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The Importance of Application Behavioral Mapping for Zero Trust Security

Applications are the backbone of almost every business operation. From communication and collaboration to financial transactions, applications are the primary means of carrying out essential functions. However, with the increasing complexity of these applications, security breaches have become an unfortunate and common reality.  

Cybercriminals are constantly devising new ways to exploit vulnerabilities in applications, making it critical for organizations to prioritize application security throughout the lifecycle – not just during development. Production applications need care and feeding. One way to do this is through application behavioral mapping, which provides visibility into the communications from applications. Application behavioral mapping is the process of analyzing how applications interact with other components within an IT environment, such as servers, networks, devices, other applications, and databases. By mapping these interactions, organizations can gain a comprehensive understanding of how their applications behave, which is critical for identifying potential vulnerabilities and ensuring the security of the entire system. 

Here are some of the key reasons why application behavioral mapping is so critical:  

  • Improved Visibility and Control
    The first and most important reason to implement application behavioral mapping is that it provides improved visibility and control over the IT environment. With an accurate application map in place, organizations can easily identify all the applications in use, the users and systems they interact with, and the data they handle. This allows them to better understand their IT environment and identify any potential security threats. 
  • Early Detection of Security Threats
    One of the biggest challenges in application security is identifying vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by attackers. Behavioral mapping helps organizations identify these vulnerabilities early on by providing a comprehensive view of how applications and users interact with other components within the IT environment. This can help organizations quickly detect any suspicious activity or unusual behavior, allowing them to take action before it becomes a major security issue. 
  • Reduced Risk of Data Breaches
    Data breaches are a major concern for organizations of all sizes, and they can have serious consequences. Through mapping application behavior, organizations can identify any potential vulnerabilities in the system and take steps to address them before they are exploited. This can significantly reduce the risk of a data breach, protecting sensitive information and maintaining the trust of customers and stakeholders. 
  • Compliance with Regulations
    Regulatory compliance is an ongoing concern for organizations of all sizes, especially those in highly regulated industries such as finance, pharmaceuticals, and healthcare. With behavioral mapping, organizations can demonstrate compliance with regulations by providing a comprehensive view of their IT environment, the applications they use, and the user interactions with them. This can help them avoid costly fines and legal penalties. 
  • Improved Application Performance
    In addition to improving security, behavioral mapping can also help improve application performance. By identifying any inefficiencies or bottlenecks in the system, organizations can optimize their applications to run more smoothly and efficiently. This can lead to improved productivity, reduced downtime, and a better overall user experience.  

What Happens if Application Security isn’t a Priority 

If application security is not an active concern for organizations beyond development, the consequences can be severe. Here are just a few of the ramifications if applications are not properly secured:  

  • Data Breaches
    As mentioned earlier, data breaches are a major concern for organizations and security teams. If applications are not properly secured, bad actors can exploit vulnerabilities to gain access to sensitive information, such as customer data or financial records. This can lead to serious consequences, including financial losses, legal penalties, and damage to the organization’s reputation. 
  • Malware Infections
    Malware can be introduced through a variety of means, including email attachments, malicious websites, and infected software. Once malware is introduced into the system, it can spread laterally throughout a system and cause significant damage, such as stealing sensitive information, encrypting files, or disrupting business operations without being noticed for months or longer. 
  • Downtime 
    If applications are not properly maintained, they can be vulnerable to attacks that disrupt business operations. This can lead to significant downtime, which can be costly in terms of lost productivity and revenue. Downtime can also damage the organization’s reputation and lead to lost customers. 
  • Compliance Violations 
    As mentioned earlier, regulatory compliance is an ongoing challenge for security teams. Failure to comply with regulations can lead to costly fines and legal penalties for the organization. If applications are not adequately secured, organizations may be at risk of violating regulations, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Behavioral understanding and verification of vetted and approved interactions enable organizations to show proof that regulations are being watched. 
  • Damage to Reputation
    If application behaviors are not correctly understood – so that they can be secured – it can damage an organization’s reputation. Customers and stakeholders expect their data to be kept safe and secure, and a breach or other security incident will erode trust and lead to lost business. 
  • Application Management
    Overall, effective application management can help organizations optimize their software systems, improve productivity, and enhance the customer experience. These benefits can have a direct impact on the bottom line, making application management a critical function for many organizations. 

Application behavioral mapping is critical for ensuring the understanding and security of the IT environment. By mapping the behavior of applications, organizations can gain improved visibility and control, detect security threats early, reduce the risk of data breaches, comply with regulations, and improve application (and, thus, business) performance. If application security is not a priority, organizations may face serious consequences, such as data breaches, malware infections, downtime, compliance violations, and damage to reputation. Therefore, it is important for security teams to prioritize application security and implement measures, such as behavioral mapping, to protect their IT environments. 

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