Archive for the ‘Network Access Control’ Category

NAC is a Feature not a Market…

March 30th, 2007 7 comments

MarketfeatureI’m picking on NAC in the title of this entry because it will drive
Alan Shimel ape-shit and NAC has become the most over-hyped hooplah
next to Britney’s hair shaving/rehab incident…besides, the pundits come a-flockin’ when the NAC blood is in the water…

Speaking of chumming for big fish, love ’em or hate ’em, Gartner’s Hype Cycles do a good job of allowing
one to visualize where and when a specific technology appears, lives
and dies
as a function of time, adoption rate and utility.

We’ve recently seen a lot of activity in the security space that I
would personally describe as natural evolution along the continuum,
but is often instead described by others as market "consolidation" due to

I’m not sure they are the same thing, but really, I don’t care to argue
that point.  It’s boring.  It think that anyone arguing either side is
probably right.  That means that Lindstrom would disagree with both. 

What I do want to do is summarize a couple of points regarding some of
this "evolution" because I use my blog as a virtual jot pad against which
I can measure my own consistency of thought and opinion.  That and the
chicks dig it.

Without my usual PhD Doctoral thesis brevity, here are just a few
network security technologies I reckon are already doomed to succeed as
features and not markets — those technologies that will, within the
next 24 months, be absorbed into other delivery mechanisms that
incorporate multiple technologies into a platform for virtualized
security service layers:

  1. Network Admission Control
  2. Network Access Control
  3. XML Security Gateways
  4. Web Application Firewalls
  5. NBAD for the purpose of DoS/DDoS
  6. Content Security Accelerators
  7. Network-based Vulnerability Assessment Toolsets
  8. Database Security Gateways
  9. Patch Management (Virtual or otherwise)
  10. Hypervisor-based virtual NIDS/NIPS tools
  11. Single Sign-on
  12. Intellectual Property Leakage/Extrusion Prevention

…there are lots more.  Components like gateway AV, FW, VPN, SSL
accelerators, IDS/IPS, etc. are already settling to the bottom of UTM
suites as table stakes.  Many other functions are moving to SaaS
models.  These are just the ones that occurred to me without much

Now, I’m not suggesting that Uncle Art is right and there will be no
stand-alone security vendors in three years, but I do think some of this
stuff is being absorbed into the bedrock that will form the next 5
years of evolutionary activity.

Of course, some folks will argue that all of the above will just all be
absorbed into the "network" (which means routers and switches.)  Switch
or multi-function device…doesn’t matter.  The "smoosh" is what I’m
after, not what color it is when it happens.

What’d I miss?


(Written from SFO Airport sitting @ Peet’s Coffee.  Drinking a two-shot extra large iced coffee)

A Funny Thing Happened at the Museum Of Science…

February 21st, 2007 No comments

One of the benefits of living near Boston is the abundance of amazing museums and historic sites available for visit within 50 miles from my homestead.

This weekend the family and I decided to go hit the Museum of Science for a day of learning and fun.

As we were about to leave, I spied an XP-based computer sitting in the corner of one of the wings and was intrigued by the sign on top of the monitor instructing any volunteers to login:



Then I noticed the highlighted instruction sheet taped to the wall next to the machine:



If you’re sharp enough, you’ll notice that the sheet instructs the volunteer how to remember their login credentials — and what their password is (‘1234’) unless they have changed it!

"So?" you say, "That’s not a risk.  You don’t have any usernames!"

Looking to the right I saw a very interesting plaque.  It contained the first and last names of the museum’s most diligent volunteers who had served hundreds of hours on behalf of the Museum.  You can guess where this is going…

I tried for 30 minutes to find someone (besides Megan Crosby on the bottom of the form) to whom I could suggest a more appropriate method of secure sign-on instructions.  The best I could do was one of the admission folks who stamped my hand upon entry and ended up with a manager’s phone number written on the back of a stroller rental slip.

(In)Security is everywhere…even at the Museum of Science.  Sigh.


Upchuck, Shrubbery, Bumps-in-the-wire & Alan does the “Shimmy”

January 13th, 2007 6 comments

Alan and I normally are close enough on our positions that I don’t feel it necessary to argue with him.

I certainly don’t feel compelled to come to the defense of a competitor that Alan’s unloading on, but I’m really confused about his interpretation of what TippingPoint’s Chief Architect, Brian Smith, is communicating and where Alan suggests that he and StillSecure’s position lays.

To re-cap, Brian Smith was quoted in an SC Magazine Article as describing his views on how security ought to be positioned in the network thusly:

"Brian Smith, the chief architect of 3Com and a
founder of TippingPoint, says his first-ever RSA keynote will focus on
integrating solutions such as network access control, intrusion
prevention and behavioral anomaly detection to create an intelligent

"I can do all of these sorts of synergies and when you trace it
out, what ends up happening is you’re able to debug network problems
that you were never able to do before, get an unprecedented level of
security, and also lower the total cost of ownership," Smith says.
"They have to talk to each other. If we can pull all of these solutions
together, I think that’s going to be the trend over the next five to 10
years. It’s a natural evolution in the technology cycle."

