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The Danger Of Laissez-Faire Security Attitudes

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A door lock does not have the same status as a modern, wall-mounted television or a couch from a world-class designer. It’s not like you invite a friend over to check out the new double bolt on the front door:

“Hey, you should come by and check out my new door lock! I also bought a new television and a couch, but forget that. This new door lock is awesome!”

But if you did buy that $2,000 couch and new television then I’d bet you sure would want an awesome security system, too. The lock has an abstract value that gives the owner an assurance that they have sufficiently protected themselves.

Online, people want the best security possible, but it’s the last thing they want to think about. Like in the physical word, they just want to know that their prize possessions are safe.

Customers often think that their data is entirely protected when they use a SaaS provider. This believability has fostered a laissez-faire attitude that has led to all sorts of attacks. SaaS providers protect users some of the time but certainly can’t do everything to stop attacks on unwitting victims.

This need to make security as easy as using a lock on a door is giving rise to a new breed of startups that use data to help protect users from attackers from increasingly sophisticated attacks.

For example, using targeted spearphishing attacks, criminals trick people into clicking links that expose their user names and passwords in order to directly access their corporate accounts. If the company does not have a firewall, then it can mean deeper intrusions that can have lasting damage.

Last month, attackers hit MongoHQ by targeting one of its employees, which gave them access to internal systems and allowed them to infiltrate Buffer, a MongoHQ customer. Attackers then used that access to flood the Buffer service with spam from user accounts.

These high-profile attacks are starting to have an impact as more SaaS providers and their customers establish lines of responsibility demarcating who provides what measures of security. Earlier this month, Amazon Web Services (AWS) published a paper defining the shared responsibilities that it has with its customers.

Adallom, a Menlo Park startup, launched this past week with a service that detects anomalies in individual’s data usage in and across different SaaS providers. Its technology is similar to the way credit card companies track transactions that appear out of the ordinary, said Tal Klein, VP of marketing at Adallom in an interview last week. The service stops the attacks by providing real-time reports of odd behavior.

These types of detection services are increasingly important as people connect different apps. If one identity is hacked, the attacker can use that person’s identity to fool others using the same or different services. They can even steal the session that the customer is engaged in by masquerading under the identity of a legitimate user

Mojave Networks also uses data to help find anomalies. The mobile cloud firewall company, formerly known as Clutch Mobile, raised $5 million last week in a round led by Bessemer Venture Partners. Sequoia Capital also participated in the round.

Mojave operates a cloud services network that secures and analyzes data about usage, data traffic and malicious threats. The service does a proxy of all of the network traffic from a mobile device through its globally distributed data centers. It is like having a Palo Alto Networks or Barracuda firewall in the cloud for all of an organization’s mobile devices.

Abstracting credentials and filtering through a third-party service is a trending method customers use to protect accounts from attacks. For example, JumpCloud, which launched at TechCrunch Disrupt, offers a management platform, which stores the cloud server keys for the administrator. As I wrote at the time of the release, the platform abstracts the password process, preventing attacks by dropping a small piece of software on the customer’s cloud server. It is an agent-based approach that’s similar to the way companies such as New Relic provide application performance management. The agent records the data from the server, monitoring it for unusual spikes in network loads and other unusual events.

Data services such as Adallom, Mojave and JumpCloud represent a new wave of security providers that assure people their online accounts are protected. These services are like any lock. They may not solve all security issues but in most cases it can be enough to provide basic protection against attacks.

(Feature image via Tammy Lo on Flickr through a Creative Commons license.)