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The dynamics of cyber security, today

Anushkar Mohinani | Oct. 3, 2011
In a recent chat with Anushkar Mohinani for Computerworld Singapore, Symantec’s Raymond Goh shared his thoughts on current cyber security issues facing enterprises. In his view, “organisations and vendors have to be perfect all the time, and hackers just lucky once.”

Computerworld Singapore had a chance to chat with Symantec’s regional director of systems engineering, Raymond Goh, at the recent Symantec Partner Engage event in Hong Kong. He shares his views on key security issues enterprises have to deal with today and heading into 2012.

Raymond Goh, Director, Systems Engineering, Asia South, Symantec

What are the top trends driving security challenges among enterprises in the Asia Pacific region?

One of the key trends driving security challenges across the region is the changing threat landscape. Firstly, there has been an increase in the number of new threats. In 2010, Symantec identified some 286 million new threats. Secondly, the threats are increasingly targeted nowadays, towards stealing identity and information. 

Another trend is the explosion of mobile devices entering the workforce.
 
.. The consumerisation of IT

I’m trying to avoid that buzz word! But yes, with the proliferation of mobile devices in the enterprise environment, the potential of introducing more threats to the business is adding to the security challenges.

It used to be easy to manage security in the past when devices were locked down in the organisation and information was protected within the four walls of the enterprise space. Today, the boundaries of a company's information network are not as clearly defined as in the past.

So the security concerns have considerably evolved in the past few years?

The security issue at the top of any CIO’s mind first and foremost is protecting information and identity. What the trends such as mobility do is throw a curve ball at it, but the fundamental issue remains securing information and identity.

What has changed is that CIOs need to handle these issues in a more complex environment than in the past.

Do you think organisations across the region are prepared to exert controls in such an environment?

Based on my discussions with customers across the region, they are aware of the growing threats arising from the use of employee-owned devices in the work place and they are looking at how they can exert control and management, and consistently enforce policies across the multitude of devices.

But does the rise in the number of attacks on enterprises - based on Symantec’s survey last year - reflect a lack of awareness and understanding on the part of organisations?

Organisations today understand the impact and seriousness cyber attacks can have on their business. The issue here is the increasing level of sophistication of the attacks. Let me give you a perfect example – StuxNet – the way the malware was developed and propagated was highly sophisticated. The attackers obtained digital certificates to sign the malware so that when a user downloaded it, it appeared as legitimate software. And within the malware itself, there were vulnerabilities that did not have a patch or fix at that time. This shows the level of sophistication on both the creation and the distribution of malware.

So how then can they cope with the new level of sophistication in attack methods?

Organisations need to continuously evolve and improve their security posture and readiness.

Something I’ve been repeating - a standard mantra in security is, ‘organisations and vendors have to be perfect all the time, and hackers just lucky once.’ 

This is the dynamics of security we face today – we have to push the boundaries on how we can enhance the security of information and protection of user identity.

What are some of the key challenges enterprises might face heading into 2012?

The level of sophistication of attacks will continue to increase – the clear-cut reason is that as vendors such as Symantec come up with more innovative ways to combat attacks, attackers will find new ways.

The continued sophistication is driven by the underground economy – a billion dollar industry. Even if you take one percent of the industry’s investment that goes into innovating cyber attacks, it far outnumbers security vendors’ investment in research and development. 

Plus, today’s malware has an interface that is user-friendly making it much easier to conduct attacks – a layman can acquire tools and build their attacks.

Security, therefore, needs to be made easier too for the consumer. Obstacles to deploying security measures arise when it’s too complex for the user. This is why Symantec provides a policy-driven approach to security management, which takes the complexity away from the user.

 

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