Smith says he also plans to emphasize the benefits of the
bump-in-the-wire network approach to deploying security solutions.
Rather than embedding solutions into switchers and routers, Smith plans
to suggest overlaying solutions to allow for a more converged, cheaper
way to add intelligence to the network."

Amen to that.  But lest you think I am intimating that we should all just toss appliances willy-nilly across the network (in fact, that’s the opposite of what I think,) please read on…

Apparently it was the third (boldfaced) paragraph that got Alan’s goat and provoked him into a state of up-chuckedness.  Specifically, it seems that it is repugnant to Alan that someone who works for a "switch" company could suggest that overlaying security can be facilitated as a "bump-in-the wire."  I guess that depends upon your interpretation of "bump-in-the-wire." 

I’m guessing that Alan thinks that means individual appliances being inserted between network segments with one "goesinta" and one "goesouta" cable and yet I can’t figure out why  "…virtualizing some of this stuff and putting it on blades and so forth" has to be within the router or switch and not on an extensible services platform?

I have a feeling I’m going to hear the typical "not everyone can afford big iron" as a response…but if you can generalize to prove a point, I can become surgical and suggest that it’s not fair to treat the Global 2000, Carriers, Service Providers and Mobile Operators as an exception rather than the rule when it comes to describing security trends and markets, either.

Summarily, it appears that the "convergence" of networking and security in Alan’s eyes means that security functionality MUST be integrated into routers and switches in order to be successful and that adding security functionality on top of or in conjunction with the network is a lousy idea.

Strange comments from a guy whose company takes generic PC appliances  with security software on them and deploys them as bumps in the wire by sprinkling them across the network — usually at the cursed perimeter and not at the core.  Confused?  So am I.

Alan goes on:

Most of the guys who do the bump in the wire are trying like hell to
move up the stack and the network to get away from the edge to the
core.  You may be able to do IPS as a bump in the wire at the core if
you have the horsepower, but you are going to be forced to the edge for
other security stuff if you insist on bump in the wire.  Single point
of failure, scalability and cost are just working against you.
Eventually you have to turn to the switch. I just don’t get where he is
coming from here.

So you’re saying that your business model is already dead, Alan?

The final piece of irony is this:

Has selling big-ass, honking ASIC boxes to do IPS for so long totally
blinded them to virtualizing some of this stuff and putting it on
blades and so forth inside the switch and network.

Um, no. Again, not like I feel any inclination to defend Tippingpoint, but it’s apparent that Alan is not aware of TippingPoint’s M60 which is a huge multi-gigabit LAN switching platform (10-14 slots) with integrated IPS (and other functionality) that can either replace a typical switch or connect to existing switch fabrics to form an overlay security service.  It’s about a year overdue from the last announcement, but the M60 is an impressive piece of iron:M60

Each blade in the M60 acts as a stand-alone IPS device, similar to
TippingPoint’s T-series appliances, in which network connectivity and
IPS packet processing are done on the hardware. (The exception is with
10G interfaces; the M60 uses 3Com’s 8800 dual-port 10G blades, which
connect to TippingPoint IPS blades through the switch’s backplane.)

The blades run 3Com’s TippingPoint IPS device operating system and use the vendor’s Digital Vaccine updating service, letting  the device identify the latest threat signatures and vulnerabilities.

This was one of the results of the Huawei joint venture with 3Com.  I believe that THIS is really what Brian Smith is talking about, not device sprinkling appliances.  It’s  a switch.  It’s an IPS.  That’s bad, how?

What has me confused is that if Alan is so against hanging security services/functions OFF a switch, why did StillSecure do the deal with Extreme Networks in which the concept is to hang an appliance (the Sentriant AG) off the switch as an appliance instead of "inside" it like he suggests is the only way to effectively demonstrate the convergence of networking and security?

So, I totally get Brian Smith’s comments (despite the fact that he’s a competitor AND works for a switch vendor — who, by the way, also OEM’d Crossbeam’s X-Series Security Services Switches prior to their Tippingpoint acquisition!)

The model is valid.  Overlaying security as an intelligent service layer on top of the network is a great approach.  Ask me how I know. 😉


IDS is dead, NAC doesn’t work…long live UTM? Welcome Back to the Vendor Cesspool, Mr. Stiennon…

November 28th, 2006 5 comments

I smell blood.  This will be a very fun next couple of months.  Why?

In case you haven’t heard, Richard Stiennon has announced that after his provoking and inciteful rant (sorry, Mike) against Check Point, Ken Xie from Fortinet wooed him back to the darkside and he’s going to join them as their newly-titled Chief Marketing Officer.  Timing is everything, eh?

The esteemed Mr. Stiennon is a really smart guy and I am honestly looking forward to seeing how and what he does @ Fortinet.  It will be thought-provoking for sure.

So much for the niceties…Richard’s railed on me previously about how big honkin’ UTM boxes aren’t the answer to security but I reckon that’s going to change — or spin — now that he works for a vendor that sells (amongst mostly SMB/SME solutions) big honkin’ UTM boxes.

