Tag Archives: McAfee

Why the Europeans are not buying DLP

It’s one of those things that European-based information security consultants must  ask themselves at times – why isn’t my phone ringing off the hook for DLP solutions if the European Data protection directives are so clear on the requirement to protect privacy?

The central guideline is the EU Data Protection Directive – and reading the law, we begin to get an answer to our dilemma.

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Mcafee embedded device security

If Mcafee is jumping into this area – then it might explain some of the synergy with the Intel acquisition – two years ago, Intel went public with products aimed at driving medical monitoring into the home – see Intel launches medical device for home patient monitoring.  Home monitoring (the Intel Health Guide is a 10.5″ tablet) “is a big area of focus and a growth opportunity for Intel” according to Mariah Scott, director of sales and marketing for Intel’s Digital Health Group.

Enhance device security
Protect embedded devices against existing and unknown zero-day threats via malware (such as worms, viruses, Trojans and buffer-overflow threats, etc.). Because many embedded devices such as ATMs and kiosks have a large attack area, they face increased security vulnerabilities. McAfee Embedded Security ensures that the device—when in production and in the field—is secure and cannot be compromised.

The Mcafee product is clearly aimed at embedded Windows devices – which are unfortunately over 1/2 of embedded medical devices since a good many software developers come from IT backgrounds and don’t have the cojones to deal with Linux let alone embedded Linux on small footprint hardware.  Some of the collateral makes a lot of sense while other parts seem like typical security vendor marcom   –  like the part about assuring HIPAA compliance with tamper free logs. When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail as I noted in my post last year on the true cost of HIPAA privacy violations

The product feels like a commercialization of a project that their professional services group did for a particular customer. The discussion about supporting integration of multi vendor channels sort of  smells like an Intel aphorism and while it might serve Intel, multi-vendor channel integration may be  the exception rather than the rule in the medical device space,  since most medical device vendors are  small specialized business units or startups intent on preserving their own IP.

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Is your DLP project a failure?

Are we in the same valley of death that held  content management applications in the 90s?  Where companies spent 6-7 figures on content management from companies like Vignette and over 50% of the projects never got off the ground?

Tell me what you think in this Linked In poll – DLP success or failure

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The 4 questions

One of the famous canons in the Jewish Passover “seder” ritual is 4 questions from 4 sons – the son who is wise, the son who is wicked, the son who is innocent and the son who doesn’t know enough to ask.

I sometimes have this feeling of Deja vu when considering data security technology solutions. Although the analogy is not at all parallel – I have written a list of 4 questions to be asked when considering a DLP solution – these questions require clear, authoritative answers just like in the Passover seder (להבדיל).

  1. What is the key threat scenario?
  2. How much Value at Risk is on the table?
  3. Who owns the project?
  4. Does the DLP technology fit the threat scenario?

1 – What is the key threat scenario?

Here are some typical threat scenarios – the key threat scenario should keep a C-level executive awake at night.

Threat Scenario

Sample Asset(s)




Leakage or theft of PII (personally identifiable information)

Customer data and/or credit cards






Employees may be bribed or exploited

Weak passwords

Wi-Fi networks

Temporary files


Proxy bypass

Web services

FTP services

Operating systems

Network DLP

Database DLP




Software security assessments


Loss of IP on servers





Network DLP

Loss of IP in the cloud




Vendor employee

Same +

Unreliable cloud vendor

Network DLP at provider

Loss of IP on notebooks





Employees in airports

Agent DLP


Loss of data from business partners

Customer data, IP

May steal the data

Partner systems

Web based links


Network DLP

Agent DRM or

Agent DLP

See http://www.software.co.il/wordpress/2010/02/is-there-a-business-need-for-dlp/

2 – What is your value at risk?

Once you have identified the key threat scenario, you must know how much value at risk is generated when a threat exploits vulnerabilities to cause damage to assets. The basis for measuring VaR (value at risk) is the asset value (generally determined by the CFO) –

VaR = asset value x threat probability x estimated damage to asset value in a percentage

The VaR is reduced by a set of security countermeasures that also have a cost. VaR is best calculated in a data security based risk assessment that uses DLP technology to measure frequencies of threat occurrence and a calculative threat model to derive VaR.

Most companies are not at a sufficient level of security maturity to do this exercise themselves – and will need an independent consultant with specific data security expertise and the ability to do analytical threat modeling.

Within a couple weeks, you should be able to get a picture of your current data security events, know your data value at risk in Euro and build a prioritized program for cost-effective DLP countermeasures.

See http://www.software.co.il/wordpress/2010/01/building-a-business-case-for-dlp/

3 – Who owns the project?

Beware of organizational politics and silos and conflicting agendas.  Need I say more?

4 – Does the DLP technology fit the threat scenario?

