Cyber attacks work because CISOs don’t do basic security: Microsoft

Infosec leaders are still behind in cybersecurity basics, leaving their organizations unnecessarily open to attacks, says the vice-president of Microsoft Security.

Cyber attacks aren’t successful because they are getting more sophisticated, Kelly Bissell told the siberX CISO Forum Canada on Tuesday.

“Ninety-eight per cent of attacks are elementary,” he said, and take advantage of unpatched devices, a lack of multifactor authentication to protect logins, no privileged access controls, no identity management, and password vulnerabilities.

“Those things are happening every day. I think why we’re getting more [successful] attacks is because this is one of the industries where crime actually pays.”

Seventy-eight per cent of computing devices have an unpatched vulnerability that’s at least nine months old, he added. “We’re not patching our systems. We’re taking the approach, ‘I’ll patch these systems if I can.’ But what you’d better do is patch now, even at the risk of breaking an application.

“We have to re-think our DevSecOps function to be far more resilient in the patching of our environments.”

The good news is law enforcement agencies around the world are having some success against attackers, he added. He urged CISOs to work with police agencies if their IT environments are compromised.

There are a number of things CISOs should do to stiffen their security, he said, including

— move away from best-of-breed solutions to a platform;

— get intelligence feeds;

— move workloads to the cloud;

— invest in artificial intelligence solutions to speed analysis and response;

— make sure data is well protected;

— “be brilliant at the basics,” particularly having a well-designed Active Directory protection structure;

— get privileged access under control to prevent lateral movement;

— and optimize and simplify your IT architecture.

On this last point, Bissell offered proof:

“I was part of an organization a while back that had a ransomware attack on our AD domain. By the way, we had 90 domains. Thank goodness we had the right architecture. The ransomware was contained to one domain structure. If we didn’t have the right design, it would have spread to all domains. It would have been devastating. So the architecture of your security environment matters.”

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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