The Top 5 Networking Security Lessons from Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Watching a movie generally requires suspension of disbelief, especially with an escapist movie like Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Tom Cruise’s latest summer blockbuster.

As I watched the film (it’s excellent, by the way), I couldn’t help but think of the networking-related takeaways we could learn from the movie. (Note: Spoilers ahead; if you haven’t watched the movie, I tried to include scenes covered in the trailers).

#5: Always be on the lookout for wireless security risk

In the movie’s opening sequence, Ethan Hunt has to enter a cargo plane that is about to take off. Benji Dunn, played by Simon Pegg, is able to hack into the plane’s flight control system using satellite relays, successfully opening a door mid-flight. Today’s network is ubiquitous, and smart companies need to think about network segmentation for greater security. A recent, well-publicized supermarket hack was caused by criminals gaining access to data through wireless access points. This sequence would have been a lot shorter if Benji couldn’t get past Avaya Identity Engines to open the correct door on the plane.

#4: The Internet of Things is here

Technology has come a long way since the self-destructing tape recorder, popular in the original Mission: Impossible TV series. Rogue Nation featured a number of IoT devices, including communicator glasses, access control for automobiles and water pressure control systems. As these systems come online, they create unique requirements for the network in terms of connectivity and availability. Read my article on IoT and the future of retail, presented recently at San Francisco Design Week.

#3: With connected devices, authentication is key

In Rogue Nation, the “red box” is a software object that both sides are trying to acquire and access. Without giving away too much plot, the assumption of security based on obscurity and physical access wasn’t enough. Ideally, what should happen is that security administrators at companies (or shadowy, pseudo-governmental organizations from the movies) are able to deny access to the networking edge when an unauthenticated device is connected to it. Admittedly boring for a movie plot, but a lifesaver for real-life security. Learn more by downloading the white paper here.

#2: “The Syndicate” is not that far-fetched

The movie revolves around “The Syndicate,” which is effectively the anti-Impossible Missions Force, the team that Ethan and Benji work on. In real life, organized crime syndicates are targeting vulnerable systems every day to access sensitive information. Addressing attempted breaches to governments and companies in the private sector is an ongoing effort that involves users and administrators alike. Read our recent blog on why BYOD users should take security more seriously.

#1: Be fast, smart and flexible to accomplish your mission

Without spoiling the ending too much, the finale of Rogue Nation is not your typical “hero fights villain and wins.” The ending here is more along the lines of the classic Mission: Impossible TV series, where the IMF works together to outsmart the villain, who figures out in the end that he lost to the entire team. In the world of technology, being able to operate your network at the speed of your business is critical. Download the Avaya white paper on networking at business speed, to learn how we can help your mission, impossible or not.

Related Articles:

How to Fail a Hacking Challenge

32 million Twitter passwords stolen, 117 million LinkedIn accounts compromised, and even Marc Zuckerberg’s Pinterest account hacked—there seems to be no let-up in IT security breach news those days.

It’s no surprise then that network security remains a key concern of CIOs the world over. According to research from the IT publication Computer Weekly, data loss prevention is the security project that tops IT decision makers’ priority lists. It’s certainly something our customers are always asking us about. This is why I’m so excited by the results of our recent SDN-Fx hacking challenge.

Over the past few months, at our highly-successful Avaya Technology Forum events in Bangkok, Dubai, Dublin and Orlando, we’ve held hacking challenges. Similar to hackathons, we invited engineers to try to penetrate our Avaya SDN-Fx stealth network. We even offered valuable prizes to encourage their endeavors. But the prize remains unclaimed—and the network unhacked.

Just last month, in fact, in Dublin, more than 50 engineers took part in the challenge. In total, over the four events more than 125 engineers have unsuccessfully tried to penetrate and cross between virtual service networks at these hackathons. While they might be disappointed, I’m delighted by this news! To me this result is a clear demonstration of the strength of the SDN-Fx stealth approach, and in particular of Avaya’s Fabric architecture.

