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August 22, 2012
Unfortunately, IT is not perfect; nothing in our world can be. Compounding the inevitable failures and weaknesses in any system designed by fallible beings, are those with malicious or larcenous intent that search for exploitable system weaknesses. As a result, IT and the businesses, enterprises and users depending upon reliable operations are no strangers to disruptions, problems, even embarrassing, even ruinous releases of data and information. The recent exposure of the passwords of hundreds of thousands of Yahoo! and Formspring  users are only two of the most recent, public occurrences that remind us of the risks and weaknesses that remain in the systems of even the most sophisticated service providers.
August 15, 2012
The Gartner hype cycle is a graphic “source of insight to manage technology deployment within the context of your specific business goals.” If you have already adopted Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) (aka log management) technology in your organization, how is that working for you? As candidate, Reagan famously asked “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”
Sadly, many buyers of this technology are wallowing in the “trough of disillusionment.” The implementation has been harder than expected, the technology more complex than demonstrated, the discipline required to use/tune the product is lacking, resource constraints, hiring freezes and the list goes on.
What next? Here are some choices to consider.
Do nothing: Perhaps the compliance check box has been checked off; auditors can be shown the SIEM deployment and sent on their way; the senior staff on to the next big thing; the junior staff have their hands full anyway; leave well enough alone.
Upside: No new costs, no disturbance in the status quo.
Downside: No improvements in security or operations; attackers count on the fact that even if you do collect log SIEM data, you will never really look at it.
Abandon ship: Give up on the whole SIEM concept as yet another failed IT project; the technology was immature; the vendor support was poor; we did not get resources to do the job and so on.
Upside: No new costs, in fact perhaps some cost savings from the annual maintenance, one less technology to deal with.
Downside: Naked in the face of attack or an auditor visit; expect an OMG crisis situation soon.
Try managed service: Managing a SIEM is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration;offload the perspiration to a team that does this for a living; they can do it with discipline (their livelihood depends on it) and probably cheaper too (passing on savings to you); you deal with the inspiration.
Upside: Security usually improves; compliance is not a nightmare; frees up senior staff to do other pressing/interesting tasks; cost savings.
Downside: Some loss of control.
Interested? We call it SIEM SimplifiedTM.
August 09, 2012
Jill Dyche writing in the Harvard Business Review suggests that “the question on many business leaders’ minds is this: Does the potential for accelerating existing business processes warrant the enormous cost associated with technology adoption, project ramp up, and staff hiring and training that accompany Big Data efforts?”
A typical log management implementation, even in a medium enterprise is usually a big data endeavor. Surprised? You should not be. A relatively small network of a dozen log sources easily generates a million log messages per day with volumes in the 50-100 million per day being commonplace. With compliance and security guidelines requiring that logs be retained for 12 months or more, pretty soon you have big data.
So let’s answer the question raised in the article:
Q1: What can’t we do today that Big Data could help us do? If you can’t define the goal of a Big Data effort, don’t pursue it.
A1: Comply with regulations like PCI-DSS, SOX 404, and HIPAA etc.; be alerted to security problems in the enterprise; control data leakage via insecure endpoints; improve operational efficiency
Q2: What skills, technologies, and existing data development practices do we have in place that could help kick-start a Big Data effort? If your company doesn’t have an effective data management organization in place, adoption of Big Data technology will be a huge challenge.
A2: Absent a trained and motivated user of the power tool that is the modern SIEM, an organization that acquires such technology is consigning it to shelf ware. Recognizing this as a significant adoption challenge in our industry, we offer Monitored SIEM as a service; the best way to describe this is SIEM simplified! We do the heavy lifting so you can focus on leveraging the value.
Q3: What would a proof-of-concept look like, and what are some reasonable boundaries to ensure its quick deployment? As with many other proofs-of-concept the “don’t boil the ocean” rule applies to Big Data.
A3: The advantage of a software-only solution like EventTracker is that an on premises trial is easy to set up. A virtual appliance with everything you need is provided; set up as a VMware or Hyper-Virtual machine within minutes. Want something even faster? See it live online.
Q4: What determines whether we green light Big Data investment? Know what success looks like, and put the measures in place.
A4: Excellent point; success may mean continuous compliance; a 75% reduction in cost of compliance; one security incident averted per quarter; delegation of log review to a junior admin.
Q5: Can we manage the changes brought by Big Data? With the regular communication of tangible results, the payoff of Big Data can be very big indeed.
A5: EventTracker includes more than 2,000 pre-built reports designed to deliver value to every interested stakeholder in the enterprise ranging from dashboards for management, to alerts for Help Desk staff, to risk prioritized incident reports for the security team, to system uptime and performance results for the operations folk and detailed cost savings reports for the CFO.
The old adage “If you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail” applies. Armed with these questions and answers, you are closer to gaining real value with Big Data.
August 01, 2012
All warfare is based on deception says Sun Tzu. To quote:
“Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable;
When using our forces, we must seem inactive;
When we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away;
When far away, we must make him believe we are near.”
With the new era of cyberweapons, Sun Tzu’s blueprint can be followed almost exactly: a nation can attack when it seems unable to. When conducting cyber-attacks, a nation will seem inactive. When a nation is physically far away, the threat will appear very, very near.
Amidst all the controversy and mystery surrounding attacks like Stuxnet and Flame, it is becoming increasingly clear that the wars of tomorrow will most likely be fought by young kids at computer screens rather than by young kids on the battlefield with guns.
In the area of technology, what is invented for use by the military or for space, eventually finds its way to the commercial arena. It is therefore a matter of time before the techniques used by Flame or Stuxnet become a part of the arsenal of the average cyber thief.
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