152: GreyBeards talk agent-less data security with Jonathan Halstuch, Co-Founder & CTO, RackTop Systems

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Once again we return to our ongoing series with RackTop Systems, and their Co-Founder & CTO, Jonathan Halstuch (@JAHGT). This time we discuss how agent-less, storage based, security works and how it can help secure many organizations with (IoT) end points they may not control or can’t deploy agents on them. But agent-less security can also help other organizations with security agents deployed over their end points. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

The challenge for enterprise’s with agent based security, is that not all end points support them. Jonathan mentioned one health care customer with an older electron microscope that couldn’t be modified. These older, outdated systems are often targeted by cyber criminals because they are seldom updated.

But even the newest IoT devices often can’t be modified by organizations that use them. Agent-less, storage based security can be a final line of defense to any environment with IoT devices deployed.

But security exposures go beyond IoT devices. Agents can sometimes take manual effort to deploy and update. And as such, sometimes they are left un-deployed or improperly configured.

The advantage of a storage based, agent-less security approach is that it’s always on/always present, because it’s in the middle of the data path and is updated by the storage company, where possible. Yes, not every organization may allows this and for those organizations, storage agent updates will be also require manual effort.

Jonathan mentioned the term Data Firewall. I (a networking novice, at best) have always felt firewalls were a configuration nightmare.

But as we’ve discussed previously in our series, RackTop has a “learning” and an “active” mode. During learning, the system automatically configures application/user IO assessors to characterize normal IO activity. Once learning has completed, the RackTop Systems in the environment now understands what sorts of IO to expect from users/applications and can then flag anything outside normal IO patterns.

But even during “learning” mode, the system is actively monitoring for known malware signatures and other previously characterized bad actor IO. These assesors are always active. 

Keith mentioned that most organizations run special jobs on occasion (quarterly, yearly) which might have not been characterized during learning. Jonathan said these will be flagged and may be halted (depending on RackTop’s configuration). But authorized parties can easily approve that applications IO activity, using a web link provided in the storage security alert.

Once alerted, authorized personnel can allow that IO activity for a specific time period (say Dec-Jan), or just for a one time event. When the time period expires, that sort of IO will be flagged again.

Some sophisticated customers have change control and may know, ahead of time, that end of quarter or end of year processing is coming up. If so, they can easily configure RackTop Systems, ahead of time, to authorize the applications IO activity. In this case there wouldn’t be any interruption to the application.

With RackTop Systems, security agents are centrally located, in the data path and are always operating. This has no dependency on your backend storage such as, SAN, cloud, hybrid storage, etc., or any end point. If anything in your environment accesses data, those RackTop System assessors will be active, checking IO activity and securing your data. 

Jonathan Halstuch, Co-Founder and CTO, RackTop Systems

onathan Halstuch is the Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of RackTop Systems. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from Georgia Tech as well as a master’s degree in engineering and technology management from George Washington University.

With over 20-years of experience as an engineer, technologist, and manager for the federal government he provides organizations the most efficient and secure data management solutions to accelerate operations while reducing the burden on admins, users, and executives.