprise Services in 2010 as a Senior Solutions Designer, responsible for reviewing client's technical requirements and then devising an appropriate and cost effective set of technologies and personnel resources to best meet their cybersecurity needs. Today, I manage a team of individuals who perform this very same role, as part of the HP Enterprise Services Cybersecurity Solutions Group.

SecurityStockWatch.com: We seem to be in an environment where it's not "IF" your agency or enterprise will be breached, but rather "when". We all wish of course that this was not the case; but disasters (natural or man-made) and sophisticated cyber-attacks (from organized foreign governments, to rogue individuals) dominate the headlines on a daily basis. What do you advise HP clients do in this volatile environment to minimize their risk?

Steve Lazerowich: You're exactly right with your assessment. In today's environment the bad guys, be they hackers, criminal elements, or nation states, have a huge advantage over those of us trying to defend information systems. The bad guys needn't worry about testing and quality assurance. Generally speaking, there are so many vulnerabilities in our information systems that the bad guys can pick and choose their way into them based upon their intent.

Today, there is simply no way to provide 100% protection. As events have recently shown, it's not just the bad guys on the outside trying to gain access to your information; organizations must also be mindful of the insider threat. The best approach is defense in depth, or in other words, a multi-layered approach to protecting systems. It starts at the outer most perimeter with firewalls and network intrusion prevention systems. Systems need to be segregated on separate network segments so that a failure in one area does not expose all systems. Servers also need their own end point protection including host intrusion detection, malware protection, data encryption and white listing technology. White listing is designed to guard against attacks such as the so-called "advanced persistent threats." White listing is designed to allow only trusted software programs to run; thus closing off an avenue that has been used to siphon off vast amounts of intellectual property from U.S. based companies and governmental agencies.

Data leak protection, (DLP), is another tool that deserves significant consideration. DLP systems can identify sensitive information such as social security numbers, electronic healthcare information, and other personally identifiable information (PII). DLP technology is designed to further protect data by ensuring users can only access and use information needed to perform their specific roles; preventing them from using information in a manner not relevant to their role, such as writing data files to USB thumb drives and exfiltrating that information.

However, technology is not the only option. As often as not, users may be the weakest link in any defense. Users today need to constantly be on guard for phishing schemes designed to masquerade as legitimate emails. These tactics actually provide a channel for malware to be uploaded, bypassing many of the common protection systems. "Security awareness training" is the typical means of delivering knowledge to user groups; however, the real challenge is getting users to remember the warnings and lessons taught, weeks and even months after completing the training.

SecurityStockWatch.com: Adding complexity to this already volatile environment is the push toward cloud computing and the use of mobile devices. What is your perspective on the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) initiatives to improve cybersecurity and protect our nation's critical infrastructure?

Steve Lazerowich: Understandably, cloud computing introduces additional challenges to the security paradigm. The notion of defense in depth applies equally to cloud computing. One example of where additional security measures must be taken is with systems hosted within an organization's own data center. This is where identity and access management - that is user identity proofing - and authentication and access control determines who is allowed to access which applications and what they are in fact allowed to do with that information. Additionally, organizations should consider cloud-based systems as an extension of their own environments. They should insist that cloud providers offer an appropriate mechanism to manage users and their access, in the same consistent manner in which access privileges are managed in a conventional environment. Furthermore, the trend of BYOD or "bring your own device," also has created new challenges. It presents an entirely new set of challenges.

NIST has been tasked to develop a cybersecurity framework for those industry sectors directly involved in our critical national infrastructure, such as power generation and other utilities, financial services, transportation, etc. This is a different type of challenge. What has occurred over time is that the systems and networks used to manage essential services such as managing the generation and delivery of electricity and natural resource pipelines, to control traffic lights, and delivering the convenience of online financial services, has evolved from closed, proprietary networks to commodity technologies now accessible on the public internet. Concerns of external malicious activity are nearly non-existent in closed, proprietary systems; but, of course all this has changed as these systems have moved to the internet.

Additionally, over the last few years we've seen examples of process control and IT systems suffering actual physical damage as the direct result of the introduction of malware. Researchers are discovering how the systems that allow Wi-Fi services on commercial aircraft might be used to introduce malware into the flight control systems. Now industries directly involved with our critical infrastructure are being asked to step up their game and enhance their overall security posture. But evaluating the unique security controls needed to protect the electrical generating plant or a network of ATMs, demonstrates the often vast differences among these sectors. So NIST has been tasked with developing a framework containing common elements and processes that can then be tailored to meet the needs and environments of sector-specific critical industries.