We really had a good time going at each other in regards to NAC and his Secure Network Fabric (SNF) positioning and it lead to a podcast debate on Martin McKeay’s blog, also.  I am eager to see how, or if, Fortinet’s strategy changes once Richard gets his hands on the positioning and messaging.

Fortinet really doesn’t compete in the "…high-end enterprise, carrier and managed service provider" space, but their ATCA-based chassis products are certainly positioned to play there.  He’s got his work cut out for him. 

I forecast that Fortinet’s high-end ATCA-based product line will be the soapbox from atop which Richard continues to evangelize his SNF strategy — but instead of "embedding" security in the switching fabric, it will be overlaid with big honkin’ UTM boxes, despite his prior arguments to the contrary.  I further prognosticate that we’ll see PR regarding relationships with switch vendors like what Shimmy @ StillSecure did with Extreme…

Either way, it’s going to be entertaining.

Congrats on the job, Richard.  At least I don’t have to listen to your "…I’d rather debate with independent analysts" comments anymore. 😉  Looking forward to our continued interaction.


Crossbeam To Exit Security Market — Will Re-focus On Selling Pet Supplies On-line

November 5th, 2006 1 comment

Firstly, I really like debating elements with Ptacek.  He’s a really, really smart guy.  Somewhat misguided, but a really, really smart guy.  I’m honored that he picks on me.  Really. 

He picked on Bejtlich the other day.  Given this association, I believe I have solved the Poincaré conjecture which has something to do with math, intractability and doughnuts.  Mmmmm.  Doughnuts.

Here, he mentions in response to my post regarding my Chicago presentation, that Cisco will crush Crossbeam.  Privately he gave me a date and time, but I told him that I wouldn’t repeat when because it might affect his Cisco stock value.

Secondly, I can only giggle about Thomas’ choice for his blog entry title ("Cisco can kill Crossbeam any time it wants…") relating how Cisco will assimilate us all…I remember that same Borg-like prediction about how Microsoft would crush the Linux movement and how no other OS would stand a chance.

I believe Thomas is still using a Mac today…

At any rate, I started with Crossbeam almost exactly a year ago.  The funny thing about crossing over from a security practitioner to working for a security vendor is that all your credibility goes out the window instantly.

I get this, it’s part of the game, but I refuse to bow to the notion that the last 15 years of my life and the credibility it has earned is erased by this singular event, so I go on assuming that my opinions count as they always have – like the paper they’re written on.

Almost always, I end up arguing with people who have either only been a vendor or an analyst and short of securing their home networks have never actually been a CISO of a company whose assets have monetary value with the word “billions” preceeding it.  I have.  I argue from that point and the beliefs that come from that perspective.  Yes, I am biased.  I was before I came to Crossbeam, too.

The one thing that makes it difficult to sort out addressing someone who is as long-winded as I am is figuring out which parts of the debate are religious, marketing, technical or dogma.

Thomas is obviously reacting to my post playing the role of Cisco’s VP of Marketing, despite his disclaimers to the opposite.  I will answer disguised as a cabaret dancer from Ohio.  I hope that’s not confusing.  If nothing I say makes sense, I’ll just ask you to rent the movie “Showgirls” and you’ll forget all about this security nonsense.

So I’ve read his retort to my post/presentation, and I’m going to respond to the things I think are worth responding to because a good chunk of his posting doesn’t really address my points – they defend Cisco’s misses.  Yet I digress…

Ptacek starts out all right, doing a good job of summarizing the sentiment of both my post and my presentation:

Chris’ argument has three salients:

  • Cisco’s Self-Defending Network Architecture (the successor to SAFE) is just marketecture.
  • Cisco hasn’t put its money where its mouth is on integration of security into its mainline platforms (the Cat and routers).
  • Security belongs at a “service layer”, virtualized over the entire network, not as point-deployed boxes (IPS) or embedded into the infrastructure (IPS blade).

I really could just stop here because I’ve yet to find anyone (besides Thomas) who would actually disagree with any of those points, so why continue? 😉

But, he did, so I will…

1.    Is SDNA “marketecture”? Of course it is. SDNA is code for “sole-source network security from Cisco”. Sniping at SDNA’s credibility is as silly as sniping at the Cisco SAFE architecture in 2001: absolutely nobody designs networks according to these “schemes”. SDNA is a “why we did it” story that is retrofit onto Cisco’s evolving product lines to make it seem like they have strong management and a real vision.

Roger that.  SDNA = marketing.  Being opportunistic marketing-wise = vision.  Check.

But Chris’ argument isn’t about SDNA. It’s about whether enterprises should sole-source from Cisco, with around $1b in security sales, or consider vendors like Crossbeam that post sales less than 8% of that.

That’s right, my argument is that you shouldn’t sole-source your security solutions from a single vendor who claims competency in 15+ categories of security without demonstrating it, ever, except with a checkbook.

