Security spending is on the rise, but allocating funds remains a challenge. Systems are expensive and skilled talent — if you can find it — comes at a high price.
A new wave of tools, from low-cost to free open source software (FOSS), aim to help with tasks like network scanning and penetration testing. Some of these tools are tailored for specific purposes while others cross several domains.
While free tools sound great, their usefulness varies from business to business. For some organizations, they are helpful means of solving small problems. For others, they are too "siloed" to be effective.
"It depends on the environment," says Travis Farral, director of security strategy at Anomali, which is behind the Staxx free threat intelligence tool. "Some are against major deployment of anything open-source that doesn’t have a company behind it, for support or liability issues."
Because many free and low-cost tools are designed for specific purposes, they often require advanced technical expertise. Several major businesses use a combination of major enterprise tools and FOSS utilities because they have the staff to support them.
For organizations with less staff, siloed tools require security practitioners to become systems integrators because they need to have the solutions work together, says Lee Weiner, chief product officer at Rapid7. They can't do that and succeed in protecting their organizations.
"For companies constrained in security resources — which the vast majority are — they are almost burdened more by the fact that solutions have been siloed to solve a specific problem," Weiner continues.
There are differing schools of thought on the debate over free tools, says Mocana CTO Dean Weber.
"Some in the community believe open source and free tools have evolved to a point where they can be used in commercial and development environments," he explains. "Others believe that lack of support, maturity, and security make these types of tools insufficient for enterprise -- and especially mission critical -- environments."
Indeed, as IOActive's VP of services, Owen Connolly, says, there is no such thing as a free lunch.
"If you're going to go down the road of FOSS for security, then you need to spend money to get the right people to manage your environment."
While they may not be a perfect fit for every organization, budget-friendly tools have evolved and can certainly provide value in the right environments. Here, a few experts share their recommendations free and low-cost security tools. We'd like to keep adding to this list, so please feel free to share your recommendations in the comments section.