Converged security

Operators must develop a converged approach to security, says Walid Kamal, vice president, technology, security and risk management, Du.

Tags: Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company
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Converged security Kamal: operators must adopt a converged approach to security.
By  Walid Kamal Published  June 14, 2010

Gone are the days when a phone was just a phone. A mobile handset can now function as a camera, a portable TV and a laptop computer, among other applications.

In fact, the International Telecommunication Union reports that mobile phones are quickly becoming the world’s preferred way to go online. As an increasing amount of state-of-the-art technologies are coming together onto a single device, consumers are able to enjoy a much more convenient, ‘convergent’ communication experience.

However, while these technologies are increasing the effectiveness of the work of telecom operators and driving societal interconnectedness, they are exposing us to new risks as well. Incidents are felt by more and more people, and cause an increasing amount of widespread damage. Experts estimate that a total of US$1 billion has been stolen from financial institutions and corporations in the Middle East by organised cyber criminals employing online transactions.

Because of the increased security risks imposed by these convergent technologies and the ever-advanced forms of cyber malware, telecom providers need to have an entirely reliable and efficient security system. However, at the moment, operators tend to take a fragmented and isolated approach to protecting their telecommunication infrastructure.

For example, operators will tend to implement one security system on their network, and a different one for their various applications, leaving the gateway between the two unprotected and exposed. Because of this, operators are hampered by a number of critical shortcomings: exposure to risks, lack of an enterprise-wide view of risks, lack of accountability in dealing with those risks, and duplicative responses and investments.

So how can we attain an overall view of these risks and thereby protect against these dangers? Quite simply, a convergent market requires convergent security, which provides end-to-end information handling, assessment and protection, as well as an effective security incident response capability. This can be achieved through a centralised management and monitoring system, meaning that all the layers across a network are secured via a unified approach, rather than securing each layer individually.

And the drivers for embracing a centralised security module are not only limited to better, more efficient network protection. By maximising defence against attacks with a multi-dimensional view that enables events to be correlated from all the layers of security, the convergent strategy can not only meet the needs of a telecom provider, but enable them to operate far more efficiently.

Furthermore, by cutting out security risks and providing an effective incident response mechanism, the module will ensure the service continuity of the telecom operator, while ensuring the confidentiality and integrity of customers’ information assets, as well as complying with regulatory requirements. And, of course, in terms of technological enablement, the converged and cohesive module will protect any technology assets by strengthening all parts of an infrastructure against attacks.

So having clarified the motivation for embracing this security strategy, the next step is to understand how to initiate the converged security framework. First and foremost, in order to set up an effective centralised security module, there are a few basic ingredients which need to be present. This includes a people, process and technology approach.

A good security strategy can only be implemented with the presence of an expectative leadership. Using this strategic base, an efficient governance model, framework and processes can then be designed to ensure the optimum functionality of the security module, which in turn provides an assurance of the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information through effective risk and incident management. And in order to consolidate an effective strategy and operational structure, the necessary technologies must be implemented to support the operation of the system.

Once the vital ingredients – people, process and technology – are set in place, the module can commence operations. The process can be tailored to meet the specific needs of individual telecom providers, but as a general rule we will follow a targeted six-step centralised security lifecycle which includes:

1. A look at the operator’s aims and objectives, consideration of individual corporate customs and policies and acknowledgement of the standard industry regulatory requirements.

2. An assessment of security functions within the organisation, definition of the information security governance framework and creation of an interaction model for an understanding of the module’s compatibility with the legacy systems along with a risk assessment of the information and associated systems, applications and infrastructure.

3. The planning, design and implementation of the new centralised security architecture blueprint

4. The operation of the centralised module, including monitoring and incident management

5. Auditing and assuring effective implementation of the centralised module and ensuring continuous compliance with regulatory and business requirements.

6. With a centralised security module up and running, operators can then enjoy a number of benefits, which will not only facilitate and enhance their operations, but secure the continuity of these operations for the future.

These advantages include:

• A stronger, end-to-end, unified security system which is less vulnerable to attack.

• A more complete view of what’s happening on the network through a centralised monitoring system, enabling companies to be more proactive when taking precautions and therefore implement more advanced security on their infrastructure.

• Quicker and more efficient identification of and response to security incidents and attacks through the centralised monitoring system.

• Improved analysis of risks and incidents through an auditing system that provides daily security reports, enabling operators to better understand any security risks and incidents.

• Content filtering, web filtering and URL filtering, enabling control and monitoring of corporate users’ internet behaviours.

• Cost reductions, due to the greater time and energy efficiency of a fully converged platform.

• A more flexible and scalable system, as the centralised module’s grid-like system allows services and technologies to be either added or removed with greater ease.

Finally, by implementing end-to-end security – from A to Z – all areas of an infrastructure are secured as a unit, rather than as fragmented sectors, shielding the gateway between each domain and therefore closing the doors to potential threats. After all, as an operator, if you are not protecting your infrastructure effectively, it is not only detrimental to your organisation, but it also exposes your end-consumers to risks through the products and services you provide them with.

When it comes down to it, the only way to keep up with today’s convergent technology market, in terms of security and risk management, is to match those end-to-end  technologies with a centralised and converged security module.

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