Analytics // Security Monitoring
5/3/2013
11:06 AM
Wendy Nather
Wendy Nather
Commentary
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

La Vie En ROSI

Return on security investment may be slightly less mythical than you think

With very few exceptions, there is really nothing in security that gives you a return on investment. Unless you're selling them, security technologies almost never make you any money -- what they're there for is loss avoidance. Now, you may be able to achieve that loss avoidance by spending a lot of money, or by spending a little money; if you manage the latter, then yes, you have parlayed a cost savings into another cost savings. But that's not the same as investing some money and watching it grow in value.

If that were the end of the story, though, this blog post would be pretty short. So let's look at what material advantages there might be in security monitoring, besides just (hopefully) catching attackers before they do too much (more) damage.

As I've written before, good security monitoring can tell you more about your organization than just how many nmap probes your firewall has blocked. (By the way, I don't consider that number to be at all interesting. Basing your metrics on how many packets your firewall has automatically blocked and calling them "security events" is like counting how many "water events" your roof has handled during the last rainstorm.)

Two areas in which security monitoring can help the business are in performance measurement and data flows. Performance measurement doesn't just mean the load on the server or the network bandwidth saturation. It can also mean the latency on database queries, which will almost certainly affect your application performance. It can refer to how quickly you can make configuration changes, how consistently they're done, and how long they stay configured that way. A lot of operational efficiency metrics are hidden in those logs, along with troubleshooting data. (Oh, the SSL certificate expired! That explains all the failed connections from one server to another...)

Data flows are the lifeblood of your business, and if you don't believe that, then try tripping over a network or power cable sometime. But it doesn't stop with availability of data: Many organizations don't really know who is accessing what data and why. Anyone who has tried a server migration will find this out very quickly, when other departments show up at the planning meetings to slow down the project. Knowing your highest-use data will help you understand its value; it may also tell you which business operations cross disciplines, which ones need optimization (because they're processing redundant data, for example), and where you might have opportunities that you hadn't thought about.

Business intelligence is a thing these days, and CEOs do like to hear about that. Operational efficiency is something that everyone can get behind. If you can demonstrate that security monitoring contributes uniquely to either or both of these, then you may just get permission to pay more for that fancy, new SIEM. Helping the business make more money is the next best thing to making it yourself. The outlook still isn't ROSI, but it does have a nice shine to it.

Wendy Nather is Research Director of the Enterprise Security Practice at the independent analyst firm 451 Research. You can find her on Twitter as @451wendy. Wendy Nather is Research Director of the Enterprise Security Practice at independent analyst firm 451 Research. With over 30 years of IT experience, she has worked both in financial services and in the public sector, both in the US and in Europe. Wendy's coverage areas ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
Partner Perspectives
What's This?
In a digital world inundated with advanced security threats, Intel Security seeks to transform how we live and work to keep our information secure. Through hardware and software development, Intel Security delivers robust solutions that integrate security into every layer of every digital device. In combining the security expertise of McAfee with the innovation, performance, and trust of Intel, this vision becomes a reality.

As we rely on technology to enhance our everyday and business life, we must too consider the security of the intellectual property and confidential data that is housed on these devices. As we increase the number of devices we use, we increase the number of gateways and opportunity for security threats. Intel Security takes the “security connected” approach to ensure that every device is secure, and that all security solutions are seamlessly integrated.
Featured Writers
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading's October Tech Digest
Fast data analysis can stymie attacks and strengthen enterprise security. Does your team have the data smarts?
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-1927
Published: 2014-10-25
The shell_quote function in python-gnupg 0.3.5 does not properly quote strings, which allows context-dependent attackers to execute arbitrary code via shell metacharacters in unspecified vectors, as demonstrated using "$(" command-substitution sequences, a different vulnerability than CVE-2014-1928....

CVE-2014-1928
Published: 2014-10-25
The shell_quote function in python-gnupg 0.3.5 does not properly escape characters, which allows context-dependent attackers to execute arbitrary code via shell metacharacters in unspecified vectors, as demonstrated using "\" (backslash) characters to form multi-command sequences, a different vulner...

CVE-2014-1929
Published: 2014-10-25
python-gnupg 0.3.5 and 0.3.6 allows context-dependent attackers to have an unspecified impact via vectors related to "option injection through positional arguments." NOTE: this vulnerability exists because of an incomplete fix for CVE-2013-7323.

CVE-2014-3409
Published: 2014-10-25
The Ethernet Connectivity Fault Management (CFM) handling feature in Cisco IOS 12.2(33)SRE9a and earlier and IOS XE 3.13S and earlier allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (device reload) via malformed CFM packets, aka Bug ID CSCuq93406.

CVE-2014-3636
Published: 2014-10-25
D-Bus 1.3.0 through 1.6.x before 1.6.24 and 1.8.x before 1.8.8 allows local users to (1) cause a denial of service (prevention of new connections and connection drop) by queuing the maximum number of file descriptors or (2) cause a denial of service (disconnect) via multiple messages that combine to...

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Follow Dark Reading editors into the field as they talk with noted experts from the security world.