Security Management 2.5: Changing Needs

Today’s post discusses the changing needs and requirements organizations have for security management customers, which is just a fancy way of saying “Here’s why customers are unhappy.” The following items are the main discussion points when we speak with end users, and the big picture reasons motivating SIEM users to consider alternatives. The Changing Needs of Security Management Malware/Threat Detection: Malware is by far the biggest security issue enterprises face today. It is driving many of the changes rippling through the security industry, including SIEM and security analytics. SIEM is designed to detect security events, but malware is designed to be stealthy and evade detection. You may be looking for malware, but you don’t always know what it looks like. Basically you are hunting for anomalies that kinda-sorta could be an attack, or just odd stuff that may look like an infection. The days of simple file-based detection are gone, or at least anything resembling the simple malware signature of a few years ago. You need to detect new and novel forms of advanced malware, which requires adding different data sources to the analysis and observing patterns across different event types. We also need to leverage emerging security analytics capabilities to examine data in new and novel ways. Even if we do all this, it might still not be enough. This is why feeding third-party threat intelligence feeds into the SIEM are becoming increasingly common – allowing organizations to look for attacks happening to others. Cloud & Mobile: As firms move critical data into cloud environments and offer mobile applications to employees and customers, the definition of system now encompasses use cases outside the classical corporate perimeter, changing the definition and scope of infrastructure to monitor. Compounding the issue is the difficulty in monitoring mobile devices – many of which you do not fully control, and it’s even harder because of the lack of effective tools to gather telemetry and metrics from the devices. Even more daunting is the lack of visibility (basically log and event data) of what’s happening within your cloud service providers. Some cloud providers cannot provide infrastructure logs to customers, because their event streams combine events from all their customers. In some cases they cannot provide logs because there is simply no ‘network’ to tap because it’s virtual, and existing data collectors are useless. In other cases the cloud provider is simply not willing to share the full picture of events, and you may be prohibited contractually from capturing events. The net result is that you need to tackle security monitoring and event analysis in a fundamentally different fashion. This typically involves collecting the events you can gather (application, server, identity and access logs) and massaging them into your SIEM. For Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) environments, you should look at adding your own cloud-friendly collectors in the flow of application traffic. General Analytics: If you collect a mountain of data from all IT systems, much more information is available than just security events. This is a net positive, but cuts both ways – some event analysis platforms are set up for IT operations first, and both security and business operations teams piggyback off that investment. In this case analysis, reporting, and visualization tools must be not just accessible to a wider audience (like security), but also optimized to do true correlation and analysis. What Customers Really Want These examples are what we normally call “use cases”, which we use to reflect the business drivers creating the motivation to take action. These situations are significant enough (and they are unhappy enough) for customers to consider jettisoning current solutions and going through the pain of re-evaluating their requirements and current deficiencies. Those bullet points do represent the high-level motivations, but they fail to tell the whole story. These are the business reasons firms are looking, but they fail to capture why many of the current platforms fail to meet expectations. For that we need to take a slightly more technical look at the requirements. Deeper Analysis Requires More Data To address the use cases described above, especially for malware analysis, more data is required. This necessarily means more event volume – such as capturing and storing full packet streams, if even for only a short period. It also means more types of data – such as human-readable data mixed in with machine logs and telemetry from networks and other devices. It includes gathering and storing complex data types; such as binary or image files; which are not easy to parse, store, or even categorize. The Need for Information Requires Better and More Flexible Analysis Simple correlation of events – who, what, and when – is insufficient for the kind of security analysis required today. This is not only because those attributes are insufficient to distinguish bad from good, but also because data analysis approaches are fundamentally evolving. Most customers we speak with want to profile normal traffic and usage; this profile helps understand how systems are being used, and also helps detect anomalies likely to indicate misuse. There is some fragmentation in how customers use analysis – some choose to leverage SIEM for more real-time altering and analysis; others want big picture visibility, created by combining many different views for an overall sense of activity. Some customers want fully automated threat detection, while others want more interactive ad hoc and forensic analysis. To make things even harder for the vendors, today’s hot analysis methods could very well be irrelevant a year or two down the road. Many customers want to make sure they can update analytics as requirements develop – optimized hard-wired analytics are now a liability rather than an advantage for the products. The Velocity of Attacks Requires Threat Intelligence When we talk about threat intelligence we do not limit the discussion to things like IP reputation or ‘fingerprint’ hashes of malware binaries – those features are certainly in wide use, but the field of threat intelligence includes far more. Some threat intelligence feeds look at

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.