5 Steps to Reviving a Frankenstein Network Architecture

May 3, 2017

In Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein, Dr. Frankenstein builds a creature out of scavenged body parts and succeeds in bringing the creature to life. The creature goes on to try and understand its new world, but it does not function as well as Dr. Frankenstein had probably hoped. Much like the story of Frankenstein, today’s networking environments offer their own horror story of legacy technologies cobbled together to form sub-optimal architectures.

Networks, for the most part, formed before security was considered an essential capability that should be incorporated as part of their design. Even modern networks suffer from short-sighted cybersecurity design patterns where security is basically “bolted on” to provide the protections required by regulations or the business environment. So, is there any hope for the patient? And if so, how does a business create an effective network?

1. The Post-Mortem Exam

If your network security is basically dead on arrival, then the aim of the post-mortem is to determine the cause of death. This examination begins by reviewing the current environment against the defined security requirements for the organization and identifying gaps that led to its failures. A full review of the environment is necessary across security policies and procedures as well as existing equipment and programs. This analysis forms the security baseline, which is a key input to conducting a proper assessment. Updates to the NIST cybersecurity framework in 2017 will include a new section on measuring the performance and maturity of organizations’ cyber risk programs.

Much like the story of Frankenstein, today’s networking environments offer their own horror story of legacy technologies cobbled together to form sub-optimal architectures.

2. Assess the Viable Parts

Determining which technologies can be salvaged isn't an exact science and conducting an objective viability assessment can be a daunting task. The challenge is to find a way to step back and be objective about the organization’s technology investments. Politics, personal biases, decision traps, and emotions can get in the way. A good approach to overcome these obstacles is to use a vendor selection framework to scorecard the technologies against requirements. The scorecard will identify the strengths and weaknesses of your current implementation and help you identify any critical failures or security gaps.

3. The Knee Bone is Connected to the Thigh Bone

In the body, the nervous system provides a communication network to help the body respond to its environment. Similarly, a crucial aspect of a cybersecurity environment is aggregating information across systems to identify patterns and respond appropriately. Most systems and applications have internal logs that record how they are performing. For many organizations, aggregating and reporting security data often requires a SIEM technology to parse the logs across multiple systems and provide a single view of the cybersecurity environment.

4. Ironic Bionic

After completing the assessments, it’s time to decide which technologies to retire and whether new technologies are required to reach the desired end state. In many cases, implementing new cybersecurity processes and procedures will greatly enhance cybersecurity posture without deploying a new technology.

5. Life Goes On

Now all that’s left is to turn the switch on, see the monster come to life, and enjoy the miracle you just performed. Not so fast! There is one crucial step that will make life much easier in the future: periodic assessments of the environment. A regular review of the environment dramatically reduces the chances that you will have to experience the ‘Son of Frankenstein’ in the future. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.


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