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Hybrid IT Environments: Overcoming Security Challenges

09/04/2024 minute read OneAdvanced PR

In the ever-evolving landscape of cyber security, the term hybrid is more than just a buzzword – it’s a reality for many organisations. And the need to adapt and unify security strategies across hybrid environments has become paramount. Securing a hybrid environment poses many challenges as compared to security in a single cloud or on-premises deployment, due to the nuances in different technology, methods of access and operational roles.

This blog from our cyber security partner – Fortra’s Alert Logic, analyses insights from a number of security leaders to understand how hybrid environments have challenged their approaches to security, what approaches have succeeded or failed, and what needs to be solved next to continue the maturation of their security strategy.

Challenge 1: The Hybrid Conundrum

When we talk about hybrid IT setups, there's no one-size-fits-all answer. They can include a mix of cloud services like AWS, Azure, GCP, and physical geolocations. Whether it's factories with specialised computer systems, businesses using old software, or financial organisations that regularly acquire business and look to integrate with an existing IT stack, each environment poses unique challenges. Moreover, diverse ownership models like IaaS, (PaaS), or SaaS pose challenges for accurate monitoring, analytics, and even applying mitigations, requiring a level of trust in the provider’s ability to fulfil their security obligations.

Weaknesses in any one area can have serious ramifications for critical infrastructure and business objectives.

Challenge 2: Bridging Visibility Gaps

In a hybrid environment, it’s critical to stay on top of visibility gaps, ensuring the detection of all risks and threats in diverse environments. Simply said, visibility starts with asset discovery. In the dark corners of cyber security, if you don’t know what you have, you can’t secure it. Having the right tools for inventorying assets makes asset discovery easier.

Security leaders are turning their focus away from the “crown jewels,” those most critical assets to your business which traditionally were prioritised, sometimes at the expense of the wider IT footprint. While securing these assets is paramount, it’s not enough. The interconnected nature of cyberthreats underscores the necessity of holistic security measures. Comprehending the scope of your assets and their interconnectedness empowers you to initiate threat modelling exercises, thereby pinpointing potential pathways to compromise, assessing potential impacts, and exploring security control options.

Challenge 3: Break Down Silos

In hybrid environments, it’s important to break down silos between the different technology tools and teams within an organisation to ensure they work together smoothly.

Tools like XDR (Extended Detection and Response) or SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) help gather and understand security information from across the company in one place. By using automated analysis or manually looking into threats, these tools can spot and link together different types of security risks. Using XDR or SOAR (Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response) helps eliminate the gap between finding a security issue and dealing with it. They speed up response times by using automated steps and provide a way to organise how to stop further problems.

However, while technology can unify security tools, getting stakeholder buy-in, especially from non-IT executives, is critical. Security leaders emphasised the scale of this challenge, several cited challenges with unifying departments with individual objectives, operating models, and budgets. Others shared stories of well-defined incident response playbooks falling flat in practice when a cautious IT team dragged their heels when engaged by the SOC. Effective approaches prioritised cultivating a security culture at the executive level and advocated for regular tabletop exercises to demonstrate the importance of a cohesive security strategy to all parties involved in incident response.

Challenge 3: The Human Element

Good security isn't just about the technology. Sure, tools like XDR help bring everything together - they make it easier to see what's happening, analyse data, look into issues, and take action, even claiming to make security teams work better by not having to switch between too many tools. However, the key ingredient is people – knowledgeable security experts and decision-makers who understand security are crucial to get the most out of any tool. Having a team with a broad range of skills across different areas is vital for a strong security plan. Challenges in this area can include a lack of skilled professionals, difficulties getting buy-in for security initiatives, or analyst burnout due to unrealistic expectations around workload.

Challenge 4: Traversing Mergers and Acquisitions

Mergers or acquisitions complicate the IT landscape significantly, as teams often face the task of integrating unfamiliar systems burdened with outdated technology and inconsistent security measures. For businesses, creating a unified security strategy during these transitions is vital but challenging. Successful integration demands adopting a standardised security approach.

Experts highlight the necessity of a detailed plan that sets security standards for the newly acquired systems before they're integrated. Holding off on merging systems until their security status is thoroughly vetted is crucial to avoid introducing vulnerabilities or existing threats into the larger network.

Companies must either update or replace mismatched security technologies with preferred solutions, or use comprehensive tools like XDR or SIEM for consistent monitoring and analysis across the board.

Dealing with pre-existing security policies and contracts without having been involved in their original drafting presents its own set of challenges. Even well-established organisations with round-the-clock security operations centres (SOCs) sometimes rely on external managed services for steady security oversight as they incorporate the new entity into their internal IT and security frameworks.

Navigating the Maze

In conclusion, securing a hybrid IT environment presents a myriad set of challenges that span from technological divides to human factors. For organisations grappling with these challenges, the key may lie in leveraging managed security services to bridge the gap. By doing so, they can tap into specialised expertise, sophisticated tools like XDR or SIEM, and round-the-clock monitoring capabilities, thus ensuring a robust and responsive security framework capable of adapting to the dynamic demands of hybrid IT environments. By freeing up internal resources, teams can focus on securing stakeholder buy-in, conducting tabletop exercises, and, most importantly, ensuring that security is not an afterthought.

To speak about your cyber security requirements, contact us today.