It happens every time we have a series of breaches. The ‘innovators’ get press coverage with some brand-new idea for how to stop hackers and catch malicious employees trying to steal data. We are seeing yet another cycle right now, which Rich discussed yesterday in FireStarter: Now What? The sheer idiocy of Wired Magazine’s Paranoia Meter made me laugh out loud. Not that monitoring should not be done, but the concept of monitoring users’ physical traits to identify bad behavior is a lot more effort and is also error-prone. Looking at posture, mouse movements, and keystrokes to judge state of mind, then using that to predict data theft? Who could believe in that? It baffles me. User behavior in the IT realm does not need to be measured in terms of eye movement, typing speed, or shifting in one’s seat – if it did, we would need to round up all the 3rd graders in the world because we’d have a serious problem. Worse, the demand is clearly a marketing attempt to capitalize on WikiLeaks and HBGary – the whole thing reminds me more than a little of South Park’s ‘It’.

Behavior analysis of resource usage is quite feasible without spy cameras and shoving probes where they don’t belong. We can collect just about every action a user takes on the network, and if we choose from endpoint and applications as well – all of which is simpler, more reliable, and cheaper than adding physical sensors or interpreting their output. It’s completely feasible to analyze actual (electronic) user actions – rather than vague traits with unclear meaning – in order to identify behavioral patterns indicating known attacks and misuse. Today we mostly see attribute-based analysis (time, location, document type, etc.), but behavioral profiles can be derived to use as a template for identifying good or bad acts, and used to validate current activity. How well this all works depends more on your requirements and available time than the capabilities of particular tools.

What angers me here the complete lack of discussion of SIEM, File Activity Monitoring, Data Loss Prevention, or Database Activity Monitoring – all four technologies exist today and don’t rely upon bizarre techniques to collect data or pseudoscience to predict crime. Four techniques with flexible analysis capabilities on tangible metrics. Four techniques that have been proven to detect misuse in different ways.

We don’t really need more ‘innovative’ security technologies as Wired suggests. We need to use what we have. Often we need it to be easier to use, but we can already have good capabilities for solving these problems. Many of these tools have been demonstrated to work. The impediments are cost and effort – not lack of capabilities.