Some industries already rely heavily on the technical guidance that NIST has developed for the federal government. Special Publication 800-53 is a catalog of security controls that can be tailored to meet the specific needs of a wide variety of networks and systems. The latest revision includes controls that are intended to guard against the current threats and vulnerabilities and it also includes new controls aimed at protecting the privacy of sensitive information stored within many systems today.

The response and subsequent support to date from the private sector, has been positive. There is tremendous value in this effort, but it may not be sufficient as there are too many systems currently running where software is of poor quality or has become so complex, that exploitable vulnerabilities are constantly being discovered. HP strongly encourages its clients to build systems with security in mind from the beginning of the architecture and design phase.. If you can identify and address vulnerabilities early on the lifecycle of a system, you can realize cost savings through the reduced patching of code and post-deployment activities of thousands of systems.

SecurityStockWatch.com: Data sharing among enterprise and vertical industries such as financial institutions, energy, healthcare, manufacturing and even utilities, has never been more important to help industry leaders stay in front of possible threats or challenging conditions. What is your perspective on the successful adoption of cross-industry collaboration? In other words, are we getting better at sharing data across industries and agencies?

Steve Lazerowich: One of the recurring themes at the NIST cybersecurity framework workshop conducted in May 2013 was the need for greater information sharing between the government and the private sector, as well as across key governmental sectors. Following September 11, 2001, various industries formed Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs) designed to share information among industry partners within a specific sector. Certain sectors, such as financial services, have highly effective programs that have successfully avoided focused efforts to disrupt their operations. Sharing information across sectors however does present additional challenges. Specific threats that apply to one sector, may not apply in exactly the same manner for another sector. When examining information sharing between the government and the private sector, yet again there are a different set of challenges.

The government created a program called the Defense Industrial Base several years ago. It was created to facilitate the Department of Defense's (DoD) sharing of sensitive, and even classified, information with those firms who are the Pentagon's leading contractors and who house DoD-related information in their IT systems. Since such firms were already authorized to have access to classified information during the performance of their DOD contracts, the shift to share information related to IT systems' threats and vulnerabilities was a logical extension. But that isn't the case with power generators, banks and public water supplies, and so on. The nexus for cooperation isn't there as it is for defense contractors. Consequently, the Department of Homeland Security is exploring ways to share information with the US critical infrastructure providers. Additionally, the public has heard of instances where various forms of personal communications have been monitored and even possibly captured by malicious actors.

SecurityStockWatch.com: It was recently announced that the latest version of Apple's iOS, version 6, has passed FIPS 140-2 certification from NIST, enabling its future usage at the agency level. In your opinion, is this considered a positive sign as it pertains to public / private partnership for cybersecurity?

Steve Lazerowich: I agree that the NIST certification for the latest version of iOS is a positive step in the momentum of data sharing anytime, anywhere, on any device. Traditionally, the public sector represents a small percentage of business for Apple; therefore, the fact that they have attained FIPS 140 validation is significant to further demonstrate the value FIPS certification plays within private industry. In the financial services sector, historically, products whose cryptography has been validated against FIPS 140 are preferred, if not actually required.

SecurityStockWatch.com: The FDA has just recommended greater security for medical devices to reduce the risk that such devices may be compromised by a cyber-threat. This follows a Department of Homeland Security warning last year about personal medical devices that attach to IT networks, being a potential security threat. Among the issues raised was a demonstration on how an outside actor can shut-off or alter the settings of an insulin pump without the user's knowledge. With this in mind, what is your perspective on the unique cybersecurity concerns faced by the healthcare community?

Steve Lazerowich: The recent Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announcement and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warnings address the problem of an external user willfully changing software, consequently with the very real possibility of causing serious injury or even death. The same sort of malicious behavior has been demonstrated in some of the systems deployed in current generations of automobiles and researchers have speculated on similar types of attacks against systems embedded on modern "fly by wire" commercial aircraft.

Our nation's focus and discussion need to continue on how to substantially improve the overall quality of software, irrespective of whether it is part of some general purpose system that processes web transactions, or it is an embedded system that manages an insulin pump or other important device. NIST has stressed the need for improved software quality for quite a while now; but as of late, the message has been delivered to address two distinct phases. First, build systems and software correctly from inception. Then, monitor them to ensure the environment remains as secure as originally architected, despite technological and environmental changes which naturally occur over time.

This interview originally appeared in SecuritySolutionsWatch.com. Republished with permission.

More Stories By Elizabeth White

News Desk compiles and publishes breaking news stories, press releases and latest news articles as they happen.

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