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
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading, September 16, 2014
Malicious software is morphing to be more targeted, stealthy, and destructive. Are you prepared to stop it?
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-0993
Published: 2014-09-15
Buffer overflow in the Vcl.Graphics.TPicture.Bitmap implementation in the Visual Component Library (VCL) in Embarcadero Delphi XE6 20.0.15596.9843 and C++ Builder XE6 20.0.15596.9843 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via a crafted BMP file.

CVE-2014-2375
Published: 2014-09-15
Ecava IntegraXor SCADA Server Stable 4.1.4360 and earlier and Beta 4.1.4392 and earlier allows remote attackers to read or write to arbitrary files, and obtain sensitive information or cause a denial of service (disk consumption), via the CSV export feature.

CVE-2014-2376
Published: 2014-09-15
SQL injection vulnerability in Ecava IntegraXor SCADA Server Stable 4.1.4360 and earlier and Beta 4.1.4392 and earlier allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary SQL commands via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2014-2377
Published: 2014-09-15
Ecava IntegraXor SCADA Server Stable 4.1.4360 and earlier and Beta 4.1.4392 and earlier allows remote attackers to discover full pathnames via an application tag.

CVE-2014-3077
Published: 2014-09-15
IBM SONAS and System Storage Storwize V7000 Unified (aka V7000U) 1.3.x and 1.4.x before 1.4.3.4 store the chkauth password in the audit log, which allows local users to obtain sensitive information by reading this log file.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
CISO Insider: An Interview with James Christiansen, Vice President, Information Risk Management, Office of the CISO, Accuvant