Endpoint security has undergone a renaissance recently. Similar to network security a decade ago, the technology had not seen significant innovation for years, and adversaries improved to a point where many organizations questioned why they kept renewing existing endpoint protection suites. It was an untenable situation.

The market spoke, and security companies responded with a wave of new offerings and innovations which do a much better job detecting both advanced adversaries and the techniques they use to obfuscate their activities. To be clear, there is no panacea. Nothing is 100% effective in protecting endpoints. But the latest wave of products has improved dramatically over what was available two years ago.

But that creates a conundrum for organizations of all sizes. With so many vendors addressing the endpoint security market with seemingly similar offerings, what should a customer buy? Which features make the most sense, depending on the sophistication and adversaries an organization faces? Ultimately, how can potential customers make heads or tails of the noise coming from the security marketing machinery?

At Securosis the situation was frustrating. So many buzzwords were thrown around without context. New companies emerged, making claims we considered outrageous on effectiveness. Some of this nonsense reminds us of a certain database vendor’s Unbreakable claims. Yes, we’ve been in this business a long time. And yes, we’ve seen pretty much everything. Twice. But we’ve never seen a product that blocks every attack with no false positives. Even though some companies were making that claim.

Sadly, that was only the tip of the iceberg of our irritation. There was a public test of these endpoint solutions, which we thought drew the wrong conclusions with a suspect methodology. If those tests were to be believed, some products kicked butt while others totally sucked. But we’ve talked with a bunch of folks who got results were consistent with the public tests, and others whose results were diametrically opposed. And not every company with decent technology was included in the tests. So if a customer were making a choice entirely based on that public test they could be led astray – ultimately, how a product performs in your environment can only really be determined by testing in your environment.

In Securosis-land frustration and irritation trigger action. So we got irritated and decided to clarify a very murky situation. If we could help organizations figure out what capabilities were important to them based on the problems they were trying to solve, they would be much better educated consumers when sitting with endpoint security vendors. If we could map out a process to test the efficacy of each product and compare “apples to apples”, they would make much better purchase decisions based on requirements – not how many billboards a well-funded vendor bought.

To be clear, billboards and marketing activity are not bad. You can’t grow a sustainable company without significant marketing and brand-building. But marketing is no reason to buy an endpoint security product. We found little correlation between marketing spend and product capability.

So at Securosis we decided to write an Endpoint Advanced Protection Buyer’s Guide. This comprehensive project will provide organizations what they need to select and evaluate endpoint security products. It will roll out over the next month, delivered in two main parts:

  1. Selection Criteria: This part of the Buyer’s Guide will focus on the capabilities you need to address the problems you face. We’ll explain terms like file-less malware and exploit pathways, so when vendors use them you will know what they’re talking about. We will also prepare a matrix to help you assess their capabilities against your requirements, based on attacks you expect to face.
  2. POC Guide: Figuring out what product seems to fit is only half the battle. You need to make sure it works in your environment. That means a Proof of Concept (POC) to prove value and that the product does what they say. That old “Trust, but verify” thing. So we’ll map out a process to test the capabilities of endpoint security products.

Prevention vs. Detection/Response

We have seen a pseudo-religious battle being fought, between a focus on trying to block attacks, versus focusing on detection and response once an attack is successful. We aren’t religious, and believe the best answer is a combination. As mentioned above, we don’t buy into the hype that any product can stop every attack. But we don’t believe prevention is totally useless either. So you’ll be looking at both prevention technologies and detection/response, but perhaps not at the same time.

We’ll prepare versions of the Buyer’s Guide for both prevention and detection/response. And yes, we’ll also integrate them for those who want to evaluate a comprehensive Endpoint Advanced Protection Suite.

Licensing Education

Those of you familiar with our Securosis business model know we post research on our blog, and then license content to educate the industry. You also probably know that we research using our Totally Transparent Research methodology. We don’t talk about specific vendors, nor do we mention or evaluate specific products. But why would an endpoint company license a totally vendor-neutral buyer’s guide which educates customers to see through their marketing shenanigans?

Because they believe in their products. And they want an opportunity to show that their products actually provide a better mousetrap, and can solve the issues facing organizations around protecting endpoints.

So hats off to our licensees for this project. They are equipping their prospects to ask tough questions and to evaluate their technology objectively. We want to thank (in alphabetical order) Carbon Black, Cybereason, Cylance, ENDGAME, FireEye, SentinelONE and Symantec for supporting this effort. We expect there may be a handful of others later in the year, and we’ll recognize them if and when they come onboard.

We will post pieces of the Buyer’s Guide to the blog over the next month. As always we value the feedback of our readers, so it you see something wacky, please let us know.