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Security clashes with cloud: Offensive Security CEO talks cultural mindsets, leadership challenges

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Ning Wang, Offensive Security CEO

Taking on the chief executive position at any company can be a daunting prospect. Every organization has a different culture, processes, and people, and in the world of cybersecurity, board leaders not only have to deal with internal management but also the ever-changing face of threats their customers face.

Offensive Security, known for the development of the Linux Kali penetration testing suite and security certification courses including OSCP Certified Professional, OSEE Exploitation Expert, and the new OSWE Web Expert qualification, became the responsibility of the new CEO Ning Wang three months ago.

Wang’s journey began in China, where she grew up. After studying physics at the University of California, Berkeley, she kickstarted her career at McKinsey & Company before making the shift to startups during the .com bubble, Lynda.com, and finally serving as chief financial officer (CFO) and chief operations officer (COO) of bug bounty platform HackerOne.

The executive then joined Offensive Security, founded in 2000, as its chief executive officer after the cybersecurity firm received a capital investment from Spectrum Equity. 

In an interview with ZDNet, Wang told us that her career has been based on problem-solving, whether practical or business-related, and this is an area of expertise which she has now brought to the table with her latest role at Offensive Security.

One of the first goals, Wang says, is to make sure that communication lines between board levels and general staff are improved and expanded upon, an ongoing trend which the executive has observed during her time in cybersecurity.

“Cybersecurity is no longer just the job of some security director in the company or an afterthought,” Wang says. “In fact, it is on the agenda of the CEO and on the mind of the CEO and board. At HackerOne, a lot of times those initiatives were [issued] directly from the CEO and the board.”

It is not just about making sure executives communicate and drive the company forward by involving staff at all levels — Wang believes that the heart of Offensive Security’s future success is also reliant on the implementation of a “try harder” mindset; not only for employees, but also for the cybersecurity industry and students at large.

Try harder, encourage, and communicate are therefore the recipe ingredients for Wang’s new role.

“When I first started there was a lot of anxiety around all the change that’s going to happen — is the company culture going to vanish? Is the company and the new leader only going to worry about financial numbers and not going to care about the culture and people?,” Wang explained. “But you can’t grow a company, you can’t grow a business, [when] you don’t have people who are really motivated and really are behind your mission.” 

“As a CEO I try to really communicate and listen, and and I don’t have the answers to all the questions but at least I can listen and facilitate more discussions.”

With any change in leadership, however, there will always be resistance to some ideas. In Offensive Security’s case, cloud computing has shown itself to be one such challenge.

See also: FireEye debuts Windows Commando VM as Linux Kali rival

Offensive Security, like many other organizations, relied mainly on in-house applications and systems hooked up to their own data centers. One change that Wang wanted to implement was the increased use of cloud-based services and resources. (There are still some times when on-premise solutions are most suitable than full cloud systems, however.)

“As a security company, this company has — in the past — hardly used any cloud-based tools,” the CEO said. “Any tool we use, whether it’s a conference call system, a ticketing system, or a chat system — it’s all either homegrown or it’s all on-premise where we host the software.”

Given the simplicity, ease of access, and resources available through cloud services such as Salesforce apps or AWS, Wang wanted to bring her new charge up to speed through modern technologies. The idea was originally “met with resistance,” Wang says, but eventually, her team came around to the idea.

TechRepublic: 90% of large tech companies vulnerable to email spoofing

“Initially the idea was, ‘What? no, that’s not how we do things — we are a security company,” Wang explained. “The change is happening and was met with some initial resistance and fear but now people are embracing it.”

Upon taking up the role, Wang says there was not a single full-time sales or marketing employee. Another personal mission was to make sure Offensive Security became well-known not just with practitioners but also the public at large.

In order to do so, the company has increased its focus on advertising and has expanded its range of online certificates including OSWE Web Expert. So far, the feedback has been positive from alumni testing out the new qualification.

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Three months in, there are many changes yet to be made in the organization, with a pivot to the cloud only one of many planned. However, Wang believes that modernization and getting the firm’s name out there is the key to future success. 

“[Linux Kali / OS certifications] are really well-known among the practitioners, whether it is penetration testers or hackers, [but] it is not yet as well-known among the people,” Wang added. “We are a very good brand when it comes to training security people so in order to do that we have to make sure we have the infrastructure in the company to be able to support that growth, and we have to make sure our products will be cutting edge.”

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GigaOm Radar for Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR)

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Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR) emerged as a product category in the mid-2010s. At that point, SOAR solutions were very much an automation and orchestration engine based on playbooks and integrations. Since then, the platforms have developed beyond the initial core SOAR capabilities to offer more holistic experiences to security analysts, with the aim of developing SOAR as the main workspace for practitioners.

Newer features offered by this holistic experience include case management, collaboration, simulations, threat enrichment, and visual correlations. Additionally, SOAR vendors have gradually implemented artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies to enable their platforms to learn from past events and fine-tune existing processes. This is where evolving threat categorization and autonomous improvement become differentiators in the space. While these two metrics are not critical for a SOAR platform, they may offer advantages in terms of reduced mean time to resolution (MTTR), resilience against employee turnover, and overall flexibility.

