Cloud Security, Network Security

Letting go and keeping control: Beyond the PC and data center

It doesn't seem so long ago when you – the IT administrator – were in control of the systems you managed. You controlled the desktop. You controlled the databases, applications and servers. You even controlled the users, to the degree such a thing is actually possible. Computer processing was done on your premises and you were responsible for that environment.

I don't have to tell you that those days are over, for reasons we all recognize:

  • The consumerization of IT, with users bringing more of their own devices and their own technology habits into the workplace.
  • The massive proliferation of mobile devices capable of accessing the enterprise, whether authorized or not, with mobile data traffic expected to increase by almost 4,000 percent in just the next three years.
  • The unprecedented growth of social media, which is now being regularly accessed in the workplace and is often used for work as much as to connect with friends.
  • The momentum behind virtualization, now well past the “early majority” stage, with analysts estimating 60 to 70 percent of servers will be virtualized by 2015.
  • And, of course, the cloud – both public and private.

Attackers – whether motivated by financial gain or a terrorist agenda – are also changing their game and sharpening their focus. The micro-distribution model of endpoint threats has evolved to the point where 75 percent of all malware infects fewer than 50 machines.

Traditional signature-based scanning is insufficient. Reputation-based security, which can block threats before they are formally identified, is the only way to stay ahead of the curve. And not simply IP-based reputation, but a real-time, contextual tracking system that monitors dozens of file attributes, such as file age, file download source, digital signature and file prevalence. Symantec is committed to this approach, and with the announcement of the beta of Symantec Endpoint Protection 12, we will have the only reputation-based security solution that is context-aware. We will provide telemetry from more than 175 million endpoints on more than 2.5 billion active files.

These attributes are then combined using a reputation calculation algorithm to determine a safety rating. As a file is distributed across the internet and these attributes change, we continue to monitor the file and update its ranking.

Along with the proliferation of endpoints, there is a corresponding proliferation in the number of devices and locations where data is processed. Let's face it: The walls have fallen off the data center, and processing is now happening everywhere. Key information and applications no longer sit inside your legacy data center under your control. Now you have to protect, manage and police identities and information, regardless of device and regardless of location.

Regaining control begins with three requirements:

  • First, rules – also known as policy or governance – that are clearly defined and understood through the organization.
  • Second, protection that makes sure these policies are enforced and attackers – external or internal – can't circumvent the rules.
  • Third, visibility – also known as auditing – to verify that policies are truly deployed, properly enforced and meet compliance regulations.

The challenge is how to meet these requirements as IT architecture shifts to the cloud. At Symantec, we're no stranger to the cloud. We have been securing the cloud since its beginnings. Today, we backup more than 60 petabytes of data into our cloud; protect more than seven billion emails every month in the cloud; and protect more than five million identities in the cloud every day. We provide a complement of solutions – including security, backup, recovery, data loss prevention and encryption – all delivered as cloud-based services.

But all of these services, whether from Symantec or our competitors, are still not enough to regain control. To extend the cloud metaphor, consider what's above the clouds: a protective shield called the ozone layer. Ozone, which shields the earth from harmful elements and the effects of the sun, is made up of three molecules of oxygen.

Symantec is bringing this idea to the IT cloud with a vision we call “O3.” As with the Earth's ozone layer, O3 is composed of three distinct layers that work together to solve the challenges facing us in this new borderless enterprise.

The first layer is a policy engine where you create the rules that govern your information, devices and identities in the cloud, including the legacy corporate identities you already own and control. There is no need to give control to a third party or start from scratch. Each legitimate employee or identity has their own password allowing them to access whatever corporate assets they are legitimately entitled to, as well as their own social media networks and e-commerce sites. In addition to identities, you can create rules for devices, and even permissions for networks as to what sort of information they are allowed to transport.

The second layer is protection and enforcement. This is where your employees and devices are authenticated before they gain access to the cloud and the rules in your policy engine come into play. Every identity, every device and every piece of information is authenticated and policed so you know your infrastructure, information and interactions in the cloud are safe and secure.

The third layer is monitoring and compliance. This gives visibility into how your policies are being enforced, provides documentation and reports for regulatory compliance and makes it easy to manage security across platforms, devices and operating systems.

We live and work in a brave new world where mobile devices are more prevalent than PCs, where the walls have come off the data center, and many parts are moving to clouds – either public or private ones. When the right safeguards are in place, IT leaders can move confidently into the future.

As a vendor, Symantec has the responsibility to deliver these safeguards to you. Our solutions must be more than narrow products or services – we must provide answers that help you manage security, policies, governance and auditing. And you have every right to demand those solutions from us.

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