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running from threats

The Ponemon Institute just released another great study, called “Perceptions About Network Security: Survey of IT & IT security practitioners in the U.S.” Like all their research, this piece is prescient, engaging and thought-provoking.

It also reminded me of a favorite joke:

Two businessmen are in the woods in their dress shoes and business suits when a bear starts chasing them. They start running frantically, but the bear gains on them with every stride. As it becomes clear that the bear’s gonna win and somebody’s going to get eaten, one of them kneels down and takes off his expensive wingtips. As fast as he can he replaces them with the running shoes from his briefcase, throws the wingtips and briefcase away, and sprints onward.

His incredulous partner yells back, “What are you doing? You still can’t run faster than a bear!”

The now fleet-footed businessman responds, “I know! But I only need to run faster than you.”

The data that reminded me of this joke is on page 16 of the report: “How many times has your company’s network security been successfully breached over the past 12 months?”

Amazingly, only 10% said “None.” (Another 10% said “I don’t know” which seems even more frightening).

80% of respondents had experienced a network breach.

The likelihood of an organization’s perimeter being breached is far better than 50/50. Given that dark reality, what can you do? Be faster than the other guy.

1. Harden the security configurations on your critical servers and data-bearing systems: attackers looking for targets of opportunity gravitate to the least-defended environments. They can probably get over the fence — but if they then find the doors and windows locked on the treasure house they might try somewhere else.

2. Monitor continuously:  Invest in solutions that pay dividends in automation. No, you can’t monitor every log file. But you can implement an automated system that checks log events against file changes and then applies appropriate severities to them.

It would be nice to have universally hardened, universally well-protected, universally monitored security solutions. If that were that case the bad guys would get into some other line of work … like selling pharmaceuticals online.

Until then, you’ve clearly got to have better IT security than your neighbor. And in this day and age, your neighbor is everyone.