Last month I had the chance to attend a dinner with 56 CISOs and CSOs across a range of banking, gaming, ecommerce, and retail companies. We rotated between tables of eight people and talked about the biggest challenges those in the group were facing, and what they were most worried about around the corner. We talk to customers every day at Cloudflare, but this was a unique opportunity to listen to customers (and non-customers) talk to each other. It was a fascinating evening and a few things stood out.
The common thread that dominated the discussions was “how do I convince my business and product teams to do the things I want them to”. Surprisingly little time was spent on specific technical challenges. No one brought up a concern about recent advanced mage cart skimmers, or about protecting their new GraphQL APIs, or how to secure two different cloud vendors at once, or about the size of DDoS attacks consistently getting larger. Over and over again the conversation came back to struggles with getting humans to do the secure thing, or to not do the insecure thing.
This instantly brought to mind a major phishing attack that Cloudflare was able to thwart last August. The attack was extremely sophisticated, using targeted text messages and an extremely professional impersonation of our Okta login page. Cloudflare did have individual employees fall for the phishing messages, because we are made up of a team of humans who are human. But we were able to thwart the attack through our own use of Cloudflare One products, and physical security keys issued to every employee that are required to access all our applications. The attacker was able to obtain compromised username and password credentials, but they could not get past the hard key requirement to log in. In 2023 phishing attacks are only getting more frequent.
Today’s security challenges are often a case of having the right tools deployed to prevent people from making mistakes. Last year when we kicked off Security Week, we talked about making a shift from protecting websites, to protecting applications. Today, the shift is from protecting applications, to protecting employees, and making sure they are protected everywhere. Just a few weeks ago, the White House released a new national cybersecurity strategy directing all agencies to “implement multi-factor authentication, gain visibility into their entire attack surface, manage authorization and access, and adopt cloud security tools”. Over the next six days you’ll read more than 30 announcements that will make it as easy as possible to do just that.
Welcome to Security Week 2023.
“The more tools you use the less secure you are”
This was a direct quote from the CISO of a large online gaming platform. Adding more vendors might seem like you are adding layers of security, but you do also open up avenues for risk. First, every third party you add by definition adds another potential vulnerability. The recent LastPass breach is a perfect example. Attackers gained access to a cloud storage service, which gave them information they used in a secondary attack to phish an employee. Second, more tools means more complexity. More systems to log into, more dashboards to check. If information is spread across multiple systems you are more likely to miss important changes. Third, the more tools you use, the less likely it is that anyone is able to master them all. If you need the person who knows the application security tool, and the person who knows the SIEM, and the person who knows the access tool to coordinate on every potential vulnerability, things will get lost in translation. Complexity is the enemy of security. Fourth, adding more tools can add a false sense of security. Simply adding a new tool can give the impression you’ve added defense in depth. But that tool only adds protection if it works, if it’s configured properly, and if people actually use it.
This week, you will hear about all of the initiatives we’ve been working on to help you solve this problem. We will announce multiple integrations that make it easier for you to deploy and manage Zero Trust anywhere, across multiple platforms, but all within the Cloudflare dashboard. We’re also extending our proven detection capabilities into new areas that will help you solve problems you couldn’t solve before, and thus allow you to get rid of additional vendors. And we’ll announce a brand new migration tool that makes it dead simple to move from those other vendors to Cloudflare.
Leverage machine learning to let humans focus on critical thinking
We all hear machine learning thrown around as a buzzword too often, but it boils down to this: computers are really good at finding patterns. When we train them on what a good pattern looks like, they can spot them really well, and spot the outliers. Humans are great at finding patterns too. But it takes us a long time, and any time we spend finding patterns distracts us from the thing that even the best AI or ML model still can’t do: critical thinking. By using machine learning to find these good and bad patterns, you can optimize the time of your most valuable people. Rather than searching for exceptions, they can focus on only those exceptions, and use their wisdom to make the hard decisions about what to do next.
Cloudflare has used machine learning to catch DDoS attacks, malicious bots, and malicious web traffic. We were able to do this differently from others because we built a unique network where we run all of our code at every single data center, on every single machine. Since we have a massive global network that is close to end users, we can run machine learning close to those users, unlike competitors who have to use centralized data centers. The result is a machine learning pipeline that runs inference in a few microseconds. That unique speed is an advantage for our customers, one we now use to run inference more than 40 million times every second.
This week, we have an entire day focused on how we are using that machine learning pipeline to build new models that will allow you to find new patterns, like fraud and API endpoints.
Our intelligence is your intelligence
In June we announced Cloudforce One, the first step in our threat operations team dedicated to turning the intelligence we gather from handling nearly 20% of Internet traffic into actionable insights. Since that launch, we’ve heard customers ask us to do more with those insights and give them easy buttons and products to take the appropriate action on their behalf. This week you’ll read multiple announcements on new ways that you can view and take action on unique Cloudflare threat intelligence. We’ll also be announcing multiple new reporting views, like being able to view more data at an account level so you can have one single lens into security trends across your entire organization.
Make it harder for humans to make mistakes
Each product, development, or business team wants to use their own tools, and wants to move as quickly as possible. For good reason! Any security that comes after the fact, and creates additional work for those teams, will be difficult to get internal buy on for. Which can lead to situations like the recent T-mobile hack where an API that was not intended to be public was exposed, discovered, and exploited. You need to meet teams where they are by making the tools they already use more secure, and preventing them from making mistakes, rather than giving them additional tasks.
In addition to making it easier to deploy our Application Security and Zero Trust products to a wider scope, you’ll also read about how we are adding new features that prevent humans from making the mistakes they always do. You’ll hear about how you can make it impossible to click on a phishing link by automatically blocking the domains that host them, prevent data from leaving regions it should never leave, give your users security alerts directly in the tools they already use, and automatically detect shadow APIs without making your developers change their development process. All of this without having to convince internal teams to make any changes to their behavior.
If you’re reading this and any part of your job involves securing an organization, I think that by the end of the week we’ll have made your job easier. With the new tools and integrations we release, you’ll be able to protect more of your infrastructure from a wider range of threats, but reduce the number of third parties you rely on. More importantly, you’ll be able to reduce the number of mistakes that the incredible humans you work with can make. I hope that helps you rest a bit easier!
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Author Of this post: Reid Tatoris