Tying It All Together: Combining Physical, Network and Cyber Security

Security is a constant battle for government organizations.  Agencies have to safeguard critical applications and information, contain breaches, isolate hackers, and manage and secure IoT. And they have to do that while meeting a myriad of compliance and regulatory obligations.

In the three previous blogs, we’ve covered physical, network and cyber security best practices. While each of these tactics is important to overall government security, none of them can do the job alone. Agencies must use a combination of physical, cyber and network security to safeguard their “everywhere perimeter.”

To create and deploy a comprehensive security strategy – with all three dimensions included – follow these best practices:

First, map your network. You can’t secure anything if you don’t know where and what it is. Make sure you have full visibility into your entire network, including those physical connected devices and users who connect virtually. That’s a critical first step to understanding just how far your “everywhere perimeter” reaches and what you’ll need to secure it.

Then, consider how you can reorganize internally to make sure physical, cyber and network priorities are all evaluated simultaneously. This will most likely start prior to procurement. Make sure your security personnel are involved from the get-go. Anyone who touches security devices, breach resolution and impact should be working as a team on decisions to purchase new technologies.

Finally, use your understanding of your network – informed by these joint conversations between teams – to apply the right technologies to your security needs.

Agencies are realizing that there is too much at stake to leave their buildings, intellectual property, assets and personnel at risk. If you have inventory, valuable assets, sensitive information, foot traffic, contract employees, or unattended areas, your information and physical security are at risk.

Vigilant Platforms, a division of Alliance Technology Group, has expertise that extends from the data center to the edge devices including the network infrastructure, data storage, data retrieval, and multi-layer analytics.  No matter what your agency looks like, Vigilant Platforms can assess your existing security posture and develop a comprehensive action plan that will remediate threats while maximizing investment protection and satisfying RMF requirements.  

The days of one-off security tactics are gone. To prepare your agency’s “everywhere perimeter” for the complex threat landscape of today, start thinking of security holistically. Physical, network, and cybersecurity must be seamlessly connected to secure government.

For more information about Alliance and how we can help your agency to fortify all aspects of your security, contact VPsales@alliance-it.com.

Network Security: The Last Prong in the Three-Pronged Approach to Security

The third and most crucial component of a holistic security strategy is network security. The network is really the underlying infrastructure for both physical and cybersecurity. But it’s quickly evolving to be more complicated to secure and manage.

With the connection of more devices, and the increase in IT users in more locations, the network itself is more complex and spread out than ever before. To meet these demands, most networks are being virtualized. That means administrators are combining hardware and software resources and network functionality into a single, software-based administrative entity. That makes it easier to scale for resource-constrained agencies, but it also means that traditional network security control models must be reconsidered.

So, what does network security look like in the age of the “everywhere perimeter”? First, make sure your network can safely grow. You’ll want Automatic Elasticity, which means that your network can scale rapidly to meet the demands of increased users and devices. The key word here is automatic. Virtualized networks are created to scale, but they often require extensive and error-prone manual configuration to expand and adjust.

Automated elasticity simplifies and expedites provisioning – saving your IT and security professional’s time.  More importantly, it mitigates the possibility of human errors that could introduce new vulnerabilities when you scale or adjust things – either by configuring something incorrectly or by connecting devices that could compromise the security of the network.

Next, you’ll want what’s called Native Stealth. That’s the idea of limiting how much of the network is visible to outsiders, and hardening the components that are visible. It employs “edge-only provisioning.” That’s where traffic in one network service is isolated from every other service and its associated traffic. If a service is shared between two network points, then the necessary configurations only appear on those two nodes while remaining obscured from the rest of the network. That keeps events isolated while simplifying and automating the configurations to reduce errors.

Finally, you’ll need to employ Hyper-segmentation. Network segmentation is where you divide your network into smaller components so intruders can’t roam around unencumbered and unidentified. If the network is not segmented, intruders could potentially gain access to other networks and resources. By segmenting the network, you can establish lanes of control that permit only those required devices and applications to communicate. Other resources are invisible to them. 

But segmenting a network manually is a complex and costly process. As networks expand, segments are created and connected into long chains. It protects the network from completely free access, but it also creates long paths of vulnerabilities that are hard to configure and maintain.

There’s a better, safer way. Hyper-segmentation doesn’t use traditional node-based IP routing. Instead it uses shortcuts to connect endpoint to endpoint, with nothing in between. Hyper-segmentation doesn’t use IP addresses to route or switch applications flows. So, at best, intruders can only see the entry and exit points of the network. Since they can’t see everything in between, the network exhibits a stealth mode that makes it invisible.

Avaya Fabric Connect is a completely new way to build networks that delivers a simplified, agile, and resilient infrastructure that makes network configuration and deployment of new services faster and easier. Based on IEEE and IETF well-defined standards, Avaya Fabric Connect combines decades of experience to deliver a next-generation technology that combines the best of Ethernet with the best of IP.  This provides an easy to deploy, secure, hyper-segmented network that is easy to scale and maintain. 

Alliance can help mitigate the cost of upgrading older security technology to top notch IP infrastructure by assessing your current environment, developing a recommendation, and a phased implementation plan.  Alliance understands the federal landscape, the embedded wiring issues, and funding strategies.  Our approach does not depend on setting up VLANs, manual administration for new devices added to the network, or multiple layers of protocols.  Labor, workload and operating costs can be reduced while management of the infrastructure improves.  And physical, cyber and network security are all in synch. 