For CIOs facing the continual threat of a security breach, knowing that their corporate network, which provides access to so many devices and so much critical data, is proven to be secure is vital to them. The consistent hackathon results, across three continents and four distinct regions, demonstrate the solid security features of our SDN Fx Fabric Networking architecture.

One of the reasons our network is so secure is the level of innovation we drive in our portfolio. Avaya’s fabric provides end-to-end tunneling of traffic across Layer 2, which makes it completely immune to IP Hacking attempts.

One great example of this is the Fabric Shield, which we demonstrated at our Avaya Technology Forums. This is a demo that combines Avaya Breeze™ and SDN Fx technology to identify a malicious intruder and their activity and to place the intruder into a forensics quarantine zone, where everything coming in and out of the attacker’s machine is monitored and recorded. Project Fabric Shield extends Avaya Fabric to the application developer by providing a Snap-in on the Avaya Breeze platform. By combining Avaya SDN Fx with Avaya Breeze, organizations can effectively control risks and ensure a secure network infrastructure.

With events like the hacking challenge and innovations like Fabric Shield, I am confident that we can continue to address the very legitimate security concerns of CIOs when it comes to choosing a secure, simple, and flexible corporate network architecture, and demonstrate the strength of the Avaya full stack solution.

Opportunities Abound in a Digitally Connected Asean

Four months after the Asean Economic Community (AEC) came into being, observers and analysts are watching as integration unfolds. Asean has always been about working together. Economies, cultures and even digital adoption vary widely across the region, yet trade, cooperation and tourism continue to prosper. The AEC heralds the beginning of a new era where this existing cooperation can take further shape and propel Asean into further growth.

With a combined gross domestic product of $2.6 trillion, Asean countries together make up the seventh largest economy in the world. Taken together, the bloc’s population of 620 million makes it the world’s thirds largest, after China and India. The AEC promises unbounded opportunities, especially for local businesses, which make up more than 97% of the total enterprises in the region and employ more than half of the workforce. Mid-sized businesses that already enjoy stable operations at home or in the region and have the resources to grow beyond Asean’s borders are expected to benefit most from the open economies of the AEC. However, its diversity could prove to be a web of challenges for those unprepared to navigate this freer yet hyperconnected world.

The answer lies in technology, a great leveler for businesses of all sizes and scale. At the 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, a small- and medium-sized enterprises’ working group noted that technology adoption and the digital economy are crucial to harnessing APEC’s potential for economic growth. Leaders recognised that digital technologies can springboard developments for Asean nations and urged local businesses to embrace true digital transformation.

With that in mind, it is time that APEC chief information officers (CTOs) and chief technology officers (CTOs) take another look at their technology environment and remove the inhibitors of business transformation. Here is a quick checklist for Asean businesses to reap the benefits of the AEC and grow successfully in this exciting new chapter for the region.

Mobility needs to sit at the heart of every business’ strategy

According to US-based research firm International Data Corporation, enterprise and consumer spending on mobile devices and related software and services in Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan) will reach $578 billion by 2019, making it the largest region in the world in terms of mobile-related spend. In Asean, smartphones accounted for three-fifths of the total mobile phone market. CIOs who don’t prioritise mobile are limited in their ability to reach Asean’s 600 million consumers.

Information silos must be broken down

Information silos—information management systems that are unable to freely communicate with other information management systems—stop data being shared across departments. This prevents the delivery of the type of personalised, omnichannel experience that customers expect today. Information silos create a disjointed view of the customer and, as a result, service falters and the company becomes blind to up- and cross-sell opportunities. Having access to all the data and intelligence facilitates innovations and closer customer engagement. In the digital economy, the ability to differentiate the user experience will be a winning strategy.

