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In Search of a Russian Winter of Information Systems Security

Bob Gourley recently wrote about the dangers of a Maginot Line approach to network security in “The Maginot Line of Information Systems Security“, based on the paper by Dr. Rick Forno. In the Second World War, the French relied on the Maginot Line, a string of fortifications along the German border, to repel invaders. Feeling secure behind fortified walls, they missed the developments in technology and tactics that allowed the Germans to simply bypass the Line to be well within France in just 5 days.

To many cyber security experts, the Maginot Line represents the wrong approach to security. Dr. Forno originally compared it to buying the latest and greatest software then forgetting about it, pointing out how even the “best” solutions can have hundreds of flaws and exploits, some only becoming evident after attacks. No single solution, or even combination of technical solutions, can be perfect: “Good firewalls and other purely technical solutions do their work effectively, but to a clever and determined attacker they are just obstacles to be either broken or side-slipped, whichever is most effective.” Despite a consensus that a Maginot Line fails just as spectacularly in cyberspace as in the battlespace, a press release every few months decrying a Maginot Line approach means that we have not yet moved on fully.

What we need, then, is a Russian winter of information systems security. Throughout history, the Russian winter has been a nightmare for every invading army that tried to brave it, including the legendary Napoleonic and Nazi war machines. These were the “advanced persistent threats” of their day. While the Maginot Line was easily avoided because it couldn’t adjust or adapt, the Russian winter punished the Germans on the Eastern front. That’s because not only was the cold and the harsh weather pervasive, it gave the advantage to the defenders while allowing for human ingenuity, allowing Soviet tactics to shift and evolve with the threat. Of course, the Russian winter was just winter to the Russians, who were more accustomed and prepared for their climate than invaders.

 

Russian ski troops in WWII via The Chicago Tribune archive

One company working to provide a Russian winter style defense is CloudShield. Their latest product, the CS-4000, is a next generation trusted network security platform designed to protect the most critical infrastructure and most private information of our military and intelligence community. As a technical system, the CS-4000 is cutting edge, like the rest of Cloudshield’s offerings, providing deep packet inspection for mixed-traffic converged networks for total visibility and access to every byte and every bit. Like Russia’s legendary winters, Cloudshield defends from all angles, even kinetic attacks by hardening their hardware with physical security countermeasures. Unlike the Russian winter, however, CloudShield’s solutions don’t complicate IT for everyone. It’s only a Russian winter for the bad guys, while the good guys enjoy a Hawaiian spring.

What really seperated Cloudshield’s offerings, such as the CS-4000, from Maginot Line style cyber defenses is its unprecedented agility. Cloudshield provides the first open, programmable network platform, which is scalable, adapts to new policies seamlessly, and offers not only the widest deployed applications but also makes developing new applications cheap, fast, and easy with their PacketWorks Integrated Development Environment and CloudShield PacketWorks Operating System.

Like the Maginot Line, many security platforms offer a static set of defenses and rely on technical solutions which, as Dr. Forno warned, invite hackers to innovate and work around them. CloudShield’s technology, like the Russian winter, offers a flexible, active defense that can be adapted and optimized by a clever security team to adjust instantly to new threats. CloudShield’s network platforms represent an evolving paradigm in cyber securityand risk management solutions that, like Russia’s biting winds and deep snows, provide a powerful deterent and, when combined with a capable defense, become nearly impenetrable.

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