White Paper. What the ideal cloud-based web security service should provide. the tools and services to look for

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1 White Paper What the ideal cloud-based web security service should provide A White Paper by Bloor Research Author : Fran Howarth Publish date : February 2010

2 The components required of an effective web security solution are many and varied, including a range of tools that guard against specific types of threats Fran Howarth This document is sponsored by

3 What the ideal cloud-based web security service should provide Executive summary In order to protect against the web-borne threats being seen today, any web security solution chosen should encompass a range of technology tools, backed up with business process automation capabilities. In short, it should encompass both tools and services. Of particular importance is that the terms of the agreement are clear to all, detailed in a service level agreement that defines what level of service is guaranteed and the penalties and sanctions to be applied if service levels are not met. The provision of reporting tools is of equal importance, so that organisations can gauge the effectiveness of the service and can prove that controls are working through auditing. This paper is the third in a series of four papers that examine the realities of web threats and looks at the promise that cloud-based solutions bring for organisations in terms of providing a higher level of protection against the increasingly complex and sophisticated threats being seen today. The previous papers explored the nature of threats and what the drivers are for embracing cloud-based services, and the fourth paper in the series will look at the benefits that are available from using protection services based in the cloud. As malware threats continue to rise, this series of papers is intended to be read by organisations in any industry that are trying to stem the tide of increasingly malicious webborne threats. Fast facts The ideal system should provide tools for guarding against all threats emanating from the web not just those already known, for which countermeasures are available, but also for previously unseen, zero day threats, for which effective mitigation needs to be developed and distributed to all customers automatically. The system should also support policies in force in a particular organisation and, in particular, acceptable internet use policies, to limit or block access to particular categories of website, as required. When considering a solution, organisations should also consider the financial viability of the service provider and check existing customer references to gauge levels of satisfaction with the service offered. The bottom line The components required of an effective web security solution are many and varied, including a range of tools that guard against specific types of threats. Of particular importance is that new threats can be mitigated through the use of advanced detection techniques so that countermeasures can quickly be developed and automatically deployed to all customers. This is something that is far easier to do with a solution based in the cloud than one deployed as software on every device needing protection, with all the associated set up and management headaches, since protection can be applied at the point where the threats are most likely to originate in the cloud. This document provides an outline of the main components of a cloud-based web security solution that will give organisations the assurance that they need that the threats are effectively under control. A Bloor White Paper Bloor Research

4 What the ideal cloud-based web security service should provide What the ideal cloud-based web security service should provide Taken as a whole, the purpose of implementing web security tools is to be able to protect the organisation from threats, boost data security and regulatory compliance efforts, and to enable the business through improved productivity for all, including mobile workers. To be effective, a web security service provided in the cloud should provide the means to stop viruses and other malware reaching an organisation, protect against phishing attacks and data loss, and prevent any other web-based threats from reaching the corporate network by filtering out malicious websites. It should be capable of protecting any device from webbased exploits whether the device is within the confines of HQ, or is accessing the network remotely. It must be capable of identifying users and authenticating them against permissions set in corporate directories in order to be able to enforce acceptable internet use policies. The following services should be provided as part of any web security services package: Anti-malware, anti-spyware and phishing controls: for protecting against such threats, organisations should look for tools that provide protection beyond signatures that have been written to protect against known malware. Because malware variants are being released so fast, the solution chosen should also offer heuristic filters, which look for patterns commonly associated with malware. This allows for protection against previously unseen variants of malware, or zero day threats, owing to the discovery of certain characteristics that point to the sample being malware. The use of heuristics will also boost the ability of the service to detect phishing attacks by looking for patterns associated with malware, in addition to databases of known compromised sites. Given the increasing prevalence of blended threats using a combination of web and exploits, organisations should look for a service from a vendor that also offers security products. Web content and URL filtering: web content and URL filtering enables organisations to protect themselves against malicious content such as malware or spyware embedded in web pages, or material that an organisation deems inappropriate, such as pornography or advertising. An organisation can set access policies according to role, group or individual in the organisation, and can limit access to specific categories of website to create customised URL lists. However, owing to the dynamic nature of the internet, organisations are advised to look for a service provider that keeps its database of malicious, inappropriate or compromised URL lists up to date with regular scans. In order to see what type of traffic is being filtered, the system should be able to provide reports of which users have requested which resources via a management console for audit purposes and to ensure that controls set are working as intended. Acceptable use policies: acceptable use policies are used by organisations to define which users can access which resources and the behaviour that is expected of them. This is particularly important given the expansion in the use of Web 2.0 applications such as blogs, wikis and social networking sites. The term Web 2.0 was coined in 2004 and such applications are proving to be popular with individuals looking for greater interactivity with friends and business contacts. At first, organisations looked to block their use within the work environment, but many are now realising that they too can benefit from greater use of Web 2.0 within their business. For example, most hiring managers will check a potential employee s posting on business networking site LinkedIn at the very least before extending an offer and some are proactively using Web 2.0 technologies to reach new customers and find potential employees. For this reason, many organisations are looking to allow their users access to Web 2.0 applications although many will look to limit their use to a certain time period, such as over lunch, or to specific groups, such as human resources only. Therefore, organisations should look for a service that provides support for the quotas set in acceptable use policies to be enforced by placing limits on time spent online, bandwidth, number of sites accessed, or limiting access to certain applications to particular time periods. Ability to scale as required: given the increasing mobility of today s workforce, any service chosen should provide access directly via an internet browser, without requiring a user to first connect to the corporate network, which is often done with the aid of virtual private network (VPN) technology that needs to be installed on each device by IT administrators. The service should also Bloor Research A Bloor White Paper

