Blog War!!

It’s been a while since Alan and I got into it; I think we both appreciate a little healthy debate. As friends, we don’t really have to worry about offending each other or taking things out of context. Unless, of course, it will get us a laugh. In this case I think Alan is more confused than wrong.

In Alan’s latest post he seems to think I’m a bit naive and off base in my criticism of GRC.

Now most of you probably think the title of this post refers to the famous Monty Python bit, but that’s only one of our many popular culture dead parrot options. I’m also amused by the blind kid with the dead parakeet with its head taped back on in Dumb and Dumber. Yes, I’m just that disturbed. Pretty bird and all.

Now Alan does agree that the audit/compliance focus is an unfortunate reality that distracts from real security, but he thinks GRC tools offer at least a partial solution to this problem.

GRC is a needed tool in todays security practitioner’ss tool kit. They are being placed in the position to ensure compliance and they need the ability to do so. They also need help getting the budget approved for the tools they need to do the job. We can rant all we want about compliance for compliance sake being asinine, but the fact is that is the world we live in right now and rather than spitting into the wind, let’s figure out how to make it work best for us.

Alan’s falling into a trap a bunch of vendors seem unable to avoid. They confuse “GRC” with compliance, and are accidentally jumping on a bandwagon they don’t really understand. In the comments on Alan’s post, Hoff offers some clarity while defending his man crush (that’s me):

3) The products we are referencing (and I know you didn’t reference my blog entry because you probably didn’t see it – it was written the same day Gunnar wrote his) aren’t simply compliance tools being re-badged as GRC – these are monster frankensuites of audit-focused compliance framework repositories being marketed as completely new products. GRC isn’t about managing risk, it’s about giving people the perception that managing compliance means something special.

There is a distinct difference between a dedicated GRC tool and a security tool calling itself GRC. I’m not a fan of the dedicated tools, and I think re-branding a security tool as GRC isn’t smart. Not because I think it’s taking advantage of the end user, but because I don’t think it will result in the desired increase in revenue for the vendor, and will eventually become problematic once the backlash hits. I spend a lot of time working with vendors, and I advise all of them to tread very carefully around GRC. A few are being driven dangerously deep into restructuring the product for GRC in the hopes of accessing the C-level, and I haven’t seen it work yet.

While dashboards and reports are the tip of the iceberg and the shiny baubles that are used by the GRC vendors to get the attention at the C-level, I think that the bulk of the work takes place below the water. It is making sure that in fact the enterprise is in compliance. Making sure that everyone has the latest patch level, has AV installed and that data is protected from leakage is the real work. Testing and ensuring this is the real job of GRC, the reports and dashboard is just the way you can show it working. Rich I think you are the one being short sighted if you think these products are just about the reports. Without actually doing the analysis and investigation the reports are meaningless. In my mind is much like SIM reports. Without actionability and correlation, how much value are the SIM reports?

That’s what our security tools are supposed to do in the first place. I believe that’s what StillSecure products do. That’s not GRC, it’s just good security. If a security product can’t ensure it does its job, it’s a piece of garbage and we shouldn’t buy something additional from the vendor to prove what we already bought is working.

If you are a vendor or an end user, don’t fall into the GRC trap. As a user you’ll waste your money more often than not. As a vendor you risk alienating your customers and losing revenue. If you have to add GRC to your marketing, go ahead. If you add more reports and dashboards to get the auditors off the practitioners’ backs and help them communicate with management, that’s great. If you rebrand your product and change its entire direction, you’re in trouble.

Oh yeah, don’t forget to read Hoff’s post on this.