Cloud security misconceptions pose greater cyber risks

Behavior-centric security understands users’ behavior to identify suspicious activities (image iStockPhoto\metamorworks)

More enterprises have jumped on the digital transformation bandwagon. They use cloud as a key component of digital transformation projects but their misconceptions around cloud security have escalated cyber attacks.

This is one of the key findings of the Frost & Sullivan’s 2019 Risk and Cybersecurity study. Commissioned by cybersecurity vendor Forcepoint, the study covered Hong Kong, Australia, India, and Singapore. The study aimed to understand enterprises’ reality, perception, action, and metrics towards risk management and cybersecurity as they transform themselves into a digital enterprise.

The study found that 95% of APAC enterprises have embarked on digital transformation journey by leveraging emerging technologies to transform their business processes, models, and operational activities. Among an array of emerging technologies, cloud (69%) has the highest adoption by enterprises, followed by AI or machine learning (52%), and big data analytics (49%). Blockchain (20%) has the lowest adoption rate.

Security management & accountability

Yet, a majority of enterprises have serious misconceptions about security in the cloud. 54% of the enterprises said their cloud service provider will take the full responsibility for security. 40% of the enterprises understood a shared responsibility between an organization and cloud service provider.

“This serious misconception from enterprises indicates their lower level of maturity to protect their cloud workload, resulting in a higher number of cyber attacks,” said Forcepoint in the survey report.

In addition, 83% of the enterprises did not consider cybersecurity until after their digital transformation projects had begun. This not only impacts the progress of digital transformation projects but also leads to rising cyber attacks.

The survey found that 35% of APAC enterprises suffered at least one security incident in the last 12 months. Data exfiltration, loss of intellectual property, unauthorized access to user accounts, online brand impersonation, and malware infection emerged as the top five security incidents that have higher levels of business impact and long recovery times.

“Security leaders need to look beyond perimeter security, leverage automation, and have a better grasp of the psychology of both cybercriminals and their business users,” said Kenny Yeo, industry principal, APAC ICT at Frost & Sullivan. “Incorporating behavior modelling into their IT security architecture is certainly a way to identify potential risks and fend off cyber attacks.”

According to Forcepoint, there are four stages of security maturity—infrastructure-centric, information-centric, analytics-centric, and behavior-centric. In the first two stages, perimeter security technologies like firewalls, secure web gateways, data loss prevention (DLP), and cloud access security broker (CASB) products are commonly deployed. In the latter two stages, AI, machine learning technologies and user behavior analytics are leveraged to monitor security threats. 

“In the first two stages, most of the business outcomes for enterprises are cost reduction, higher efficiency, and market share. In the latter two stages, it’s all about innovation and delivering positive customer experience,” said Alvin Rodrigues, APAC senior director and security strategist of Forcepoint in a media interview during its recent APAC Partner Conference 2019 in Kuala Lumpur. 

Alvin Rodrigues

He noted that most of the APAC enterprises fell into the first two stages. “They still use filter control security, which is very much a kind of perimeter mindset,” Rodrigues said. “But when you’re going to a collaborative environment during a digital transformation journey, you need to have a secure-by-design mindset and adopt a behavior-centric security approach.”

Converged Security Platform

By adopting a secure-by-design mindset, enterprises prioritize cybersecurity when designing digital transformation projects rather than after their projects have begun. Touted as a proactive cybersecurity approach, behavior-centric security focuses on understanding users’ behavior on the network and within applications. Risk scores for each user are continually calculated to identify behavioral anomalies, helping enterprises to mitigate cyber attacks before they happen.

Forcepoint’s behavior-centric security capability is integrated into its new Converged Security Platform. The platform is made up of four building blocks—Forcepoint’s composable security services, risk-adaptive policies and workflows, behavioral intelligence and analytics, and API integration with third-party products. The platform is touted to deliver extensible and behavior-based risk-adaptive protection to accelerate digital transformation by enabling secure migration of data, applications, and business operations to the cloud.

The composable security services layer hosts Forcepoint’s complete range of products covering across endpoints, clouds, and networks. At the layer of risk-adaptive policies and workflows, different security enforcements are applied automatically based on the risk each user poses at any given moment. With open API support, a partner ecosystem is established to deliver integrated solutions including identity and access management, SIEMs, and physical security. The ecosystem partners include AWS, Citrix, IBM Security, and Microsoft.

On the behavioral intelligence and analytics front, a new X-Labs team was set up recently, which focuses on understanding human behavior and builds risk-adaptive cybersecurity solutions.

Nicolas Fischbach

“X-Labs has around 60 people working globally, including security researchers, data scientists, psychologists, and counter-intelligence specialists,” said Nicolas Fischbach, global CTO at Forcepoint. “We may expand some of these roles in the X-Labs to APAC.”

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