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What’s My Motivation?

By Adrian Lane

‘Or more appropriately, “Why are we talking about ADMP?” In his first post on the future of application and database security, Rich talked about Forces and Assumptions heading us down an evolutionary path towards ADMP. I want to offer a slightly different take on my motivation, or belief, in this strategy.

One of the beautiful things about mode application development is our ability to cobble together small, simple pieces of code into a larger whole in order to accomplish some task. Not only do I get to leverage existing code, but I get to bundle it together in such a way that I alter the behavior depending upon my needs. With simple additions, extensions and interfaces, I can make a body of code behave very differently depending upon how I organize and deploy the pieces. Further, I can bundle different application platforms together in a seamless manner to offer extraordinary services without a great deal of re-engineering.

A loose confederation of applications cooperating together to solve business problems is the typical implementation strategy today, and I think that the security challenge needs to account for the model rather than the specific components within the model. Today, we secure components. We need to be able to ‘link up’ security in the same way that we do the application platforms (I would normally go off on an Information Centric Security rant here, but that is pure evangelism, and a topic for another day).

I have spent the last four years with a security vendor that provided assessment, monitoring, and auditing of databases and databases specifically. Do enough research into security problems, customer needs, and general market trends; and you start to understand the limitations of securing just a single application in the chain of events. For example, I found that database security issues detected as part of an assessment scan may have specific relevance to the effectiveness of database monitoring. I believe Web Application security providers witness the same phenomenon with SQL Injection as they may lack some context for the attack, or at least the more subtle subversions of the system or exploitation of logic flaws in the database or database application. A specific configuration might be necessary for business continuity and processing, but could open an acknowledged security weakness that I would like to address with another tool, such as database monitoring.

That said, where I am going with this line of thought is not just the need for detective and preventative controls on a single application like a web server or database server, but rather the Inter-application benefit of a more unified security model. There were many cases where I wanted to share some aspect of the database setup with the application or access control system that could make for a more compelling security offering (or visa-versa, for that matter).

It is hard to understand context when looking at security from a single point outside an application, or from the perspective of a single application component. I have said many times that the information we have at any single processing node is limited. Yes, my bias towards application level data collection vs. network level data collection is well documented, but I am advocating collection of data from multiple sources. A combination of monitoring of multiple information sources, coupled with a broad security and compliance policy set, would be very advantageous. I do not believe this is simply a case of (monitoring) more is better, but of solving specific problems where it is most efficient to do so. There are certain attacks that are easier to address at the web application level, and others best dealt with in the database, while others should be intercepted at the network level. But the sharing of policies, policy enforcement, and suspect behaviors, can be both more effective and more efficient.

Application and Database Monitoring and Protection is a concept that I have been considering/researching/working towards for several years now. With my previous employer, this was a direction I wanted to take the product line, as well as some of the partner relationships to make this happen across multiple security products. When Rich branded the concept with the “ADMP” moniker it just clicked with me for the reasons stated above, and I am glad he posted more on the subject last week. But I wanted to put a little more focus on the motivation for what he is describing and why it is important. This is one of the topics we will both be writing about more often in the weeks and months ahead.

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