Security Industry in 'Rut,' Struggling to Keep Up with Cybercriminals

Dramatic changes are needed in multiple fronts if the security industry hopes to move ahead of cybercriminals who are continuously finding new ways to breach corporate systems, experts say.

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Dramatic changes are needed in multiple fronts if the security industry hopes to move ahead of cybercriminals, who are continuously finding new ways to breach corporate systems, experts say.

Some technology pros say the industry needs to develop new technologies and architectures that send hackers back to the drawing boards.

"I think we're in a security rut right now," Ed Amoroso, chief security officer for AT&T, said, ThreatPost reports. Amoroso made the remarks this week during a panel discussion at the Billington Cybersecurity Summit. 

While other experts agree hackers are winning, they are hesitant to blame it on a lack of new technology.

"The call for more innovation is only focusing on the technology aspect," Murray Jennex, a professor of computer science at San Diego State University, told CSOonline. "I agree we need more innovation, but that innovation by itself will not give us better security."

What else is needed is more effective sharing of attack data between security professionals working for vendors and corporations.

"My research has found it takes much less knowledge to use existing technologies to attack than it is to defend," Jennex said. "Security professionals need more knowledge to do their job than attackers do."

However, the attackers are the ones who are faster at sharing exploits for the latest products, Jennex said.

On the white hat side, security professionals get paid for how they defend, not what they share, and companies view knowledge as a competitive advantage. In addition, companies fear being sued by customers or partners, if the data shared relates to them.

[Also see: Unisys survey finds majority of industry leaders believe clients fear data breaches]

Also giving hackers a leg up is manufacturers failing to make security a priority in the design process. This is particularly true with industrial control systems (ICS).

"If we can build in immunity from attack, then we don' have to defend against it," said Eric Cosman, a member of the ICS Joint Working Group at the International Society of Automation.

The blame for not having more products secure by design lies as much with the buyer as the manufacturer, said Paul Rivers, Manager of System and Network Security at the University of California, Berkeley.

This is particularly true with mobile devices. Security is not a high priority with consumers, so manufacturers turn their attention to more desirable features, such as ease of use, music, video and voice recognition.

"Until that changes, I don't think you're going to see some new Silicon Valley startup with the first feature on their feature list being security related," Rivers said.

Marc Hoit, vice chancellor for information technology at North Carolina State University, said ignorance on the part of technology users also contributes to the number of security breaches, which makes it seem that defensive technology isn't working.

"Most of the infections come from poor user behavior and unpatched systems," Hoit said.

People are too quick to click on attachments and companies have a lot of difficulty keeping software up-to-date, which leaves known vulnerabilities unpatched, experts say.

On the research side, Hoit said a lot of work is being done at NCSU and other universities in spotting abnormalities in a network through better algorithms for analyzing massive amounts of data from hardware, software and network traffic.

Internet2, a nonprofit research organization comprised of more than 450 universities, businesses and government agencies, is conducting a lot of security research, Hoit said. However, researchers often have difficulty getting access to the Internet traffic needed for their work.

"It's a privacy and security issue," Hoit said. "I don't know any open network providers that will give you their traffic flow."

So while the industry struggles with multiple issues, hackers operate in a simpler world where the only focus is on breaking into systems.

This story, "Security Industry in 'Rut,' Struggling to Keep Up with Cybercriminals" was originally published by CSO.

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