Alliance Technology Group, a woman-owned small business and an Avaya Platinum business partner, has a solid proven past performance providing support to the Federal Government.  Alliance provides turn-key, multi-vendor solutions that include hardware, software, installation services, maintenance, and accreditation support that can meet and exceed customer expectations. 

For more information about Alliance and how we can help your agency to fortify your physical security, contact VPsales@alliance-it.com.

Cyber Security: The Second Prong in the Three-Pronged Approach to Security

Cyber security helps agency employees – from frontline personnel to IT professionals – detect and counter intrusions that make it past your first line of defense. You might be thinking of things like access control, firewalls, patching, and encryption. Of course, those tactics of cyber-hygiene are important, but it’s only a small part of cyber security.

More broadly, cyber security relies on an awareness of the most common attack patterns of hackers so you can prepare for the next generation of cyberattacks. That includes the ability to confront attacks that come through IoT devices, botnets, social engineering, and other new threats.

But even as threats advance, cyber security is really about getting the basics right. There are four key areas to focus on:

●     Access Control and Audit Logging: Locks and keys are thousands of years old. Despite their obvious imperfections, we still use them. The same goes for things such as access managers, firewalls and anti-virus protections. Like locks and keys, they are an imperfect method of “access control” that can be circumvented. But without them, we are just opening the door to greater – and faster – data loss, from less competent malicious actors.

●     Passwords: Brute force attempts to break passwords may not be the hottest thing in the hacker’s arsenal today, but you can bet that—along with phishing—it can be a prime way for hackers to get the required credentials to steal data. Stopping repeat attempts and requiring multiple authentication factors are proven methods that deliver quick results.

●     Addressing Known Vulnerabilities: Regular patch deployment is not going to halt the backdoor vulnerability that was just discovered 15 minutes ago, but it can help stop upwards of 80 percent of the attack attempts enterprises experience on any given day.

●     Training: Anyone can be tricked by a phishing attempt. But effective awareness and training not only reduces the number of people that fall victim to phishing attacks. It also builds up institutional knowledge that may be more effective in detecting phishing attacks than almost any technology.

In today’s world, you need a comprehensive security plan that eliminates point procurements, organization silos, and uses advanced technology in an integrated fashion.  With the complexity and unique challenges present today, it is critical to have partner like Alliance that is knowledgeable and industry-savvy in your camp.  Let Alliance Technology Group’s experienced physical, cyber and network security experts offer advice before you make a technology investment.   

For more information about Alliance and how we can help your agency to fortify your cyber security, contact VPsales@alliance-it.com.

Physical Security: The First Prong in the Three-Pronged Approach to Security

Physical security is the most traditional type of security – after all, we’ve been using “guns, gates, guards and gadgets” to protect physical locations for millennia. But today, it’s a lot more complicated than just building a fence or a wall around your assets.

Physical security technologies – tools like video surveillance cameras, badge readers, and motion sensors – are evolving to more comprehensive and intuitive data to the organizations they safeguard. As part of that evolution, many of these tools are being connected to other systems and infrastructures via IP networks. In fact, one report predicts that by 2020, the number of devices connected to the Internet will exceed 50 billion.  That equates to an average of 5 devices per person – more than double what is in use today.

So, what was once isolated on separate networks is now integrated into public and private IP networks. That setup comes with pros and cons. On the upside, analytics from physical security devices can provide valuable, real-time, and predictive security intelligence. Today, applications can use the data from social media, facial recognition, drones, cameras, and sensors to proactively predict where, when or how the next incident will happen.

On the downside, you’re creating new endpoints. Each of these devices – a security camera or even a network-based thermostat - creates another potential backdoor for a hacker to get into your enterprise network. In fact, hackers are already taking advantage of these connected devices. Gartner predicts that by 2020, over 25 percent of enterprise attacks will involve the Internet of Things.

So how do you secure these physical systems? First, you’ll need to consider the way your organization is structured to handle these devices. Because physical security is now so often tied to IP networks, the line between cyber and physical security is blurred. That means the lines between those internal departments need to dissolve as well.

Start by consolidating the groups that oversee IT and physical security. This can happen either formally, through organizational overhaul, or informally, by encouraging collaboration. Then, have those groups work together to establish physical controls that also support requirements of cyber security and protection. Multi-factor authentication is one way to do it. Advanced biometrics, like retinal scans or fingerprints, is another means to ensure only authorized users access physical systems. And finally, make sure these controls are integrated with your entire infrastructure, including new tools and legacy systems. That may require third-party support.

Alliance can design a solution utilizing the technology across more than 150 manufacturers.  As a solution integration company, Alliance has engineering installation and support expertise across the enterprise including the network infrastructure, physical edge devices, and data storage. 

Our engineers design systems that leverage embedded investments and in addition to best practices and products.  And our Risk and Security practitioners can support the necessary government hardening efforts. Our goal is to make it easier for customers to get the right solution with one vendor, Alliance Technology, Group, and avoid the hurdles of multiple deadlines, juggling contractors and finger pointing when there are issues with integration.

For more information about Alliance and how we can help your agency to fortify your physical security, contact VPsales@alliance-it.com