Is True Cybersecurity No Longer an Illusion?

safe_share_padlockAppleton is a typically friendly Wisconsin town that straddles the Fox River and lies close enough to Green Bay to host Packer fans who find that if you wait too long, you can’t get a reservation in Green Bay during football season. Perhaps its most famous citizen was the famous illusionist Erik Weisz. If you don’t recognize the name, and only true aficionados are likely to, allow me to introduce you to the real name of Harry Houdini, who grew up on Appleton Street in Appleton.

Houdini was the most famous illusionist of his time and, with apologies to David Copperfield, arguably the most famous magician/escape artist of all time. Among his tricks, making a 10,000 pound elephant disappear while on stage at the Hippodrome in New York City. While not as spectacular as making an elephant disappear, a company named SWIFT Guard has introduced a product Houdini might have appreciated, deception management technology.

Deception is one of the latest tools being used by advanced practitioners of cybersecurity.  Basically, it uses advanced luring techniques and engagement servers to move an attacker away from valuable company servers to decoy targets. It’s an outgrowth of the use of honeypots to attract attackers and get to know their methods. A honeypot is a server or computer that to an attacker appears to be an integral part of an organization’s network but actually is there as bait for hackers.

An Israeli based cybersecurity firm named Illusive Networks is pioneering employment of sophisticated deception management systems. CEO Shlomo Touboul explains the process… “On each and every machine we plant many deceptions and credentials such as web credentials and databases that don’t exist. If the attacker touches a deception and tries to use it to do a lateral movement, we detect it, report it to the security team and launch a forensic app in return, taking 360 degree view of him, in real-time.”  The company claims it will catch intruders early on, the only question is just how early. Once Illusive Networks has detected an intruder, it can either kick it out or follow it to learn more about where they’re coming from and how they work.

Houdini’s legendary feats included many breathtaking escapes from seemingly impossible situations. If Illusive Networks and other firms can use deception management to help extricate the world from the tightening cyber straightjacket, they too many become the stuff of legend.

By Tom Davis, SDI Cyber Risk Practice

October 4, 2016