Magazine article National Defense

Companies Rush to Tailor Products to New Cyber-Attacks

Magazine article National Defense

Companies Rush to Tailor Products to New Cyber-Attacks

Article excerpt

The cybersecurity marketplace is flooded with products that tout the ability to keep networks and computers safe from intruders.

They often come bearing watchful monikers that include words like eye, witness, guard and shield. But industry isn't just throwing products out there blindly. The marketplace's growth is the direct result of threats from Chinese and activist hackers, as well as a global shift to mobile computing, experts said.

Every new hack prompts the creation of a new defense mechanism. And the growing persistence and sophistication of attacks is even forcing industry to look beyond traditional defense.

"It's the dawn of private industry's capability to start doing offense," Carl Herberger, vice president of security solutions at Radware, told an industry conference hosted by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement.

Radware has been battling "hacktavists" typified by the group Anonymous, a loose collection of hackers who have taken down websites and computer assets belonging to companies and organizations with which they have an ideological beef.

High-profile clients have come to Radware within hours of being attacked. When the group brought down Indian government sites, officials contacted the company to restore its systems. The Vatican also came calling while being attacked by Anonymous every day at two in the afternoon for months. The company deployed its "all-in-one" DefensePro tool, which includes an intrusion prevention system, network behavioral analysis, denial-of-service protection and an engine to fight against Trojan infections and phishing attempts.

Anonymous largely automated these attacks, but the hackers also threw in surprises here and there, so experts had to stay on their toes, Herberger said.

"The tool can't handle everything," Herberger said. "There is a lot of configuration ... You need a lot of active defense."

Active defense, Herberger explained, is the politically correct term for what also can be called counter-attack or offense.

According to Radware's research, hacktavism generated more attacks last year than any other motive, including financial gain and espionage, Herberger said. Hackers have become more persistent and able to exploit vulnerabilities in a variety of ways--through the network, applications or other means.

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"Never before have your security tools themselves been targeted for hours," Herberger said. "In the past, the tools were meant for inspection. They were not meant to protect themselves. And now they need to protect themselves."

Three recent seminal attacks reportedly created by nation states have increased the incentive for added security. The Stuxnet virus was aimed at Iranian nuclear facilities; Duqu was designed to compromise control systems; and Flamer has been used to target private infrastructure in the Middle East.

"These three attacks have forever changed the space of what we have to consider from a defender's standpoint," said Gregory Akers, senior vice president of advanced security initiatives at Cisco Systems Inc.

It has been suggested that the United States was responsible for both Stuxnet and Flamer. Whatever their origins, they represent a new breed of sophisticated attacks that have had a profound effect on the marketplace.

Information technology security products generate about $40 billion in revenue worldwide. Related services account for another $20 billion, said Richard Stiennon, chief research analyst for IT-Harvest.

Products generally can be broken down into categories such as gateway security (firewalls and intrusion prevention), end-point security (anti-virus and desktop firewalls), data protection (encryption) and identity and access management (authentication and directory services). Additionally, companies have developed countless products for managing vulnerabilities, tracking alerts and compliance reporting. …

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