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Australia has a challenge of scaling defence capabilities for large cyber attacks

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Australian Defence Force (ADF) Head of Information Warfare Major General Marcus Thompson is concerned that while the nation has “good” defence capabilities, those capabilities might not be able to scale if Australia was faced with a large-scale attack in a cyber realm.

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Speaking at the Cyber Storm international conference at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Canberra Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) on Monday, Thompson said it’s what keeps him up at night.

“If we accept that the opening salvos of the next big fight will play out in cyber space, if they’re not already, it’s that capacity of the Australian government to respond … we know we’ve got good capabilities, but when it comes to scale, I’m a bit worried,” he said.

Painting a picture of a table comprised of ministers and agency and departmental heads, Thompson said after probing the Director General of the Australian Signals Directorate on what to do, the next person he believes the Prime Minister will turn to is the chief of the nation’s defence force.

“Sure we’ve got capabilities here, but it is not an environment that someone can parachute into,” he said.

Thompson discussed the ADF’s approach to “cyber” to try and ensure readiness, labelling the word itself as a “frequently used, poorly understood non-word”.

Read more: Cyber blitzkrieg replaces cyber Pearl Harbor

“When I would use that word … I reckon 99 people out of 100, in their head, would go directly to offence. When in fact it’s the defence of our networks and mission systems that is not only our most pressing priority, it’s the greatest challenge — and the more expensive challenge,” he said.

As a result, ADF developed a conceptual framework for ADF cyberspace operations, centred on self-defence, passive defence, active defence, and then offence.

“Three of the four include the word ‘defence’ — we’re trying to drag people away from thinking about offence all the time,” he explained.

He shared an example of an exercise that was conducted in 2016 alongside Blue Force, a major field training operation that was held in South Australia, involving around 4,000 people.

As part of the exercise, ADF had set up a social media monitoring team in south-east Queensland comprised of 12 individuals, five electronic warfare cyber operators, five intelligence analysts, and two lawyers.

It tested the weakest cybersecurity link in any organisation — a human.

“You would think that in an organisation like the ADF where secrecy comes natural to us that we’d have that sorted,” he said.

“[But] that team of 12 people took less than 48 hours to completely unpack the Blue Force unit nomenclature, unit locations through geo-locations that they were posting through social media, and in some cases, unit intent. And they did that using only open source tools.”

Their rules of engagement prevented them from moving past any passwords, Thompson said, and their monitoring ceased the instant that they moved past the ADF member to their family or friends.

Thompson said the team generated 671 individual intelligence files that led directly to actionable, targetable intelligence. 100 of those resulted in interviews of personnel.

Another similar exercise was conducted a year later.

“There was a noticeable improvement, however, an individual still posted to social media [of] a geotagged image from the inside of a command centre,” he added.

Also: CISOs given cyber leadership role in Australia’s new Information Security Manual

Thompson also posed the question of how much of Australia’s critical infrastructure the government should be responsible for.

“How do we defend civilian infrastructure we don’t control? That makes Telstra, Optus, Vodafone the operating environment; makes the banks, other financial institutions, utilities companies, targets,” he asked. “How do we determine what infrastructure will be the government’s responsibility to defend?”

At the same time that Thompson gave his address, 5 kilometres away, Prime Minister Scott Morrison disclosed that the nation’s political parties were also hit in an online attack earlier this month that had forced a password reset of all Australian Parliament House network users, including politicians and all of their staffers.

Regarding the online attack, Morrison said the networks of the Liberals, Labor, and Nationals were affected, but that the nation’s security agencies were securing those systems, and that there was no evidence of electoral interference.

“The Australian government will continue to take a proactive and coordinated approach to protecting Australia’s sovereignty, our economy, and our national security,” Morrison said. “Our political system and our democracy remains strong, vibrant and is protected.

“The government has chosen to be transparent about these matters. This is in itself an expression of faith by our government in our democratic system and our determination to defend it.”

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GigaOm Radar for Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR)

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Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR) emerged as a product category in the mid-2010s. At that point, SOAR solutions were very much an automation and orchestration engine based on playbooks and integrations. Since then, the platforms have developed beyond the initial core SOAR capabilities to offer more holistic experiences to security analysts, with the aim of developing SOAR as the main workspace for practitioners.

Newer features offered by this holistic experience include case management, collaboration, simulations, threat enrichment, and visual correlations. Additionally, SOAR vendors have gradually implemented artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies to enable their platforms to learn from past events and fine-tune existing processes. This is where evolving threat categorization and autonomous improvement become differentiators in the space. While these two metrics are not critical for a SOAR platform, they may offer advantages in terms of reduced mean time to resolution (MTTR), resilience against employee turnover, and overall flexibility.

