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Understanding and Selecting RASP: 2019

By Adrian Lane

During our 2015 DevOps research conversations, developers consistently turned the tables on us, asking dozens of questions about embedding security into their development process. We were surprised to discover how much developers and IT teams are taking larger roles in selecting security solutions, working to embed security products into tooling and build processes. Just like they use automation to build and test product functionality, they automate security too.

But the biggest surprise was that every team asked about RASP, Runtime Application Self-Protection. Each team was either considering RASP or already engaged in a proof-of-concept with a RASP vendor. This was typically in response to difficulties with existing Web Application Firewalls (WAF) – most teams still carry significant “technical debt”, which requires runtime application protection. Since 2017 we have engaged in over 200 additional conversations on what gradually evolved into ‘DevSecOps’ – with both security and development groups asking about RASP, how it deploys, and benefits it can realistically provide. These conversations solidified the requirement for more developer-centric security tools which offer the agility developers demand, provide metrics prior to deployment, and either monitor or block malicious requests in production.

Research Update

Our previous RASP research was published in the summer of 2016. Since then Continuous Integration for application build processes has become the norm, and DevOps is no longer considered wild idea. Developers and IT folks have embraced it as a viable and popular tool approach for producing more reliable application deployments. But it has raised the bar for security solutions, which now need to be as agile and embeddable as developers’ other tools to be taken seriously. The rise of DevOps has also raised expectations for integration of security monitoring and metrics. We have witnessed the disruptive innovation of cloud services, with companies pivoting from “We are not going to the cloud.” to “We are building out our multi-cloud strategy.” in three short years. These disruptive changes have spotlit the deficiencies of WAF platforms, both lack of agility and inability to go “cloud native”.

Similarly, we have observed advancements in RASP technologies and deployment models. With all these changes it has become increasingly difficult to differentiate one RASP platform from another. So we are kicking off a refresh of our RASP research. We will dive into the new approaches, deployment models, and revised selection criteria for buyers.

Defining RASP

Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP) is an application security technology which embeds into an application or application runtime environment, examining requests at the application layer to detect attacks and misuse in real time. RASP products typically contain the following capabilities:

  • Unpack and inspect requests in the application context, rather than at the network or HTTP layer
  • Monitor and block application requests; products can sometimes alter requests to strip out malicious content
  • Fully functional through RESTful APIs
  • Protect against all classes of application attacks, and detect whether an attack would succeed
  • Pinpoint the module, and possibly the specific line of code, where a vulnerability resides
  • Instrument application functions and report on usage

As with all our research, we welcome public participation in comments to augment or discuss our content. Securosis is known for research positions which often disagree with vendors, analyst firms, and other researchers, so we encourage civil debate and contribution. The more you add to the discussion, the better the research!

Next we will discuss RASP use cases and how they have changed over the last few years.

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