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Last Updated : Aug 23, 2019 04:31 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Balancing convenience and confidentiality with context-aware security

Here’s how context-aware security differs from traditional cybersecurity and why businesses should adopt it.

Moneycontrol Contributor @moneycontrolcom

Sonit Jain

To make their processes streamlined and efficient, businesses are constantly digitizing more and more of their operations. The digitization of business processes has enabled enterprises to share information easily among the different members of the organization and also among the different members of the supply chain for improved coordination and faster service delivery.

Modern technologies like IoT, cloud computing, and mobile technology have enabled employees to conveniently have all the information they need to perform their functions effectively. However, this convenient access to business-critical data has also given rise to many risks. Since information is easily shared across different devices, it also becomes vulnerable to access by people who may not necessarily need it. This information may even leak out to people and groups outside the organization. And depending on the type of data that is leaked, the consequences can be devastating.

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On the contrary, if you want to focus on confidentiality and make data hard to access, you can use methods like encryption and multi-factor authentication. But then you’ll be compromising on the ease of access to information even for the people who have the legitimate authority to do so. This may slow down your operations and negatively impact your business performance.

Now, with the introduction of context-aware security solutions, businesses won’t have to choose between confidentiality and convenience, as they can enjoy the best of both worlds!

What context-aware security means

Consider this scenario: you drive your car into the driveway of an expensive restaurant. You see a valet at the entrance who you recognize by his uniform, position, and general demeanor. Although you don’t personally know this individual, you get out of your car and hand him your car key. You know he will safely park your car and return your key to you. Few days later, you see the same valet standing beside the road at a signal, without his uniform on. You recognize the person. But, would you trust him with your key now? Would you be willing to hand your key to him without thinking? If you’re like me and most people, you wouldn’t. What made you decide to trust a stranger on the first occasion and not on the second? The context. When it comes to decision-making, especially that related to information security, understanding the context is vital. And that’s exactly what context-intelligent security does for you.

Put simply, a context-intelligent security system is one that uses contextual information such as location, IP address, device ID, time, and other situational information to make security-related decisions. This means that if an attempt to access a piece of information makes sense, then the security measures are not very intrusive and ensure that the information is accessible fairly easily. And if an attempt to access or share any piece of information seems suspicious, then the system makes it harder to access the information. Thus, a context-intelligent security system adapts its information security decisions based on individual situations.

How context-aware security differs from traditional cybersecurity

Traditional information security systems often offer a uniform level of protection for all pieces of information, at any given time, in any given context. While these systems may be effective in protecting critical information, they don’t make such information easy to access even for authorized personnel. Even the data owners would be required to go through extensive log-in procedures to access requisite information. This is different from the way modern context-aware security solutions work. Next generation context-intelligent security systems vary the level of security on a case-by-case basis, instead of having a rigid security protocol for all information.

While traditional security systems’ primary focus is to prevent the wrong people from accessing critical information, context-based security’s focus is to enable the right people to access the right type and the right amount of information in the right situations.

A context-intelligent security system constantly monitors organizational networks and learns user behavior to identify log-in and data access patterns. When it detects activity that is inconsistent with these established patterns, it either alerts the system owners or adds more steps to verify the legitimacy of the attempt to access data.

A simplified example of context-aware security, albeit in a rudimentary form, is the security procedure used by Google while signing in users. Based on your regular log-in history, the security system identifies the location, the IP, and the device you are most likely to use for logging in. When you or someone else attempts to log in to your account from a different device or a different location, the system immediately sends an email to your emergency or backup email, warning you of the log-in attempt. Also, you are required to follow the two-step verification process every time you login from a new device, which you don’t have to do while using a device you frequently use. This is Google’s way of ensuring that other people are unable to access your account even if they know your user name and password.

Similarly, a context-aware security system can analyze multiple factors to evaluate the level of security resistance required every time an attempt is made to access or share organizational data.

Why businesses need to adopt context-intelligent security solutions

Businesses need context-intelligent security systems to ensure they secure all their business-critical data without compromising on the convenience of accessing data in exigent situations. This gives the business a robust layer of security that is also flexible and intelligent enough to allow access under the right set of circumstances. This expedites business processes and enhances business performance since sharing and accessing the necessary data is facilitated. Simultaneously, the system also maintains the confidentiality of business data by monitoring for abnormal network activity and preventing unauthorized access based on contextual information.

Enterprises seeking to balance security worth performance should upgrade their organizational network security to context-aware security solutions. They can opt for next generation firewalls that use context-intelligence engines to offer their employees a carefree network experience.

The author is the CEO of Gajshield Infotech, one of the leading provider of network, cloud and data security solutions.

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First Published on Aug 23, 2019 04:31 pm
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