M42 Active Traffic Management

Image by Highways Agency via Flickr

The second key element in enterprise network risk analysis is speed. I mentioned in my last post the presentation I gave at the United Security Summit. In that presentation, I compared network risk analysis to automobile traffic engineering and the challenge of reducing or eliminating congestion on a given highway. I highlighted the Active Traffic Management (ATM) system that was originally deployed in 2005 in the United Kingdom on a 17km stretch of M42. There are a number of parallels between the ATM and what constitutes an effective enterprise risk analysis and reduction tool.

The UK has had an 80% increase in traffic since 1980, with only a 10% increase in their road capacity. They needed a solution that provided the full context of all factors that lead to congestion on a given stretch of highway, much like in network risk analysis we need the full context of the network topology and the network security controls in place to truly determine the given risk posture of any enterprise. The ATM on this 17km stretch of M42 has over 500km of cabling and sensors deployed, along with 300 CCTV cameras and 50 gantries with computer controlled signage. All of this information is fed back to a central control center, where traffic engineers leverage software algorithms to process all incoming data. The system then provides a prioritized list of actions the traffic engineers can take to reduce congestion and in the first 6 months of deployment increased capacity on this stretch of M42 by 10% and reduced transit times by 34%. With the amount of data generated by all of the wiring and sensors, no human could simply look at a raw listing of data and decide what are the 2 or 3 best steps to take to reduce congestion. The ATM automates the process of processing this data, and provides the recommendations in real-time. If an accident occurs at kilometer 14, the ATM can recommend that the traffic engineers change the speed on the gantries at kilometer 2 by 40 km/hour in order to ensure traffic doesn’t come to a complete standstill and increase the possibility of additional accidents and further congestion. This recommendation is made as soon as the problem is detected. It would not be effective if the ATM algorithms took hours to decide that the speed needed be reduced to alleviate congestion; the entire 17km of highway would be stopped by then.

Similarly in Enterprise Network Risk Analysis and Remediation, you need a tool that scales to process all of the data related to the network topology and the associated vulnerabilities, and provides the prioritized steps that reduce the greatest amount of risk with the least amount of effort in the fastest possible time. Tools that take hours or even days to process the data and produce a recommendation are like an Active Traffic Management system that takes hours to provide a recommendation. By that point, with the ever-growing and persistent threats that we face in enterprise security today, an attacker could have already exploited a resource in your environment and subsequently pivoted from that resource to exploit other parts of your network. Firemon’s new Risk Analyzer is able to scale to support the largest enterprise environments in the world, having been deployed for the past 4 years in the largest United States DOD and Intelligence networks. Risk Analyzer’s patented analysis engine processes all data in seconds, producing a prioritized list of remediation actions that allow organizations to know the exact steps that reduce the greatest amount of risk with the least amount of effort. Risk Analyzer has the full network context and real-time speed to enable any enterprise to significantly reduce their risk posture and ensure their security investment in both technology and people is being utilized as effectively as possible.

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