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How to Strengthen Your Security in 2020

Which technologies will help you the most?

As part of the recent RSA Conference, we all got to see – either in-person or virtually – the latest and greatest technology coming out of the security industry. While events like this can certainly be helpful in guiding future investments, they can also make one’s head spin with the sheer volume of tools available to secure today’s infrastructure.

This year, the RSA Conference drew more than 650 exhibitors (including Cisco) and more than 700 speakers, one of which was our own Wendy Nather, who delivered a keynote. In her keynote, she discussed how security must become easier for people to use and understand if we want to keep our organizations protected now and into the future. “We have to simplify functions, data, operations, all of those things to make it easier no matter who’s going to use it,” she said.

But with so many attack vectors, network components, devices, and security technologies out there, how do we make things simpler? Which of the many security technologies will help us most?

Cover of 2020 CISO Benchmark Report

In our 2020 CISO Benchmark Report, we inquired as to which security technologies organizations currently have in place. While technology needs are often unique to each specific organization, there were a couple of technologies that we deem important for which there are currently noticeably low adoption rates among our respondents.

Multi-factor authentication

In an age of frequently stolen passwords, multi-factor authentication (MFA) can go a long way in keeping your assets and data safe. We were surprised to find in our CISO Benchmark Study that only 27% of respondents are currently using MFA to secure their environments.

Multi-factor authentication can protect your applications by using a second factor for validation, such as a smartphone, to verify user identity before granting access. It is a key component of a zero trust security architecture.

MFA Image

MFA can help protect against attacks such as phishing, social engineering, and credential theft. While some MFA solutions can be difficult to roll out, Cisco’s Duo Security provides a simple experience for every user and application. It also integrates easily with organizations’ existing technology.

Duo also helps companies streamline their security stack to lessen complexity. According to Steve Myers, head of security for KAYAK, “We were previously trying to do this through a combination of five other products. The fact that one product can provide this level of granular access control is really awesome.”

Network segmentation and micro-segmentation

Another effective way to reduce risk is through segmentation, which provides a proactive method of security by minimizing the attack surface. Through network segmentation, various network components and assets are separated from others to prevent the lateral movement of attackers throughout an environment. This way, if an outsider finds their way into one part of a network, they don’t automatically have full access to everything up to and including restricted data. Segmentation is another core pillar of a zero trust computing environment.

Man in Data Center

However, only a quarter of our respondents are currently using network segmentation, and even fewer (17 percent) are using micro-segmentation. Micro-segmentation is a more granular form of segmentation for applications and their workloads, offering policy consistency across both on-premises and cloud-based data centers. This capability is now critical since applications and their data have become a primary target for breaches and attacks. Cisco Tetration uses machine learning to understand applications and automatically generate micro-segmentation policies based on application behavior.

Getting it right

Speaking of machine learning and automation, those are key areas in which our CISO Benchmark Report respondents seem to be progressing.

It was promising to see in our study that technologies such as automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence – which are designed to make security easier and more manageable – are being widely adopted.

Automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence

As part of the data collected for our 2020 CISO Benchmark Study:

  • 85 percent said they are at least somewhat reliant on artificial intelligence
  • 88 percent said they are at least somewhat reliant on machine learning
  • 90 percent said they are at least somewhat reliant on automation

Additionally, 77 percent said they are planning to increase automation to simplify and speed up response times in their security ecosystems. All of this is encouraging as organizations battle with crushing complexity and an inability to keep up with security alerts amidst a severe shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals.

Over the years, Cisco has woven integration and automation into its security portfolio to simplify network protection. This recently culminated in the introduction of our new security platform, Cisco SecureX. The SecureX platform brings together various components of the Cisco security portfolio, along with third-party technologies, so that they can share information, learn from one another, and help organizations respond to threats in a more automated, coordinated fashion.

Cisco Secure image

SecureX unifies visibility, enables automation via machine learning/artificial intelligence, and strengthens security across network, endpoints, cloud, and applications. Ninety-eight percent of customers said the unified view provided by SecureX enables rapid threat response. In a time where new threat vectors seem to pop up daily, rapid threat response is critical for effective cybersecurity.

Strengthening security in 2020

Technology is of course never one-size-fits-all, but the capabilities above represent some key innovations that we recommend organizations explore moving forward. For more information on how to strengthen your security in 2020, check out the following:

This post is the first in our new series covering various topics and data from our 2020 CISO Benchmark Report. Check back next month for the latest installment!

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