Over the past few weeks, I’ve enjoyed rewatching every season of Stranger Things, Netflix’s popular sci-fi horror drama series set in the 1980s and airing since 2016. It made me thinking about my life as a 12-year-old Geek in high school in 1982, just a year before the show’s first season debuted.
At the time, we had a lesson in school simply called Q, which stood for “Inquiry” and was a far-reaching lesson that encouraged us to be interested in the world around us, in the context from which it arose. developed and exploring where it might go in the future. It was a fantastic subject, and my most vivid memory was Mr. Butler, our teacher, telling us, “There are lessons everywhere outside of this classroom, you just have to know where to look.
For those unfamiliar with the cultural hit Stranger Things, I won’t post any spoilers. Suffice to say, at the center of the Stranger Things story is “Upside Down,” another figurative side to the Dungeons and Dragons diorama of the central characters. The Upside Down exists as a decaying, overgrown alternate dimension that represents an accurate but dangerous reflection of the real world, where creatures and phenomena not readily apparent in our dimension are both visible and visceral. It struck me as I watched: that’s the lesson.
The Upside Down maps current challenges and future opportunities in the world of cybersecurity. It represents very effectively what American military doctrine calls “the fifth dimension of warfare”. In his 2014 book, Fifth Dimensional Operations: Space-Time-Cyber Dimensionality in Conflicts and Wars, Military theorist Robert J. Bunker might as well describe Stranger Things when he talks about “terrorists who lurk in a virtual realm adversaries can’t reach, using organic camouflage, friendly social spaces, or aspects of cyberspace.” to hide their activities until the end”. This idea of a digital Upside Down is useful not only for conceptualizing military and criminal operations in cyberspace, but defenders can also leverage it to protect data.
When Will Byers, one of the main characters, was rescued from the Upside Down in Stranger Things, he returned with “true sight” described by Dustin, another central character, as “the power to see into the ethereal plane”. We can use detailed visibility of our business environments to gain our own advantages over the adversary, using the power of true observability. Observability differs from visibility in that it offers rich contextual data for the continuous discovery of assets within an environment. Will could sense not only the networks of tunnels that radiated from Hawkins National Laboratory, the epic center of “evil”, but also what was going on there, accessing his “current memories”.
We can think of the digital twin as a real technological analogy to the Upside Down. The digital twin concept was first introduced in 2002 at a Society of Manufacturing Engineers conference. Designed as a digital representation of a physical counterpart, such as a wind turbine or jet engine, data is transmitted in real time from the physical product to the digital product, for ongoing testing and modeling. “The inevitable acceleration of everything”, a phrase I coined almost 10 years ago, has seen the capabilities of the digital twin increase exponentially. In fact, Singapore has become the first country to start building its own full digital twin. While still a nascent technology, especially the requirement for real-time data capture at such a large scale, the rollout of 5G promises to change that. Bringing people, machines, things and services together, 5G promises many benefits, such as much greater bandwidth and faster connectivity with lower latency over a wider geographical area to many other devices. .
Now is the time for businesses to start planning their own Upside Down. Combining existing network infrastructure with the low latency, high reliability, mobility, throughput, and device density offered by 5G enhances operational intelligence. Thanks to the real-time monitoring of the condition and maintenance of assets and the connection of hard-to-reach equipment, it is now possible to create a true digital twin representative of an entire company, from IT to OT via the IoE.
In a corporate environment, easily replicable cloud-based digital twins allow their operators to test proposed new production or changes to existing operations or cybersecurity strategies, before deploying them in the physical environment. Truly active red and blue team drills can test not only the relative readiness of attack and defense, but also the real impact of successful attacks and the effectiveness of mitigation, disaster recovery and business continuity planning.
The challenges of adopting this new infrastructure are considerable. Organizations will need to identify and manage exponential growth in the attack surface. Organizations will store and access proprietary and PII data from more systems than ever before, and through more interfaces. Unauthorized access to digital twins can also allow attackers to perform advanced reconnaissance of an organization’s network and services and even facilitate testing of malicious activity at the development stage. Data encryption, privileged access management, least-privilege and need-to-know principles, and effective security audits are all areas that require detailed attention and planning before the first digital brick even rolls. be asked.
Visibility is the cornerstone of it all. We’re talking about continual discovery of assets across an enterprise that morphs into observability. The picture is enriched with precision-modeled data streams, continuous compliance monitoring, as well as real-time threat and anomaly detection and response, and operational intelligence. The digital twin, the real world Upside Down, promises those who embrace this new concept a very exciting journey.
Rik Ferguson, Vice President of Security Intelligence, Forescout
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