To protect themselves against cyberattacks, organizations should focus more on training their employees and improving their internal processes instead of buying new technology, according to one tech vendor.
Yet, businesses and government agencies often focus on the next "silver bullet" product, unaware that most cybersecurity problems stem from flawed procedures and human error, said Art Gilliland, senior vice president and general manager for Hewlett-Packard's software enterprise security products.
"This is hard for a product guy to say out loud to an audience, but invest in your people and process," Gilliland said at HP's Software Government Summit in Washington, D.C. "The first thing that always gets negotiated out of every [security software] contract is the training and the services."
Another mistake organizations make is spending a huge portion of their cybersecurity budgets on traditional perimeter defense products like firewalls and antivirus products, while short-changing tools to detect and stop attackers after they break into the systems, at which point "they pretty much own us," Gilliland added.
While organizations shouldn't ignore perimeter defense, they should also invest in systems that detect attackers inside networks and in encryption to protect important data, he said.
Gilliland and Keith Alexander, the former director of the U.S. National Security Agency, both called for U.S. businesses and government agencies to share more cyberthreat information with each other.
Congress in recent years has attempted to pass legislation that would encourage cyberthreat information sharing by offering lawsuit protections for companies, but the bills have been bogged down over concerns about consumer privacy and the type of information companies would share.
Cyberthreat information sharing is one of the few ways organizations can be "proactive" in dealing with cyberattacks, Gilliland said. The concern about consumer privacy may not be as big of an issue when the sharing is among government agencies as when there are private businesses involved. But there's still much work to do related to technology standards and automating the sharing of information, he said later in an interview.
Organizations looking to share cyberthreat information should start small with noncontroversial data to avoid the privacy concerns and build from there, he recommended.
Congress needs to pass legislation to encourage cyberthreat information sharing, added Alexander, who co-founded IronNet Cybersecurity after leaving the NSA.
"Despite what people say, NSA, Cyber Command, the FBI and Homeland Security cannot see somebody attacking Sony unless we're told," said Alexander, who also spoke at the HP event. "It has to be real-time [sharing]. If we don't have real-time between government and industry, we're not going to solve anything."
Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is [email protected]