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.

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Less Maintenance, More Innovation: How to (Finally) Fill the IT Skills Gap

If you take a good look at how the business ecosystem is evolving, you’ll find that it’s being redefined by five key market trends:

You’d be hard pressed to find research that doesn’t indicate the takeover of these five megatrends.

Forrester, for instance, predicts that machine learning and automation will replace 7% of all U.S. jobs by 2025. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, almost 80% of companies identified digital transformation as their top strategic priority last year. Gartner believes that 70% of all newly deployed apps will run on open source databases by 2018; meanwhile, research continues to show that some 20 to 30 billion objects could be connected to the IoT by 2020.

As these technologies shape our smart digital world, so too do they raise the stakes in terms of customer expectations. Next-generation consumers demand nothing short of a sophisticated digital experience marked by greater quality, agility, speed and contextualization.

The Need to Transform NOW

Driven by these trends, organizations have no choice but to consider how they can adapt to grow and thrive. Competitors are moving at rapid new paces and blazing unforeseen trails. We’re seeing this disruption industry-wide, from companies like Uber and Lyft that have revolutionized the taxi industry (taxi trips have fallen by as much as 30% in cities like L.A.) to Airbnb, which turned the hospitality industry on its head by introducing the concept of an end-to-end digital homestay experience.

Look around and you’ll see just how much your own industry is changing. Do you realize how much new ground is ready to be broken? How much unexplored territory there is to seize? The organizations that thrive will be the first to not only see the possibilities, but successfully execute them. To do so, however, companies must undergo some level of transformation—and IT must be a central part of that transformation.

Elevating IT to Accelerate Business

To enable business to move at a pace that maintains a competitive edge, leaders must ask themselves how they’re empowering their IT staff. As it currently stands, something needs to be done about today’s IT skills gap. What we’re seeing is too many departments tied down to costly, archaic systems that hinder performance and productivity. There are too many people doing the same things and expecting different results. In a world where IT maintenance and innovation must be expertly balanced, teams are working to keep the lights on and not spending enough time learning new technologies and strategies or becoming part of the solution. This has been an ongoing problem that needs to be talked about less and acted on more.

The bottom line is that organizations will only truly accelerate in the digital era if IT spends enough time on strategic initiatives. Consider that 60% of top-performing companies engage IT to gather ideas for innovation, and 49% collect ideas through business unit workshops facilitated by IT. Without question, IT should be factored as a critical part of business innovation.

So, how can businesses free their IT teams to begin innovating? The right technology here is key—specifically, it has to be a combination of business process automation over an automated, end-to-end, meshed networking architecture. Let’s first focus on networking—this open, agile and integrated platform liberates IT by substantially reducing the level of complexity associated with traditional network maintenance, allowing teams to spend more time on high-level strategic initiatives. I’d like to take a look at how such a platform helps fill the IT skills gap from a traditional networking standpoint and outline some of the security benefits this architecture can bring.

Networking

Traditional legacy architecture, often referred to as “client-server” is becoming near obsolete thanks to the proliferation of automation and M2M. But before we jump too quickly, you may remember the resistance from peer-to-peer communication where IT in fact won the battle and for the most part didn’t allow it—simply put, the legacy architecture couldn’t sustain it. As manual processes continue to be replaced by smarter, automated processes, it’s imperative that organizations start thinking differently in terms of networking.

This may mean, for example, seamlessly integrating AI and machine learning into their communications strategy to engage customers with flexible new touch points. This will also likely require the integration of services from several vendors with different capabilities, versus one single provider, hence the importance of having an open ecosystem with standards as much as possible.

Regardless of how organizations go about it, the fact is that they must begin moving their networks in a new direction if they wish to progress at the pace their business needs to. Fully-meshed, end-to-end architecture offers an open ecosystem in which businesses can begin freely automating, integrating and reinventing traditional processes without a high level of complexity. This time freedom enables IT to begin reimagining business outcomes. The use of open, integrated, future-proof technology opens new doors of opportunity to do so.

Security

With billions of IoT devices directly communicating and sharing data, organizations are now operating in an essentially borderless network—or as I like to call it, the everywhere perimeter. While this everywhere perimeter enables organizations to operate with unmatched agility and ease, it can also destroy companies if left unprotected. As one can imagine, the strategy and technology needed to protect a virtually borderless network look drastically different than those protected by a traditional firewall or legacy network architecture (Static VLANs, ACLs). This is exactly why IT needs to flex its strategic muscles and identify a stronger security approach, one that safeguards the organization with a near impenetrable network that significantly minimizes security risks and reduces exposure.

An end-to-end meshed networking architecture lets organizations quickly and securely enable services across the network anywhere they are consumed (i.e., personal mobile device, Wi-Fi hotspot, corporate campus). This is done through end-to-end network segmentation, which is widely considered to be the holy grail of network security today. Comprised of three core components—hyper-segmentation, native stealth and automated elasticity—this solution ensures organizations have the necessary framework for next-generation cybersecurity defense. By minimizing security risks in this way, organizations can ensure they are maximizing the value of IT. Lay the foundation right first, then focus on business process workflow automation. Doing the opposite or simply ignoring the foundation will cause pain and slow down your business transformation while making it extremely difficult to maximize the benefits of, for example, IOT.

In the end, every important business initiative requires time. Organizations won’t be able to reinvent themselves if their IT department has none to spare.

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.