APTs: New term, old problem

Share this article:
Will Irace
Will Irace
Scuba divers are fond of saying that to survive a shark encounter you must only swim faster than your buddy. It is conventional wisdom in the security world too: If I have bars on my windows and you don't, I'll feel safer. But consider the elite security practitioners among us. Who has the talent, resources and motivation to protect their infrastructure, employees and customers? Are RSA and Google on your list of exceptional swimmers? They're on mine, yet both have been reverberating in the news under breathless headlines proclaiming a new era of advanced persistent threats (APTs). If their defenses weren't adequate, what hope is there for the rest of us?

The truth is: We don't know.

But we know (or should know) what we have that is of value. In a broad sense, we also know what kinds of harm can come to those valuables (see “confidentiality, integrity, availability, breach thereof”). We also know that we're immersed in a threat/countermeasure arms race that started decades ago when we learned that some people who use computers – shocker, I know – cannot be trusted. While it is true that more and more sophisticated techniques increasingly target applications, content and consumers of content (namely, human beings), we're well advised to come up for air just long enough to remember that attackers will use the simplest approach available to get the job done.

So let's pause for a reality check. Do we have a clear sense of what we need to protect and where it is? Do our employees know what is expected of them? Do they have our trust and confidence? Are we focused on protecting things of value from risk or harm, or are we bogged down on regulatory compliance issues?

There may come a time when the fastest swimmers are the ones with no secrets to protect at all. Until then, let's forgo the APT hysteria long enough to make sure we're doing a good job on the fundamentals.

Share this article:
You must be a registered member of SC Magazine to post a comment.

Sign up to our newsletters

More in Opinions

An IT lens on data breach response

An IT lens on data breach response

This heightened awareness regarding data breach response time has created an interesting dynamic for security professionals.

Ensuring your developers love - or at least don't hate - security

Ensuring your developers love - or at least ...

The relationship between development and security doesn't need to be hostile, and there are ways to engage developers more with security.

Backing diversity lowers the bar?

Backing diversity lowers the bar?

Many groups have striven to cultivate a more welcoming workplace, says Alison Gianotto.