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2011 Research Agenda: the Practical Bits

By Rich

I always find it a bit of a challenge to fully plan out my research agenda for the coming year. Partly it’s due to being easily distracted, and partly my recognition that there are a lot of moving cogs I know will draw me in different directions over the coming year. This is best illustrated by the detritus of some blog series that never quite made it over the finish line.

But you can’t research without a plan, and the following themes encompass the areas I’m focusing on now and plan to continue through the year. I know I won’t able to cover everything in the depth I’d like, so I could use feedback on to what you folks find interesting. This list is as much about the areas I find compelling from a pure research standpoint as what I might write about.

This post is about the more pragmatic focus areas, and the next post will delve into more forward-looking research.

Information-Centric (Data) Security for the Cloud

I’m spending a lot more time on cloud computing security than I ever imagined. I’ve always been focused on information-centric (data) security, and the combination of cloud computing adoption, APT-style threats, the consumerization of IT, and compliance are finally driving real interest and adoption of data security.

Data security consistently rates as a top concern – security or otherwise – when adopting cloud computing. This is in large driven part by the natural fear of giving up physical control of information assets, even if the data ends up being more secure than it was internally.

As you’ll see at the end of this post, I plan on splitting my coverage into two pieces: what you can do today, and what to watch for the future. For this agenda item I’ll focus on practical architectures and techniques for securing data in various cloud models using existing tools and technologies. I’m considering writing two papers in the first half of the year, and it looks like I will be co-branding them with the Cloud Security Alliance:

  • Assessing Data Risk for the Cloud: A cloud and data specific risk management framework and worksheet.
  • Data Security for Cloud Computing: A dive into specific architectures and technologies.

I will also continue my work with the CSA, and am thinking about writing something up on cloud computing security for SMB because we see pretty high adoption there.

Pragmatic Data Security

I’ve been writing about data security, and specifically pragmatic data security, since I started Securosis. This year I plan to compile everything I’ve learned into a paper and framework, plus issue a bunch of additional research delving into the nuts and bolts of what you need to do. For example, it’s time to finally write up my DLP implementation and management recommendations, to go with Understanding and Selecting.

The odds are high I will write up File Activity Monitoring because I believe it’s at an early stage and could bring some impressive benefits – especially for larger organizations. (FAM is coming out both stand-alone and with DLP). It’s also time to cover Enterprise DRM, although I may handle that more through articles (I have one coming up with Information Security Magazine) and posts.

I also plan to run year two of the Data Security Survey so we can start comparing year-over-year results.

Finally, I’d like to complete a couple more Quick Wins papers, again sticking with the simple and practical side of what you can do with all the shiny toys that never quite work out like you hoped.

Small Is Sexy

Despite all the time we spend talking about enterprise security needs, the reality is that the vast majority of people responsible for implementing infosec in the world work in small and mid-sized organizations. Odds are it’s a part time responsibility – or at most 1 to 2 people who spend a ton of time dealing with compliance. More often than not this is what I see even in organizations of 4,000-5,000 employees.

A security person (who may not even be a full-time security professional) operating in these environments needs far different information than large enterprise folks. As an analyst it’s very difficult to provide definitive answers in written form to the big company folks when I know I can never account for their operational complexities in a generic, mass-market report.

Aside from the Super Sekret Squirrel project for SMB we keep hinting at, this year I’ll be pushing out more research that provides direct advice to folks who don’t have the time to dig into all the complexities of various security technologies. You’ve already seen some of this through our Fundamentals, Low Hanging Fruit, and Quick Wins papers, as well as various posts.

These items all focus on providing actionable advice you can implement today. In my next post I’ll dig into the more forward-looking parts of my agenda.

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Comments

Would be great to get your insights on identity and how it may progress with cloud adoption and information-centric security.  Also wonder what role you see classification playing in this, if any, as well as adoption among your client/customer base.  Happy Holidays!

By Harold


Thanks Paul,

That’s definitely a big issue. If you handle it well, it can really reduce problems since it then becomes an educational tool.

Most of the tools support this sort of model, but it doesn’t always come out in the marketing materials.

By Rich


I look forward to your DLP implementation & management thoughts, especially guidance on ‘socialization’ of the technologies into the workplace, how to make them seem less punitive and more enlightening to the end users. With DLP being as much about user behavior as it is about data-catch-and-release, few vendors seem to address the end-user element in their marketing.

By Paul


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