Oct 05 2017

3 Ways to Use Context-Aware Security to the IT Team’s Advantage

This solution allows IT and cybersecurity teams to redirect efforts toward high-value targets.

Professionals in K–12 school districts make context-aware security decisions every day.

A security guard decides whether to allow visitors in the building based on a quick assessment of their appearance and familiarity. IT teams decide whether to allow exceptions to endpoint security policies based on the nature of a device and the types of information it handles. The world of context-aware security seeks to automate such decision-making through the potential and power of analytics.

Context-aware security — the use of supplemental information to improve security decisions — holds great promise for K–12 education cybersecurity.

Schools that start with the fundamentals and focus on high-value targets will reap the greatest rewards from this investment. Analysts will be able to dig deeper into security data with less time and effort, uncovering the relevant needles in security data haystacks.

1. Reduce Cybersecurity Workloads by Prioritizing

One of the chief rewards of context-aware security will be reduced workloads for cybersecurity and IT teams. Teams otherwise deluged with data can easily spend a day sorting through critical information, trying to prioritize security work.

In addition to deploying the approach for high-value information, schools should consider deploying it in other situations where teams might be overwhelmed by work. For example, teams that constantly battle false positive reports from a network intrusion detection system could add contextual information to help reduce false positives and prioritize follow-up analysis efforts.

2. Focus on the Most Sensitive Data

Deploying context-aware products requires an investment in human and financial resources.

Once properly set up, these products can add tremendous value to a district’s security efforts, but just be sure to allot time for the initial configuration work. The next step requires clearly identifying all highly sensitive information — such as student and human resources records — and then following the data to deploy context-aware security controls around that information to generate a greater return on investment.

3. Begin with the Fundamentals of Security

Context-aware security requires, not surprisingly, context. While that’s not a startling conclusion, it’s an area where many school districts fall short.

Security decisions that are both contextual and practical require detailed information about users.

Before embarking on an initiative, ensure that a robust identity and access management infrastructure is in place to provide useful attributes about individuals. For example, security products must be able to identify a person’s status — whether student, parent, faculty member or administrator.

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