Also, just to double-check, Thomas, in Cisco math, a $200,000 Cat6500 switch with two FWSM blades is still $200,000 of “security sales,” right?   Uh-huh.  How about those “negative margin” deals…

That’s a fine argument to make, but if you’re going to build it on Cisco’s inability to run a real playbook, you can’t cherry pick Cisco’s weakest messages. SDNA may be meaningless. NAC isn’t. Even if it doesn’t work yet, it’s actionable and it’s changed the way people think about securing their network, and when Cisco buys the company that can really deliver on it for large enterprises, NAC is going to cause Crossbeam huge headaches.

Cherry-pick their weakest message?  SDNA is their message, Thomas!   DVVM and Quad-play is dependent upon this underlying message that “security is the network.”  I didn’t make this up, Cisco did.

You just contradicted yourself hugely.  In the first paragraph you said that “…absolutely nobody designs networks according to these “schemes”” but somehow that’s affected the way in which folks secure their networks!?  You’re right…they take a look at the Cisco method and realize it doesn’t work and look for other solutions.

Also, I just love the “…you just wait until Cisco buys something that actually works” sentiment!

By the way, Crossbeam doesn’t have to fear when Cisco gets NAC working (which is the most hysterical comment you’ve made,) because we can simply get a best-of-breed partners’ NAC application running on our platforms…no cash, no development, no fuss.  In fact, we are already in the process of doing that.

Furthermore, when you say NAC, you mean CNAC.  But which CNAC are you referring to?  The one that didn’t completely pan-out (CSA) or the new-and-improved Clean Access?  You know, the same Clean Access that requires ANOTHER appliance to be added to the network to function and is purdy much a Cisco-only solution…

2.    If you’re an indie network security vendor with a pulse, the idea of Cisco embedding IPS and firewalls into every Cat switch and access router puts you in a cold sweat. Is Cisco full of shit about this plan? Reasonable people will disagree, but the answer will be “no”.

See, I don’t think they’re full of shit.  I just think they’re not a security company and aren’t executing on their vision in a manner consistent with the customers they serve outside of the SMB.  The Enterprise strategy is showing cracks and they are very distracted across an immense portfolio.  They’re trying to re-group on the convergence front, but there’s pressure there, too.  All the while, security plods on.

First, the existence proof: the ISR. Large enterprises buy them by the hundreds. It’s one of Cisco’s most successful products ever. And it’s a direct threat to the branch/satellite-office market that is the primary revenue multiplier for indie perimeter security vendors —- Crossbeam’s bread and butter.

The ISR is fantastic…and if you’re a branch/satellite-office company I’d suggest it’s a very good product – still only provides limited security functionality and that’s why Cisco sells ASA’s with them.

Also, if you’re suggesting that the SMB/Branch perimeter is Crossbeam’s “bread and butter” you are completely and absolutely incorrect.  90% of our revenue comes from Large enterprise data center consolidation and service provider/MSSP/mobile operator customers.  Your definition of the “perimeter” needs work as does your understanding of what we do…again.

Cisco does more than $10b a year in Cat switching alone; by revenue, their grip on that market is comparable to Microsoft’s lock on operating systems. All it takes for Cisco to launch completely integrated network security is a credible ASA blade for the Cat6k. How far out can that be? Enterprises already buy the Firewall Switch Module.

Actually, the ASA isn’t their answer to the aging FWSM, the ACE and VSA are…and it’s got a long way to go.   By the way, who said that I’m suggesting we’re out to crush Cisco?  Beating them where they do a lousy job is a very nice living by your own math above.  How far out?  You’ll have to ask them.

The 6500 series is old in the tooth and if you read Gartner’s recent 2006 MQ for Campus LAN, their darling Cisco takes some serious knocks.  That includes the security piece.  Gasp!

And finally there’s the obvious point to be made about NAC and Cisco Security Agent, the alien larvae Cisco is trying implant into host security. NAC is a lot of bad things, but “un-integrated” is not one of them.

You’re right, but you forget that "un-integrated (?)" does not equal “functional.”  You’re also a couple of months late on this argument already…please see above.  I think your a little out-of-date on where Cisco is with CNAC…please see the report above for a very interesting look at the Gartner report.

Basically, every indie vendor has a talking point about how Cisco should just stick to the connectivity that they’re good at. This stuff all sounds good at first, but c’mon. Cisco doesn’t own connectivity because they make the best routers and switches. To claim that their routing (perimeter) and switching (internal) real estate doesn’t give them a dominant position in security is to claim that the perimeter and internal networks aren’t implicated in security. Delusional.

A dominant position or an advantage in hocking their wares because there’s some box that might be a platform to deploy it someday or today in pieces?  I’d say the latter.  Where is my bottle of Zoloft, anyway?

I agree, they haven’t done it yet, but I’ll make a statement that’s sure to get me yelled at: as soon as Cisco decides it’s ready, it can end companies like Crossbeam, Checkpoint, and SourceFire within 18 months. Isn’t not doing that, and running security as a totally seperate business unit, one of the big mistakes they made in the 90s?

