Vendor studies aren't all self-promotion

Reading between the lines reveals insights, says Bill Brenner

IT security practitioners typically greet vendor-based studies with scepticism because they come off as a sales pitch for whatever products that vendor sells. People become especially leery when a study leads to the predicted death of a particular security tool. But when looked at cumulatively, such studies offer small snapshots of why companies are making certain security decisions.

Two newly released studies aiming to do just that looked at how security information event management (SIEM) and other log management tools are being used in mid-sized companies.

The take-away of these studies, conducted by RSA and the SANS Institute, is that midmarket organisations are moving beyond the technology as a mere compliance checklist item, to build security programs more commonly found at the enterprise level.

The first survey — conducted by SANS Institute in partnership with RSA — is a sampling of data from the SANS Sixth Annual Log Management Survey Report focused on small and mid-sized organisations with less than 2000 employees. More than 200 people took part in the survey, which found, among other things:

  • The critical issue is said to be detection and prevention, suggesting many users need their log management solutions to handle more than just compliance and reporting.
  • Respondents reported logs are most useful for forensic analysis and correlation followed by detection and prevention. Both are at over 90 percent, suggesting the needs of mid-sized organisations are becoming more sophisticated and they are demanding more value from their log management systems.

"Up until now, compliance to regulations has been a catalyst, enabling log management to grow and mature as never before," says Sam Curry, RSA's chief technologist. "Now that this technology is in place there is the option to better take advantage of some of the more sophisticated SIEM tools designed to support the evolving security needs of mid-sized organisations."

SANS Senior Analyst Jerry Shenk believes, based on the data, that midmarket organisations increasingly crave the "efficiency of a log management solution to move beyond compliance to security detection, reaction and prevention as well as augment effective IT and network operations".

In the second survey, RSA conducted a separate study of mid-sized organisations to better understand the market for log management and SIEM. The results confirm suspicions that security is moving up as a top priority in this market, Curry says. Almost 90 percent of respondents said the primary use for their SIEM tools is for security operations functions while 54 percent cited compliance.

Meanwhile, 66 percent of respondents ranked real-time monitoring as most important when evaluating a SIEM vendor. More than 75 percent say that in their minds, real-time monitoring is essential.

For this survey, RSA polled about 50 IT executives globally from organisations of up to 10,000 employees. It was conducted online in Q1 2010 and included such industries as financial services, healthcare, high-tech, manufacturing and retail.

Brenner is senior editor at CSO magazine

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