Cybersecurity

How to build trust into your network

Don Proctor

The public sector is increasingly reliant on large-scale networks to support government services, military operations and critical infrastructures. However, unlike legacy networks, many devices and operating systems now rely solely on patching and virus protection, which is not enough. In today’s mobile world, network security must incorporate visibility, trust and resiliency.

Cybersecurity issues play a critical role in today’s national security dialogue. Historically, government organizations have faced special cybersecurity challenges. They must frequently cope with long acquisition and deployment cycles, which mean many technologies are obsolete by the time they are put into use. That lag time is exacerbated by the regulations and complex legal requirements that govern the implementation of new technology.

Fortunately, organizations are transitioning to a more effective and integrated architectural approach to networks that encompasses the people, technology and processes necessary to ensure the integrity, privacy and availability of information and resources. Only with an architectural approach will organizations achieve a framework that consistently meets evolving security challenges while enabling the protection of assets, the detection of security breaches, and appropriate remediation after a breach has been detected.

The best strategy is a powerful three-layer model that incorporates the following elements.

  • Trusted processes allow organizations to integrate planning, design, development, implementation and operation of systems to assist in the mitigation of risk and strengthen security for the full life cycle of the intelligent network. The processes include operational disciplines that ensure policy compliance and management.
  • Trusted systems include networking, storage and computing infrastructures with feedback from security intelligence operations, global cryptography and advanced research. In such systems, the integrity and interactions of software and hardware elements are produced to globally accepted standards, with security emphasized through:
    • Product assurance — which guarantees the integrity of hardware or software products from design through development.
    • Supply-chain integrity — which ensures that hardware and software development conforms to appropriate security standards. Safeguards built into each link of the supply chain protect against tampering or the insertion of malicious code. Purchasing from trusted vendors with robust supply chain standards and stringent Common Criteria certification requirements can help close the majority of security loopholes.
    • Common Criteria certification — an international standard recognized by 26 countries as a consistent means of evaluating and certifying product security.
  • Trusted services include end-user services and capabilities hosted within the network, within the cloud, by discrete devices or by industry providers.

This three-layer model allows organizations to make critical updates to their network security while capitalizing on the capabilities of their existing networks. A big change in current best practices would be the recognition that not all information assets have equal value. In other words, all assets are not worth protecting to the same extent. By categorizing assets based on their value, organizations can efficiently apply differentiated levels of data protection.

No technology will enable a completely secure network. A trusted, secure system takes time and depends on the people who are creating the processes. Leading security providers are committed to closing the gap between industry and government and supporting public-sector requirements to promote strategy, education and new technologies.

Don Proctor is a senior vice president at Cisco Systems.

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