Oh, OK.  They haven’t because instead of feeding the hungry, bestowing Linksys DSL routers to everyone in Kentucky or donating to stop the killing in Darfur, they’ve instead decided to give  kindly by not destroying their competitors. 

Jesus, I had no idea!  Thanks for clearing that up.   

Security is now under Jayshree’s organization which is routing/switching, and I don’t believe it has ever been a separate unit.  It should be.  That way if it doesn’t pan out they can just scrap-heap it and say that it’s a feature, not a market.

3.  Does it make sense to deploy security uniformly across the whole network, defending secretary desktops the same way you defend iSCSI servers or server-agent management consoles? No. Security should be focused on assets.

Hey, that’s a great point.  I think I made it! Please tell me how they do that?

But exactly what does this have to do with network architecture? Read Chris’ slides and it seems to mean “the way to architect your network is to hang Cisco boxes off of a couple Crossbeams in your core”.

Not quite, but your extreme-isms are starting to have me think you should write for Al-Jazeera.   How about quoting what I actually talked about…you know, like build a fast, reliable, resilient and responsive network infrastructure and overlay security as a combination of security services which provides the absolute best-of-breed security in combination where you need it, when you need it and at a price tag where the risk justifies the cost.

But that’s what you meant, right? 😉

The points Thomas pins his venom on below are from a single slide in the preso which is basically a Letterman’s top-10 spoof.  Some of them are purposely meant to incite, others are humorous, some are leverage points for the rest of the discussion that the audience and I had.

I’ll respond to some of them because many of Thomas’ objections are out of context and some are just to silly to respond to.  If you really, really want a line-by-line, I’ll do it.  Y’all just let me know 😉

2.  When’s the last time a network guy could perform a byte-level forensic trace of a Botnet C&C channel or a security guy troubleshoot a nasty BGP route-reflector distribution problem?

I don’t know. You might try asking Dug Song at Arbor, Kirby Kuehl at Cisco, or any of the Team Cymru guys. When’s the last time a security guy bought a Cisco product? Hint: it happened 5 times while you read this sentence.

Ummmm…I was referring to the average security and network practitioner in a stove-piped Enterprise or service provider, not the rest of the crew from your Saturday afternoon flag-football squad 😉

These guys, like you, are not representative of the typical folks who have to actually use the stuff we’re talking about.

You know, customers.

  3.  Managing threats and vulnerabilities is not the same as managing risk; networks don’t understand the value of the data traversing can they protect it accordingly?

Cisco is not an ethernet cable. “The network” is whatever your vendor says it is. In Crossbeam’s case, “the network” is Cisco and “security” is everything else, including Checkpoint and SourceFire, both of whom sell products that Cisco has pin-compatible substitutes for.

Do any of these companies “understand the data”? No, I agree, they don’t. Is “understanding the data” important? Then let’s suspend the conversation until Cisco buys Vontu and Crossbeam partners with Vericept.

Pin-compatible?   Label-compatible, perhaps.  I think this is exactly the divergence that’s at the crux of the debate here, as the “quality” of the individual security solutions on their own (appliance or embedded) versus how they work as part of an architecture is the issue.  That’s my point, but it’s not a bullet-in-a-list sort of answer.

Also, I don’t care about Cisco buying Vontu, but what makes you think that we’re not already talking (and haven’t been for some time) to an extrusion prevention/IP Leakage vendor like Vericept?   

Crossbeam doesn’t suffer from having to wait to acquire technology and then spend 18 months butchering it to get it to work within the existing platforms (or build yet another point-solution appliance.)  We do our research in advance and when the time is right – and the customers desire it – we bring a partner’s application(s) onto the platform.

   4.  Just because two things are branded with the same name doesn’t mean they can communicate or interoperate well; just ask my wife

How’s that SourceFire/Checkpoint CPMI integration coming then? You got ISS using Snort signatures yet, or vice versa? Does anyone do app-level integration well?

Nope, and we’re not going to.  Neither will Cisco because they have no reason to if the entire network — and all the security components within — is theirs.  In fact, it’s within their interests to not have this happen.  If it did, it would just make your arguments weaker.

I’m just dinging the message and the messenger.  Our “app-level integration” is approached from a different perspective that starts first with consolidation of functions, virtualization of transport, application and policy then with the capability to flexibly pass flows through combinations of these virtual security stacks managed by the discrete parties charged with their care.  Best of breed functions that can be added to in an open platform without the need for a bunch of point solutions.

In large networks, the people responsible for FW are different than those responsible for IDS, are different than those responsible for XML, etc.   They’re still very, very vertically-stovepiped.

We don’t need to boil the ocean and we don’t.  We still have work to do on providing the overall global view of how traffic moves and is affected through these stacks, but we’re not the one blowing smoke about how this supposedly all works today.

That would be your job 😉

6.  The dirty little secret of embedding security in the “network” is that it’s the same as doing it with point-appliances…a single vendor’s set of appliances

Yes, it’s true: if Cisco succeeds in embedding security into its mainline products, you are going to be using Cisco security products. Diversity and consumer choice are valid arguments against Cisco.

