Virtual Security: Innovative Solutions for Sophisticated Cyberattacks

Positioned as one of the world’s growth engines in recent years, ASEAN – with a combined GDP of over $2.4 trillion[1] – has the potential of becoming the fourth largest economy by 2050.[2] Alongside growing market maturity, mobile and cloud continues to take center stage as businesses look for more efficient and agile work structures to remain competitive. With enterprise IT spend predicted to reach US$62 billion by 2018[3], the rise of devices and complexities in infrastructures today has resulted in multi-layered work environments and subsequent security vulnerabilities. In fact, a report found Southeast Asia to have 45% more threats than the global average![4]

In Malaysia last year, five out of every six large companies with more than 2,500 employees were targeted with spear-phishing attacks while small-businesses saw an increase in attacks from 10% in 2013 to 28%6. In addition, Malaysia is also ranked 13th globally in attempted or successful malware infection in mobile devices6. In view of the growing sophisticated attacks, advanced IT security infrastructure is essential and cybersecurity practices should be a basic requirement for all organizations.

As mobility and cloud becomes increasingly common, businesses realize that traditional approaches towards network and security cannot solve the security challenges faced by organizations today. The typical business application today is connected to several different clouds. Add in the explosion in the number of devices and the interdependency of all of these services and network elements, and security today has become more complex than ever before.

In an era of portable devices and cloud computing, it is essential that organizations know when something connects to the systems, whether that device or person is cleared, and if they are adequately safe-guarded. A security threat study5 that was conducted in 23 countries including Malaysia found that employees tend to share their devices and have an indifferent view to workplace security. With security ranking third in Malaysia when it comes to device purchase decision making, up to 30%5 of organizations do not have proper security measures in place to enable easy sharing. A 2013 report found that 20% of local businesses still stand the threat of becoming victims to primitive age old viruses9.

With time, cyber-attacks are evolving into becoming more sophisticated that single-layer security solutions may not be effective anymore compared to a decade ago. Malaysian organizations are unprepared to face these new-age cyber-attacks9. They need to look beyond data loss prevention, network security, and endpoint security 7 and instead work towards equipping the organization with more sophisticated solutions.

Moving away from the conservative approach towards security investments, Malaysian organizations need to look at cybersecurity measures as a business enabler. There is a lack in a holistic defense strategy against cyber-attacks, resulting in organizations being vulnerable to advanced security threats. It is crucial that organizations in Malaysia start thinking about the technology tools to leverage in order to cope and manage the Implications presented by the evolving IT landscape.

There is a need for advanced security architectures that fundamentally change how we prevent, detect, and respond to threats. With data security becoming ever more important to enterprises, organizations need to evolve their security strategies, focusing on the following three pillars: agility, simplicity, and ubiquity.

Agility: All major cloud pioneers have achieved high rates of agility through delivering an entire infrastructure stack through software. In the year 2016, waiting around for hardware provisioning and maintenance simply takes too long compared to the agility pressures that every organization faces. Shifting to a software-defined delivery model isn’t just aspirational, it’s historical. If most cloud companies are operating in a software-defined context, then simply put – history is on the side of software-defined shifts. It’s inevitable. Naturally, this creates friction within the IT organization as teams look to preserve their existing skillsets, but IT roles can and will evolve. You can start this evolution by introducing a software-defined network and security stack into your data centers. That said, take caution to ensure that the solution you choose can operate across any hardware and is architected to operate across any major cloud in the future.

Simplicity: Content and applications are increasingly being distributed globally. ‘As a service’ models across infrastructure, platform and software that can operate seamlessly across environments of data centers, branch offices, computer endpoints, mobile devices and even automobiles are increasingly being considered. With massive expansion and ever increasing endpoints, the challenge often lies in not knowing where to begin. A small step in the right direction would be to move away from security models based on IP addresses. Instead, look to solutions that secure named objects – and this means ensuring security context to follow the object even when redeployed.

Ubiquity: We live in a world where there is little or no consistency between how security policies are enforced across multiple data centers and cloud deployments. When it comes to centralization, pick your battles and centralize IT functions where it is achievable and when there is clear business value. Work toward a unified network and security policy fabric that spans across multiple data centers and clouds. In addition, business applications are rarely Windows-only, but also include Mac, web, mobile. In that vein, you should also look at multi-cloud identity solutions that allow you to centralize identity and policy across all applications and content. Simply providing single sign-on for business apps (regardless of the type of app) is a highly visible win that you could achieve this year that would provide immediate business value.

Today’s architecture for security

What we need is a true architecture capable of bridging the divide between security policies and security innovations – and this is now made possible with virtualization.

Alignment is possible because virtualization provides the layer between the physical infrastructure below and the apps above, allowing you to “connect the dots” by seeing the infrastructure through the lens of the app. Ubiquity comes into play by virtue of virtualization being the first ubiquitous layer we’ve ever had: one that cuts across compute, network, storage, and even clouds.

Advanced threat strategies and solutions offer highly effective protection against today’s vulnerable environment by combining multiple layers of security8. This combination of capabilities allows companies to “architect in” security. By using the micro-segmentation made possible by alignment and ubiquity, network virtualization offers the opportunity to not only transform every aspect of how we address security, but, because it embraces individual security innovations, this gives a a new renaissance in security that would “raise all boats” in the security innovation ecosystem.


[1]Asian Development Bank: ASEAN Economic Community: 12 Things to Know

[2]McKinsey: Understanding ASEAN – Seven Things You Need to Know

[3]Gartner Market Trends: IT Opportunities Across Vertical Industries in Southeast Asia

[4]FireEye Regional Advanced Threat Report Asia Pacific 1H 2015

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