For a little bonus on a Sunday afternoon, let’s dig into the next section of the RSA Guide, Email and Web Security which remains a pretty hot area. This shouldn’t be surprising since these devices tend to be one of the only defenses against your typical attacks like phishing and drive-by downloads. We’ve decided to no longer call this market ‘content security’; that was a terrible name. Email and Web Security speaks to both the threat models as well as the deployment architectures of what started as the ‘email security gateway’ market. These devices screen email and web traffic moving in and out of your company at the application layer.

The goal is to prevent unwanted garbage like malware from coming into your network, as well as detection of unwanted activity like employees clogging up the network with HiDef downloads of ‘Game of Thrones’. These gateways have evolved to include all sorts of network and content analysis tools for a variety of traffic types (not just restricted to web traffic). Some of the vendors are starting to resemble UTM gateways, placing 50 features all on the same box, and letting the user decide what they want from the security feature buffet. Most vendors offer a hybrid model of SaaS and in-house appliances for flexible deployments while keeping costs down. This is a fully mature and saturated market, with the leading vendors on a very even footing. There are several quality products out there, each having a specific strength in their technology, deployment or pricing model.

There are quite a few areas of interest at the show for web gateway security:

VPN Security and the Cloud

Remember how VPN support was a major requirement for every email security appliance? Yeah, well, it’s back. And it’s new and cloudified! Most companies provide their workforce with secure VPN connections to work from home or on the road. And most companies find themselves supporting more remote users more often than ever, which we touched on in the Endpoint Security section. As demand grows so too does the need for better, faster VPN services. Leveraging cloud services these gateways route users through a cloud portal, where user identification and content screening occur, then passing user requests into your network. The advantages are you get scalable cloud bandwidth, better connectivity, and security screening before stuff hits your network.

More (poor man’s) DLP

Yes, these secure web offerings provide Data Loss Prevention ‘lite’. In most cases, it’s just the subset of DLP needed to detect data exfiltration. And regular expression checking for outbound documents and web requests is good enough to address the majority of content leakage problems, so this works well enough for most customers, which makes it one of the core features every vendor must have. While it’s difficult for any one vendor to differentiate their offering by having DLP-lite, but they’ll have trouble competing in the marketplace without it. It’s an effective tool for select data security problems.

Global Threat Intelligence

Global threat intelligence involves a security vendor collecting attack data from all their customers, isolating new attacks that impact a handful, and automatically applying security responses to their other client installations. When implemented correctly, it’s effective at slowing down the propagation of threats across many sites. The idea has been around for a couple years, originating in the anti-spam business, but has begun to show genuine value for some firewall, web content and DAST (dynamic application security testing) products. Alas, like many features, some are little more than marketing ‘check the box’ functionality here while others actually collect data from all their clients and promptly distribute anonymized intelligence back to the rest of their customers to ensure they don’t get hammered. It’s difficult to discern one from the other, so you’ll need to dig into the product capabilities. Though it should be fun on the show floor to force an SE or other sales hack to try to explain exactly how the intelligence network works.


Malware is the new ‘bad actor’. It’s the 2012 version of the Trojan Horse; something of a catch-all for viruses, botnets, targeted phishing attacks, keystroke loggers and marketing spyware. It infects servers and endpoints by any and all avenues available. And just as the term malware covers a lot of different threats, vendor solutions are equally vague. Do they detect botnet command and control, do they provide your firewall with updated ‘global intelligence’, or do they detect phishing email? Whatever the term really means, you’re going to hear a lot about anti-malware and why you must stop it. Though we do see innovation on network-based malware detection, which we covered in the Network Security section.

New Anti-Spam. Same as the old Anti-Spam

We thought we were long past the anti-spam discussion, isn’t that problem solved already? Apparently not. Spam still exists, that’s for sure, but any given vendor’s efficiency varies from 98% to 99.9% effective on any given week. Just ask them. Being firm believers in Mr. Market, clearly there is enough of an opportunity to displace incumbents, as we’ve seen a couple new vendors emerge to provide new solutions, and established vendors to blend their detection techniques to improve effectiveness. There is a lot of money spent specifically for spam protection, and it’s a visceral issue that remains high profile when it breaks, thus it’s easy to get budget for. Couple that with some public breaches from targeted phishing attacks or malware infections through email (see above), and anti-spam takes on a new focus. Again. We don’t think this is going to alter anyone’s buying decisions, but we wanted to make sure you knew what the fuss was about, and not to be surprised when you think you stepped into RSA 2005 seeing folks spouting about new anti-spam solutions.