Modern field guide to security and privacy

The importance of ‘knowing your network’

Real-time visibility into an enterprise’s network is one of the best tools network defenders have in warding off adversaries, said Kent Rounds, the president of cybersecurity firm Tychon.

Some of the largest security incidents often stem from some of the smallest errors.

How do companies find even tiny cracks in their digital armor? Kent Rounds has some simple but sound advice: know your network.

Attackers often have to only unearth a single hole in an company’s defenses in order to gain access to some of its most critically important data, said Rounds, the president of cybersecurity firm Tychon, a vendor that lets companies see and understand what’s happening on their networks.

“Adversaries [can] understand and know the attack surface even better than the operators themselves,” added Rounds, a cybersecurity veteran of more than 20 years, during an interview on the RSA Conference’s RSAC-TV in February.

Indeed, last year, during the Enigma Conference, the National Security Agency’s hacker-in-chief Rob Joyce similarly warned security engineers in the audience that some of their most sophisticated adversaries often have more insights into their networks than they do.

“Don’t assume a crack is too small to be noticed or too small to be exploited,” Joyce, the head of the agency’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group, told the crowd.

“We’ll poke and we’ll poke and we’ll wait and wait and wait,” he added, “because we’re looking for that opportunity.”

The best way to combat all manner of sophisticated and patient enemies, Rounds said, is giving network defenders, the people inside of an organization charged with keeping its data safe, “a snapshot of the environment in real-time, versus something that’s days, weeks or months old.”

While most organizations patch the most critical, publicly-proclaimed vulnerabilities, it’s often simpler issues like the configuration of software or small unnoticed holes that go unattended.

By giving operators — real people working on actual security problems — insight into their entire network, they’ll be able to fix even small vulnerabilities before they are exploited by an infiltrator.

“It’s giving that operator the insight into what’s happening in my environment and being able to have actionable data to change,” Rounds said. “Before the adversary can take advantage of a crack in the armor.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.