Project Quant: Patch Management Cycle

While we don’t plan on posting every Project Quant update here on the main blog, we will be cross-posting some of the more significant project updates, as well as other content we relevant to our broader readership. (For these posts we will turn off comments to consolidate them all in the Project Quant area.) So here is our first pass at defining a patch management process for the project: Although we posted some of our initial thoughts, and have been getting some great feedback from everyone, Jeff and I realized that we haven’t even defined a standard patch management cycle yet to start from. DS, Dutch, and a few others have started posting some metrics/variables, but we didn’t have a process to fit them into. I’ve been researching other patch management cycles, and here’s my first stab at one for the project. You’ll notice it’s a little more granular than most of the other ones out there – I think we need to break out phases in more detail to both match the different processes used by different organizations, and to give us cleaner buckets for our metrics. Here’s a quick outline of the steps: Monitor for Release/Advisory: Anything associated with tracking patch releases, since all vendors follow different processes. Acquire: Get the patch. Evaluate: Initial evaluation of the patch. What’s it for? Is it security-sensitive? Do we use that software? Is the issue relevant in our environment? Are there workarounds or dependencies? Prioritize/Schedule: Prioritize based on the nature of the patch itself, and your infrastructure/assets. Then build out a deployment schedule, based on your prioritization. Test and Certify/Accredit: Perform any required testing, and certify the patch for release. This could include any C&A requirements for you government types, compliance requirements, or internal policy requirements. Create Deployment Package: Prepare the patch for deployment. Deploy. Confirm Deployment: Verify that patches were properly deployed. This might include use of configuration management or vulnerability assessment tools. Clean up: Clean up any bad deployments, remnants of the patch application procedure, or other associated cruft/detritus. Document and Update Configuration Standards: Document the patch deployment, which may be required for regulatory compliance, and update any associated configuration standards/guidelines/requirements. This is a quick and dirty pass and meant to capture the macro-level steps in the process. I know not all organizations follow, or need to follow, a process like this, but it will help us organize our metrics. Let me know what you think – I’m sure I’m missing something… To comment on this post, please see the original over in the Project Quant area. Share:

Read Post

The Security Industry Anti-Disambiguation Movement

With all the recent talk about cloud security, I’ve really been struck by the blatant deliberate confusion promulgated by various industry stakeholders. For example, last week around RSA I saw a nonstop stream of press releases containing the word “cloud” for products and services that were merely the same old beloved security tools, now rebranded to ride the froth of the cloud marketing wave. But ‘cloud’ is only the latest example – from NAC to DLP to GRC and other technologies of yore, we see often-deliberate message dilution and confusion so certain poorly-positioned individuals or companies can avoid being left behind by market innovators. We don’t just see this in security; calling yourself “green” is an instantly classic example (hello “green” bottled water), but I do think we see it more in security than other areas of IT. When you think about it, we are probably the farthest reaching area of IT- spanning everything from development to storage to desktops to networking, and as such have a fair bit more running room. You might be able to rebrand your storage solution “green”, but it isn’t like you can call a hard drive a WWAN SAN just to hop on a trend (having been to many non-security conferences, I think this is a reasonably safe statement). And what I’m focusing on today isn’t mere bandwagon hopping, but purposeful efforts by laggards to create confusion in a market and defeat clarity. I call it the Anti-Disambiguation Movement, and it follows a predictable path. The movement is led by vendors, press, and analysts; with end-users (and some innovative vendors) suffering the consequences. Here’s how it works – when a vendor is late to the party, they start issuing a bunch of marketing chaff to distract everyone from the real innovation. This takes a number of forms (which we will talk about in a moment), which result in one of several outcomes (which we’ll also detail). Interestingly enough, I think this tracks very nicely with the Gartner Hype Cycle (I love the Hype Cycle, and am sad I don’t get to use it anymore). Let’s start with the methods (I’d apologize for the language, but you should be used to it by now): The Marketing Cock Block: A large vendor claims that they are bringing a product to market within a nebulous time frame, when they have no existing product in that market. The goal is to Osborne effect any direct competitors or small vendors in the space by creating a belief that the “official” solution from a stable supplier is just around the corner. In some cases the vendor has a product, but it isn’t close to competitive. Example: Microsoft and Cisco with NAC. Neither had a viable solution until relatively recently (and that’s still debatable), but that didn’t even slow down their marketing efforts and interoperability announcements. The PR Territory Piss: A variant of the Cock Block in which the vendor issues extensive press releases on their ownership of a trend, which they may or may not later buy or build into. Example: AV vendors and antispyware. Malicious Confusion: Vendors know they don’t have an offering in that market/trend, so they expand or otherwise deliberately misuse the definition of that trend to include their products under the hot umbrella. The goal isn’t to produce anything for that market, but to create enough confusion that whatever they already had on the shelf can be marketed with today’s cool term. They purposely and maliciously create confusion for their own benefit. Ideally, they even convince some press or analysts to include them in a market list or product evaluation. Example: DLP and USB port blockers, endpoint encryption, and about a dozen other things that have nothing to do with DLP. The Glom-on: A trend starts hitting and clumps of vendors start piling on for the ride, making a subconscious but collective decision to link their market to the trend until the trend/market definition becomes so diluted as to be worthless. Examples: Cloud and information-centric security. The Lemming Roller Coaster: A trend becomes hot, and less-intelligent vendors jump on, usually late, without really knowing where they are headed. The lemming is less deliberate than some of our other examples, and typically the result of a brain dead marketing/PR type. It’s usually smaller companies, and may lead to their death once users figure out the product doesn’t help with that problem, or after they score poorly in magazine/analyst ratings. Examples: Seeing this a lot with DLP and a bit in GRC. Unintelligent Design: Some ass-clown of an analyst invents their own term for something, often issuing some sort of market report, triggering one of the other methods listed above. Examples: The Anti-Disambiguation Movement… and GRC. The result falls into these categories: Death: The trend/market becomes so toxic that it dies, taking the slower companies with it. Example: PKI. Clarity: The ambiguities fade away and clear definitions emerge, although often not until after a few early innovators die. Example: NAC. Redefinition: The term/market is redefined, but doesn’t necessarily resemble its original form. Example: I think cloud security is headed this way. Meaninglessness: The term becomes so diluted it’s essentially worthless, even though there might be some nuggets of truth in there. Example: GRC. I’m having a bit of fun here, but the simple truth is that very often market terms are atrociously abused by laggards, often (deliberately) damaging the real innovation and innovators. Share:

