Rethinking the balance between Prevention, Detection, and Response

One of Information Security’s basic triads is Prevention, Detection, and Response. How many organizations consciously use these categories when allocating InfoSec budgets? Whether intentional or not, I have found most organizations are over-weighted to Prevention.

Perhaps spending most of the InfoSec budget on Prevention made sense in the late 90’s and the first half of the 2000’s. But the changes we’ve seen during the last five to seven years in technology, threats, and the economy have led to an inevitability of organizations experiencing successful attacks. Therefore more budget must be allocated to Detection and Response.

What’s changed during the last several years?

Technology

  • The rise of Web 2.0 applications and social networking for business use, in response to the need to improve collaboration with customers and suppliers, and among employees.
  • Higher speed networks in response to the convergence of data, voice, and video which helps organizations cut operating costs
  • Increased number of remote and mobile workers, in response to efforts to reduce real estate costs and avoid wasting time commuting. I put this under technology because without high speed, low cost Internet connections this would not be happening.

Threats

  • Attacker motives have changed from glory to profits.
  • Attackers don’t bother building fast-spreading worms like Code Red and Nimda. Now adversaries work stealthily while they steal credit card information, bank account credentials, and intellectual property.
  • The main threat vector has shifted to the application layer and what I call the “inside-out” attack vector where social engineering actions like phishing lure users out to malware-laden web pages.

Economy

  • The Great Recession of 2008-2009 and the slow growth of the last couple of years have put enormous pressure on InfoSec budgets.

Using Bejtlich’s Security Effectiveness Model, the Threat Actions have changed but, for the most part, the Defensive Plans and Live Defenses have not kept up.

Organizations cannot continue to simply add new prevention controls to respond to the new reality. More effective and lower cost prevention controls must replace obsolete ones to improve Prevention and to free up budget for Detection and Response.