Like many in cybersecurity, I'm more than a bit of a sci-fi fan and was easily reeled in by Netflix's Stranger Things. Stranger Things' Upside Down is an alternative reality where none of us wants to be. Landing in the Upside Down diverts circumstances in different, unintended directions and, in some cases, permanently changes lives.
As breach headlines and the resulting fallout of these compromises continue to stream in, it's easy to imagine that the affected companies are now experiencing their own alternative, unintended reality. This wasn't the business plan they started the year with, but it is what will be managed for months, and likely a few years, to come. It's more than a bit… upside down.
The Cybersecurity Upside Down is the alternate reality organizations enter once they have been materially compromised. It stops business, costs millions, and can have an incalculable impact on current and future customers. It's the inevitable, not-so-alternative reality for organizations if they don't take a strategic approach to security, especially as they transform their businesses. Small changes and more investments in new, disparate tools without a seismic shift in strategy will take you to the Cybersecurity Upside Down.
What Does the Cybersecurity Upside Down Look Like?
In two words, "reactive chaos." You have no control of your environment and most of your efforts are diverted into understanding what happened, containing the damage, and remediating the issue. New projects, including cloud development and mergers and acquisitions, are significantly stalled. An organization new to the Cybersecurity Upside Down will quickly realize it is blind to what is happening on the network, unaware of where the weaknesses are and without the ability to quickly assess risk.
How Can You Stay Out of the Upside Down?
Do whatever you can to get visibility of your entire security posture and be able to measure it easily and, preferably, continuously so you can take proactive action. Many security organizations have started instrumenting for visibility at endpoints and networks. This is important and useful in monitoring, responding to, and, in some cases, being able to block potential exploits. But this is only a start.
Understanding and establishing true visibility for code and application security is a must for today's enterprises. Most companies are developing technology and using many different infrastructure providers and third-party components, and they're accelerating development practices due to competition and new methodologies such as DevOps. If organizations are not integrating security into the entire development lifecycle, they are exposed. Practices of manual pen testing twice per year, and/or siloed testing within development provide no visibility and painful remediation in an Upside Down event.
Make sure to ask questions. Knowing how organizations in your supply chain are developing and protecting your products gives you a line of sight into issues and areas of potential risk. How easily can they update you on the security of their solutions? How will they handle remediation for the solutions? Do they continuously test?
Systemically Avoid the Cybersecurity Upside Down
Weaknesses and vulnerabilities can be insidious. So, how can organizations root out the unintended consequences of how their company is operating? Automate wherever possible to provide better visibility. Automating code and application security, for example, takes the burden off of siloed teams and developers. More-secure software is delivered faster, and automation enables a continuous view of your security posture.
Embed the Culture of Security
Just one trip to the Upside Down will highlight quickly how well or how ineffectively DevOps, security, and development teams are working together. Embedding security champions within development teams and automating and orchestrating security are good examples of how to advance the culture of security in an organization. Threat modeling and red teaming are also good exercises to go through, as long as the results are embedded in the security posture going forward and improve overall operations. By integrating security early and often into the application development process, you can have the visibility and assurance that you need for the best defense against the Cybersecurity Upside Down.