Security Focus: Continuous Improvement in Legacy-Laden Environments

Technology environments rarely exist in a pristine, perfectly updated state. More often, they resemble bustling cities, layered with historical architecture (legacy systems) and sleek skyscrapers (modern tech). While the allure of modern technology and services is enticing, neglecting existing infrastructure can create its own set of challenges. Because organizations tend to put more resources into modern technology and processes, the security of less favored legacy systems and processes has the possibility to become a greater risk. We cannot ignore legacy systems just because they process less data and are less visible. Dedication to a security management system that includes a strong, continuous improvement effort helps organizations navigate the complex world of legacy systems and processes.

Bridging the Gap Between Old and New:

  1. Modernization, not Elimination: Wholesale replacement of legacy systems is disruptive, expensive and never as complete as expected. Continuous improvement advocates for strategic modernization, identifying core functionalities and selectively upgrading components while maintaining security processes across all systems and processes. Raise the security tide without creating risky backwaters.
  2. Coexistence and Collaboration: The new and the old don’t have to be rivals. Continuous improvement fosters an environment where legacy systems and modern solutions collaborate. APIs and middleware connect disparate systems, maintaining a consistent and secure architecture. This maintains a pathway for data exchange and streamlined workflows.
  3. Change Management: Transitioning from familiar processes to updated systems is unsettling. By balancing continuous improvement and emphasizing user engagement, the opportunity to train staff on systems and secure processes becomes available before disruption happens. By involving user, compliance and security stakeholders in the process and coupling it with comprehensive training, we ensure a smooth, secure transition and maximize safe user adoption.

Doing it Right Case Study: Microsoft

In January 2024, Microsoft Corporation reported a nation-state attack on their corporate systems. There was no evidence that the threat actor had any access to its most innovative technology, customer environments, or high-value services. However, the risks were high, and the attack may have compromised key management operations. You can read the details of the attack in this official MSCR Blog or this official Threat Intelligence Blog.

As fascinating as battling threat actors like “Midnight Blizzard” might seem, the most mature and profound lesson learned was the need to balance security and change management for both the old and the new at Microsoft:

“For Microsoft, this incident has highlighted the urgent need to move even faster. We will act immediately to apply our current security standards to Microsoft-owned legacy systems and internal business processes, even when these changes might cause disruption to existing business processes. This will likely cause some level of disruption while we adapt to this new reality, but this is a necessary step, and only the first of several we will be taking to embrace this philosophy.”
(MSCR Blog, January 19, 2024)

Well done! The organization identified a gap in the security of its legacy systems and processes and clearly state its full commitment to closing it by ensuring both legacy systems and processes meet the standard of modern technology initiatives. To do this, Microsoft will apply balanced resources, address the needs, and manage its business operations. This will allow time for the old and the new to function equally as a resilient information security management system.

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