Back in the 70s when I was a kid my little brother and I would gather around the TV to watch Saturday morning cartoons. We’d squint at the grainy images and fiddle about with the rabbit ears on top in order to get a clearer signal. Later on, I managed to save up enough to money purchase a small 10-inch black and white television for my room.
A few years later my parents finally had cable installed in our house. My brother and I were beside ourselves at the new technology that had found its way into our house. There was a large plastic box with buttons that we would have to punch down to change the channels. There was a wire that would reach from the sofa to the TV. We were overwhelmed at the prospect of being able to change the channels from the comfort of the sofa. Mom had different plans as she placed the control on top of the wood grain-finished TV.
We had managed to transition from grainy images to a much clearer picture and, when Mom was out of the house, the ability to flip through the shows from across the room. The image quality of the shows had improved tenfold and the availability to a wider array of selections had increased. Availability had improved over all.
THE CIA TRIAD
Now, while this is a huge plus for a teenager dying to catch the latest episode of Knight Rider, it is something that is vastly more important from a security perspective overall. There has been an oft-referred-to pyramid called the “CIA triad.” This has nothing to do with the U.S. agency of the same name but rather, it stands for Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability. These are the three core tenets of security. Availability is hugely important for the delivery of television and movies now that many companies are shifting to delivery methods via the Internet.
The Internet is a vast and murky creature filled with all sorts of media types, information, hackers and cat pictures. If one does not take the time to properly address the availability of their services from a security perspective, the Internet will collect its tithe in short order.
In the 90’s there were many times when I would be leaning back in my chair staring at the ceiling waiting for a file to download or a website to render on my CRT screen. These days this is no longer something that anyone with a reasonable Internet connection needs to abide by.
With the abundance of affordable streaming services that are available today for the consumer—the need to ensure availability is of paramount importance. If a customer is watching a sporting event and the event starts to buffer and the image becomes blurry you can be certain that those customers will shift their allegiances before the buffer can catch up.
THE SECURITY BAKED IN
The 2018 Winter Olympics leveraged a content delivery network with a global footprint to which they were able to deliver a seamless product to all of the sports fans at a planetary scale. In addition to streaming video seamlessly, it can’t be emphasized enough the levels of security that were baked in to the planning for this event.
There is no shortage of security-related issues that can and were aimed at the Olympics this year, and the ability to scale to meet these attacks is important. Being available online for the global delivery of the content is as significant as is ensuring that the websites associated with the Olympics are not compromised in some manner that could negatively impact the global community.
Some examples of how an attacker might want to compromise these websites would be to deliver phishing sites, to distribute malware and launch distributed denial of service attacks against other targets. These are just a small sampling of the security related issues that websites such as these would need to guard against.
It makes me smile when I think back to the “threats" that I faced as a kid at the possibility that my mother would see that I had moved the Jerrold channel changer from the top of television set. These days, the threats have evolved so far beyond the manageable punitive measures that my parents could mete out. It is incumbent upon anyone who has a system attached to the Internet to ensure the safety of those devices, not only for their own piece of mind, but for the collective well-being of the Internet at large.
The threats that are posed on the Internet today can lead to significant consequences if they are not taken seriously and managed with strong, scalable solutions to meet the ever-changing threat landscape. Running around with our hair on fire is no way to tackle security issues and thankfully there are solutions available that can address these problems.
Dave Lewis is a Global Security Advocate for Akamai Technologies. Follow him on Twitter @gattaca.