There are several challenges and considerations related to security that apply in a special way to enterprises, which are typically defined as organizations with at least one thousand employees.
Because of their size, enterprises usually have complex IT infrastructures that are composed of widely varying platforms and services. A single enterprise organization might rely on a mix of on-premises physical and virtual servers, as well as public cloud services, Kubernetes clusters, and more. Mobile devices that are integrated into the enterprise network add another layer of diversity and complexity. So do personal devices that employees may sometimes use to do work under BYOD policies.
With so many different types of systems in place, ensuring enterprise security requires collecting and analyzing data in a variety of locations and formats. There is no single type of security scanning or vulnerability detection that an enterprise can perform to guarantee that all of its systems are secure. Nor is there a centralized way to keep all of its systems up-to-date and patched against the latest security threats.
Along with diverse enterprise IT systems come multiple groups who are involved in their deployment and management. An enterprise might have its own in-house IT department, but it is common for that IT department to rely on outsourced vendors to supply support services for certain systems. The use of public clouds also brings third-party vendors into the mix.
In addition, there are often other technology departments (such as development and data management) within an enterprise that don’t directly support and maintain applications and infrastructure, but still play central roles in IT management.
From an enterprise security standpoint, this mix of IT stakeholders means that communication about security issues and responses can be complex. Incident management tools and strategies help to streamline the process, but they only work well if the enterprise is able to collect and analyze the security data it needs to identify the threats that are then handled by an incident response plan.
The departments within enterprises also tend to be many and varied. From a security standpoint, this creates many challenges. The most obvious is the sheer number of business units and personnel whose devices and data must be secured.
Beyond this, having multiple departments, and multiple types of personnel in them, also complicates the task of devising and enforcing IT governance policies, which can help reinforce enterprise security by defining which practices related to IT resources are (and are not) permissible. Some departments and employees may have more technical knowledge than others. Some may take enterprise security guidance more seriously than others. Some may be easier than others to audit for security and compliance.
To put this another way, an enterprise with multiple business units is likely to have a diverse corporate culture. Keeping every department and employee on the same page when it comes to enterprise security is more challenging in this type of environment.
Enterprise organizations are high on the list of businesses that cyberattackers target. Not only do enterprises possess greater volumes of data and IT resources for attackers to exploit, but successfully hacking a well-known enterprise also carries more prestige. And just because enterprises usually have more budget to spend on security doesn’t necessarily mean that they are more difficult to breach than smaller companies; in fact, the complexity and diversity of enterprise IT systems can make them easier targets in some cases.
Smaller businesses certainly face security risks too, but they enjoy the luxury of having lower profiles and smaller IT infrastructures to secure.
Because of the scale and complexity of enterprise IT infrastructures, they usually change frequently. User account configurations, application deployments, environment architectures, and so on rarely go a day without being modified in at least one part of the enterprise.
For this reason, enterprise security can’t be a set-it-and-forget-it affair. The solutions set up to protect enterprise security must be able to adapt as the enterprise architecture grows and evolves.
In modern enterprises, it is common for IT infrastructures to span on-premises data centers and public clouds. It’s also common for employees to log in remotely using VPNs or protocols like RDP. Some employees may also take company-owned devices (and the data stored on them) out of the office in order to work from home or while traveling.
In all of these ways, the boundary separating the enterprise network from the rest of the world is blurry at best. In an earlier time, it was possible to protect all enterprise resources behind a firewall, but that is not feasible in modern environments where resources need to be shared across public and private infrastructures that are connected by the Internet.
This also makes enterprise security more difficult to implement. In addition, it means that enterprise security solutions must be capable of identifying and understanding threats in contexts where there is no way to guarantee that any network endpoint can be trusted by default.
In short, the scale and complexity of enterprises, and the IT systems within them, make enterprise security more challenging than it is in the context of smaller organizations. Nonetheless, there are a variety of best practices that enterprises can follow to ensure that they implement the best security solutions possible.
Rather than trying to monitor and respond to threats on each IT system or platform separately, enterprises can adopt centralized monitoring tools, such as a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solution. SIEMs collect data from across diverse IT environments and then analyze it to detect anomalies that could be signs of a security problem.
SIEM tools cannot address all types of threats; they won’t catch vulnerabilities in application source code, for example, or misconfigured access-control files. But they are valuable for detecting threats within large, heterogeneous environments.
Along similar lines, when ensuring enterprise security, it’s important to adopt security and monitoring tools beyond those that are provided natively by various IT platforms. For example, public cloud providers offer built-in monitoring solutions like AWS CloudWatch. However, these tools are not designed to be full-fledged monitoring or visualization solutions on their own. To get the most out of them, enterprises must use additional solutions to collect and analyze the data inside native tools.
Being able to collect and analyze all of the log data generated by enterprise IT environments from a single location goes far in helping to manage the complexity and scale of enterprise security. Log aggregation, which is the process of moving log data from its original source into a central location, makes this possible. With an effective log aggregation solution in place, enterprises can be confident that all of their log data is being analyzed for security-relevant information, no matter where the log data originated or how it is structured.
It’s typically not feasible, given the scale and complexity of enterprise environments, to ensure enterprise security using manual solutions. Wherever possible, enterprise IT teams and their partners should strive to implement solutions that can automatically collect and analyze security-related data – whether it is log data, software source code, configuration files, or something else.
Some manual effort will always be required to manage security, but efficiencies should be implemented wherever possible by adopting security automation and orchestration solutions.
As noted above, IT governance policies (which define the IT processes an organization does or does not allow) may not always be followed perfectly. But that doesn’t mean they are not useful as one way to help increase enterprise security.
Designing an IT governance policy that requires employees to follow best practices is one step in keeping environments and data more secure. For example, IT governance rules could specify that multi-factor authentication must be used on company-owned devices and that data storage devices must remain on-premises in order to mitigate certain types of risks.
Keeping applications and data secure is a complex challenge for any type of organization. However, enterprise security can be especially difficult to implement due to the size and diversity of enterprise IT resources, as well as of the organization of the enterprise itself. In addressing these challenges, enterprises must build security strategies that are based on centralized, comprehensive, and automated analysis of security threats.
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