Security Monitoring and Analytics: From Tools to Platforms
This is the first installment in a three-part series. Be sure to read the second installment for more information.
Janus, the ancient Roman god of beginnings and endings — from which we get the name for January, the first month of the calendar year — was depicted as having two faces: one looking backward and one looking forward.
In the context of time, it can be argued that security monitoring and analytics initiatives are the Janus of contemporary cybersecurity. Let’s examine the two faces of security.
- Looking backward: It’s common for companies to start these initiatives with an investment in tactical, tool-oriented approaches, which are typically used to help them with forensic investigations of anomalous activities as well as after-the-fact auditing and reporting on compliance and work progress.
- Looking forward: As these initiatives mature, top performers are going beyond tactical tools to adopt a more strategic, proactive, platform-oriented approach to security monitoring and analytics. This is not only to stay secure and compliant, but also to drive optimizations and generate even greater business value from their computing infrastructure.
Distinguishing Between Security Monitoring Tools and Platforms
Making a distinction between tools and platforms is not just wordplay. On the contrary, it reflects the basic pattern of evolution that can be observed in many cybersecurity solution categories over time — from a mixed bag of lower-level tools for specialized, technical IT staff to enterprise self-integration of point solutions, vendor integration of product suites, and vendor and ecosystem integration of platforms.
A recent report by IBM and Aberdeen Research, “The Business Value of a Security Monitoring and Analytics Platform,” which surveyed nearly 11,000 current installations of selected solutions in the security monitoring and analytics category, provides some interesting, fact-based insights into the current market adoption of tools versus platforms.
- Tools: Two-thirds of all installations in this analysis were a single product at a single site, which indicates that the tools approach is a popular and effective starting point for forensics, compliance and reporting.
- Platforms: One-third of all installations in this analysis involved sites with multiple products. This typifies the more evolved platform approach, which helps organizations achieve better integration of relevant data from a diverse range of sources, better visibility into a rapidly changing threat landscape and an increasingly complex computing infrastructure, and better analytics to help operational staff prioritize and take action on the most relevant information.
Analysts Will Be Analysts
A platform approach to security monitoring and analytics helps your analysts make more complete use of the incredible volume of data that is already being generated by your organization’s computing infrastructure, such as:
- The logs that continuously record information about events that take place throughout your IT infrastructure, including network devices, servers, virtual machines, endpoints, operating systems, applications and databases;
- The log, information, event, flow and session data also being generated by your existing security solutions, including endpoint security software, intrusion detection and prevention systems, identity and access management systems, and a wide range of other potential sources; and
- Threat intelligence from a wide range of third-party sources that ideally collect, correlate, evaluate and disseminate insights into the who, what, where, when and how of active attack campaigns.
When your security analysts are spending the majority of their time doing looking backward and conducting forensic investigations into what’s already happened, they’re not really security analysts — they’re security researchers. One of the biggest values of a platform approach is that it lets your analysts be analysts.