Automation will drive innovation

Manual processes limit what organisations can get out of their other enterprise-wide investments. The ‘internet of things’ (IoT) and robotics are fast changing every aspect of businesses. According to Frost & Sullivan, IoT investments will be one of the major trends in Asean economies, estimated to grow to $7.53 billion in 2020. In today’s context, without automation driving the back office, CIOs will constantly spend resources physically connecting processes that span the rest of the business. Automation helps businesses concentrate on using technology in innovative ways to gain competitive advantage.

Monolithic systems must be upgraded

Legacy investments that are preserved for too long are often hugely detrimental to the modern goals of business, and create two massive problems. First, maintaining them takes a huge amount of time and energy, leaving little room for investment in the true innovation that drives digital transformation. Second, trying to modernise on the back of a monolithic system is similar to dressing your car with a spoiler, when what you really need to do is look under the hood and service the engine.

Cybersecurity is key

For businesses today, cybersecurity remains at the forefront of business strategy and technology decision-making. For organisations working toward digital transformation, the first step in creating a digital security strategy is understanding exactly what it is that a potential hacker would be interested in. From there, the CIO is in an informed position to build a strategy from the ground up.

The SDN Effect on Network Security

For enterprise organizations around the world, Software Defined Networking (SDN) is transforming the way we build and operate our networking infrastructure. Similar to the way virtualization technology has revolutionized application servers and storage, we are now going through the same evolution on the networking side of the house. The promise of SDN touches on several aspects. Simplicity and speed of rolling out new services across an organization is one. Flexibility and operational efficiencies to reduce cost is another. However one of the most critical aspects of SDN is its implications on security. With the almost weekly news of hackers penetrating critical institutions around the world, this cannot come soon enough. Let’s look at three ways SDN can help organizations secure their networks and keep hackers at bay.

  1. Network Micro-Segmentation. Networks were originally designed to connect devices and users together. However, as more applications and services started to move to IP (think of CCTV cameras, building management systems, telephones, etc.), the need to separate those devices into separate zones became essential. Using one physical converged network makes sense from a cost and management perspective, but SDN would allow us splitting up this network into secure isolated zones. An attacker, whether an external hacker or even a disgruntled employee, will not be able to have access to any network services outside of their allocated zone. Micro-segmentation allows for even further granularity, separating individual servers, devices, or users into unique secure zones. Recent attacks on banks have relied on attacking one publicly exposed server, and then using it to access other internal servers. Micro-segmentation would contain attacks to specific servers and prevent wider exposure.
  2. Stealth Networking. As traffic travels through legacy networks, network devices which handle this traffic are all exposed. Attackers can probe each of those hops for exploits and eventually find ways of getting in. SDN with fabric foundation technologies rely on layer 2 traffic tunneling, so the traffic now flies over the network and lands at the destination with virtually one hop. Think of taking a direct flight between two cities, versus the traditional way of stopping at several transit hops. SDN allows the entire network between source and destination to be hidden, and attackers probing your network can only see a black hole instead.
  3. Dynamic Network Workflow Automation. The nature of network attacks is that they happen instantly. The network has to have the ability to automate its response, at the same time as the appropriate teams are notified. This used to be very difficult in the past, as making any network configurations was a complex task that was almost impossible to automate. However, SDN’s inherent simplicity and openness presents the opportunity to design an automated workflow that is put into motion once triggered. As an example, the network can detect that a contractor’s laptop in one of the bank’s offices is transmitting some suspicious traffic patterns. It can automatically create a new quarantine zone, move that machine there to put it under full forensics, pull in the CCTV cameras of that area, and put the administrators remotely on the same video call so they have full eyes on the attacker’s location. This scenario was simply not possible in the past with legacy network technologies.

We are moving to a new age where attackers are constantly finding innovative ways to penetrate security layers. Organizations have a legal and ethical responsibility to their customers to keep their private information safe. Adopting new technologies like SDN to benefit from its security advantages is one of the ways of evolving through next generation technologies to stay one step ahead in the never-ending security race.