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Enterprise network management and security require collaboration

As cyberthreats to the network in crease, collaboration has become part of best practices for network management and security.

Powerful forces are driving networking and security professionals together. And it's about time.

Cybercrime damages will cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021, up from $3 trillion in 2015, according to market research firm Cybersecurity Ventures in Menlo Park, Calif. In particular, cybercrime that specifically targets enterprise networks is growing. It's clear that networking and security professionals must work together to focus more on enterprise network management and security to combat those threats.

The awareness is already there. Global spending on cybersecurity products and services will exceed $1 trillion cumulatively from 2017 through 2021, according to Steve Morgan, Cybersecurity Ventures' founder and editor in chief. "Network security, and in particular, next-generation firewalls, will be a big chunk of that."

Still, many fear that despite the growth in spending, security continues to be bolted onto the network after the fact.

"We have to build networks with security in mind, and network and security groups will have to work together to accomplish it," said Frank Dickson, research director at IDC, a research firm in Framingham, Mass. "Security is not native to the network."

While spending on security increases, a shortage of trained security professionals for enterprise network management and security looms, according to ISC², the standards organization that certifies more than 125,000 cyber, information, software and infrastructure security professionals worldwide. By 2022, ISC² forecasts a security workforce gap of 1.8 million, making it more important for enterprises to consider how best to integrate security into the network from the beginning.

To architect IT with fundamental security improvements organizations should have a three- to five-year plan, Dickson said.

Communication, coordination are key to network management and security

Coordinated communication is key for network management and security. A cohesive networking and security team policy, known as SecOps, significantly lowers the likelihood of failure in security controls and processes -- as well as any negative impact to the business -- said Tina Price, associate vice president of IT security and governance at York Risk Services Group, which is affiliated with CareWorks Tech, a consulting company in Dublin, Ohio, that provides IT and security strategy development services to its customers.

As networking pros' duties grow to include security, they come to understand the roles played by their colleagues in the security group, Price said.

CareWorks staff uses ServiceNow's software that helps companies analyze and respond to network threats. "It brings greater visibility and coordination to security incidents and vulnerabilities," Price said, adding that the networking and security teams worked together to implement the tool.  

CareWorks networking and security professionals provided significant input into building the SecOps business policies and procedures and workflow. "Now, both teams share information regarding security vulnerabilities and can work together to determine a cohesive response," Price said, adding that both teams need to coordinate a response to security events as they happen.

The ServiceNow tool assigns security incidents to the most appropriate networking or security professionals based on their areas of expertise. Reps from the two teams can then review the status of security incidents and craft a service-level agreement to ensure timely resolutions. The SecOps system overcomes the communications challenges that stem from the geographical separation of CareWorks' networking and security teams, Price said.

The network-security professional

To help overcome communications challenges and strengthen enterprise network management and security, network and security professionals should have the same training, IT professionals say.

To start with, network managers can make sure they are hiring networking professionals who already possess some security skills, as well as take the time to offer additional security training as needed, according to R.V. Raghu, who sits on the board of directors of ISACA, a global standards and credentialing organization for IT professionals.

"Network managers need to evolve to become security professionals," Raghu said.

Having dual skill sets will enable network pros to shape the natively secure network of the future, he added. "Networking professionals who become skilled in security can begin to embed security into the network and its components by design, making security a layer in the network.

"This new networking and security professional can design and implement security with an emphasis on allowing secure access to everything that is the network, irrespective of how broadly we define it," Raghu said.

IT career guides suggest even more education around enterprise network management and security. Budding network administrators can acquire certifications in networking and security like the CCSP and other Cisco exams, CompTIA Network+ and Security+ certifications, for example. IT staff members should consider potential networking employees with existing security training and experience.

Define network security management policies

Focusing staff integration efforts around a particular initiative is another good place for enterprises to coalesce their network security management efforts.

A case in point is configuration and patch management, which can unify networking and security teams, according to Jerry Irvine, CIO of Prescient Solutions, a Chicago-based cloud services firm. These tools help enterprises address known vulnerabilities within their networks, a gap that hackers continue to exploit.

"Configuration management policies, processes and systems set the requirements for networking and security groups to work together to assure that you implement systems with the appropriate level of accessibility, resiliency and security," he said.

Agencies like the Department of Defense, for example, are required by federal regulations to use configuration and patch management for industrial control systems like supervisory control and data acquisition. Private companies are not required by regulation to use these specific security management technologies. But by using them, networking and security pros can share real-time security data and see the challenges each group faces and the responsibilities they each have, Irvine said.

Ensuring that networking and security teams are working toward a common goal isn't an easy task. But enterprises are also beginning to understand that the success of their business depends on making that goal a reality.

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This was last published in November 2017

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