In the ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity, the term hybrid is more than just a buzzword – it’s a reality for many organizations. And the need to adapt and unify security strategies across hybrid environments has become paramount. Securing a hybrid environment poses many challenges as compared to security in a single cloud or on-premises deployment, due to the nuances in different technology, methods of access and operational roles.

To stay current with real world security challenges, I met with security leaders across industries to understand how hybrid environments have challenged their approaches to security, what approaches have succeeded or failed, and what needs to be solved next to continue the maturation of their security strategy.

In this blog, I explore the insights gained from these meetings, navigating the complexities of safeguarding hybrid environments, and integrating security strategies to ensure consistent results in detecting threats and managing risks.

The Hybrid Conundrum

There is not just one answer when asking about hybrid IT footprints. They could be a medley of AWS, Azure, GCP, and physical geolocations. From agricultural and industrial setups with SCADA, OT that can be reliant on dated operating systems, or financial organizations that regularly acquire business and look to integrate with an existing IT stack, each environment posed unique challenges. Moreover, diverse ownership models like IaaS, (PaaS), or SaaS pose challenges for accurate monitoring, analytics, and even applying mitigations, requiring a level of trust in the provider’s ability to fulfill their security obligations.

In our ever-connected world, organizations are aware of the security implications of this connectivity as weaknesses in one area can have ramifications for critical infrastructure and business objectives.

Bridging Visibility Gaps

In a hybrid environment, it’s critical to stay on top of visibility gaps, ensuring the detection of all risks and threats in diverse environments. Simply said, visibility starts with asset discovery. In the dark corners of cybersecurity, if you don’t know what you have, you can’t secure it. Having the right tools for inventorying assets makes asset discovery easier.

Security leaders are turning their focus away from the “crown jewels,” those most critical assets to your business which traditionally were prioritized, sometimes at the expense of the wider IT footprint. While securing these assets is paramount, it’s not enough. The interconnected nature of cyberthreats underscored the necessity of holistic security measures. Comprehending the scope of your assets and their interconnectedness empowers you to initiate threat modeling exercises, thereby pinpointing potential pathways to compromise, assessing potential impacts, and exploring security control options.

Break Down those Silos

Another beyond buzzword phrase for hybrid environments is “breaking down silos,” both in terms of technological tools and organizational stakeholders. Tools such as XDR or SIEM centralize security telemetry and insights. Applying threat intelligence through automated analytics or manual investigation allows for the identification and cross-correlation of multi-vector threats. XDR or SOAR should be used to break down the silo between detection and response, empowering response times with automated playbooks and a platform to coordinate further containment actions.

While technology can unify security tools, getting stakeholder buy-in, especially from non-IT executives, is challenging but critical. Security leaders emphasized the scale of this challenge; those in higher education cited challenges with unifying departments with individual objectives, operating models, and budgets. Others shared stories of well-defined incident response playbooks falling flat in practice when a cautious IT team dragged their heels when engaged by the SOC. Effective approaches prioritized cultivating a security culture at the executive level and advocated for regular tabletop exercises to demonstrate the importance of a cohesive security strategy to all parties involved in incident response.

The Human Element: Interdisciplinary Expertise

Successful security goes well beyond the technology utilized. Tools like XDR can unify visibility, analytics, investigations and containment actions, even purporting to make analysts more effective and efficient by reducing tool sprawl. But the human element — skilled security professionals and security aware decision makers — are needed to realize the potential of any tool. Interdisciplinary expertise across disparate environments is essential in delivering on a unified security strategy. Challenges in this area can include a lack of skilled professionals, difficulties getting buy-in for security initiatives, or analyst burnout due to unrealistic expectations around workload.

Traversing Mergers and Acquisitions

Mergers and acquisitions were highlighted as an operational headache when it comes to unifying security. During a merger or acquisition, the IT environment can be greatly impacted especially when a team inherits an unknown environment, saddled with technical debt and patchwork security controls that needs to be integrated seamlessly into the overall organization’s environment. For enterprises, the role of unified security strategies in streamlining acquisitions can be especially challenging; to come out the other side successfully, a standardized security approach should be taken during the transition.

Security leaders shared the importance of having a step-by-step process outlining requirements for the target environment to hit to become a part of the overarching security strategy. Not integrating systems until security is in a good place is paramount, as integration could introduce unknown exposures into the overall environment, or even introduce an existing compromise into a bigger network.

Organizations need to find a way to rip and replace security technology for preferred vendors. Another option is to find overarching wraps like XDR or SIEM which can provide consistent visibility and analytics.
Navigating inherited security strategies and contracts, which were not part of your involvement in their definition, can pose significant challenges. Even the most mature organizations who have internal 24/7 SOCs said they sometimes turn to managed providers to provide a consistent level of security monitoring while they adopt the new organization into their internal IT and security teams.

In the dynamic landscape of cybersecurity, unifying strategies is not a destination but a continuous journey. As we adapt to the evolving nature of hybrid environments, the collaboration of technology and human expertise becomes our compass in navigating the security maze. From asset discovery to threat modeling and interdisciplinary expertise, the need for a holistic approach is paramount.

For organizations grappling with these challenges, the key may lie in leveraging managed security services to bridge the gap. By freeing up internal resources, teams can focus on securing stakeholder buy-in, conducting tabletop exercises, and, most importantly, ensuring that security is not an afterthought.


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Josh Davies
About the Author
Josh Davies
Josh Davies is the Principal Technical Product Marketing Manager at Alert Logic. Formerly a security analyst and solutions architect, Josh has extensive experience working with mid-market and enterprise organizations, conducting incident response and threat hunting activities as an analyst before working with businesses to identify appropriate security solutions for challenges across cloud, on-premises, and hybrid environments.

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