Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

If cybersecurity was a pizza…

February 8, 2017

There aren’t many things I take more seriously than pizza.  Beyond the wellbeing of my family and equal human rights, putting together an epic pizza comes in at a close third.

When I learned that my favourite pizza restaurant in Newcastle had to close for 4 weeks for refurbishments, I deemed it necessary to simulate that poignant moment from the movie Platoon when Willem Dafoe drops to his knees and throws his arms up in the air.

So, it probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that when I was thinking about Cisco’s approach to cybersecurity, the inspiration for an analogy came from my stomach.

In my humble yet admittedly qualified opinion on these matters, pizzas are tastiest when made with complementary ingredients.  Kamikazily throw in some chicken next to a piece of pineapple and I’ll pretend I don’t know you.  I’m aware that taste is subjective, but there are boundaries.

When it comes to security, the idea of taking a ‘layered’ approach isn’t anything radical or new – it’s about being aware of the fact that sometimes, bad things happen.  If you pin all your hopes on one piece of technology stopping 100% of attacks, I beg you to learn from the, “This ship is unsinkable!” marketing campaign from the White Star

Crucially, all the layers have to fit together perfectly, and work together to achieve effective security.

This is where the idea of a Cisco Security Pizza comes in.  It’s how we’ve designed our security services to give our customers the best possible chance of defending their businesses from pineapples…ahem, I mean cyber attacks…

[For authenticity purposes, I ate a pizza whilst composing this blog.  Here’s a pic to prove it.]

pizza-bullet-pointsThe base: Security Policies

You can’t have a pizza without a base, and you can’t have effective security without underlining policies and access controls.

Traditionally, we’ve thought of cybersecurity as being a technology problem, with a technology answer.  However, the bad guys have got cleverer.

If you leave such things to chance (and when I say chance, I unfortunately mean users) that’s when the loopholes are created – like having a really secure router, but leaving it on the default password.

Pan crust or thin and crispy – it’s up to you, but make sure security policies are baked into the infrastructure for your business, and complement everything that you do.

Read more about access controls and how you can manage risk

pizza-bullet-pointsThe sauce: DNS Defence

Let’s be honest – the sauce isn’t the most interesting part of a pizza, but you’d be remiss without it.

Something simple works best – a fresh, smooth consistency, which is thin enough to be spread but thick enough to stop your pizza from getting that gloopy sort of texture.  A dash of seasoning and you’re good to go.  The only way to get this really wrong is to think that raw, sliced tomatoes are appropriate to add on top.  Yech.

We’ve taken a similar Neapolitan approach to our first level of security: Cisco Umbrella.  Umbrella uses the internet’s infrastructure (i.e, DNS) to block malicious threats before a connection is ever established.  It works as your first line of defence, and does exceptionally clever things like extracting suspicious looking URLs for deeper inspection, and stopping the execution of ransomware encryption.

It’s such a simple tool to manage that no matter the size of your business, it only takes minutes to become part of your entire infrastructure.

Read more about Cisco Umbrella

pizza-bullet-pointsThe cheese: Your firewall

I don’t know about you, but for me, if the cheese is wrong, everything is wrong. Also, achieving the perfect melting stage takes a watchful eye.

Similarly, we understand how annoying it is when security technologies add constrictive burdens onto your network and slows down performance.  So we’ve made sure that doesn’t happen with our next generation firewall.  Crucially, this includes (amongst other things) an intrusion prevention system and application visibility and control – so it complements the base.

Read more about Cisco’s Next Generation Firewall

pizza-bullet-pointsThe meat: Advanced Malware Protection

Whether it’s traditional pepperoni or trendy pulled pork, I think most of us can agree that it’s better to regret eating meat on a pizza, than regret not eating it at all.  Unless you’re a veggie, in which case, such rules probably don’t apply.

We’re living in a world where hackers operate like businesses.   These teams are well funded, and have the patience to do research to ensure a targeted attack.

Advanced malware aims to evade basic anti-virus technology.  So in the face of such an attack, you need something resilient, intelligent, and, well, meaty.  Enter Cisco’s Advanced Malware Protection (AMP for short).

Our Cisco Talos experts analyse millions of malware samples and terabytes of data every day, and intelligence gets pushed straight into AMP.  AMP then blocks malware which is trying to enter your network in real time.   It’s a product made of pretty tough stuff.

Read more about Advanced Malware Protection, or take a look at the incredible work our Talos team does.

pizza-bullet-pointsThe spice: Automated security

So, you have the foundation of your pizza: your base, your cheese, your sauce and your meat.  Everything looks great.  But, it needs a bit of a kick to make the whole thing – the whole experience – even more desirable.

Because of the advancements Cisco has made in security, we now have the ability to see a threat once and stop it everywhere – automatically and in real time. This makes our response so much more powerful.  And for our customers, it means not having to go on a wild goose chase to stop malware from entering even more of their systems.

We believe that if everything in your IT environment works together, it’s so much easier to protect.  Open, simple, and automated – that’s our mantra.  For example – a network security device spots an infected computer and has the network automatically quarantine it so it can’t do any further harm.

That is automation in action, and it’s the one ingredient that can empower organisations with faster time to detect, and respond, to security threats.  A bit of that ‘something extra’, but all part of the value.

Read more about security automation.

pizza-bullet-pointsThe Taste

Lastly, far be it for me to dictate all the ingredients in a security pizza.  I joked earlier about the limitations of taste being subjective, but the key to effective security is to use tools and policies that work best for you.

Your business has to be the one in control.  It might be that your organisation uses mostly Cloud applications, and you need something that allows your users to work securely with those.

Whatever your strategy, make sure that you have all the ingredients you need, and always keep referring back to your base – so that your users know the crucial role they play in keeping your data from being taken.  And keep those pineapples away…

If you’d like to know more about the current business cyber threats, and how effective they are? We have just released our 2017 Annual Cybersecurity Security Report, so download today.

Secondly, if you’d like to know more about Cisco’s Integrated Approach to Security and how much efficiency, productivity and cost savings you can make, check out our quick fact sheet!

Leave a comment