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Digital transformation has increased the speed at which organizations must adapt

Digital transformation has increased the speed at which organizations must adapt. As they do so, it's more important than ever to be able to choose solutions that will give them a comprehensive, real-time view of the network. Several factors contribute to this new priority:

  • Root causes and threats must be quickly identified, so network and security ops personnel must have the ability to view and share real-time data from multiple network environments.
  • Security concerns have made their way all the way up to the boardroom due to new government regulations and recent high-profile breaches.
  • Legacy tools are unable to provide the scalability and an integrated view of networks, systems, applications and virtualized environments needed today.
  • Organizations are challenged with a wide diversity of data sources.

These factors culminate in a shift in responsibility; network security and operations professionals are discovering that they not only need to report to the corporate CISO or CSO, they may in fact find themselves standing in front of the CEO, or worse, answering to the board of directors to explain how they are protecting critical corporate resources and ensuring that compliance standards are being met.

The expanding number and type of channels within the enterprise, including social, mobile, local and cloud applications, has increased IT operational challenges, to say the least. Other trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and managing suppliers, remote users and highly diversified platforms are adding new dimensions to IT security challenges. How can an organization bring disparate network operations center (NOC) and security operations center (SOC) data and analytics together before security vulnerabilities have them pointing fingers at each other - and only after a breach has occurred?

Why the Silo Must Go
It's clearly understood at all levels within the organization, in view of today's increasing threats, that having a combined network operations and security data center view is normal operating procedure. However, in many organizations, there are at least two separate teams of networking professionals overseeing different parts of the network, reporting to different department heads and working with different tool sets that don't integrate the data being collected. While this siloed model worked in the network environments of yesterday (those networks that were never touched or couldn't be touched by outside influences), today's fast-paced, data-driven, mobile-first network environments demand tools that provide more agility and deeper visibility into network activity.

The silo approach increases complexity and contributes to a slower discovery of security vulnerabilities, which are frequently exposed and managed only after a breach has occurred and damage to the organization has already been done. Investigations of the network weak points require gathering "all IT hands on deck," with the security operations teams bringing in their sources of data and IT operations bringing in theirs, requiring both teams to manually correlate historical events to discover the source(s) of the breach. With shrinking budgets stretching IT assets and a growing sense of exposure and accountability, it has become more critical than ever to identify and implement solutions that will satisfy the needs of both entities and their chain of command with tools that can more rapidly identify threats through the cross-correlation of data and analytics from both departments.

What SIEM Needs Now
Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solutions were originally designed to provide real-time analysis of security alerts that are generated by network hardware and applications. However, the emergence of the Cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data have tasked NOC and SOC professionals with monitoring and reporting a growing number of activities.

With all the tools available today, what should organizations be looking for in a solution? What are the pitfalls they should be aware of? How can they be sure they have selected a solution that will provide them with the holy grail of unifying analytics, accelerating time to discovery of threats and the ability to quickly respond? And all that while automating and integrating their regulatory compliance reporting data?

Key Considerations for Choosing a SIEM Solution
Making the wrong decision here results in lost money, lost time, frustration and ongoing risk. One of IT's greatest fears is to purchase a solution, install the product and take the time to train staff, only to find that the solution is difficult to use or doesn't easily scale as the needs of the organization change. Below are five "must have" elements organizations should look for when implementing a SIEM solution that bridges both network and security operations needs and requirements:

  • Getting the micro view - Enterprise network environments may be distributed across multiple locations, both national and international. In addition to an organization's need to have a macro view of their overall network infrastructure, they also need to partition and define unique physical and logical network elements into micro-view reporting domains ("tenants") for greater granularity in their management of the unique requirements in those domains. Managed Service Providers (MSPs) must also manage their own internal infrastructure, as well as be able to carve out unique domains for their respective end-user customers. In either case, it is critical to implement a solution that provides the ability to view multiple tenant or client networks with real-time analytics in order to stay ahead of emerging threats and meet compliance needs.
  • Holistic visibility - To bring together a comprehensive, holistic organizational or "single-pane-of-glass" view of the network, unified network analytics platforms should integrate and cross-correlate data that has historically been managed in separate NOC and SOC departments. Ideally, the solution should provide pre-defined reports for common monitoring and compliance needs, along with easily customizable reports for unique needs.
  • Configuration Management Database - Look for a Configuration Management Database (CMDB) to map the current network topology, including servers, devices, storage, networks, mobile, security, applications and users, and their interdependencies. The CMDB tool should also provide the ability to self-learn, in real time, any changes that occur to that CMDB environment. In doing so, teams will gain the ability to discover, identify and establish alerts from changes that may be posing threats to the organization's compliance or performance needs.
  • Threat correlation - Giving teams a real-time view of the organization's network infrastructure and cross-correlating data from device and event details empowers them with the insights they need to quickly react to cybersecurity and network performance threats.
  • Shared intelligence - Identify solutions that enable teams to aggregate, validate and share anonymous threat data, in real time, for rapid awareness to an ever-growing threat landscape.

Come Together, Right Now
Big-name data breaches continue to occur with frightening regularity. These days, a breach impacts not only organizational revenues, brand reputation and customer experience but has the potential for organizational leaders to face jail time. C-levels can no longer rely on the ancient idea that their network is optimally managed and protected by NOC and SOC teams working independently - the old siloed approach is dead.

MSPs have already discovered how critical it is to correlate analytics from both the SOC and NOC, in meeting today's challenges, and many of them have built business models offering services that do just that. Today's uncertain environment is not just an IT, CIO or CISO problem; it is being felt across the entire organization, from employees all the way up to the board of directors.

The recent record-shattering online shopping season highlights the needs of today's digital organizations: ensuring network performance while upholding the highest security measures. The multiple breaches of last year were instructive; they clearly showed that organizations have to get faster at detecting and mitigating network threats. This can only happen as the NOC and SOC siloes are dismantled in favor of a unified system that correlates information from both areas. Failure to embrace this new paradigm will likely result in loss of performance and security, with repercussions for employee efficiency, customer trust and corporate reputation.

More Stories By Tom Kelly

Tom Kelly is CEO of AccelOps. He is a technology industry veteran having led companies through founding, growth, IPO and strategic acquisition. He has served as a CEO, COO or CFO at Cadence Design Systems, Frame Technology, Cirrus Logic, Epicor Software and Blaze Software. He led successful turnarounds at Bluestar Solutions, MonteVista Software and Moxie Software, having served as CEO in repositioning and rebranding the companies in advance of their new growth. He serves on the Boards of Directors of FEI, Fabrinet, and ReadyPulse.

Tom is a graduate of Santa Clara University where he is member of the University’s Board of Regents.

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