We’ve observed a lot of acquisition activity in the SOAR space. This was to be expected considering that, after 2015, a sizable number of pure-play SOAR vendors entered the market. Larger players with a wider security portfolio are acquiring these SOAR-specific vendors in order to enter the automation and orchestration market. We expect to see more SOAR acquisitions as the security tools converge, very likely into next-generation Security Information & Event Management products and services (SIEMs).

SIEM is a great candidate for a central management platform for security activities. It was designed to be a single source of truth, an aggregator of multiple security logs, but has been limited historically in its ability to carry out actions. In the past few years, however, SIEMs have either started developing their own automation and orchestration engines or integrated with third-party SOAR vendors. Through a number of acquisitions and developments, multiple players with wider security portfolios have begun to offer SOAR capabilities natively as part of other security solutions.

Going forward, we expect SOAR solutions to be further integrated into other products. This will include not only SIEM, but also solutions such as Extended Detection and Response (XDR) and IT automation. The number of pure-play SOAR vendors is unlikely to increase, although a handful may remain as fully agnostic solutions that enterprises can leverage in instances when their existing next-generation SIEM platforms do not meet all their use cases. However, for pure-play SOAR vendors to remain competitive, they will need to either expand into other security areas or consistently outperform their integrated counterparts.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

The post GigaOm Radar for Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR) appeared first on Gigaom.

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GigaOm Radar for Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS)

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Very few organizations see disaster recovery (DR) for their IT systems as a business differentiator, so they often prefer to outsource the process and consume it as a service (DRaaS) that’s billed monthly. There are many DRaaS providers with varying backgrounds, whose services are often shaped by that background. Products that started as customer-managed DR applications tend to have the most mature orchestration and automation, but vendors may face challenges transforming their application into a consumable service. Backup as a Service (BaaS) providers typically have great consumption models and off-site data protection, but they might be lacking in rich orchestration for failover. Other DRaaS providers come from IaaS backgrounds, with well-developed, on-demand resource deployment for recovery and often a broader platform with automation capabilities.

Before you invest in a DRaaS solution, you should attempt to be clear on what you see as its value. If your motivation is simply not to operate a recovery site, you probably want a service that uses technology similar to what you’re using at the protected site. If the objective is to spend less effort on DR protection, you will be less concerned about similarity and more with simplicity. And if you want to enable regular and granular testing of application recovery with on-demand resources, advanced failover automation and sandboxing will be vital features.

Be clear as well on the scale of disaster you are protecting against. On-premises recovery will protect against shared component failure in your data center. A DRaaS location in the same city will allow a lower RPO and provide lower latency after failover, but might be affected by the same disaster as your on-premises data center. A more distant DR location would be immune to your local disaster, but what about the rest of your business? It doesn’t help to have operational IT in another city if your only factory is under six feet of water.

DR services are designed to protect enterprise application architectures that are centered on VMs with persistent data and configuration. A lift-and-shift cloud adoption strategy leads to enterprise applications in the cloud, requiring cloud-to-cloud DR that is very similar to DRaaS from on-premises. Keep in mind, however, that cloud-native applications have different DR requirements.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

The post GigaOm Radar for Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) appeared first on Gigaom.

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GigaOm Radar for DDoS Protection

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With ransomware getting all the news coverage when it comes to internet threats, it is easy to lose sight of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks even as these attacks become more frequent and aggressive. In fact, the two threats have recently been combined in a DDoS ransom attack, in which a company is hit with a DDoS and then a ransom demanded in exchange for not launching a larger DDoS. Clearly, a solid mechanism for thwarting such attacks is needed, and that is exactly what a good DDoS protection product will include. This will allow users, both staff and customers, to access their applications with no indication that a DDoS attack is underway. To achieve this, the DDoS protection product needs to know about your applications and, most importantly, have the capability to absorb the massive bandwidth generated by botnet attacks.

All the DDoS protection vendors we evaluated have a cloud-service element in their products. The scale-out nature of cloud platforms is the right response to the scale-out nature of DDoS attacks using botnets, thousands of compromised computers, and/or embedded devices. A DDoS protection network that is larger, faster, and more distributed will defend better against larger DDoS attacks.

Two public cloud platforms we review have their own DDoS protection, both providing it for applications running on their public cloud and offering only cloud-based protection. We also look at two content delivery networks (CDNs) that offer only cloud-based protection but also have a large network of locations for distributed protection. Many of the other vendors offer both on-premises and cloud-based services that are integrated to provide unified protection against the various attack vectors that target the network and application layers.

Some of the vendors have been protecting applications since the early days of the commercial internet. These vendors tend to have products with strong on-premises protection and integration with a web application firewall or application delivery capabilities. These companies may not have developed their cloud-based protections as fully as the born-in-the-cloud DDoS vendors.

In the end, you need a DDoS protection platform equal to the DDoS threat that faces your business, keeping in mind that such threats are on the rise.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

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