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Know what’s going on in your network to better secure it: Riverbed’s Deputy CTO

Zafirah Salim | Dec. 18, 2014
In this interview, Charles Kaplan, Deputy CTO of Riverbed explains why network awareness is important in enhancing security, and how to work on improving this ‘visibility’.

Charles Kaplan, Deputy CTO, Riverbed (Photo credits to Riverbed)

"We need to understand what the heck is going on with our network," said Charles Kaplan, Deputy Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Riverbed.

Kaplan lamented how IT practitioners nowadays don't seem to know the specifics of the company's inventory, such as the number of computers, servers and/or data centres they have.  

"How can you not know? It's a business metric!" he exclaimed.

In order to improve this "visibility", or knowledge, it is crucial for us to know these bits of information. "This will help us do a much better job of securing those assets; and in the worst case scenarios, recovering from damage to those assets that have been compromised," explains Kaplan.

Kaplan describes visibility as the "glue" that empowers both the business and the IT teams with the insight they need to make effective resourcing decisions and to resolve problems faster. Benefits of visibility to IT include security operations, network operations, architecture and planning, and audit and compliance, he added.

He went on to share a snippet of a book titled 'Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution' by Steven Levy, which traces the exploits of the computer revolution's original hackers.

"It goes way back to the mainframe days, in the 50s or 60s. Hardcore programmers had this philosophy whereby requiring passwords may tempt people to break in. But if you remove all passwords and make the content open and available for everybody, then nobody will have an interest in trying to break in - because the data would be free."

"That's one very early approach on security," he said. "But I don't think that's going to work today."

Security is a very prevalent concept, he continued. Now and then, there have been all kinds of security threats taking place - from attacks against the physical network infrastructure, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, or attacks against services and applications like sequel injection (SQL) attacks.

It is also apparent that there is no silver bullet to security. "Despite being vigilant, constantly scanning and patching, and constantly being educated about security, the advantages are always going to be tilted to the attacker," said Kaplan.

The reality is that there are vulnerabilities existing in our environment, and traditional methods are unfortunately no longer as effective as today's networks are getting increasingly complicated.

"If I don't have a good understanding of what's running in production, I can't possibly be applying the best security to it because I don't even know I have it. Only if I know what's going on in my network, I can start doing a better job," he added.


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