Applications, data, and infrastructure are moving to the cloud, and traditional network architectures are gradually fading away. In their place, we have an increasing reliance on web and email protocols as the carriers of our information, moving digital information without regard for physical and political borders. Where there is traffic, there are bandits. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the increased activity and valuable data, exploiting web and email protocols for millions of attacks every day. Targeted attacks often start with spear phishing emails or strategically compromised websites, delivering malware and leading to countless data breaches.
The security teams we talk to are getting fatigued by the volume of these attacks, with many breaches allowed to live in the network for days or weeks without any investigation. With this many attacks, no company can provide the security resources necessary to chase them all down. As network borders fade and become less relevant to digital information, security has to expand its reach. The traditional approach to perimeter defense is no longer adequate.
Secure web and email gateways, whether on-premises or in the cloud, sit between the criminals and your users, scanning all traffic for known and zero-day malware, wherever your users are. Malicious links, files, and emails are blocked, reducing the attack surface and can remove the vast majority of zero-day malware – up to 95% in best-of-breed solutions. Even if a website is infected after an email gets through the gateway, the attack can still be stopped when the user clicks on the link.
Stopping 95% is good, but it is not enough for the most sophisticated attacks, which may include files that are designed to evade detection by traditional defenses. Adding advanced malware detection as an extra stage of analysis reduces the attack surface even further. The secure gateways send files that are still suspicious to an advanced sandbox, with in-depth code analysis and dynamic observation, designed to find malicious code fragments, identify evasive maneuvers, and catch malicious behavior before these files can reach your users and exfiltrate information. Suspicious files can be held from the user during this analysis to prevent first infection, eliminating “patient zero”.
This multi-stage process is proven to detect the vast majority of attack attempts. Immediately sharing this information throughout the security infrastructure over a common communications channel can help stop multi-vector attacks network-wide. Active scans upon receipt of new attack intelligence by endpoints and other security sensors can identify existing compromises and produce new event correlations used to investigate future attacks.
Now, all of this is not going to stop 100% of attacks from breaching your defenses. What it will do is free up the security team to focus on a smaller number of critical threats, instead of a continuous and often overwhelming barrage of threats both minor and serious, false alarms, and attacks that you have already dealt with multiple times. Applying a data loss prevention solution on both the network and endpoint can play a vital role in halting the potential damage of a data breach initiated by an advanced attack. Real human capital needs to be applied not to prevention, but to monitoring security events, preventing data loss, and conducting incident response. Embracing the cloud revolution requires a reassessment of the traditional security model – one focused on where the data goes, not where you’ve built a network.
Rees Johnson is Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Content Security Business Unit at Intel Security, which includes Web Security, Email Security, and Data Loss Prevention technology. Rees and his team are in charge of securing the most utilized vectors of ... View Full Bio