We’ve observed a lot of acquisition activity in the SOAR space. This was to be expected considering that, after 2015, a sizable number of pure-play SOAR vendors entered the market. Larger players with a wider security portfolio are acquiring these SOAR-specific vendors in order to enter the automation and orchestration market. We expect to see more SOAR acquisitions as the security tools converge, very likely into next-generation Security Information & Event Management products and services (SIEMs).

SIEM is a great candidate for a central management platform for security activities. It was designed to be a single source of truth, an aggregator of multiple security logs, but has been limited historically in its ability to carry out actions. In the past few years, however, SIEMs have either started developing their own automation and orchestration engines or integrated with third-party SOAR vendors. Through a number of acquisitions and developments, multiple players with wider security portfolios have begun to offer SOAR capabilities natively as part of other security solutions.

Going forward, we expect SOAR solutions to be further integrated into other products. This will include not only SIEM, but also solutions such as Extended Detection and Response (XDR) and IT automation. The number of pure-play SOAR vendors is unlikely to increase, although a handful may remain as fully agnostic solutions that enterprises can leverage in instances when their existing next-generation SIEM platforms do not meet all their use cases. However, for pure-play SOAR vendors to remain competitive, they will need to either expand into other security areas or consistently outperform their integrated counterparts.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

The post GigaOm Radar for Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR) appeared first on Gigaom.

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GigaOm Radar for Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS)

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Very few organizations see disaster recovery (DR) for their IT systems as a business differentiator, so they often prefer to outsource the process and consume it as a service (DRaaS) that’s billed monthly. There are many DRaaS providers with varying backgrounds, whose services are often shaped by that background. Products that started as customer-managed DR applications tend to have the most mature orchestration and automation, but vendors may face challenges transforming their application into a consumable service. Backup as a Service (BaaS) providers typically have great consumption models and off-site data protection, but they might be lacking in rich orchestration for failover. Other DRaaS providers come from IaaS backgrounds, with well-developed, on-demand resource deployment for recovery and often a broader platform with automation capabilities.

Before you invest in a DRaaS solution, you should attempt to be clear on what you see as its value. If your motivation is simply not to operate a recovery site, you probably want a service that uses technology similar to what you’re using at the protected site. If the objective is to spend less effort on DR protection, you will be less concerned about similarity and more with simplicity. And if you want to enable regular and granular testing of application recovery with on-demand resources, advanced failover automation and sandboxing will be vital features.

Be clear as well on the scale of disaster you are protecting against. On-premises recovery will protect against shared component failure in your data center. A DRaaS location in the same city will allow a lower RPO and provide lower latency after failover, but might be affected by the same disaster as your on-premises data center. A more distant DR location would be immune to your local disaster, but what about the rest of your business? It doesn’t help to have operational IT in another city if your only factory is under six feet of water.

DR services are designed to protect enterprise application architectures that are centered on VMs with persistent data and configuration. A lift-and-shift cloud adoption strategy leads to enterprise applications in the cloud, requiring cloud-to-cloud DR that is very similar to DRaaS from on-premises. Keep in mind, however, that cloud-native applications have different DR requirements.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

The post GigaOm Radar for Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) appeared first on Gigaom.

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GigaOm Radar for DDoS Protection

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With ransomware getting all the news coverage when it comes to internet threats, it is easy to lose sight of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks even as these attacks become more frequent and aggressive. In fact, the two threats have recently been combined in a DDoS ransom attack, in which a company is hit with a DDoS and then a ransom demanded in exchange for not launching a larger DDoS. Clearly, a solid mechanism for thwarting such attacks is needed, and that is exactly what a good DDoS protection product will include. This will allow users, both staff and customers, to access their applications with no indication that a DDoS attack is underway. To achieve this, the DDoS protection product needs to know about your applications and, most importantly, have the capability to absorb the massive bandwidth generated by botnet attacks.

All the DDoS protection vendors we evaluated have a cloud-service element in their products. The scale-out nature of cloud platforms is the right response to the scale-out nature of DDoS attacks using botnets, thousands of compromised computers, and/or embedded devices. A DDoS protection network that is larger, faster, and more distributed will defend better against larger DDoS attacks.

Two public cloud platforms we review have their own DDoS protection, both providing it for applications running on their public cloud and offering only cloud-based protection. We also look at two content delivery networks (CDNs) that offer only cloud-based protection but also have a large network of locations for distributed protection. Many of the other vendors offer both on-premises and cloud-based services that are integrated to provide unified protection against the various attack vectors that target the network and application layers.

Some of the vendors have been protecting applications since the early days of the commercial internet. These vendors tend to have products with strong on-premises protection and integration with a web application firewall or application delivery capabilities. These companies may not have developed their cloud-based protections as fully as the born-in-the-cloud DDoS vendors.

In the end, you need a DDoS protection platform equal to the DDoS threat that faces your business, keeping in mind that such threats are on the rise.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

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