5 What the ideal cloud-based web security service should provide What the ideal cloud-based web security service should provide allow new users to be registered directly via the browser interface through self-service tools so that users can start to use the service quickly when they need it. This will also allow an organisation to scale up usage of the service should a disaster occur or bad weather conditions prevent employees from travelling to work as was seen in early January in the UK owing to heavy snowfall that made travelling impossible for some. In such a scenario, an organisation should be able to instantly request new users are temporarily added to the service to provide secure web access to prevent security incidents that could affect the performance of the business. Vulnerability analysis: a security threat increasingly being seen is that vulnerabilities are increasingly targeting not the actual browser, but the extensions and plug-ins that are made available for the browser. Most users are aware of the need to keep software applications up to date with the latest patches and upgrades, but less attention is generally paid to extensions and plug-ins to browsers, which are growing in popularity, in the main part for the added functionality that they enable for Web 2.0 applications. A useful addition to a web security service is the provision of vulnerability scanning capabilities to look for vulnerabilities in the operating system, applications and browsers on individual devices to report on any vulnerabilities that remain unpatched so that remediation action can be taken. 100% detection of all known viruses and spyware, but should also include penalties that will be applied should service levels fail to be achieved. Since the SLA is such a vital agreement governing the service, including the security controls that the provider puts in place, its importance cannot be overstated. Security provisions that should be considered include background checks and certifications for staff and the service provided, such as SAS 70 standards, and granular access controls to avoid any service representatives being able to access sensitive corporate information. Business continuity services: in order for the provisions of the SLA to be achieved, organisations should look for a service provider that has multiple geographically dispersed data centres that can guarantee failover and redundancy in the case of one data centre being unavailable. The system should use load balancing techniques to route web traffic to the nearest available data centre so that performance latency is minimised in order to maintain a fast browsing experience, which can be further enhanced through use of download acceleration and high-performance proxies. Figure 1 depicts the main elements that should be provided in a web security services suite. Service level agreement: when choosing a web security service, an important aspect to consider is the terms and conditions of the service level agreement (SLA) that governs the service contract. This should not only include guarantees for uptime for the service and for Figure 1: Elements needed in a typical web security services suite A Bloor White Paper Bloor Research

6 What the ideal cloud-based web security service should provide Summary In today s world of always-on connectivity, organisations can no longer assume that their employees will be behind a desktop accessing the information resources they need. As greater use of increasingly advanced computing devices, including laptops, netbooks and smartphones come into greater use in business, enabling more flexible working practices, technology tools must cater to their need to connect securely to the network from wherever they are, whenever they want to do so. Through the use of web security tools and services provided in the cloud, organisations can not only be sure that they are containing the threats, but that all devices in their organisation can be brought under control. Further Information Further information about this subject is available from Bloor Research A Bloor White Paper

7 Bloor Research overview Bloor Research is one of Europe s leading IT research, analysis and consultancy organisations. We explain how to bring greater Agility to corporate IT systems through the effective governance, management and leverage of Information. We have built a reputation for telling the right story with independent, intelligent, well-articulated communications content and publications on all aspects of the ICT industry. We believe the objective of telling the right story is to: Describe the technology in context to its business value and the other systems and processes it interacts with. Understand how new and innovative technologies fit in with existing ICT investments. Look at the whole market and explain all the solutions available and how they can be more effectively evaluated. About the author Fran Howarth Senior Analyst - Security Fran Howarth specialises in the field of security, primarily information security, but with a keen interest in physical security and how the two are converging. Fran s other main areas of interest are new delivery models, such as cloud computing, information governance, web, network and application security, identity and access management, and encryption. Fran focuses on the business needs for security technologies, looking at the benefits they gain from their use and how organisations can defend themselves against the threats that they face in an ever-changing landscape. For more than 20 years, Fran has worked in an advisory capacity as an analyst, consultant and writer. She writes regularly for a number of publications, including Silicon, Computer Weekly, Computer Reseller News, IT-Analysis and Computing Magazine. Fran is also a regular contributor to Security Management Practices of the Faulkner Information Services division of InfoToday. Filter noise and make it easier to find the additional information or news that supports both investment and implementation. Ensure all our content is available through the most appropriate channel. Founded in 1989, we have spent over two decades distributing research and analysis to IT user and vendor organisations throughout the world via online subscriptions, tailored research services, events and consultancy projects. We are committed to turning our knowledge into business value for you.

8 Copyright & disclaimer This document is copyright 2010 Bloor Research. No part of this publication may be reproduced by any method whatsoever without the prior consent of Bloor Research. Due to the nature of this material, numerous hardware and software products have been mentioned by name. In the majority, if not all, of the cases, these product names are claimed as trademarks by the companies that manufacture the products. It is not Bloor Research s intent to claim these names or trademarks as our own. Likewise, company logos, graphics or screen shots have been reproduced with the consent of the owner and are subject to that owner s copyright. Whilst every care has been taken in the preparation of this document to ensure that the information is correct, the publishers cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions.

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