Security Visualization - State of 2010 and 2011 Predictions

At the recent SANS Incident response and log management summit, I was part of a panel on security visualization. As an introduction, I presented the attached slides on the security visualization trends and where we are today.
I looked at four areas for security visualization: Data, Cloud, Tools, and Security. I started with looking at the log maturity scale that I developed a while ago. Barely any of the present companies could place themselves to the right of correlation point. It's sad, but probably everyone expected it. We have a long way to go with log analysis!


It's very simple. If you don't have the data, you cannot visualize it. A lot of companies are still struggling to collect the necessary data. In some cases, the data is not even available because applications do not generate it. This is where data analysis or security people have to start voicing their needs to the application owners and developers in order to generate the data that they need. In addition, developers and security people have to communicate more to learn from each other. Ideally, it is not even the security folks that visualize and analyze the application logs, but it is the application people. Just a thought!
What we will see next year is that the Big Data movement is going to enable us to crunch more and bigger data sets. Hopefully 2011 will also give us an interoperability standard that is going to ease log analysis.


What does the cloud have to do with security visualization? Well, it has to do with processing power and with application development. Applications generate logs and logs are used for security visualization. Cloud services are new pieces of software that are being developed. We have a chance here to build visibility into those applications, meaning we have an opportunity to educate these developers to apply logging in the right way.
Next year we will see a lot of companies that are going to roll their own log analysis systems based on big data technology, such as Hadoop. We have seen a number of companies doing this already in 2010: Facebook, Linkedin, NetFlix, Zynga, etc. Traditional log management solutions just don't scale to these companies' needs. This will continue next year.


With tools I mean security visualization tools. We are absolutely nowhere with this. There are a couple of simple tools out there, but there is no tool that really does what we need: brushing, linked views, supports large data sets, easy to use, contextualized, etc.
Next year won't really change anything in this area. What we will see is that more and more tools are built on the Web. The cloud movement is kind of responsible for this push, but so is the broad utilization of HTML5 with all of it's goodness (e.g., Websockets, Canvas). We will see advances in the social space with regards to visualization tools. Security will continue utilizing those tools to analyze security data. It's not ideal because these tools are not meant for this, but hey, better than nothing! Maybe this will help creating awareness and will surface some interesting use-cases for security visualization.


What will we see in security visualization? Well, as we saw earlier, we don't have the data. What that means is that we haven't really had a chance to learn how to visualize that data. And because we didn't have that chance, we don't really understand our data. Read that again. I think this is an important point!
Next year will give us more bad security visualization examples. And I am lumping product displays into this. Have you looked at your tool lately? During the SANS summit, I had a chance to look at some of the vendor's dashboards. They are horrible. 3D charts, no legends, bad choice of colors, non actionable dashboards, etc. Note to log management vendors: I offer a security visualization class. You might want to consider taking it! But back on topic. Visualization, just like security, will stay an afterthought. It's being added when everything else is in place already. We know how that generally turns out.

I know, I am painting a gloomy picture. Hopefully 2011 will have some surprises for us!