SecMon State of the Union: The Buying Process

Now that you’ve revisited your important use cases, and derived a set of security monitoring requirements, it’s time to find the right fit among the dozens of alternatives. To wrap up this series we will bring you through a reasonably structured process to narrow down your short list, and then testing the surviving products. Once you’ve chosen the technical winner, you need to make the business side of things work – and it turns out the technical winner is not always the solution you end up buying. The first rule of buying anything is that you are in charge of the process. You’ll have vendors who will want you to use their process, their RFP/RFP language, their PoC Guide, and their contract language. All that is good and fine… if you want to by their product. But more likely you want the best product to solve your problems, which means you need to be driving the process. Our procurement philosophy hinges on this. What we have with security monitoring is a very crowded and noisy market. We have a set of incumbents from the SIEM space, and a set of new entrants wielding fancy math and analytics. Both groups have a set of base capabilities to address the key use cases: threat detection, forensics and response, and compliance automation. But differentiation occurs at the margins of these use cases, so that’s where you will be making your decision. But no vendor is going to say, “We suck at X, but you should buy us because Y is what’s most important to you.” Even though they should. It’s up to you to figure out each vendor’s true strengths and weaknesses, and cross-reference them against your requirements. That’s why it’s critical to have a firm handle on your use cases and requirements before you start talking to vendors. We divide vendor evaluation into two phases. First we will help you define a short list of potential replacements. Once you have the short list you will test one or two new platforms during a Proof of Concept (PoC) phase. It is time to do your homework. All of it. Even if you don’t feel like it. The Short List The goal at this point is to whittle the list down to 3-5 vendors who appear to meet your needs, based on the results of a market analysis. That usually includes sending out RFIs, talking to analysts (egads!), or using a reseller or managed service provider to assist. The next step is to get a better sense of those 3-5 companies and their products. Your main tool at this stage is the vendor briefing. The vendor brings in their sales folks and sales engineers (SEs) to tell you how their product is awesome and will solve every problem you have. And probably a bunch of problems you didn’t know you had too. But don’t sit through their standard pitch – you know what is important to you. You need detailed answers to objectively evaluate any new platform. You don’t want a 30-slide PowerPoint walkthrough and generic demo. Make sure each challenger understands your expectations ahead of the meeting so they can bring the right folks. If they bring the wrong people cross them off. It’s as simple as that – it’s not like you have time to waste. Based on the use cases you defined earlier in this process, have the vendor show you how their tool addresses each issue. This forces them to think about your problems rather than their scripted demo, and shows off capabilities which will be relevant to you. You don’t want to buy from the best presenter – identify the product that best meets your needs. This type of meeting could be considered cruel and unusual punishment. But you need this level of detail before you commit to actually testing a product or service. Shame on you if you don’t ask every question to ensure you know everything you need. Don’t worry about making the SE uncomfortable – this is their job. And don’t expect to get through a meeting like this in 30 minutes. You will likely need a half-day minimum to work through your key use cases. That’s why you will probably only bring 3-5 vendors in for these meetings. You will be spending days with each product during proof of concept, so try to disqualify products which won’t work before wasting even more effort on them. This initial meeting can be a painful investment of time – especially if you realize early that a vendor won’t make the cut – but it is worth doing anyway. You can thank us later. The PoC After you finish the ritual humiliation of every vendor sales team, and have figured out which products can meet your requirements, it’s time to get hands-on with the systems and run each through its paces for a couple days. The next step in the process, the Proof of Concept, is the most important – and vendors know that. This is where sales teams have a chance to win, so the tend bring their best and brightest. They raise doubts about competitors and highlight their own successes. They have phone numbers for customer references handy. But for now forget all that. You are running this show, and the PoC needs to follow your script – not theirs. Given the different approaches represented by SIEM and security analytics vendors, you are best served by testing at least one of each. As you read through our recommended process, it will be hard to find time for more than a couple, but given your specific environment and adversaries, seeing which type best meets your requirements will help you pick the best platform for your needs. Preparation Many security monitoring vendors have a standard testing process they run through, basically telling them what data to provide and what attacks to look for – sometimes even with their resources running their product. It’s like ordering off a price fixe menu. You pick a few key use cases, and then the SE delivers what you ordered. If the

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