We are now less than two weeks away from our annual sojourn to the RSA security conference. RSAC is a great time for learning, meeting and making friends. (Please hold cynical remarks; RSAC is what you make of it.) As the date grows near and my excitement grows, I am preparing my mind and patience for the ubiquitous silver bullet marketing that is predestined to appear.
One of these silver bullets will be the term "actionable intelligence." You will be surrounded by actionable intelligence. You will bask in the glory of actionable intelligence. In fact, the Moscone expo floor will have so much actionable intelligence per capita you will leave the conference feeling like the threat landscape challenge has been solved. Achievement unlocked, check that off the list. Woot!
Well not so fast. I frequently talk to vendors that espouse the greatness of their actionable intelligence. Whenever I hear the term actionable intelligence I want to introduce them to Terry Tate, Office Linebacker. Terry Tate first appeared in a 2003 Reebok Super Bowl commercial.
The hype surrounding threat intelligence has continued to build since I wrote the blog "My Threat Intel Can Beat Up Your Threat Intel” in mid-2012. S&R pros are responding to both the hope and promise of threat intelligence. According to our Forrsights survey data, 75% of security decision-makers report that establishing or improving threat intelligence capabilities is a top priority for their organization.
One of the most significant challenges in leveraging threat intelligence is operationalizing it. Today, there are two broad categories of organizations that leverage threat intelligence. I’ll use an analogy to describe them. The US television show “Sons of Anarchy” follows the lives of an outlaw motorcycle club. The Sons of Anarchy refer to themselves as “1%ers”: They have the power, resources, and means to accomplish anything they desire. This is in contrast with the 99% who are merely motorcycle enthusiasts without these capabilities. Some of these early adopters include financial services, technology, and manufacturing companies.
On Monday the Wall Street Journal ran a story on hacking back titled, “Support Grows to Let Cybertheft Victims Hack Back.” The article describes a growing desire to permit the private sector to retaliate against attackers. Being proactive is one thing, but the notion of enterprises retaliating against attackers is ludicrous. I honestly cannot understand why this topic is still in the public discourse. I thought debating this was so 2012. Legality is an issue, but so is the ability of companies to successfully conduct these types of operations without blowback.
The article explains, “… companies that experience cybertheft ought to be able to retrieve their electronic files or prevent the exploitation of their stolen information." I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but for most organizations, once the data has left your environment the chances of you retrieving it are very slim. Your data has left the building and it isn’t going to “re-spawn.” If you couldn’t prevent exfiltration of this data in the first place, what would make you think that you could prevent the subsequent exploitation of it?
"My master made me this collar. He is a good and smart master and he made me this collar so that I may speak. Squirrel!"
In the Pixar film Up, squirrels frequently distract Dug the talking dog. In our space, we are frequently distracted by technology. "I am a good and smart security professional; I must protect my enterprise so that we are secure. APT defense in a box!"
The expo floors at industry events such as the RSA Conference and Blackhat contribute to this. Signage touts the next great piece of technology that will solve all of our security problems. We allow Big Data, security analytics, threat intelligence, and APT defense in a box to distract us. It is easy to do; there is no shortage of challenges for today’s security and risk professional. The threat landscape is overwhelming. We have problems recruiting and retaining the right staff. Day-to-day operational duties take up too much time. Our environments are complex, and we struggle to get the appropriate budget.
These “security technology du jour” solutions are very appetizing. They compel us much like IDS, IPS, and SIM did in the past. We want and need the “easy” button. Sadly, there is no “easy” button and we must understand that threat protection doesn't equal a product or service; there is no single solution. Technology alone isn't the answer we are looking for.
We have started a new report series on Cyber Threat Intelligence. The first report, "Five Steps To Build An Effective Threat Intelligence Capability," is designed to help organizations understand what threat intelligence is and how to establish a program. If you're not a Forrester client and would like the report, Proofpoint is providing a complementary copy. On Thursday March 28th, I will be conducting a Forrester webinar on the report. Please join me if you'd like to get a deeper perspective on it. In the future, we will expand on sections of this intial report with additional research including:
A collaborative report with Ed Ferrara looking at the cyber threat intelligence vendor landscape