Read Post

Totally Transparent Research is the embodiment of how we work at Securosis. It’s our core operating philosophy, our research policy, and a specific process. We initially developed it to help maintain objectivity while producing licensed research, but its benefits extend to all aspects of our business.

Going beyond Open Source Research, and a far cry from the traditional syndicated research model, we think it’s the best way to produce independent, objective, quality research.

Here’s how it works:

  • Content is developed ‘live’ on the blog. Primary research is generally released in pieces, as a series of posts, so we can digest and integrate feedback, making the end results much stronger than traditional “ivory tower” research.
  • Comments are enabled for posts. All comments are kept except for spam, personal insults of a clearly inflammatory nature, and completely off-topic content that distracts from the discussion. We welcome comments critical of the work, even if somewhat insulting to the authors. Really.
  • Anyone can comment, and no registration is required. Vendors or consultants with a relevant product or offering must properly identify themselves. While their comments won’t be deleted, the writer/moderator will “call out”, identify, and possibly ridicule vendors who fail to do so.
  • Vendors considering licensing the content are welcome to provide feedback, but it must be posted in the comments - just like everyone else. There is no back channel influence on the research findings or posts.
    Analysts must reply to comments and defend the research position, or agree to modify the content.
  • At the end of the post series, the analyst compiles the posts into a paper, presentation, or other delivery vehicle. Public comments/input factors into the research, where appropriate.
  • If the research is distributed as a paper, significant commenters/contributors are acknowledged in the opening of the report. If they did not post their real names, handles used for comments are listed. Commenters do not retain any rights to the report, but their contributions will be recognized.
  • All primary research will be released under a Creative Commons license. The current license is Non-Commercial, Attribution. The analyst, at their discretion, may add a Derivative Works or Share Alike condition.
  • Securosis primary research does not discuss specific vendors or specific products/offerings, unless used to provide context, contrast or to make a point (which is very very rare).
    Although quotes from published primary research (and published primary research only) may be used in press releases, said quotes may never mention a specific vendor, even if the vendor is mentioned in the source report. Securosis must approve any quote to appear in any vendor marketing collateral.
  • Final primary research will be posted on the blog with open comments.
  • Research will be updated periodically to reflect market realities, based on the discretion of the primary analyst. Updated research will be dated and given a version number.
    For research that cannot be developed using this model, such as complex principles or models that are unsuited for a series of blog posts, the content will be chunked up and posted at or before release of the paper to solicit public feedback, and provide an open venue for comments and criticisms.
  • In rare cases Securosis may write papers outside of the primary research agenda, but only if the end result can be non-biased and valuable to the user community to supplement industry-wide efforts or advances. A “Radically Transparent Research” process will be followed in developing these papers, where absolutely all materials are public at all stages of development, including communications (email, call notes).
    Only the free primary research released on our site can be licensed. We will not accept licensing fees on research we charge users to access.
  • All licensed research will be clearly labeled with the licensees. No licensed research will be released without indicating the sources of licensing fees. Again, there will be no back channel influence. We’re open and transparent about our revenue sources.

In essence, we develop all of our research out in the open, and not only seek public comments, but keep those comments indefinitely as a record of the research creation process. If you believe we are biased or not doing our homework, you can call us out on it and it will be there in the record. Our philosophy involves cracking open the research process, and using our readers to eliminate bias and enhance the quality of the work.

On the back end, here’s how we handle this approach with licensees:

  • Licensees may propose paper topics. The topic may be accepted if it is consistent with the Securosis research agenda and goals, but only if it can be covered without bias and will be valuable to the end user community.
  • Analysts produce research according to their own research agendas, and may offer licensing under the same objectivity requirements.
  • The potential licensee will be provided an outline of our research positions and the potential research product so they can determine if it is likely to meet their objectives.
  • Once the licensee agrees, development of the primary research content begins, following the Totally Transparent Research process as outlined above. At this point, there is no money exchanged.
  • Upon completion of the paper, the licensee will receive a release candidate to determine whether the final result still meets their needs.
  • If the content does not meet their needs, the licensee is not required to pay, and the research will be released without licensing or with alternate licensees.
  • Licensees may host and reuse the content for the length of the license (typically one year). This includes placing the content behind a registration process, posting on white paper networks, or translation into other languages. The research will always be hosted at Securosis for free without registration.

Here is the language we currently place in our research project agreements:

Content will be created independently of LICENSEE with no obligations for payment. Once content is complete, LICENSEE will have a 3 day review period to determine if the content meets corporate objectives. If the content is unsuitable, LICENSEE will not be obligated for any payment and Securosis is free to distribute the whitepaper without branding or with alternate licensees, and will not complete any associated webcasts for the declining LICENSEE. Content licensing, webcasts and payment are contingent on the content being acceptable to LICENSEE. This maintains objectivity while limiting the risk to LICENSEE. Securosis maintains all rights to the content and to include Securosis branding in addition to any licensee branding.

Even this process itself is open to criticism. If you have questions or comments, you can email us or comment on the blog.