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CSO chat: The BYOD trend, big data security and cloud

Wednesday’s Cornerstones of Trust Conference featured an interesting CSO discussion of some of the hottest topics infosecurity pros are dealing with today, including the BYOD trend, cloud computing and big data security. The annual conference, held in Foster City, Calif., is sponsored by ISSA’s Silicon Valley and San Francisco chapters, and San Francisco Bay Area InfraGard.

Mobile, cloud and BYOD are all part of an overarching trend towards consumerization of IT that’s driving demand for convenient, easy access to corporate data, said Preston Wood, CSO at Zions Bancorporation, a Salt Lake City-based bank holding company. “We need to find a way to enable that and not be a roadblock,” he said.

At Cisco Systems, the mobile trend is far from new, said Steve Martino, a Cisco vice president in charge of information security for the networking giant. Thirty percent of the workforce has more than two mobile devices. “If we try to prevent it, they’ll find ways around it,” he said.

Instead, organizations should consider flexible mobile policies that permit network access based on the user, device and location, Martino said. For example, a user with a phone that doesn’t have mobile device management (MDM) software may get access to some services but not others.

With cloud computing, information security’s historic reliance on preventative controls won’t work so well, Wood said. The cloud trend presents the opportunity to focus more on detective controls of rapid response and risk mitigation. Each organization will have a different risk appetite and some aspects of the business will still require preventative controls. “There’s no one-size-fits-all,” Wood said. “You need to ask the business that risk question.”

On the topic of big data security – using big data techniques for security analytics — Wood suggested organizations can get started on that path by digging into data they already have on hand, such as firewall or IDS logs. Administrators often don’t look back to see if firewall policies are still working – that might be an area to explore, he said. The approach of mining data to obtain more security builds on itself.

“Start with what you already have,” Wood said. “And start by asking some innovative questions of that data.”

Earlier in the day, Wood presented a keynote on big data and security analytics, which unfortunately I missed, but I did cover his presentation at RSA Conference 2012, as did many other reporters. His RSA presentation was widely covered and justly so. He’s put into practice what others are only talking about at a conceptual level. At RSA, he and others from Zions detailed how the company harnessed information from its disparate security data sources by developing Hadoop-based security data warehouse. Using big data techniques enabled the company to speed forensics investigations, improve fraud detection and overall security, they said.

On Wednesday, Wood also offered some career advice to security pros: Don’t limit yourself to the “echo chamber of security.” Security pros should try to learn about other disciplines; big data security, for example, offers the opportunity to reach out to business units that have experience with analytics, he said.

At Cisco, employees are rotated, for example, from security to IT or from a business unit into security, Martino said. That practice helps the security organization understand the pain points throughout the business, he said. The company also has created security advocates in other parts of the business, which gets others involved in security.

Wood also urged attendees to spend more time on strategy. A lot of security organizations find themselves fighting fires all the time instead of looking at the big picture, he said. Security teams need people with the skills to deal with daily operations but who can also look ahead and strategize.

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