Gartner’s Recommendations for Security Policy Configuration Assessment Part 1: Establishing Secure Policy Configuration Baselines
Gartner research has uncovered a number of security policy challenges for enterprises. Among these challenges are the typical assessments necessary to fortify policy for compliance and improved security posture. In this series, we will look at each of the identified recommendations from Gartner to help overcome challenges that interfere with configuration assurance. You’ll discover how FireMon automates security policy management, bringing ease and sanity to security policy assessments.
The Gartner piece begins with the statement:
Secure configuration assessment is essential for identifying risks arising out of weak and misconfigured systems and devices. Security and risk management leaders should helm this effort and coordinate among various departments to meet compliance and security needs.
No argument there. Of course, it is essential to probe our network security devices to make certain we have properly mitigated risks. Did you know the primary culprit for DDoS, compliance failure, malware, data exfiltration is a misconfigured firewall? This may seem obvious, but often we forget how critical configurations are. No matter the sophistication of your security devices or products, the principal reason organizations run into problems stems from misconfiguration. Call the device ‘next gen’, call it ‘revolutionary’, call it a ‘silver bullet’ – it still must be configured correctly.
The second portion of Gartner’s opening statement suggests having a cross-functional approach with multiple groups in the business and security establishing the appropriate benchmarks. Everyone agrees that leaders should coordinate various departments for security and compliance mandates. The question is: how?
Gartner makes four recommendations to get organizations closer to security policy Utopia. Primarily, these recommendations center around secure configuration assessments (SCAs) to provide greater configuration assurance.
In this series, we will take a look at each of the recommendations and identify areas that FireMon helps security teams accomplish them all. What will help our effort is looking at each of the recommendations and asking, “How?”
Let’s take a look at the recommendations.
Security Policy Configuration Assessments – Recommendations
- Establish secure configuration policy baselines and minimum standards for system configurations by making use of sources such as business and functional requirements based on regulatory and statutory compliance requirements; benchmarks such as NIST and CIS; internal security policies; risk management; and results of threat assessment and incident management.
- Develop SCA capabilities by defining the objectives and scope, and selecting tools and an operating model to conduct regular SCA scans.
- Conduct frequent and regular SCAs to verify compliance with security policies, detect policy breaches and improve enforcement of policies.
- Engage IT operations to ensure that findings are being addressed by holding regular communication and cooperative meetings.
For this post, we will examine the first of Gartner’s recommendations. From the start, we can look at our prevailing question “how?” and discover methods for achieving baselines and standards.
First, we can see how the advice to establish a baseline has its benefits. By having a baseline, you can quickly locate areas where you are off course and take corrective measures to get where you want to go. As with any security program, a healthy recognition of where you are provides you with a realist’s understanding of the current state. From there, we can accomplish just about anything.
The second portion of this recommendation is to make sure you integrate the various business and functional requirements that inform what a policy ought to be. This also makes sense. Having a good understanding of the business’s needs and the functional capabilities levered by various groups, allows security teams to approach security configuration with much more valuable detail to inject those requirements into their systems. Special focus should be paid to regulatory and internal standards, serving as a benchmark of acceptability.
The FireMon Difference
Let me explain how FireMon customers are accomplishing this recommendation. FireMon customers have a strong appetite for data – they are infovores. Eating up all this data and information from security devices can be an overwhelming task. But as the recommendation states, it is important to get a baseline of the current state in order to see any configuration policy improvements. How does one gain access to the details for this baseline?
FireMon is the only network security policy platform with real-time monitoring. This allows the user to get an up-to-the-second view of what is happening within their environment (e.g. rules, traffic flows, applications, users, etc.). This becomes the baseline and the reality-check of what’s happening right now. Formerly, security teams would pull data from security devices to get a snapshot of its configuration and then ‘stitch’ that data into a coherent whole – usually with Excel.
But once they begin seeing data coming in as a live stream, they have an ongoing baseline from which they can make more appropriate decisions. If establishing a baseline is a primary concern, and everyone would agree that it is, then it stands to reason that in a world of dynamic networks that are evolving faster than fruit flies, real-time monitoring is the only way to have a steady pulse on the current state.
Customizable Compliance Reporting
Interestingly, the second half of Gartner’s recommendation calls attention to the necessary elements to maintain a compliance benchmark and functional requirements aligned to business needs. Though this seems obvious, prior to using FireMon, our customers would frequently piece-meal their reporting to accommodate the business demand and compliance mandate.
In the absence of FireMon, that is the only option. The security devices have their own outputs, fields, capabilities and reporting structures. What is a network security engineer to do? The answer is: you stitch. By stitching data together, you burn up countless labor hours…just to do it all over again for the next audit or compliance check. Checks that are constantly changing as the business and compliance mandates adjust.
With FireMon, these same security teams have an automated way to customize their reporting; accommodating any future standard, business need, regulatory requirement, etc. FireMon is the only network security policy management solution with customizable compliance reporting that doesn’t require professional services or custom development.
As we turn to the other recommendations, we have established that the recommendations coming from Gartner are patently wise. Without a strong baseline and configurations informed from business and regulatory needs, security teams will not have configuration assurance. With FireMon, they push the button for warp-speed, leading to improved security posture and reduced security risk. We see this kind of security policy success every day. We call these people, “FireMon Customers.”