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5 Top Reasons Configuration is A Risky Business


5 Top Reasons Configuration is A Risky Business


This content is brought to you by Evolven. Evolven Change Analytics is a unique AIOps solution that tracks and analyzes all actual changes carried out in the enterprise cloud environment. Evolven helps leading enterprises cut the number of incidents, slash troubleshoot time, and eliminate unauthorized changes. Learn more

The complexity and rapid evolution of IT systems have made configuration a challenging and risky business for enterprises. Misconfiguration or improper configuration changes can expose organizations to cybersecurity threats, compliance violations, and reputational damage. In this blog post, we will discuss the five reasons why configuration is a top challenge for IT teams globally. To mitigate these configuration risks, organizations must leverage configuration risk intelligence, which involves gathering, analyzing, and using information about IT configuration state and changes to identify potential risks and vulnerabilities proactively. With configuration risk intelligence, enterprises can prioritize security controls, inform risk management decisions, communicate risks to stakeholders, and improve their overall security posture.

IT teams everywhere have felt the increased risk associated with configurations.  However, as departments execute plans for digital transformation, new initiatives, and releases of new applications, precision and timeliness in execution can sometimes fall short.  

Configuration is A Risky Business

The top 5 reasons configuration has and will continue to be “A Risky Business” for enterprise organizations include:

  1. Complexity: As technology advances, the IT environment becomes more complex. Organizations must deal with a variety of different systems, devices, and applications. The move to the cloud also introduces the need to manage the new and the old at the same time. Hybrid environments, multi-cloud, and legacy systems - all require different talent, increased bandwidth, increased patience, and increased planning.  This dynamic environment and complexity make it more challenging to ensure proper configuration that even small errors can have significant consequences.  Even if cloud-native, you aren’t off the hook when it comes to complexity in today’s world. In simplest terms, managing complexity is complex.

    "...we see IT complexity on the rise mostly due to the accelerated transformation to digital — siloed technology stacks, increased regulation, managing multi-clouds, and security enforcements," - CTO Andy Nallappan.

  2. Cybersecurity threats: Cybersecurity threats are becoming more sophisticated and frequent, making it more critical to configure systems correctly. Misconfigured systems can leave vulnerabilities and exposures open for attack, providing attackers with an easy route to exploit systems. The larger, more complex, and mutable the attack surface, and configurations, the more vulnerable the environment becomes. Being able to identify blind spots, vulnerabilities, and unauthorized changes and analyze these areas by risk is vitally important.

    “Instead of concentrating on vulnerabilities, malicious actors are leveraging a combination of exposures, such as credentials and misconfigurations, to discreetly attack critical assets and steal company data.” -Shay Siksik, VP XMCyber

  3. Compliance requirements: Organizations today must comply with a plethora of regulations and standards (i.e. NIST, CIS, FFIEC, OCC, SOX, PCI, ISO, GDPR, HIPAA, and others) which often have strict configuration and change management requirements. Failure to comply can result in significant fines and reputational damage.  When the auditor arrives, it is important to know that you can answer their questions, and the traditional change and configuration management practices fall short of identifying many of the gaps created by configuration risk.

    Compliance requirements vary from one industry to the next. In an ideal world, it would be nice if compliance were simply the byproduct of a good security program, but things rarely work that perfectly; compliance and security each represent their own set of diverging requirements.” - Daniel Kennedy, Research Director, Information Security, 451 Research.

  4. Human error: Configuration errors are often caused by human errors, such as ‘fat-finger’ typos, misunderstandings, or simply a lack of knowledge. For many IT professionals, a lack of sleep may contribute.  As systems become more complex and /or new talent is brought in, the likelihood of human error increases, making it more difficult to ensure proper configuration. Unfortunately, this can be a vicious circle made more difficult depending on employee training and retention.

    “More than 99% of cloud breaches will be traced back to preventable misconfigurations and mistakes by end users.” - Gartner

  5. Speed of change: Not only are IT systems more complex than ever - IT systems are changing more rapidly than ever before, with new technologies and updates being released frequently. This speed of change can make it challenging to keep up with the latest configuration requirements, and mistakes can be made when implementing new updates or technologies. The pressure on IT to stay informed, to hire new talent, be certified, etc. is enormous. The need for automation and AI to access risk has become ever-present for most organizations to help prioritize actions and make decisions.

    “An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense “intuitive linear” view. So we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century — it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate). The “returns,” such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There’s even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth.” - Ray Kurzweil The Law of Accelerating Returns

What is Configuration Risk Intelligence

Configuration risk intelligence refers to the process of gathering, analyzing, and using information about the configurations of IT assets and infrastructure to identify potential risks and vulnerabilities. This information can be used to inform risk management decisions, prioritize security controls, communicate risks to stakeholders, and improve the overall security posture of an organization.

Configuration risk intelligence involves collecting data about IT configurations from your end-to-end configuration estate in near real-time. This data is then analyzed to identify potential risks and vulnerabilities, such as misconfigurations, configuration drift, outdated software versions, and unauthorized changes across the dev, sec, and ops departments that all depend upon configurations.

By leveraging configuration risk intelligence, organizations can proactively identify and address potential risks BEFORE they can become an incident – BEFORE they can be exploited by attackers – BEFORE they are rolled out in production. This approach allows organizations to prioritize security investments and focus resources on the most critical areas of risk.

Configuration risk intelligence is an important component of a comprehensive risk management program and should be used in conjunction with other risk management activities, such as threat intelligence, vulnerability management, and incident response planning.

Best Practices for Addressing Your Configuration Risk

IT executives should be aware of their configuration risk. Configuration risk intelligence provides insights into the current state of your IT environment, including potential vulnerabilities and misconfigurations. This information enables IT executives to make informed decisions about where to focus their efforts and resources.

By leveraging Configuration Risk Intelligence, IT executives can:

  1. Identify potential vulnerabilities and misconfigurations BEFORE they become an issue.
  2. Prioritize resources and focus on high-risk areas first to ensure they are resolved.
  3. Improve compliance with regulations and standards by going beyond just a checklist.
  4. Reduce the risk of cybersecurity threats.
  5. Improve overall IT security posture.

Evolven Configuration Risk Intelligence Platform

Evolven’s platform provides unparalleled and detailed visibility into the configurations and changes in your hybrid, multi-cloud environment today. Our platform collects comprehensive granular configuration data about everything from applications to infrastructure - including application artifacts, configuration files, database schemas, OS kernels, network routing tables, firewall rules, and more.

We track the actual changes made across your entire configuration estate. We observe these configurations in near real-time with minimum, controlled overhead using AI-based analytics, supported by seven US Patents, to quickly identify potential misconfigurations and risky changes that threaten your system's stability, compliance, and security. Our AI-based analytics provide invaluable insights into detailed configuration and actual changes, to help you mitigate the configuration risks discussed in this blog - before they escalate into critical incidents.

If you would like to learn more about Evolven’s Platform and how we are helping others mitigate risk, contact our team today!


About the Author
Kristi Perdue
Vice President of Marketing