Software as Fuel: If Software Isn’t Secure, Nothing Is

Software is the bedrock of the world's digital existence. It also underlies many of the systems and processes that we rely on daily. Software is everywhere—on our desks, in our vehicles, in communication networks, in commerce, in logistics, and in our homes. With software everywhere, malicious actors have an expanded attack surface to target.

In See Yourself in Cyber: Security Careers Beyond Hacking, Ed Adams describes the role of software in cybersecurity. The very tools used to attack, defend, and build are also software-based. Software drives threat prevention, detection, response, and recovery. If software isn't secure, nothing is.

Security is Built on Software

Software drives every security defense—whether a specific piece of software is a protocol, application, or embedded system. Encryption protects data at rest and in motion. Authentication protocols validate if a user or device is who or what it claims to be. Access control code determines who can legitimately gain access to specific resources or systems. These tools act as front lines of defense.

Threat prevention and detection software algorithms are designed to identify suspicious patterns and behaviors of devices, users, and data, alerting teams to anomalies or the presence of a threat. Logs record activity, while a range of software applications power Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) and Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR) solutions for driving incident response and remediation. Software also drives backup and recovery processes.

Software is also crucial for educating employees on security awareness as well as for training security professionals. Organizations often use security awareness training, interactive e-learning modules, and phishing simulation software to increase threat awareness for employees. Security professionals across roles learn through web-based training, simulation, and cyber gaming software. Software-based training is the easiest way to scale security proficiency across an organization.

Software Must Be Built on Security

Security takes on double significance when it comes to software builders and the SDLC. From product design and architecture through coding, testing, deployment, and maintenance—every aspect of software, supply chain, and the process must have security measures built in. These measures and practices must also be specific to each person's role and technology stack.

AI Software

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is software, too. This means it is flexible and scalable, but it's also fallible, prone to errors, and inherently insecure because humans create it. Which means it can be weaponized for cyber attacks as easily as it can be supercharged for good. But all AI isn't created equal.

Machine Learning (ML) software is a subset of AI already used in a wide range of enterprise applications. For cyber defense, it enables real-time threat detection, enhanced malware protection, behavioral analysis, automated incident response, predictive analytics, and adaptive authentication. It also plays a key role in automating security monitoring, development processes, data analysis, and security intelligence gathering and delivery.

Although there's a lot of market hype about generative AI, in its current state, it can actually increase cyber risk. The inherent human bias and ability to self-modify generative AI creates unpredictability and, often, glaring errors. In fact, there have been instances where two AI systems communicating with each other created their own language because it was more efficient to share information and improve ideas that way. This new language was indecipherable to the humans who created the AI systems, and they ultimately had to shut it down.

Cloud Security Software

Finally, software powers cloud operations and security. At the core of cloud operations and their defense mechanisms lies the pivotal role of cloud security software. The suite of advanced cloud-native applications and technologies safeguard data, deploy robust applications, and fortify the infrastructure within cloud computing environments. The security integrity of the cloud hinges on several vital components, such as rigorous cloud application safeguards, meticulous provisioning software, and adherence to secure software development practices. Likewise, virtualization and container security are of utmost importance - without their uncompromised protection, the entirety of the cloud environment remains vulnerable. Making these elements impenetrable is critical to ensure the overarching security posture of cloud computing.

It Takes People

In See Yourself in Cyber: Security Careers Beyond Hacking, Adams makes the point that for organizational hiring managers, appropriate levels of software and security skills should be part of every job description in primary and secondary-level cyber roles. Where additional skills are needed, plan to provide training appropriate to the person's role, technology being used, and existing skills. When software powers your organization, make sure your employees are well-versed in essential security principles, regardless of their roles.

Looking For More?

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