The move to digitalisation is driving greater connectivity than ever before, opening up worlds of new opportunities. But it also opens the door to more sophisticated and dangerous threats.

Kathy Gibson spoke to Trend Micro’s Dhanya Thakkar about the new world of threats and defense

Security is now top of the agenda for organisations around the world – but there are a number of challenges that get in the way of them achieving their security goals.

Dhanya Thakkar, vice-president at Trend Micro, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa (AMEA), points out that these challenges can be grouped into three separate issues.

“First of all is that there are always going to be foundational problems,” he explains. “On one side, organisations are moving quickly to digital transformation because they want to provide better services to the customers, employees or citizens.

“But on the other hand, they still need to deal with their legacy systems, and the threats associated with these are still there. They still have to consider the issues around outdate operating systems, bad patching and systems that have not been modernised. And cybercriminals are very aware of the limitations in your legacy systems.”

At the same time, organisations around the world are keen to take advantage of new technologies like 5G, digital transformation, hyperconnectivity, software-defined data centers and hybrid cloud.

“We are racing towards this future, while dragging the anchor of the legacy stuff with us,” Thakkar says. “There are massive challenges associated with that.

“Organisations are in a hurry to implement new systems. This is a competitive world, so they don’t really have a choice.

“But there are inherent security challenges associated with moving quickly.”

The third challenge is the convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT), Thakkar explains.

“Everything is becoming connected to the Internet, and that brings its own set of challenges. Internet of Things (IoT) attacks could impact critical infrastructure and might even impact lives.”

No-one is immune from the challenges presented by these scenarios, Thakkar adds. But there are some positives to take away.

“I’ve been in the industry for 20 years and, even five years ago, if I wanted to meet an executive to talk about security challenges I would be waiting outside the door.

“The good news is that there is a much greater awareness now, and awareness is the first step in solving a problem. There are a lot of discussions going on now, and people really do want to understand the situation.

“Executives are getting the notion that we are living in a highly dangerous world.”

The solution, Thakkar says, is not to slow down the pace of new technology adoption, but rather to do a better job at securing it.

“People are also realising that security is not the responsibility of a single organisation, or of government – but we are all in this together. It’s a global issue and, as a vendor, we need to work closely with businesses and law enforcement; and to break down the silos between business and IT.”

There are promising signs that this mindset is taking root. “I believe we can get ahead of the issues,” Thakkar says.

Along with the recognition that work is needed to address security issues, there is an acknowledgement that no security system will ever offer 100% protection. “Organisations know that breaches are going to happen, and are planning how to best address them when they do.

“This is a great step and demonstrates how far we have come.”

However, security is a complex problem that requires a collective issue to address, Thakkar adds.

“On one side companies understand that they need to be adequately protected from threats to all their systems; but they also need to assume that protection will fail, that things won’t always be good. “They need to assume that they are going to be breached – indeed, might probably have already been breached.

“Today, people are agreeing that their protection might not hold up. And so more organisations are now also looking to detect and respond solutions.”

Thakkar explains that executives have realised that no protection system is going to work 100% of the time, so they also need to detect if their systems have been infiltrated, and respond if – and when – that happens. “They need to shut infected systems down quickly, update their defenses and get back up and running with as little impact as possible on the business.”

The new multi-faceted approach to security has the effect of improving business operations, Thakkar adds.

“Security used to be the guy in the corner looking for attention but being viewed as someone that would slow operations down. The big change now is that people are realizing that security is actually like the brakes on a car – they are not there to make the car go slower, but allow it to go faster. When you have brakes you know you are in control.

“In the same way, companies can move quicker and adopt new technologies when they know they have the right protect, detect and respond systems in place.”

The changing threat landscape means that organisations are looking to a new breed of solutions, and Thakkar explains that Trend Micro focuses on three levels of protection.

“There are a lot of threats out there but, at the end of the day, most cyber-criminals will go for the crown jewels – the data – which generally resides in some kind of hybrid cloud environment.

“So having the rights solutions to protect the hybrid cloud data centre is very important.”

Through acquisition, Trend Micro is a global leader in hybrid cloud protection, an area it has focused on for the last 10 years.

“The Trend Micro pedigree has always been around protecting the users,” Thakkar says. “In fact, this is why some people still think of us as an anti-virus company. We are very proud of how well we have done over the years in protecting users. And this area is more important than ever, since the end user is where many attacks take place.”

Between the user and the hybrid data centre, the network is the last remaining area that needs to be protected, and Trend has now covered this through its acquisition of Tipping Point.

“So we are able to protect the user, the hybrid cloud data centre and the network,” Thakkar points out.

He adds that this unique ability to protect all areas of the organisation allows Trend to start connecting the dots and leveraging information to add value to its security offering.

“The concept of connected defense is geared toward the exchange of information in all solutions. Point solutions tend not to talk to one another, and organisations feel the pain of having little interoperability with systems deployed through the years.

“As a leader in connected defense, we realised we can connect these things together and add value to the detect and respond function.”

Thakkar explains that attacks often don’t manifest in isolation and, by analysing all three levels of security, they could be spotted a lot quicker.

“Massive amounts of data are produced by users, the cloud and the network – but typically that are all analysed separately. This is why we are launching our XDR solution for cross-generation detection and response.

“With XDR, you can take the data from all of those silos, put them into a single data lake, the analyse them using machine learning, artificial intelligence and years of experience to connect incidents together. This lets us more quickly identify threats, so we can provide very fast and accurate detect and response.”

XDR is available both as an on-premise or managed solution, or as a combination of both.