But there’s one way in which using embedded security demonstrably isn’t the same as using point products: you don’t have to deploy point products to do it.

I call bullshit.  If you look at the slides in my preso, I can count over 13 different “point solutions” that aren’t routers and switches which are today relied upon to deploy this supposed “embedded” security.  The only difference between Cisco’s approach to embedded security and the appliance model is that the “appliances” are all Cisco’s.

Just because they have a Cisco label on it doesn’t make it “embedded.”

  7.  Modeling the security of the self-defending network after the human immune system and suggesting that it’s the ultimate analog is a crappy idea; people die

      Yes. What I hate about Cisco’s solutions is that you have to let a few machines on your network get infected for them to generate antigens; also, when Cisco’s security features coagulate around injuries, YouTube gets really slow.

Puff, puff, pass.  Puff, puff, pass.  You’re f-in up the rotation…man!

Please point me to a single customer in the world who has a self-defending network that functions like this.  Oh, that’s right, it’s the marketecture that you referred to in your first point and forgot that it doesn’t, actually, exist.  If YouTube being slow was the biggest problem businesses had today, you wouldn’t be employed either, T.

   8.  Security solely by acquisition does not make you a security company… just like acquiring lots of security “stuff” does not make you secure

You sure this is a good argument to make for a company that delivers 99% of its security value prop through partnerships with other companies?

Let’s ask the mean question: using product space names and market position (ie, “the #5 IPS vendor”), name some of the companies Crossbeam has turned down as partners? Cisco’s kind of picky about what it buys, you know.

It’s absolutely the right argument to make.  I guarantee you that the model of being customer-driven to take the best-in-breed security solutions from true security vendors and integrate it into a delivery architecture that is designed to do this rather than being force-fed into a retro-fit, works.  Today.


Oh, and #5 is a long way from #1, Mr. T.

"I pity the fool who mess wit Cisco.   Unnhnhnhnhh!  I want Balboa.  Sucka!"

Oh, I’d be more than glad to email you the list of 15-20 vendors over the last 6 months that we’ve said “no” to. 

You’re about to hit my threshold trip-limit on how much of our business model you claim inside knowledge to…especially since you’re batting zero at this point.

9.  Security in breadth is not the same thing as security in depth; “good enough” security is not good enough in the data center

What aspect of Cisco’s IPS is not “good enough” for the data center?

…the same one that loses to ISS, Sourcefire, and Enterasys every day.  Want to ask the same about DDoS?  I believe the answer there would be your own beloved Arbor.

People deploy Cisco’s solution usually in conjunction with other products or the same function.  I think I’ve said enough.

Did you run your original post through the Babelfish English → Cisco parser before you copy/pasted it here, or what?

10.  Securing everything, everywhere is not only unnecessary, it’s unachievable

It is if Cisco sells it at 10 points below cost in order to turn the entire network security market into a line-item feature for the Catalyst 6000.

So you admit that this is not about the efficacy of a solution but rather how much shit you have to give away for free to be called a market leader?

Actually, with the example above, Cisco now suggests you buy a completely separate 6509 into which you put all the security functions and turn it into a “security services switch” that is plugged into the “real” switching/routing fabric. 

Sound familiar?  It does to me.

I know it doesn’t sound that way, but I’m neither a fan of Cisco nor a skeptic about Chris. But his arguments don’t take Cisco seriously, and if we’re going to armchair quarterback the security industry, why be nice about that?

You’re right, it doesn’t.  I still love you, though. 

By the way, Lindstrom and I both looked at each other and laughed when we had lunch together at the show realizing that should you ever figure out we were in Chi-town and didn’t call you that you’d be grumpy.  (I had no idea you lived in Chicago so it was all Pete’s fault.)


On Martin McKeay’s Podcast re: NAC/SNF

August 10th, 2006 3 comments

Our online MobCast featuring Martin McKeay, Mike Rothman, Richard Stiennon, Alan Shimel and I regarding our on-going debate regarding NAC and SNF was almost a DNF when we discovered that SkypeCast sucked beyond compare (we jumped to "regular skype") and then Martin’s recording software decided to dedicate its compute cycles to the SETI project rather than record us.

Many thanks to the esteemed Mr. Stiennon who was luckily committing a felony by recording us all without disclosure. 😉  See, there’s a good side to all that government training. 😉

At any rate, we had a lively debate that needed to go on for about an hour more because (surprise!) we didn’t actually resolve anything — other than the two analysts were late to the call (surprise #2) and the two vendors were loud and obnoxious (not really a surprise.)

It was a great session that got passionately elevated across multiple elements of the discussion.  What we really recognized was that the definition of and expectations from NAC are wildly differing across the board; from the analyst to the vendor to the customer.

Take a listen when Martin posts it and let us know if we should have a second session.  I believe it will show up here:


NAC Attack: Why NAC doesn’t work and SN(i)F doesn’t, either…alone

August 7th, 2006 12 comments

I have to admit that when I read Alan Shimel’s blog entry whereby he calls out Richard Stiennon on his blog entries titled "Don’t Bother with NAC" and "Network Admission Control is a Blind Alley," I started licking my chops as I couldn’t wait to jump in and take some time to throw fuel on the fire.  Of course, Mike Rothman already did that, but my goal in life is to be more inflammatory than he is, so let the dousing begin!

