Securosis Guide: Security Management

Posted on by Securosis Team

This post is part of a multi-part series about the Securosis Guide to the RSA Conference (download the RSAC-G PDF). Please scroll to the bottom for links to other posts in the series.

Security Management at RSACLast year Big Data was all the rage at the RSAC in terms of security monitoring and management. So the big theme this year will be...(drum roll, please)...Big Data. Yes, it's more of the same, though we will see security big data called a bunch of different things—including insider threat detection, security analytics, situational awareness, and probably two or three more where we have no idea what they even mean.

But they all have one thing in common: math. That's right—remember those differential equations you hated in high school and college? Be glad that helpful freshman in AP Calculus actually liked math. Those are the folks who will save your bacon, because their algorithms are helping detect attackers doing their thing.

Detecting the Insider
It feels a bit like we jumped into a time machine, and ended up in back 1998. Or 2004. Or 2008. You remember—that year when everyone was talking about insiders and how they were robbing your organization blind. We still haven't solved the problem, because it's hard. So every 4-5 years the vendors get tired of using black-masked external-attacker icons in their corporate PowerPoint decks, and start talking about catching insiders instead.

This year will be no different—you will hear a bunch of noise at RSAC about the insider threat. The difference this year is that the math folks I mentioned earlier have put their algorithms to work on finding anomalous behaviors inside your network, and profiling what insiders typically does while they are robbing you blind. You might even be able to catch them before Brian Krebs calls to tell you all about your breach.

These technologies and companies are pretty young, so you will see them on the outside rings of the conference hall and in the RSAC Innovation Sandbox, but they are multiplying like [name your favorite pandemic]. It won't be long before the big SIEM players and other security management folks (yes, vulnerability management vendors, we're looking at you) start talking about users and insiders to stay relevant. Don't you just love the game?

Security Analytics: Bring Your PhD
The other epiphany many larger organizations had over the past few years is that they already have a crapton of security data. You can thank PCI-DSS for making them collect and aggregate all sorts of logs over the past few years. Then the forensics guys wanted packets, so you started capturing those too. Then you had the bright idea to put everything into a common data model.

Then what? Your security management strategy probably looked something like this:

  1. Collect data.
  2. Put all data in one place.
  3. ???
  4. Detect attacks.

This year a bunch of vendors will be explaining how they can help you with step 3, using their analytical engines to answer questions you didn't even know to ask. They'll use all sorts of buzzwords like ElasticSearch and Cassandra, talk about how cool their Hadoop is, and convince you they have data scientists thinking big thoughts about how to solve the security problem, and their magic platform will do just that.

Try not to laugh too hard at the salesperson. Then find an SE and have them walk you through setup and tuning of the analytics platform. Yes, it needs to be tuned regardless of what the salesperson tells you. How do you start? What data do you need? How do you refine queries? How do you validate a potential attack? Where can you send data for more detailed forensic analysis? If the SE has on dancing shoes, the product probably isn't ready yet—unless you have your own group of PhDs you can bring to the table. Make sure the analytics tool actually saves time, rather than just creating more detailed alerts you don't have time to handle.

We're not saying PhD's aren't cool—we think it's great that math folks are rising in prominence. But understand that when your SOC analyst wants you to call them a "Data Scientist" it's so they can get a 50% raise for joining another big company.

We have finally reached the point as an industry where practitioners don't actually believe they can stop all attacks any more. We know that story was less real than the tooth fairy, but way too many folks actually believed it. Now that ruse is done, so we can focus on the fact that at some point soon you will be investigating an incident. So you will have forensics professionals onsite, trying to figure out what actually happened.

The forensicators will ask to see your data. It's good you have a crapton of security data, right? But you will increasingly be equipping your internal team for the first few steps of the investigation. So you will see a lot of forensics tools at the RSAC, and forensics companies repositioning as security shops. They will show their forensics hooks within your endpoint security products and your network security controls. Almost every vendor will have something to say about forensics. Mostly because it's shiny.

Even better, most vendors are fielding their own incident response service. It is a popular belief that if a company can respond to an incident, they are well positioned to sell product at the back-end of the remediation/recovery. Of course that creates a bull market for folks with forensics skills. These folks can jump from company to company, driving up compensation quickly. They are on the road 5 days a week anyway, if not more, so why would they care which company is on their business cards?

This wave of focus on forensics, and resulting innovation, has been a long time coming. The tools are still pretty raw and cater to overly sophisticated customers, but we see progress. This progress is absolutely essential -- there aren't enough skilled forensics folks, so you need a way to make your less skilled folks more effective with tools and automation. Which is a theme throughout the RSAC-G this year.

The other downside to an overheated security environment is that because end-user organizations can't find skilled staff, they need to supplement with managed services. Of course that assumes your managed services provider will have better luck finding people than you do. Again, it's just math. There aren't enough folks who know enough about security. Just because the company is a managed service provider, doesn't mean they have a secret fountain of security professionals. Nor is a higher being dropping those folks in some field like manna.

So make sure you aren't buying a Sucker as a Service (SUKRaaS) offering, by contracting a multi-year deal with an organization that has a huge SOC but not enough folks to keep it staffed. Texans would call that "All SOC, no cattle." Of course there is leverage to be found in this business, and a managed service provider will be able to scale a bit better than an enterprise. But they still have a lot of the same problems as their enterprise clients.

This is where the diligence part of the process comes in. Before you sign that 3-year deal, make sure your SECaaS (Security as a Service) partner actually has the folks. Dig into their HR and staffing plans. Understand how they train new analysts. Get a feel for turnover in their SOC, and what kinds of tools they are investing in to gain leverage in operations.

And be happy when they start talking about all the data scientists they hired and the wonderful security analytics platform they implemented over the past year. Math strikes again!

Check out other posts in the series: Introduction
Theme posts: Change; Internet of Things; Professionalism; Compliance; Big Data; Bonk; DevOps
Coverage Area Deep Dives: Overview; Endpoint Security; Network Security; IAM; Cloud Security; Data Security; Security Management;
Download your copy of RSAC-G

Securosis Team

, Securosis

big data analytics forensics & e-discovery data loss prevention

Blogs posted to the website are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace independent professional judgment. Statements of fact and opinions expressed are those of the blog author individually and, unless expressly stated to the contrary, are not the opinion or position of RSA Conference™, or any other co-sponsors. RSA Conference does not endorse or approve, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, accuracy or completeness of the information presented in this blog.

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