RSA's Coviello calls for privacy laws to be overhauled to improve security

Budget inertia and a skills shortage are also holding back the move to a security infrastucture that doesn't just focus on the perimeter

In order to keep hackers at bay there must be changes in security budgets and privacy regulations, RSA boss Art Coviello said on Tuesday.

Coviello opened the RSA Conference Europe 2012 with a keynote that called for a new cybersecurity model that doesn't focus its efforts on an increasingly porous defense of the perimeter.

"In the last year, as I have talked directly to CIOs, boards of directors and so many of you, I get agreement that a new model of cybersecurity makes sense," said Coviello.

Coviello believes enterprises should build what he calls an intelligence-based security system consisting of a number of components, including risk-mitigation strategies and more advanced use of data analysis.

"Intelligence-based security also requires information sharing at scale," said Coviello.

But these changes are held back by a number of things, including current privacy laws.

Coviello recounted a discussion he had with a CIO at a leading European manufacturer. Laws require him to protect personally identifiable information in his company's possession or run the risk of stiff fines and penalties, which is fair enough, the CIO told Coviello.

"However, if he implements the very technologies needed to protect that information, including visibility of traffic on his own network, he can potentially and inadvertently break laws designed to protect workers' privacy. So he can't win, ridiculous but true," said Coviello.

Because privacy activists don't realize that safeguards can be implemented, they think a reasonable danger to protect our freedoms is acceptable, according to Coviello.

"But I say that argument is based on dangerous reasoning, a knee-jerk reaction without understanding the scope of the situation," said Coviello.

Following his speech, Coviello was asked to specify privacy laws that need to be loosened in order for organizations to build better security systems, but he did not go into further detail.

"I am sure this is a matter for extensive debate, but to blindly suggest that we can't alter privacy laws to better protect ourselves I believe is wrong, said Coviello.

Coviello also blamed budgeting practices for holding back change.

"For a long time organizations have spent 70 to 80 percent of their budgets on prevention; 15 to 20 percent on monitoring and detection; and only 5 to 10 percent on response," said Coviello.

In an era where hackers can be expected to penetrate the perimeter, the current allocation must change for organizations to be able to respond quickly and avoid loss of information, he said.

Going forward, the security industry will also have to improve the understanding, as opposed to just awareness, of the problems organizations are facing and the enemies they are fighting, Coviello said.

"Every day there is a story in the papers, but there is never the appropriate context," said Coviello.

The fact that there isn't a comprehensive system to share information in a timely manner only exacerbates the problem, according to Coviello. That there is a growing skills shortage in the security space doesn't help either, he said.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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Mikael Ricknäs

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