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The days of creating an enterprise security border, defining a set of controlled applications, and designing a security system that can assure security, privacy, and compliance within a corporation's confines are gone. Today, it's daunting to simply try to define where a business begins and ends--in an era of mobile workers, huge social networks, and IT infrastructures that mix in-house applications with SaaS options.
In conjunction with the upcoming RSA security conference, I asked a group of CIOs and security analysts for their suggestions on dealing with security in an increasingly wide-open world.
How wide open? As background, consider these recent pieces of security news:
-- Nortel Networks suffered a series of hacks that allowed access to a wide range of corporate email, documents, and other data for nearly a decade.
-- Some security experts advise that companies with employees traveling overseas (especially China) tell travelers to leave the regular laptop and smartphone at home, grab a new system before boarding the plane, and get rid of it after the trip.
-- The computer hacking group Anonymous has evolved from rudimentary hacking skills to a sophistication level that some government officials contend can threaten key infrastructure, including the power grid.
Now, consider some security advice for this new environment.
Fran Rabuck, formerly the director of the real time asset labs at Bentley Systems and director of applied business technology at Towers Perrin, is an independent technology consultant with a focus on mobile applications. "If mobile applications are part of your future plans and rollout, you need to pay even more attention to securing them than you do desktops or laptops," Rabuck stated via email.
Why are mobile applications particularly vulnerable? Rabuck listed four key reasons:
Mobile security threats may be the most visible, but multiple security threats are emerging as corporations become more mobile, social, and cloud-based.
That's one reason that IBM has recently given security a business unit status and turned its analytical systems expertise on the security sector.
Jerry Johnson, CIO of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and a member of InformationWeek's CIO Advisory Board, provided a compelling summary of the tumult in enterprise security as traditional security borders evaporate.
"(You need to) evolve past protecting the border and protecting the container to protecting the data," Johnson stated via email. "Cybersecurity has evolved (expanded) over the years from protecting the perimeter with firewalls and such, to protecting the container. With data becoming more mobile and hosted outside your perimeter and in someone else's container, we must evolve (expand) to protect the information itself."
Cloud computing brings its own set of security concerns. "These new, Web-based, on-demand services pose a new set of challenges because they can be acquired easily by end users without management approval and encourage a greater information sharing among customers and business partners," stated Jeffrey Kaplan, managing director of THINKstrategies and the founder of the Cloud Computing Showplace, in an email. "While these services often substantially improve employee productivity and customer satisfaction, they also create potential security, privacy, and compliance risks."
Look for cloud, mobile, and social to figure prominently at the RSA conference. Once a very detailed, highly technical gathering, it now also includes a broad examination of the business issues relating to security.
The race between the corporate security attackers and defenders has never been more frantic than now, with the rise of the social, mobile, and cloud-based enterprise. CIOs must embrace the new computing models, while also assuring security, privacy, and compliance in their operations.
VP and Editorial Analyst, InformationWeek
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