I’ve actually been meaning to ask for clarification on some points from both of these fellas, so no better time than the present. 

Now, given the fact that I know all of the usual suspects in this
debate, it’s odd that I’m actually not siding with any of them.  In
fact, I sit squarely in the middle because I think that in the same
breath both Richard and Alan are as wrong as they are right.  Mike is always right (in his own mind) but rather than suggest there was a KO here, let’s review the tape and analyze the count before we go to the scorecards for a decision.

This bout is under the jurisdiction of and sanctioned by the Nevada
Gaming Commission and brought to you by FUD — the offical supplier of
facts on the Internet. 😉

Tale of the tape:

Richard Stiennon:

  1. Richard Stiennon highlighted some of Ofir Arkin’s NAC "weaknesses" presented at Black Hat and suggests that NAC is a waste of time based upon not only these technical deficiencies but also that the problems that NAC seeks to solve are already ameliorated by proper patching as machines "…that are patched do not get infected."
  2. Somewhat confusingly he follows on with the statement based upon the previous statement that "The fear of the zero-day worm or virus has
    proved ungrounded. And besides, if it is zero-day, then having the
    latest DAT file from Symantec does you no good."
  3. Richard suggests that integrating host-based and network-based security
    is a bad idea and that the right thing to do is based upon  "de-coupling network and host-based security. Rather than require them to work together let them work alone."
  4. Ultimately he expects that the rest of the problems will be fixed with a paradigm which he has called Secure Network Fabric. 
  5. Richard says the right solution is the concept he calls "Secure Network Fabric (SNF)" wherein "…network security
    solutions will not require switches, routers, laptops, servers,
    and vendors to work in concert with each other" but rather "…relies most heavily
    on a switched network architecture [which] usually involve[s] core switches
    as well as access switches."
  6. SNF relies on the VLANs that "…would be used to provide granularity
    down to the device-level where needed. The switch enforces policy based
    on layer 2 and 3 information. It is directed by the NetFlow based
    behavior monitoring system.
  7. Richard has talked about the need for integrating intelligent IDP (Intrusion Detection and Prevention) systems coupled with NBA/NBAD (Network Behavioral Analysis/Network Behavioral Anomaly Detection) and switching fabric for quite some time and this integration is key in SNF functionality.
  8. Furthermore, Richard maintains that relying on the endpoint to report its health back to the network and the mechanisms designed to allow admission is a bad idea and unnecessary.
  9. Richard maintains that there is a difference between "Admission Control" and "Access Control" and sums it up thusly: "To keep it simple just remember: Access Control, good. Admission Control, bad."

Alan Shimel:

  1. Alan freely admits that there are some technical "issues" with NAC such as implementation concerns with DHCP, static IP addresses, spoofed MAC addresses, NAT, etc.
  2. Alan points out that Richard did not mention that Ofir Arkin also suggests that utilizing a NAC solution based upon 802.1x is actually a robust solution.
  3. Alan alludes to the fact that people deploy NAC for various reasons and (quoting from a prior article) "…an important point is that NAC is not really geared towards stopping the determined hacker, but rather the inadvertant polluter."  Hence I believe he’s saying that 802.1x is the right NAC solution to use if you can as it solves both problems, but that if latter is not your reason for deploying NAC, then the other issues are not as important.
  4. Alan points to the fact that many of Richard’s references are quite dated (such as the comments describing the 2003 acquisition of TippingPoint by 3Com as "recent" and that ultimately SNF is a soapbox upon which Richard can preach his dislike of NAC based upon "…trusting the endpoint to report its health."
  5. De-coupling network and host-based endpoint security is a bad idea, according to Alan, because you miss context and introduce/reinforce the information silos that exist today rather than allow for coordinated, consolidated and correlated security decisions to be made.
  6. Alan wishes to purchase Pot (unless it’s something better) from Richard and go for a long walk on the shore because Mr. Stiennon has "the good stuff" in his opinion since Richard intimates that patching and configuration management have worked well and that zero-day attacks are a non-entity.
  7. Alan suggests that the technology "…we used to call behvior based IPS’s" which will pass "…to the switch to enfore policy" is ultimately "another failed technology" and that the vendors Richard cites in his BAIPS example (Arbor, Mazu, etc.) are all "…struggling in search of a solution for the technology they have developed."
  8. Alan maintains that the SNF "dream" lacks the ability to deliver any time soon because by de-coupling host and network security, you are hamstrung by the lack of "…context, analytics and network performance."
  9. Finally, Alan is unclear on the difference between Network Access Control (good) and Network Admission Control (bad.)

So again, I maintain that they are both right and both wrong.  I am the Switzerland of NAC/SNF! 