Just because the vendor sold you an anti-virus product doesn’t mean that his DLP technology is a good fit (even if it’s free)

Example A:  A network DLP solution may be required with 1GB throughput, if the technology saturates at 200MB/S then the solution is not a good fit.

Example B:  An agent DLP solution may be required that is capable of identifying IP in AutoCAD files; if the content analysis software is incapable of decoding AutoCAD, then the countermeasure does not mitigate the vulnerability.

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Choosing endpoint DLP agents

There is a lot to be said for preventing data loss at the point of use but if you are considering endpoint DLP (data loss prevention), I recommend against buying and deploying an integrated DLP/Anti-virus end-point security agent.  This is for 4 reasons:
  • Bloatware/system resource consumption – if you’re concerned with anti-virus system resource usage, imagine layering another 100MB of software, another 20MB of data security rules and loads of network traffic for management just for the luxury of getting a good deal from Symantec on a piece of integrated software that IT doesn’t know how to manage anyhow.
  • Software vulnerabilities – if you have issues with the anti-virus – you don’t want them affecting your data flows via the DLP agent. Imagine a user uninstalling  the anti-virus and impacting the DLP agent.
  • Diversity – the strong anti-virus products have weak DLP agents – which means that the advantage of a single management platform is spurious. Having strong anti-virus software on your Windows PCs from a vendor like McAfee complements having strong data loss prevention from a company like Verdasys.
  • Not a good fit for the organization – IT manage the Anti-virus,   Security manage the data security and never the twain shall meet.
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Cultural factors in DLP

What is interesting and generally overlooked – is the cultural differences between the US and the rest of the world.  The Europeans prefer a more nuanced approach stressing discipline and procedures,The Americans are compliance driven and IT top heavy, I imagine if you look at DLP sales – 98% are in the US, being (right or wrong) compliance driven.

Last September, Forrester did a seminar in Amsterdam on data security – only 10% of the CTOs/CIOs that attended the meeting had plans to implement DLP in 2010.

The Europeans have a point – but, policies and procedures are only as good as the monitoring and enforcement behind them. This is where DLP comes into play- collecting data in several realms – data channels, content and organizational anomalies (downloads, uploads etc…).

In addition – there is a strong and well-known link between the social health of employees in an organization and the company’s economic/business health.  In a successful business unit – people are happy, and happy people contribute to the success of the business.   Unhappy people don’t identify, have problems contributing and leave or cross the line to malicious behavior.

For my money (and this is my experience in a dozen DLP deployments in EMEA) – the key value add of DLP technology is not the prevention part but the monitoring part and it’s role in a feedback / educational loop with the organization.

If you only do one thing this year – you should start measuring data security events and using those measurements to improve your policies, procedures and systems – and user education.

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Do you have a business need for DLP?

To be able to do something before it exists,
sense before it becomes active,
and see before it sprouts.

The Book of Balance and Harmony

(Chung-ho chi).
A medieval Taoist book

Will security vendors, large to small  (Symantec, McafeenexTierANBsys and others..) succeed in restoring balance and harmony to their customers by relabeling their product suites as unified content security (Websense) or enterprise information protection (Verdasys)?

I don’t think so.

Unfortunately – data security is not an enterprise suite kind of problem like ERP. You don’t have harmony, synergy and control over business process; you have orthogonal attack vectors:

  • Human error – cc’ing a supplier by mistake on a classified RFP document
  • System vulnerabilities – Production servers with anonymous file transfer protocol (FTP) turned on
  • Criminal activity – Break-ins, bribes and double agents (workers who spy for other groups or companies)
  • Industrial competition/breach of non-disclosure agreements – the actuary who went to work for the competition

After 5 years of hype, most  customers have a high awareness of DLP products but fewer (especially outside the US) are buying DLP technologies  and even fewer are succeeding with their DLP implementations. This stems from the customer and vendors’ inability to answer two simple questions:

  1. Who is the buyer?
  2. What is her motivation to protect information?

A common question I hear from my clients, is, “Who should ‘own’ data security technology?” Is it the vice president, internal auditor, chief financial officer, CIO or CSO, our security consultants or our IT outsourcing vendor; IBM Global Services?

If there is no clear business need for information protection (the kind that a CEO can enunciate in a  sentence) – the company is not going to buy DLP technology.

The business need for data security derives directly from  the CEO and his management team. In firms with outsourced IT infrastructure, the need for data security becomes more acute as more people are involved with less allegiance to the firm.

To help qualify an organization’s business need for DLP technology, let’s examine the decision drivers, or what compels companies to buy data security products, and the decision-makers, or those who sign off on the products. Let’s look at seven industries: banking, credit card issuing, insurance, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, health care and technology.

