We want to take a more formal look at the RASP selection process. For our 2016 version of this paper, the market was young enough that a simple list if features was enough to differentiate one platform from another. But the current level of platform maturity makes top-tier products more difficult to differentiate.

In our previous section we discussed principal use cases, then delved into technical and business requirements. Depending upon who is driving your evaluation, your list of requirements may look like either of those. With those driving factors in mind – and we encourage you to refer back as you go through this list – here is our recommended process for evaluating RASP. We believe this process will help you identify which products and vendors fit your requirements, and avoid some pitfalls along the way.

Define Needs

  • Create a selection committee: Yes, we hate the term ‘committee’ as well, but the reality is that when RASP effectively replaces WAF (whether or not WAF is actually going away), RASP requirements come from multiple groups. RASP affects not only the security team, but also development, risk management, compliance, and operational teams as well. So it’s important to include someone from each of those teams (to the degree they exist in your organization) on the committee. Ensure that anyone who could say no, or subvert the selection at the 11th hour, is on board from the beginning.
  • Define systems and platforms to monitor: Is your goal to monitor select business applications or all web-facing applications? Are you looking to block application security threats, or only for monitoring and instrumentation to find security issues in your code? These questions can help you refine and prioritize your functional needs. Most firms start small, figure out how best to deploy and manage RASP, then grow over time. Legacy apps, Struts-based applications, and applications which process highly sensitive data may be your immediate priorities; you can monitor other applications later.
  • Determine security requirements: The committee approach is incredibly beneficial for understanding true requirements. Sitting down with the entire selection team usually adjusts your perception of what a platform needs to deliver, and the priorities of each function. Everyone may agree that blocking threats is a top priority, but developers might feel that platform integration is the next highest priority, while IT wants trouble-ticket system integration but security wants language support for all platforms in use. Create lists of “must have”, “should have”, and “nice to have”.
  • Define: Here the generic needs determined earlier are translated into specific technical features, and any additional requirements are considered. With this information in hand, you can document requirements to produce a coherent RFI.

Evaluate and Test Products

  • Issue the RFI: Larger organizations should issue an RFI though established channels and contact a few leading RASP vendors directly. If you are in a smaller organization start by sending your RFI to a trusted VAR and email a few RASP vendors which look appropriate. A Google search or brief contact with an industry analyst can help understand who the relevant vendors are.
  • Define the short list: Before bringing anyone in, match any materials from vendors and other sources against your RFI and draft RFP. Your goal is to build a short list of 3 products which can satisfy most of your needs. Also use outside research sources (like Securosis) and product comparisons. Understand that you’ll likely need to compromise at some point in this process, as it’s unlikely any vendor can meet every requirement.
  • The dog & pony show: Bring the vendors in, but instead of generic presentations and demonstrations, ask the vendors to walk you through specific use cases which match your expected needs. This is critical because they are very good at showing eye candy and presenting the depth of their capabilities, but having them attempt to deploy and solve your specific use cases will help narrow down the field and finalize your requirements.
  • Finalize RFP: At this point you should completely understand your specific requirements, so you can issue a final formal RFP. Bring any remaining products in for in-house testing.
  • In-house deployment testing: Set up several test applications if possible; we find public and private cloud resources effective for setting up private test environments to put tools through their paces. Additionally, this exercise will very quickly show you how easy or hard a product is to use. Try embedding the product into a build tool and see how much of the heavy lifting the vendor has done for you. Since this reflects day-to-day efforts required to manage a RASP solution, deployment testing is key to overall satisfaction.
  • In-house effectiveness testing: You’ll want to replicate the key capabilities in house. Build a few basic policies to match your use cases, and then violate them. You need a real feel for monitoring, alerting, and workflow. Many firms replay known attacks, or use penetration testers or red teams to hammer test applications to ensure RASP detects and blocks the malicious requests they are most worried about. Many firms leverage OWASP testing tools to exercise all major attack vectors and verify that RASP provides broad coverage. Make sure to tailor some of their features to your environment to ensure customization, UI, and alerts work as you need. Are you getting too many alerts? Are some of their findings false positives? Do their alerts contain actionable information so a developer can do something with them? Put the product through its paces to make sure it meets your needs.

Selection and Deployment

  • Select, negotiate, and purchase: Once testing is complete take the results to your full selection committee and begin negotiations with your top two choices. – assuming more than one meets your needs. This takes more time but it is very useful to know you can walk away from a vendor if they won’t play ball on pricing, terms, or conditions. Pay close attention to pricing models – are they per application, per application instance, per server, or some hybrid? As you expand your RASP footprint, you should know it will not cause your bill to skyrocket.
  • Implementation planning: Congratulations, you’ve selected a product, navigated the procurement process, and made a sales rep happy. Now the next stage of work begins: as the end of selection you need to plan deployment. That means making sure of details: lining up resources, getting access/credentials to devices, locking in an install schedule, and even the logistics of getting devices to the right locations. No matter how well you execute on selection, unless you implement flawlessly and focus on quick wins and getting immediate value from the RASP platform, your project will be a failure.
  • Professional services: In some cases initial setup is where the majority of the work takes place. Unlike WAF, day-to-day maintenance of RASP tends to be minor. Because of this some vendors, either directly or through partners, can help with integration and templating initial deployment.

I can hear the groans from small to medium-sized business looking at this process and thinking this is a ridiculous amount of detail. We developed created a granular selection process, for you to pare down to suit your organization’s requirements. We want to make sure we captured all the gory details some organizations need to go through for successful procurement. Our process is appropriate for a large enterprise, but a little pruning can make it manageable a good fit for a small group. That’s the great thing about process: you can change it however you see fit, at no expense.

For many organizations, implementing a Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP) platform is a requirement. Given the sheer volume of existing application security defects, and the rate of discovery of new attacks, there is no other suitable option than runtime protection. Regardless of whether it’s driven by compliance or operational security or something else, we need to react to threats – without weeks to fix, test, and deploy. Quick and efficient handling of attacks, and reasonable instrumentation to determine which parts of an application are vulnerable, is critical for security and deployment to tackle application security issues. RASP provides an effective tool to bridge short-term requirements and long-term application security goals.