Why don’t we build castles anymore? The answer, of course, is that we do—they just look a lot different. In fact, thinking about how and why castles have evolved can tell us a lot about how we can improve our approach to securing the enterprise “kingdom.”
The first medieval castles were a lot like first-generation enterprise networks: giant walls surrounding centralized assets. Nearly all the value of the kingdom could be held within the walls (data, productivity, etc.). A single drawbridge (the firewall) was connected to the outside world. Turrets gave better visibility to threats coming from the outside. It was a simpler time: With most value contained within the walls and little need to connect outside, it was much easier to build up a hardy perimeter. But these castles were also big targets, with a huge attack surface and lot of value to be taken. Moreover, there was little in the way of internal security. If attackers breached the perimeter, they had their run of the kingdom.
Gunpowder changed everything
Then someone came along and invented gunpowder. Firepower is a lot like malware, ransomware and social engineering tactics. Suddenly you can shoot over castle walls or even through walls. The response in medieval times was to build more walls—to create castles within castles. We did the same in the digital enterprise world, adding VLANs, secondary firewalls, app-specific encryption and other “walls” around specific internal assets.
That’s where most organizations are today – still structured around the idea of the secure perimeter. We secure the thing that holds the value—the network, the server, the app, the endpoint device—but not the value itself (the data). We hone our sights on external threats, missing the threats that are already inside the castle walls.
The digital castles of tomorrow
It’s increasingly clear that a perimeter-based approach doesn’t suit the modern kingdom. You’re never going to completely stop all breaches, and tougher walls will end up locking your own people out and stifling value creation. So, what does a forward-thinking data security strategy look like? Here are four key features we’ll see in the digital enterprise “castles” of tomorrow:
- There will be perimeter—but it will be porous. There will always be boundaries, but we’ll only rely on the perimeter to stop the most obvious and basic attacks—and we’ll ensure it doesn’t thwart our users’ productivity.
- Smaller targets—less attack surface. Data security strategies will start at the most granular level which is at the user’s endpoint device. By making the targets small and many, it makes it more expensive (and less fruitful) to attack them.
- Turrets that look inward. As threats increasingly come from within, we’ll turn our lookout towers around. We’ll use data visibility tools to see where our data lives and when it moves, and get better at recognizing when something doesn’t look right.
- Securing the value itself. Instead of securing the thing that holds the value, we’ll secure the value (the data) itself. That means finding ways to ensure that attackers can’t actually remove data, and/or that the enterprise never truly loses that data (and all its value).
To close out our medieval castle analogy, the next-generation digital “kingdom” won’t have giant walls to protect our gold. We’ll use data visibility tools to know the second a gold coin moves somewhere it shouldn’t, and we’ll use data recovery tools to ensure we can always yank that gold coin back, no matter where someone tries to take it.