BANKING A real event, such as theft of confidential customer account information by trusted insiders

Privacy regulations such as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, HIPAA

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, for transparency and timeliness in reporting of significant events

CREDIT CARD ISSUERS Ongoing theft of customer transactional information by customer service reps

Data breach threat to credit card numbers that haven’t yet been printed on plastic cards and issued to card holders

Privacy regulations, Sarbanes-Oxley , nondisclosure agreements with business partners

The security officer or information security officer (many issuers have separate functions for physical and information security)
INSURANCE A real event, such as theft of customer lists by competitors

Fear of losing actuarial data

Exposure to data leakage of credit card numbers in online systems

General counsel, VP of internal audit, CFO
PHARMACEUTICALS Theft of chemistry, manufacturing and control information, product formulation and genome data by trusted insiders

Difficulty in preserving secrecy of sensitive intellectual property prior to patent filings

Sensitivity of company records during due diligence processes

General counsel, CFO, chief compliance officer
(Telecom service providers and large online operations such as Yahoo collect and aggregate huge quantities of data, and the higher up the value chain you go with data aggregation, the more valuable and vulnerable the asset.)
Prepaid code files

Pricing data

Strategic marketing plans

Call detail records (analogous to credit card transaction records, these are extrusions by customer service representatives to private investigators and difficult to detect)

Customer credit card records

VP of internal audit, VP of technologies
HEALTH CARE Privacy regulations/HIPAA

Need to protect pricing data of drugs and supplies purchased by the health care organization

CSO, VP of internal audit

Source code

Designs, pictures and plans of proprietary equipment

Strategic marketing plans

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How can we convince our VP that a network-based DLP makes sense?

My colleague, Michel Godet – sent me a link to an article that Mike Rothman recently wrote.

Michel  (rightly) thinks that it supports the approach that we have been pushing in Europe for over a year now, to justify data security technology investments by using Value at Risk calculations.

Mike’s article – building a business case for security is good. I agree with most of what he writes (I would have commented but searchsecurity doesn’t allow commenting on their Ask The Security Expert: Questions & Answers articles.

So – I will use my own blog to post a couple of my comments (I should probably ping Mogull on this too but I lost  his email)

1) I agree that if you can’t get past the first energy barrier of concern with information protection than you are a non-starter for DLP ( or any data security technology for that matter – it must fit the business needs – otherwise it’s like trying to sell a trombone to a violinist.  Total waste of time

However – once you get past the first road block, the business problem for security investment is:

What is your value at risk, what are the right security countermeasures and are they cost-effective.? Not – what are the vendors selling this quarter.

There is no reason in the world why data security should be any different than any other IT investment.

2) I totally disagree that looking only at a network-based DLP product is inherently limiting. Just because a few vendors like Websense and Symantec, have integrated end point and gateway products doesn’t  makes them cost-effective data security countermeasures, ensure success of the project or prevent the next data breach.

Let me submit  two counter-examples:

A) Suppose all your sensitive data is in the cloud – then maybe network DLP is a good fit

B) Suppose all your endpoints are in the cloud – then maybe endpoint DLP is a good fit

C) Suppose all your sensitive data is on notebooks – then maybe encryption is the right countermeasure to data loss.

The answer is that you have to measure stuff – measure your people, process and system vulnerabilities and where your assets are headed. After that you need to estimate your  VaR and only THEN start thinking about the people, process and technology countermeasures

BTW – I’ve been saying this for years

October 28, 2004 –  A guide to buying extrusion prevention products

March 17, 2005 – How to justify Information security spending

Now if only we could find a way to monetize being right.

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Free agent DLP from Sophos

Sophos anti-virus

Sophos has announced that they will soon include endpoint data loss prevention functionality in their anti-virus software. Developed in-house, Sophos will have an independent offering – unlike Websense, RSA, Symantec, Trend Micro and McAfee (who all purchased DLP technology) and have integrated it into their product lines with various levels of success (or not).

The Sophos move to include agent DLP functionality for free is a breath of fresh air in a data security industry long known for long-winded, heavy-handed, clumsy and frequently amateurish attempts at exploiting the waves of data breaches into a franchise that would drive sales of products purchased from visionary DLP startups.

Sophos is known to be independent and may not be inclined to partner with other pure-play  data security vendors like the network DLP company – Fidelis Security Systems. They may not have to partner if the play works well.

Beyond strategic speculation, the Sophos move should give customers a very good reason to ask why they should spend $80-150 for a Verdasys Digital Guardian agent, or $40-80 for  McAfee agent DLP software.

If Sophos can do a solid job on detecting and preventing loss of digital assets such as credit cards or sensitive Microsoft Office files at the point of use, then free looks like an awfully good value proposition.

With the recent deal that Trend Micro did at Israel Railroads for almost free ($10/seat) for 2500 seats (Trend can’t be making money on that transaction); but free or almost-free is not a bad penetration strategy if it gets your agent on every desktop in the enterprise and you get footprint and recurring service revenue for anti-virus.

I know I will be taking a close look when the software is released.

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