Sometimes it’s hard to find something really new in cybersecurity. Most lessons are riffs on the same rules experts learned years ago. But it can be refreshing to re-frame them so infosec pros of today can perhaps see them in a new light.

That’s what Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity strategy at Illumio who has worked at the White House on cybersecurity policy, did in a column for Security Week in suggesting four lessons CISOs pros can learn from the Secret Service.

To be precise, there’s nothing new in his points: Have visibility into the network, reduce the attack surface, prioritize and defence in depth. But it may help staff to look at their daily toil in new ways, and if they can think out of the box that’s a good thing.

Far too often victim organizations make embarrassing — and brief — public admissions of breaches where there’s an acknowledgement that the intruder had been nosing around their systems for some time before being detected. However, writes Gleicher, “often defenders have minimal visibility into the real-time operation of their data center, which means they know how their systems are supposed to operate, not how they actually operate. Attackers exploit this gap.”

By comparison, Gleicher says, the Secret Service maps its operating environment from an attacker’s perspective. CISOs who don’t do the same are vulnerable to well-researched, targeted intrusions, he argues.

He also notes that in his experience data centers with as few as 100 servers regularly have hundreds of thousands of open, port-to-port communications pathways between servers, but use few of them. Why are the others open? Do you know how many are open in your organization, and what to do about it? (Answer: Adaptive segmentation, Gleicher says, so the infosec team can focus on serious threats.)

So go ahead, think about what the Secret Service does and how it can apply to your cyber security strategy. It may blow away some cobwebs.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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