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What Is Security Intelligence and Why Does It Matter Today?


This is part 1 of an ongoing series of posts that answer “Six Things You Always Wanted to Know About Security Intelligence but Were Afraid to Ask.”


In the introduction to this series, I asserted that people have many questions about Security Intelligence, then made the bold promise to answer six of the most pressing ones.  Let’s start by gaining a common understanding of Security Intelligence.

In a recent post, I proposed the following definition of Security Intelligence that I feel encapsulates where the industry is headed:

“Security Intelligence is the real-time collection, normalization, and analysis of the data generated by users, applications and infrastructure that impacts the IT security and risk posture of an enterprise. The goal of Security Intelligence is to provide actionable and comprehensive insight that reduces risk and operational effort for any size organization.”

Breaking down the key elements:

“Real-time”

Viewing time-stamped historical data or pouring over logs won’t cut it.  You need a view of what’s happening right now, across your entire network.

“Collection, normalization and analysis”

This is where context and intelligence rule. Gather data from every relevant device and system in your network.  Normalize it so you can compare activity across different devices and locations.  Apply analytics and correlate activity and rule out the false positives that are the bane of every security analyst’s world.  Then present the results, clearly and simply, and put every relevant piece of information at your fingertips or eyeballs.  Use every bit of data (Big Data anyone?) to enrich your view of security incidents, because context drives insight and discovery.  Look, you might have already been breached and the evidence could be right in front of you, but you’ll never see it if your solution can’t intelligently correlate, analyze and present information to you.

“The IT security and risk posture of an enterprise”

Your ability to secure your data, intellectual property, IT assets and more from malicious outsiders and insiders, while maintaining reliable and efficient business operations. A crucial element of protecting your brand and reputation, this can only be accomplished by collecting and analyzing the most comprehensive set of data generated across the organization.

“Actionable and comprehensive insight”

Collecting and analyzing all the relevant data in your network is a good start, but data (logs, query results, etc.) by themselves are worthless.  (How many times have you experienced alert overload?)  A Security Intelligence solution must make sense of your data and help you quickly research and remediate incidents.

“Reduces risk and operational effort”

(Enough said.)

“For any size organization”

Security Intelligence isn’t just for those with big budgets, staff and lots of patience.  Today’s modern Security Intelligence solution has evolved from the dinosaurs known as first-gen SIEM offerings.  These products required major upfront implementation work and actually added to your ongoing headcount needs, rather than easing them.  Today it’s just the opposite – which means Security Intelligence is within the reach and budget of virtually any organization.  I’ll discuss this further in my next post in this series.

Security Intelligence solution

Security Intelligence solutions have evolved from a number of technologies you may be familiar with.  In short, Security Intelligence builds on the data collection capabilities and compliance benefits of log management, the correlation, normalization and analysis capabilities of SIEM (security information and event management), the network visibility and advanced threat detection of NBAD (network behavior anomaly detection), the ability to reduce breaches and ensure compliance provided by risk management, and the network traffic and application content insight afforded by network forensics.  Yet what distinguishes a modern Security Intelligence solution is that it’s not a gift basket of discrete technologies wrapped together with duct tape, or worse, PowerPoint.  It’s a truly integrated solution built on a common codebase, with a single data management architecture and a single user interface.

2014 Gartner Magic Quadrant for SIEM

Why does security intelligence matter

As for why it matters, I could discuss the increased prevalence and sophistication of advanced persistent threats.  But instead, I thinkDavid Ingall of BGL Group (a leading UK insurance broker) puts it best:

“The move to the QRadar Security Intelligence Platform has been a real eye opener for us and has helped us to concentrate our efforts on the most important issues. Even without significant tuning, it has improved how we deal with security intelligence and it will form a core part of our infrastructure as we move forward.”

Check out the next posts in this series, where we’ll take a closer look at how modern Security Intelligence solutions differ from first-generation products.

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