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A few years ago – two and a half thousand, to be precise – the Chinese general, writer and philosopher Sun Tzu wrote: ‘To know your enemy, you must become your enemy’. Although he was thinking of military strategy in 500 BC his words are still true today. In our ongoing war of attrition against cyber criminals we need to think like them in order to outwit them. So, when considering the use of human and automated security solutions, we should consider the hackers’ modus operandi and be prepared to combat their approach by fighting fire with fire.
The first thing to consider is the fact that hackers are proactive. They invest heavily in automated tools and spend many hours exploring and exploiting the vulnerabilities they find. Once areas of weakness have been identified, they use manual testing to explore and exploit these vulnerabilities – whether it’s to steal data or disrupt services.
In response to this, organisations must be proactive, too, challenging their own defences and looking closely for weaknesses through a combination of manual and automated activity. To choose one approach and not the other would be to neglect the potential benefits of each tactic, leaving the organisation exposed and more susceptible to an attack.
Typically, we can say that automated testing can be used to swiftly and systematically detect common vulnerabilities, uncovering defects via pattern-matching and monitoring of system response. In contrast to this, manual security testing is time consuming and difficult to scale. It requires the careful selection of tools to focus on particular vulnerabilities or suspicious patterns that deserve further investigation. Yet this approach is crucial in instances where business logic is required rather than a database of known vulnerabilities.
While understanding the need for regular testing, those charged with the task of managing information security within organisations are often overwhelmed by the complexities of marrying manual and automated security activities. All too often a business’s response to a perceived threat is to simply purchase security software that can be installed and ignored. However, with the threat landscape constantly changing, the process of analysing those risks and determining a mitigation strategy isn’t as easy as this.
Instead, any automated tool needs to be used in partnership with someone who fully understands the current threat environment. Importantly, where vulnerabilities are identified, remedial action also needs to be integrated with human expertise to ensure that any interruption to business systems is avoided or, at least, kept to a minimum.
For organisations looking to effectively synchronise their testing strategy and improve the monitoring and management of risk posture, SRM has developed the Managed Security Service (MSS). Following an initial scoping exercise to establish a business’s requirements, the best tools and testing strategies will be selected to provide a seamless, uninterrupted service.
Armed with the highest level of industry qualifications our team uses expertise and experience to triage the most pressing actions while working with a company to develop a full organisational cyber security strategy that operates 24/7, 365 days a year. In the event of a motivated hacker conducting a successful breach, the team is also on hand to quickly manage and mitigate any damage, significantly reducing its impact and returning clients to Business as Usual as quickly as possible.
Finally, not only does an organisation’s system need to be secure; it needs to be seen to be secure. This takes us back to Sun Tzu, who wrote: ‘Convince your enemy that he will gain very little by attacking you: this will diminish his enthusiasm’. By utilising MSS to develop a proactive, professional approach to all aspects of a security strategy will make the task extremely difficult for hackers, who may prefer to focus on lower hanging fruit. It also provides reassurance to customers, third parties and stakeholders that a business’s web and supporting infrastructure are as secure as possible.