Don’t Risk It: Why You Shouldn’t Assume All Cybersecurity Solutions Are Based on Standards

August 24, 2018
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2 min read

Technology standards: You either love them because they make IT life easier (“These are interchangeable!”) or you hate them (“Why am I stuck in this proprietary loop?”). But you could find yourself in big trouble if you make assumptions about the products you’re evaluating — especially when it comes to cybersecurity solutions. I’ve been in IT sales a long time, and I’ve seen others with much more experience than myself make this very mistake — and it’s cost them dearly.

All SIEMs Are Not the Same

Take, for example, security information and event management (SIEM) solutions. There is no governing board or standard for SIEMs. Sure, there are third-party analysts like Forrester, Gartner and Mintel, and IT publications like SC Magazine, that review and rate offerings, but these aren’t the same as a real governing board.

And yet, I’ve had clients say, “Well, if they call it a SIEM, it has to be the same.” Unfortunately, this simply isn’t true. A SIEM could be what other companies call “log management.” Without standards, a SIEM is essentially whatever the manufacturer says it is — and it has whichever features that particular manufacturer has decided to include.

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Network behavior anomaly detection (NBAD) offerings are also not based on standards. When you purchase a router or a switch, a manufacturer may have proprietary features to differentiate the product, or to target a certain customer set or market vertical. But if these offerings do not meet the standards set by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), they have to be called a “bridge.” The IEEE has more than 1,000 global standards in its portfolio across a broad range of industries, so it’s easy to understand why a lot of very bright people assume a standard exists for everything.

Avoid Assumptions About Cybersecurity Solutions

As an old mentor of mine frequently told me, “Just because you say something with conviction does not make it true.”

So how so you get around this tendency to make assumptions about cybersecurity solutions?

  1. Understand the problem you are trying to solve. Don’t start with a product in mind — start with an assessment of your situation.
  2. Do your homework. Compare similar products you’re considering to see what they actually do, and understand what makes them unique.
  3. Ask questions. Ask your peers. Ask your salesperson.

In short, use your head when researching and examining cybersecurity solutions. Don’t assume any product you’re evaluating as a replacement is just like your current one, or fills a gap based solely on its category. Cybersecurity is a vibrant, ever-changing space, and new solutions are coming to market quickly. So unless you have a blank check to buy every offering under the sun, don’t make assumptions.

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Richard P. Gingras
QRadar Swat Team, IBM Security

Product Specialist on IBM Security Intelligence assisting clients and sellers address cyber security goals and a provide a proactive posture against APT's, M...
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