SAN FRANCISCO-How is the data security industry keeping a safe distance ahead of those who revel in stealing information from companies and individuals and using it for their own profit?
The current answer is by continually building more business intelligence, developed and collected by security technology companies, into large databases and the latest security products that keep watch over them. The business intelligence is aimed at making the security products and the databases they protect moving targets that are harder for data pirates to hit.
But the entire data protection business continues to be a slow-moving work in progress.
Enterprise Strategy Group security analyst Jon Oltsik believes that enterprise data security in general is becoming a bit tighter on the surface, but underneath there remains that soft underbelly of liability.
"Information security progress continues to move one step forward and then two steps back," Oltsik wrote in his blog. "The worst news of all is that this isn't a technology issue. It really comes down to negligence, ignorance, poor processes, and general laziness. To paraphrase security guru Bruce Schneier, 'People remain the weakest link in the security chain.'"
Oltsik pointed out another disturbing fact: "Five of the 10 [all-time] biggest data breaches occurred in 2007, including the record setter," he wrote. "Massachusetts-based TJX now holds the dubious honor for the largest data breach of all time-a whopping 94 million records exposed!"
RSA Security, one of the most respected data security vendors in the world and now a division of IT infrastructure giant EMC, and other security companies have found that while consumers and businesses remain standardized on static username-and-password entry into online services, the industry must continue to innovate new techniques to catch crooks.
Human error and thievery-not technology-really are the major issues involving data security, RSA President Art Coviello said during a recent visit to eWEEK's office here.
"Good security requires a fair amount of expense, maybe even a fair amount of frustration on the part of users," Coviello said while offering an overview of what he sees in the security landscape going forward this year.
"If security is only invoked when and if a risk is identified, then it's a lot less intrusive," Coviello said. "In our online solutions for identity [authentication], we're now looking for patterns of behavior, much as you do in a point-of-sale transaction with a credit card. So we monitor anomalies in credit-card transactions, and stop those transactions when the anomaly shows up."
This screening of data and user routines for telltale patterns is something called "dynamic security."
For instance, Coviello said, if you use your credit card today, and then 5 minutes from now this same card is used to try to buy something from an IP address in Moscow, RSA's software would flag it and immediately put a stop on it.
"If you buy a pair of Nike sneakers online, no big deal. But if all of a sudden you're buying 500 pair, we'll probably stop that transaction," Coviello said. "That sort of thing."
In the first-generation security world, that kind of transaction likely would not have been discovered.