Last week Verizon Business announced that they now offer web application vulnerability assessment software as a service. Specifically, they are reselling a full version of WhiteHat Security’s offering, customized for Verizon business customers.

To be honest I’m somewhat biased here since WhiteHat’s CTO, Jeremiah Grossman, is a friend; but I’ve been fairly impressed with their model of SaaS-based continuous web app vulnerability assessment using a combination of scanning and manual validation to reduce false positives. Jeremiah’s marketing folks will hate it when I say this, but in my mind it’s closer to penetration testing than the other SaaS vulnerability assessment products, which rely completely on automated scanning. Perhaps instead of calling this “penetration testing” we can call it “exploit validation”. Web application vulnerabilities are tougher to deal with from a risk management perspective since, on the surface, it can be very difficult to tell if a vulnerability is exploitable; especially compared to the platform vulnerabilities typically checked by scanners. Since all web applications are custom, it’s important to validate those vulnerabilities to determine overall risk, as the results of a blind scan are generally full of potential false positives – unless it has been de-tuned so much that the false negative rate is extremely high instead.

Verizon Business also sells a managed web application firewall, which they mention in the press release. If you refer back to our Building a Web Application Security Program series and paper; vulnerability assessment, penetration testing, and web application firewalls are core technologies for the secure deployment and secure operations phases of managing web applications (plus monitoring, which is usually provided by the WAF and other logging).

In that series and paper, we also discussed the advantages of WAF + VA, where you dynamically generate WAF policies based on validated vulnerabilities in your application. This supports a rapid “shield then patch” model.

In the released information, Verizon mentions that they support WAF + VA. Since we know they are using WhiteHat, that means their back-end for WAF is likely Imperva or F5, based on WhiteHat’s existing partnerships.

Thus Verizon has managed VA, managed WAF, managed WAF + VA, and some penetration testing support, via the VA product.

They also have a forensics investigation/breach response unit which collects all the information used to generate the Data Breach Investigations Report.

Let’s add this up… VA + Exploit Validation (lightweight pen testing) + WAF + (WAF + VA) + incident response + threat intelligence (based on real incident responses). That’s a serious chunk of managed web security available from a single service provider. My big question is: do they realize this? It isn’t clear that they are positioning these as a combined service, or that the investigations/response guys are tied in to the operations side.

The big gap is anything in the secure development side… which, to be honest, is hard (or impossible) for any provider unless you outsource your actual development to them.

SecureWorks is another vendor in this space, offering web application assessments and managed WAF (but I don’t know if they have WAF + VA)… and I’m pretty sure there are some others out there I’m missing.

What’s the benefit? These are all pieces I believe work better when they can feed information to each other… whether internal or hosted externally. I expect the next pieces to add are better integrated application monitoring, and database activity monitoring.

(For the disclosure record, we have no current business relationships with WhiteHat, Verizon, F5, or SecureWorks, but we have done work with Imperva).