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AT&T's chief security officer explains why a whole new approach to mobile network security is needed in a world of smartphones, the cloud, and virtualization.

AT&T's Amoroso: Perimeter Security No Longer Enough

Ray Le Maistre
6/12/2014
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The days of networks being adequately protected by "perimeter" security infrastructure are over, according to AT&T Chief Security Officer Ed Amoroso.

In a special video presentation recorded by AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) for Light Reading's recent Mobile Network Security Strategies event in London, Amoroso provided a detailed insight into the different stages "we're going through as a community -- a mobility community, telecom community, and as users."

In the past, perimeter security that was built using devices such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems "sufficed," and served us well as a community, notes the AT&T expert, but in those days mobility wasn't an issue.

The mass use of mobile phones led to the concept of network-based security, though this was driven more initially by the exploits of "advanced hackers" breaching perimeters and "being able to muck around with things inside the enterprise." This resulted in security strategies that involved thwarting attacks before they reached the edge of the enterprise network.

Now we're in a new phase, says Amoroso, where mobility-enabled cloud is enabling user-defined services for individuals and companies, and "mobility is how we breathe life into that." And the key issue now is "how can we not be a tether" -- there is no point in constraining smartphone users and tethering them to the enterprise if perimeter security strategies are no longer working, he states.

AT&T's Ed Amoroso has a firm grasp on the security challenges faced by mobile network operators.
AT&T's Ed Amoroso has a firm grasp on the security challenges faced by mobile network operators.

As we enter the era of the mobility-enabled cloud, the technologies that will be important, and which will enable user freedom in a secure environment, are:

  • Encryption: "Why not encrypt everything?" asks Amoroso. That comes with the burden to get public key infrastructure and single key infrastructure correct, but "that's very difficult to do."

  • Containerized technology: Enabling secure authorized access whereby a "session" protects the integrity of an access (for example, an employee accessing an online paycheck stub) and then provides the ability to wipe data from a device once it has been accessed and used, so that evidence of the session no longer exists on the device.

  • Proxy: A mediation layer between the cloud and users, where certain types of things can be mediated. Amoroso certainly believes denial of service should be included in that proxy.

  • Run-time virtualization: This is probably more important than anything, believes Amoroso. As you virtualize an entity into the cloud -- an app, for example -- then you need to virtualize security in a virtual environment, not try to protect it with old-fashioned security devices. The idea that network operators will dynamically provision security along with the other objects that are being provisioned into the cloud is "really exciting," says the AT&T security chief.

    "Put all those things together and I fundamentally believe you can protect the mobility-enabled cloud environment better than we can protect information inside perimeters today," proclaims Amoroso. "That's a controversial statement… [but] -- there will be those that believe compliance is most important but we need to get everyone on board here -- perimeter is not working today, advanced persistence threats are making their way through, denial of service attacks render edge computing difficult to maintain."

    He adds that embedding security into the object's run-time systems is something "we hope that compliance officers and regulators will become comfortable with, because the whole idea here is to make computing safer. It's not about checklists -- it's about using the checklists to make computing support the different missions that are important to all of us. That's our vision for the future -- this futuristic prediction that's becoming real now, going from perimeter, through network-based, to a mobility-enabled cloud where we feel more comfortable pushing our information out into something more ubiquitous and more separated and hopefully protected by run-time virtualized security functionality."

    Amoroso goes on to discuss further mobile cloud security and analytics issues with his colleagues Gus De Los Reyes, executive director, security R&D at AT&T, who runs the security research group, and executive director of technology security Brian Rexroad. Find out what they had to say, and see the full presentation by Amoroso by watching the video, AT&T's Ed Amoroso on Mobile Security.

    You can also find out what else happened at the Mobile Network Security Strategies event in London by checking out our dedicated industry show site.

    — Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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