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Security Kaizen: Adopting the Practice of Continuous Improvement to Improve Your Security Posture

In the early ’80s, the Japanese automobile industry (and Toyota in particular) popularized the idea of “Kaizen,” or continuous improvement, as a daily process of good change. Kaizen refers to activities that continuously improve all functions within a company to reduce waste and improve productivity and efficiency. In order to adopt this practice, all pieces of an enterprise or program must work in concert.

For too long, enterprise security programs have worked in silos, both in terms of location (network versus endpoint) and their approach. Prevention has focused on stopping threats from entering the network; detection has focused on finding hidden threats that make it past preventative controls; and response has focused on containing damage after a breach and putting in place mitigation controls to prevent a similar breach from occurring.

Historically, enterprises have managed these security controls discreetly and dedicated the majority of their resources toward prevention. Unfortunately, that has not translated into better security. Preventative controls fail, as zero-day threats are proving with increasing regularity. It is vital that enterprises consider an integrated, Kaizen approach to all components of their security programs for a holistic approach to threat defense. Through integration, each control can continually feed and improve the others, which can greatly enhance an enterprise’s overall security posture.

Kaizen Approach to Enterprise Security

This approach is already being adopted at an increasing rate, with enterprises beginning to focus on a “detect-and-respond” strategy as opposed to simply depending on prevention. The following are a few examples of the Kaizen approach at work in enterprise security, leveraging shared insights across network detection and endpoint response controls to enhance the capabilities of both:

  • A network breach detection solution may push data to an endpoint response solution, providing information such as a zero-day file with analysis details. As a result, the endpoint solution can learn and watch for future attacks using this malware.
  • A breach detection engine may discover new command-and-control infrastructures and push those to a proxy to enable it to block future communications from known malicious domains.
  • The breach detection solution can push new malware files to endpoint A/V response teams so the A/V company can provide new DAT files for enhanced protection from advanced threats.
  • Forensics tools can be used to generate information about the kill chain, attack vector and more, which can be fed back into prevention and detection tools to improve future blocking and discovery.

It is not necessary — and, in fact, not likely recommended — to purchase all these controls from a single vendor in order to gain this kind of communication. Instead, enterprises should insist their vendors work together so they can benefit from shared intelligence across their enterprise.

In many of these scenarios, the preventative controls fail, as they so often do. However, the continuous exchange of information across the security stack helps ensure rapid detection and an efficient response. Just as no organization is 100 percent efficient, no security program will ever be 100 percent breach-proof. However, approaching security holistically, with a Kaizen approach in place, can make the whole greater than the sum of its parts and help strengthen the entire program for measurable results.

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