Security was the elephant in the room at Cisco Live 2018 — just like at pretty much every other IT event.

Cisco used the event, held in Orlando, Fla., earlier this summer, to bring together customers and partners to discuss technology trends and innovations such as software-defined networking and digital transformation. But security is an essential consideration in just about every discussion of technology, and it was a top concern at the event as well.

During one presentation, Bob Rossi, CDW’s vice president of networking, digital workspace and security solutions, described cybersecurity as “a huge pain point” for organizations. “Every solution that we’re talking about, the beginning, the middle of a solution, even in deployment, security has to be pivotal with regards to what they’re focusing on,” Rossi said.

The Need for Network Security

Chuck Robbins, the CEO of Cisco, said security is a main focus as his company strives to build “the network’s next act.” Digital transformation and the Internet of Things are connecting more devices and people to networks and to each other, creating “tremendous opportunity, but also chaos.” That chaos can be exploited by cybercriminals.

“The network has to become a secure platform that enables you to help your organization achieve its strategies,” Robbins said. “We have to have the network do more than it’s ever done before.”

Talos, Cisco’s cybersecurity threat intelligence network, is now blocking 20 billion threats every day. That’s roughly 230,000 threats per second. To address threats on that scale, security must be part of the foundation of the network.

A New Threat Emerges: Cryptomining

Numerous experts at Cisco Live identified two key threats — one new and one that security experts have been fighting for years. The older of the two is ransomware, which remains a major problem for many organizations. Cryptomining is a more recent problem.

Craig Williams, director of outreach for Talos, Cisco’s cybersecurity threat intelligence network, said many cybercriminals are turning to cryptomining because they consider it safer and more profitable than other tactics. In many cryptomining schemes, hackers hijack unmonitored computer resources to create new cryptocurrency.

The act of cryptomining itself is not illegal, but cybercriminals steal enormous computing power from small businesses, enterprise networks, home computers and even personal electronics such as cable television boxes to mine cryptocurrencies. “The reason they choose cryptomining is that it generates constant profit, it never goes away and they’re never going to get caught doing it,” Williams said.

Security Strategies That Work

Cisco is working to help customers deal with security threats in several ways, said Sean Mason, director of threat management and incident response for the company’s Security Advisory Service. In addition to Cisco’s services, he highlighted endpoint security solutions and Cisco Umbrella, a secure internet gateway in the cloud.

Mason added that network segmentation is an effective tactic to defend against cyberattacks. “If you think about ransomware — how that spreads within the network and how it affects things — segmenting the network is absolutely critical.”

Jeff Reed, senior vice president of product for Cisco’s security business, said segmentation is a critical capability to help small businesses defend against attack. “In so many of these breaches that you hear about, the lack of segmentation was something that really hurt the customer. We focus on the networking side at Cisco to make segmentation a lot easier.”

Reed also identified Intent-based networking (IBN) as an emerging technology that can help organizations achieve segmentation and other security tactics. IBN uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate network management.

IBN can help organizations improve their security posture. The network understands its traffic better, enabling organizations to detect a breach in minutes or hours, rather than the hundreds of days that it takes on average, said Prashanth Shenoy, Cisco’s vice president of product marketing for enterprise networking.

Learn more about how CDW and Cisco can help your organization deploy a secure IT infrastructure.

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