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Friday Summary: June 1, 2012

It’s the first of June, and I’m sure most of you are thinking about vacation, if not actually on vacation at this point. I’m here holding down the fort while the rest of Securosis is visiting places cooler and more fun. I’m taking time to reflect on security topics and my research agenda.

I have been mulling over the topic of IT buying security products for the sake of security. Sounds irrational, right? We have known for years that people only buy security products to help satisfy compliance requirements, and then only grudgingly, to meet the minimum requirements. But people buying security to help secure things keeps popping up here and there, and I have been waiting for better evidence before blogging about it. Just before the RSA conference I decided to bring it up in an internal meeting, and the conversation went a bit like this:

Me: “I think I should mention buying security for the sake of security as a trend.”

Partner #1: “Why?”

Me: “The number of security driven inquiries has doubled.”

Partner #1: “Twice nothing is nothing. Move on.”

Me: “Agreed, but twice 3-5% is something to take notice of.”

Partner #2: “Where are you getting your data from?”

Me: “Customer conversations and anecdotal vendor evidence. At least a dozen, maybe 15 references, since January, mostly in the area of data and database security.”

Partner #2: “Meh. Not a great sample pool, or sample size. It’s so small in comparison to compliance it’s an afterthought. It’s really not worth mentioning.”

Me: “Yeah, OK, agreed. But the customer questions seem to be driven by risk analysis, and the conversations just seems different. I think we could keep our eyes open on this.”

So it’s not really worth talking about, but here I am mentioning it because it keeps popping up. I figured I’d open it up for discussion with our readers, to see what others are seeing. It’s not an actual trend, but it’s interesting – to me, at least. The evidence clearly shows that security is a compliance-driven market, and there is not enough evidence to say we see a real a change. But the conversations are a bit different than they used to be. More often focused on security, more focused on data, with some understanding of risk and a bit of a six-sigma-esque approach to security roadmaps. So maybe it’s not security at all – maybe it’s sophistication of buyers and their internal processes. And why do I care? Because if security or risk is the driver, it changes who buys the products and what features they focus on and ask about – because the use cases differ between security and compliance buyers. I am thinking out loud, but I’d love to hear what’s driving your product selection today.

The other issue to talk about is my research agenda. It’s been hectic here since a month before RSA and it’s only just starting to let up. So it’s time to take a breath and look at the topics you want to hear about. Since Mike joined we have really filled out endpoint and network security; and we have continued to do a lot in analytics, data security, and security management. But despite the amount of expertise we have in house, we have done very little with application security, cloud, and access management. WAF management has been among the top 4 items on my research agenda for 2.5 years now, but has yet to percolate to the top. Identity and Access Management for cloud computing is an incredibly confusing topic which I think we could really shed some light on. And there are plenty of interesting technologies for application security we should delve into as well. We will reset the research agenda again soon, so now is a good time to weigh in on the areas you’re most interested in.

Oh, and if you visit Arizona in the coming weeks, stay away from flashlights. Apparently they’re dangerous. Yikes!

On to the Summary:

Webcasts, Podcasts, Outside Writing, and Conferences

Favorite Securosis Posts

  • Adrian Lane: Low Hanging Fruit. When my encrypted tunnel failed the other day and email immediately decided to synch, I prayed no one was listening. Made me change all my passwords just in case.
  • Mike Rothman: Pragmatic Key Management: Introduction. Rich had me at Pragmatic. I look forward to this series – crypto is integral to the cloud and we all need to revisit our Bob & Alice flowcharts.

Other Securosis Posts

Favorite Outside Posts

  • Adrian Lane: The Cost of Fixing Vulnerabilities vs. Antivirus Software. Jeremiah asks whether our security investment dollars can be spent better. Most firms I speak with keep metrics to determine whether security programs are helping, improve over time, and provide some hints about the relative cost/benefit tradeoffs of different security investments. The data supports Jeremiah’s assertion.
  • Mike Rothman: E-Soft (e-soft.co.uk) Uses Bogus Copyright Claims to Stifle Research. I guess some companies never learn from others. Security by obscurity is not a winning strategy. How about actually fixing the damn bug? Yeah, that’s too radical.

Project Quant Posts

Research Reports and Presentations

Top News and Posts

Blog Comment of the Week

Remember, for every comment selected, Securosis makes a $25 donation to Hackers for Charity. This week’s best comment goes to David Mortman, in response to Pragmatic Key Management: Introduction.

Something to keep in mind is that a good “key management” system will actually really be a “credential management” system. Because the reality is that no matter how much you use keys to accomplish tasks there are always cases where you can’t escape passwords or passphrases. This is especially true when you look at things like running databases which have stored credentials in config files or you have the need to securely manage SSL certs. I can’t tell you how many tomcat configs I’ve seen with the passphrase for the ssl keys embedded in the config files.

—Adrian Lane

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By Dwayne Melancon  on  06/04  at  01:26 PM

The number of conversations I’ve had about risk (and about relating security tactics to business impact, using some framework that *sounds* like risk) has increased dramatically.

In some cases, I think it is a defense mechanism driven by organizational structure (example: if you work in a hospital IT security function, and you need to appeal to a hospital board for project funding, you’d better find a way to justify the project based on something the hospital board gives a crap about).

Some of it seems to be driven by overwhelming workload (“holy crap - I’ve got too much to do - how do I prioritize?  maybe based on risk…”)

In any case, it is definitely changing the nature of the discussion—and the level:  higher level managers seem to be embracing risk pretty easily, and I think that trend will continue.  If you want to manage “like a boss” risk is where it’s at these days.

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