I’ll tell you why — not in any particular order or with a particular slant…

(the bout has now turned from a boxing context to a three man Mixed-Martial-Arts Octagon cage-match!  I predict a first round submission via tap-out):

  1. Firstly, endpoint and network security MUST be deployed together and ultimately communicate with one another to ultimately effect the most visible, transparent, collaborative and robust defense-in-depth security strategy available.  Nobody said it’s a 50/50 percentage, but having one without the other is silly.  There are things on endpoints that you can’t discover over a network.  Not having some intelligence about the endpoint means the network cannot possibly determine as accurately the "intent" of the packets spewing from it.
  2. Network Admission Control solutions don’t necessarily blindly trust the endpoint — whether agent or agentless, the NAC controller takes not only what the host "reports" but also how it "responds" to active probes of its state.  While virtualization and covert rootkits have the capability to potentially hide from these probes, suggesting that an endpoint passes these tests does not mean that the endpoint is no longer subject to any other control on the network…
  3. Once Network Admission Control is accomplished, Network Access Control can be applied (continuously) based upon policy and behavioral analysis/behavioral anomaly detection.
  4. Patching doesn’t work — not because the verb is dysfunctional — but because the people who are responsible for implementing it are.  So long as these systems are not completely automated, we’re at risk.
  5. Zero day exploits are not overblown — they’re getting more surgically targeted and the remediation cycles are too long.  Network-based solutions alone cannot protect against anomalies that are not protocol or exploit/vulnerability signature driven…if the traffic patterns are not abnormal, the flags are OK and the content seemingly benign going to something "normal," it *will* hit the target.
  6. You’ll be suprised just how immature many of the largest networks on this planet are in terms of segmentation via VLANs and internal security…FLAT, FLAT, FLAT.  Scary stuff.  If you think the network "understands" the data that is transported over it or can magically determine what is more important by asset/risk relevance, I too would like some of that stuff you’re smoking.
  7. Relying on the SNF concept wherein the "switch enforces policy based
    on layer 2 and 3 information," and "is directed by the NetFlow based
    behavior monitoring system" is wholly shortsighted.  Firstly layer 2/3 information is incredibly limited since most of the attacks today are application-level attacks and NOT L2/L3 and Netflow data (even v9) is grossly coarse and doesn’t provide the context needed to effectively determine these sorts of incursions.  That’s why NetFlow today is mostly used in DDoS activities — because you see egregiously spiked usage and/or traffic patterns.  It’s a colander not a sieve.
  8. Most vendors today are indeed combining IDP functionality with NBA/D to give a much deeper and contextual awareness across the network.  More importantly, big players such as ISS and Cisco include endpoint security and NAC (both "versions") to more granularly define, isolate and ameliorate attacks.  It’s not perfect, but it’s getting better.
  9. Advances in BA/NBA/NBAD are coming (they’re here, actually) and it will produce profound new ways of managing context and actionable intelligence when combined with optimized compute and forwarding engines which are emerging at the same time.   They will begin, when paired with network-wide correlation tools, to solve the holy trinity of issues: context, analytics and performance.
  10. Furthermore, companies such as ISS and StillSecure (Alan’s company) have partnered with switch vendors to actually do just what Richard suggests in concept.  Interestingly enough,
    despite the new moniker, the SNF concept is not new — Cisco’s SDN (albeit
    without NAC) heavily leverages the concepts described above from an
    embedded security perspective and overlay security vendors such as ISS
    and Crossbeam also have solutions (in POC or available) in this area.
  11. Let’s be honest, just like the BA vendors Alan described, NAC is in just the same position — "struggling in search of a solution for the technology they have developed."  There are many reasons for deploying NAC: Pre and Post-inspection/Quarantine/Remediation and there are numerous ways of doing it: agent-based/agentless/in-line/out-of-band… The scary thing is with so many vendors jumping in here and the 800 pound Gorilla (Cisco) even having trouble figuring it out, how long before NAC becomes a feature and not a market?  Spending a bunch of money on a solution (even without potential forklifts) to not "… stop the determined hacker, but rather the inadvertant polluter" seems a little odd to me.  Sure it’s part of a well defined network strategy, but it ain’t all that yet, either.
  12. With Cisco’s CSO saying things like "The concept of having devices join a network in which they are posture-assessed and given access to the network in a granular way is still in its infancy" and even StillSecure’s CTO (Mitchell Ashley) saying "…but I think those interested in NAC today are really trying to avoid infection spread by an unsuspecting network user rather than a knowledgeable intruder" it’s difficult to see how NAC can be considered a core element of a network security strategy WITHOUT something like SNF.

So, they’re both right and both wrong.  Oh, and by the way, Enterprise and Provider-class UTM solutions are combining ALL of this in a unified security service layer… FW, IDP, Anti-X, NBA(D) and SNF-like foundations.

[Tap before it breaks, boys!]

We need NAC and we need SNF and I’ve got the answer:

  1. Take some of Richard’s "good stuff"
  2. Puff, puff, pass
  3. Combine some of Alan’s NAC with Richard’s SNF
  4. Stir
  5. Bake for 30 minutes and you have one F’N (good) SNAC
    (it’s an anagram, get it!)

There you have it.