This week’s State of the Union Address was the fourth in a row in which President Obama highlighted the critical nature of cybersecurity. Until the most recent onslaught of headlines painted a painful picture of the consequences of a data breach, all too many of our organizations have been focused on passing compliance audits and dealing with a broad variety of threats to long-term business viability. Times have changed, and the headlines and the tough reality are all crystal clear: the bad guys are strong, dedicated, and working productively together, and they are in our networks today.
As President Obama said, lawmakers must “finally pass the
legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks,” and,
“If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable.” Recently
proposed legislation would relieve some of the risk of participating in the
information-sharing for which the federal government is asking. Defending our
organizations is becoming increasingly complicated for legal and security
teams, so it’s crucial for such legislation to increase the incentives or
decrease the exposure that companies would experience in being more transparent
and collaborative with government when data breaches occur.
Last week, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released an update to its Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, incorporating feedback from its October workshop as well as responses to an August Request for Information. While adoption of the Framework remains voluntary and not a regulatory requirement, many large organizations in a variety of industries consider it to be an effective benchmark for security operations. We at Guidance Software believe it will soon be considered a “commercially reasonable” standard, but we also recommend incorporating additional, proactive security practices for a more complete security posture.
Information-Sharing Holds Real Promise for More Effective Organizational Defense
Among the aspects of the NIST Framework that I believe holds the most promise in defending our organizations is that of information-sharing. Many who have responded to NIST’s calls for feedback have expressed interest in expanding this type of collaboration in order to build more powerful threat intelligence feeds across American industries. While interest in participation is high, so are the levels of concern about potential impact on corporate reputation if data breaches were made public. Since the original Framework was published, there has been a clear call for a means of reporting a breach and related information anonymously.
Congress has just passed the National Cybersecurity Protection Act in order to better support cyber-threat information exchange between the public and private sector via the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center. However, a bill that incorporates liability protections for those reporting on breaches will have to wait until early next year.
NIST Senior Policy Advisor Adam Sedgewick to Present in Webinar Series on NIST Cybersecurity Framework
To help organizations better understand the merits of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework, Guidance Software is hosting a two-part webinar, “Implementing the Detect Function in the NIST Cybersecurity Framework.” Senior Information Technology Advisor Adam Sedgewick of NIST will be the featured presenter. The webinar will also feature a presentation by Alfred Chung, EnCase Analytics product manager for Guidance Software.
Yesterday’s release of the final NIST Cybersecurity Framework is an immediate call to action for companies managing critical infrastructure in the United States. With the core of the Framework having changed very little from preliminary versions, it calls for companies in a broad range of industries from finance and healthcare to energy and information technology, to be prepared to adopt it and prove that their cybersecurity practices are consistent with the outlined practices. The primary difference from the preliminary draft is a revision to the privacy section, because critics felt the preliminary draft of the privacy section would be so costly and prescriptive as to deter widespread adoption of the Framework, which is, at present, still voluntary.
The NIST Cybersecurity Framework: “Commercially Reasonable?”
Over time, as federal incentives are offered and these industries increasingly accept and comply with the Framework, it’s likely that the private sector will move toward the NIST Cybersecurity model through common law liability. Some data-privacy specialists are already speculating that the Framework is likely to become a standard for what’s considered “commercially reasonable” for corporations who come under regulatory scrutiny or are involved in litigation related to a data breach.
A few days ago, I was delighted to see the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) release its Preliminary Cybersecurity Framework for reducing cyber risks to critical infrastructure. And my first read-through was pretty positive: they cover a lot of material, and I think it will help organizations understand the full picture of security readiness. Their tiered approach, for instance, is sound, and I’ve seen it work successfully in other industries–e-discovery, for instance, has the EDRM Maturity Model, and software development has the CMMI. And I’m very pleased to see such attention paid to PII and privacy.
That said, however, I saw a few structural problems on my second review. The Framework has a lot of noise about security policies and procedures and not as much of a call-to-action on collaboration and threat intelligence-sharing as I would like. It lacks any mention of proactive forensics or proactive investigation. It contains a wealth of detail on rules and process for ensuring information security, but very little in the way of the means of, or requirements for, organizations to work together to fight the good fight. And it has a major hole in its attempt to categorize threat detection and response.
Think of it as the new arms race: Everyone from corporations to government agencies is engaged in a constant combat cycle with cyber-terrorists and criminals that goes through these phases:
- The bad guys launch a new type or method of attack
- Some (if not all) organizations attacked are breached
- Consequences ranging from real economic loss to destruction of physical—not virtual—resources cause the victimized organizations to begin studying and identifying the new threat
- At least one organization names the new attack method
- The organization or a security vendor finds a defense to the new threat
- The word spreads and, armed with the latest intelligence, organizations begin configuring the appropriate defenses.
Here is the problem: The delay between a breach, developing a defense and sharing the solution can take months, if not longer. Why the delay? Because the good guys do not share enough information. The black hats are aggressively sharing techniques and new approaches. Thus, we applaud anything that the government can do to encourage exchange of information on cybersecurity threats and new methods employed by hackers and other cyber-criminals.