It’s time to post my research agenda for 2011. My long-winded Securosis compatriot has chosen a thematic approach to discussing coverage areas, and while it’s an excellent – and elegant – idea, I am getting lost amongst all of the elements presented. So unlike Mike, I won’t be presenting my coverage areas so artistically. Instead I will stick to a focus on the technology variants I hear customers askING about, as well as the trends I see within different sub-segments of the security industry.

For the areas of security I cover, I know what customers ask us about, and I see a few evolving trends. Most have to do with Cloud – surprise! – and how to take advantage of cheap, plentiful resourses without getting totally hosed in the process. We are a totally transparent research firm, I will throw out some ideas and ask what you think are the most important. We try to balance what customers think is important, what we think is important, and what vendors think is important. It’s easy when the three overlap, but that is seldom the case. So I will carve out what I think we should cover, and ask you for your ideas and feedback.

Cloud trends

  1. Logging in the Cloud: Cheap, fast, and easy usually wins; so cheap cloud resources coupled with basic logging services seem a key proposition for security and operations. We talked a lot about SIEM this year as there was lots of angst by SIEM customers looking to squeeze more value from their deployments while reducing costs. This year I see more firms moving operations to the cloud and needing to cut through the fog to determine what the frack is going on. Or what to store. Or how it should be secured.
  2. Web Application Security: Understanding and selecting a web application security program is the most popular research paper we have ever produced, and downloads remain very high two years after launch. Our intention is to either refresh that paper and relaunch – as the content is even more applicable today than it was then – or drill down into specific technologies such as Dynamic Web Application testing (black box & grey box) and WAF for in-house services and SaaS.
  3. Content Security: This umbrella covers email security, anti-spam, DLP (Lite), secure web gateways, global intelligence, and anti-virus. And yes, virus and spam are still a problem. And yes, the DLP features bundled with content security are ready for prime time. We have written a lot about content security, and when we did we were witnessing the evolution of SaaS and cloud based content security offerings. Now these are proven services. We plan to do a thorough job, producing Understanding and Selecting a Cloud Content Security solution.

Consolidation and maturing market trends

  1. Quick Wins with Tokenization: Tokenization is one of the few technologies with serious potential to cut costs and simplify security. While adoption rates are still low, we get tons of inquiries. Our previous work in tokenization has outlined the available technology variants. We are looking at application of the technology and quick wins for adoption. PCI is the principal application and the use case is fairly simple despite multiple tokenization options, but the long term implications for health care data is both equally compelling and slightly more complicated. We believe that the mid market is moving towards SaaS based solutions, and enterprise customers to in-house software. Edge tokenization, tokenization adoption rates, PCI scope reduction, and fraud detection are all open topics. We are open to suggestions on how to focus this paper.
  2. Assessment: Much as we have seen a more holistic vision of where database security is headed, assessment vendors have evolved as well. We expect vendors to pitch different stories in order to differentiate themselves, but in this case each vendor genuinely has a different model for how assessment fits within the greater application security context. Internally, we have discussed a couple paper ideas on understanding the technologies, as well as a market update for the space as a whole. It’s been apparent for some time that the assessment market is going in slightly different directions – I see four separate visions! Which best matches enterprise customer requirements? Where is the assessment market headed? Totally confusing to customers trying to compare vendors and make sense of what would seem like a stable and mature segment.

Emerging trends

  1. Building Security in: The single topic I believe benefits the most people is security in code development. Gunnar and I write a lot about how to build security into product development processes and have lots to say on the subject. “Quick Wins for Rugged”, “Agile Process Adjustments for Secure Code Development”, “Security Metrics in Code Development that Matter”, “Truth, Lies and Fiction with Application Security”, and last but not least, “Risk Management in Software Development” all merit research.
  2. Continuous Controls Monitoring: We are often asked questions by customers interested in compliance monitoring, and this one is near the top of the list. As security and compliance controls are scattered throughout the organization, and putting them under a single management umbrella.
  3. ADMP: We have discussed several ideas for updating the original Database Activity Monitoring paper, as well as the evolution of DAM from a product to a feature. Yes, I called it evolution. A couple years ago Rich blogged about where he felt database security and WAF market needed to go. He called this Application & Database Monitoring & Protection. Several companies have realized all or part of this vision and are starting to “take it to the next level”. But visions for how to leverage the technology are changing. Once again, several vendors offer different views of how the technology should be used.
  4. Virtualization of Internet Domains: There is a great deal of discussion of needing a new Internet for security reasons. And there a many services – SCADA and ATMs come to mind – that should never have been put on the Internet. And there are platform vendors (Google, AT&T) who would like to adopt the old AOL model and capture their audience within their domain of control for financial reasons. I maintain that we do not need a new Internet, but we need appropriate segmentation of what we have. Virtualization technologies can do this – today – without altering the underlying infrastructure. Literally virtual playgrounds at the application layer.

What do you think? What’s missing? What’s important to you? What would be most helpful for getting your job done?