In the medieval times, moats were used to defend the perimeters of castles. The traditional notion of cybersecurity could be likened to this defense strategy – organisations only guarded against external threats, assuming that everything inside was already cleared for access.

But as countries accelerate their digital push, the now-derelict castle-and-moat approach to cybersecurity must be replaced. Agencies need to have a security fabric that covers all areas of their network, says Ho Pun, the director of Fortinet.

He breaks down why a security fabric is necessary today, and what governments can do to adopt a secure and resilient fabric.

What is a security fabric?

While the “moated” approach worked well in the past, organisations can no longer only defend the network perimeter, Ho says. With advancements in technology, hackers can now bypass firewalls and easily move through internal systems. Thus, an all-encompassing security platform is needed.

A “security fabric” weaves different security controls to create an interconnected system, like a cloth that blankets the entire system, he adds. It correlates, analyses, and transforms information from all security products into actionable intelligence to minimise threats of attacks.

Guarding against an enlarged attack surface

As agencies move to adopt digital innovation, the digital landscape has only become more complex. A security fabric will thus help organisations better guard against an enlarged attack surface.

Sensitive data can reside practically anywhere as organisations move applications and workflows to the cloud. Remote working has also allowed employees to access the company network from locations that are not under corporate IT control. Thus, the attack surface is drastically widened, and hackers can crawl through numerous loopholes to carry out attacks.

A security fabric integrates existing and new cybersecurity softwares into a collective system, giving organisations broad visibility of where attacks may come from, and how they are related. “What we can do is to consolidate everything into a single pane of glass and take control from there,” says Ho.

Malta’s central tech agency, uses Fortinet’s security fabric. The platform gave the agency greater visibility over its network that serves more than 600 sites. This made security troubleshooting easier, and enhanced decision making by providing real-time insights into each firewall’s status.

Mitigating the growing complexity of threats

Threats have also been growing in complexity. “There are many cyber threat actors today trying to break into many systems,” Ho says. Fortinet data revealed that up to 40 per cent of new malware detected on any given day is previously unknown or one that developers don’t have a solution for.

A security fabric tackles this with machine learning and artificial intelligence. Disparate sensors deployed across the entire network picks up data on network traffic. This data is sent back to a central console that then determines if it is a malware or regular transaction, Ho says.

Fortinet been using machine learning to train its Artificial Intelligence engine to predict and identify threats. When attacks occur, the system is able to identify anomalous activities or real attacks at speed with a high level of accuracy. From a security operational aspect, responses are be orchestrated automatically, Ho adds.

This detects threats earlier in the cyber kill chain, a series of steps that trace stages of a cyberattack, rather than towards the end of the chain where threats are typically detected. Fortinet also employs automation to speed up security responses and ease the burden on security teams.

A zero-trust network also prevents external threats from gaining access to legitimate accounts within the corporate network. “The first principle is you do not trust anybody,” says Ho. All users and devices need to be identified and verified before being granted access into the systems.

How to build a good security fabric

Building a good security fabric starts with identifying cybersecurity as a key area of continuous investment. Establishing a key organisation like Singapore’s Cyber Security Agency will help countries champion initiatives and enhances the country’s cybersecurity posture at all levels, says Ho.

The government also has to work very closely with technology partners and be committed to building high-performing security solutions, he adds. Public and private sector coordination and cooperation will also be key when things do not “fall into the standard textbook of case scenarios,” Ho says. Key information should be shared when necessary, where everybody chips in to resolve issue effectively and efficiently.

As digital innovation accelerates, the risk of cyberattacks will inevitably increase. An all-encompassing security fabric may be the future of cybersecurity, and help governments have the upperhand against malicious activities.

To find out how a security fabric can guard against attacks, please check out Fortinet’s website.