Industry Observations-Tools and Applications-Web Application Security-WhiteHat Security Products

Security Guaranteed: Customers Deserve Nothing Less

WhiteHat Security Sentinel Elite

Ever notice how everything in the information security industry is sold “as is”? No guarantees, no warrantees, no return policies. This provides little peace of mind that any of the billions that are spent every year on security products and services will deliver as advertised. In other words, there is no way of ensuring that what customers purchase truly protects them from getting hacked, breached, or defrauded. And when these security products fail – and I do mean when – customers are left to deal with the mess on their own, letting the vendors completely off the hook. This does not seem fair to me, so I can only imagine how a customer might feel in such a case. What’s worse, any time someone mentions the idea of a security guaranty or warranty, the standard retort is “perfect security is impossible,” “we provide defense-in-depth,” or some other dismissive and ultimately unaccountable response.

Still, the naysayers have a valid point. Given enough time and energy, everything can be hacked, including security products, but this admission does not inspire much confidence in those who buy our warez and whose only fear is getting hacked. We, as an industry, are not doing anything to alleviate that fear. With something as important as information security is today, personally I think customers deserve more assurance. I believe customers should demand accountability from their vendors in particular. I believe the “as is” culture in security is something the industry must move away from. Why? Because if it were incumbent upon vendors to stand by their product(s) we would start to see more push against the status quo and, perhaps, even renewed innovation.

At the core of the issue is bridging the gap between the “nothing-is-perfect” mindset and the business requirements for providing security guarantees.

If you think about it, many other industries already offer guarantees, warrantees, or 100% return policies for less than perfect products. Examples include electronics, clothing, cars, lawn care equipment, and basically anything you buy on Amazon. As we know, all these items have defect rates, yet it doesn’t appear to prevent those sellers from standing behind their products. Perhaps the difference is, unlike most security vendors, these merchants know their product failure rates and replacement costs. This business insight is precisely why they’re willing to reimburse their customers accordingly. Security vendors by contrast tend NOT to know their failure rates, and if they do, they’re likely horrible (anti-virus is a perfect example of this). As such, vendors are unwilling to put their money where their mouth is, the “as is” culture remains, and interests between security vendor and customer are misaligned.

The key then, is knowing the security performance metrics and failure rates (i.e. having enough data on how the bad guys broke in and why the security controls failed) of the products. With this information in hand, offering a security guarantee is not only possible, but essential!

WhiteHat Security is in a unique position to lead the charge away from selling “as is” and towards security guarantees. We can do this, because we have the data and metrics to prove our performance. Other Software-as-a-Service vendors could theoretically do the same, and we encourage them to consider doing so.

For example, at WhiteHat we help our customers protect their websites from getting hacked by identifying vulnerabilities and helping to get them fixed before they’re exploited. If the bad guys are then unable to find and exploit a vulnerability we missed, or if they decide to move on to easier targets, that’s success! Failure, on the other hand, is missing a vulnerability we should have found which results in the website getting hacked. This metric – the product failure rate – is something any self-respecting vulnerability assessment vendor should track very closely. We do, and here’s how we bring it all together:

  1. WhiteHat’s Sentinel scanning platform and the 100+ person army of Web security experts behind it in our Threat Research Center (TRC) tests tens of thousands of websites on a 24x7x365 basis. We’ve been doing this for more than a decade and we have a larger and more accurate website vulnerability data set than anyone else. We know with a fine degree of accuracy what vulnerabilities we are able to identify – and which ones we are not.
  2. We also have data sharing relationships with Verizon (and others) on the incident side of the equation. This is to say we have good visibility into what attack techniques the bad guys are trying and what they’re likely to successfully exploit. This insight helps us focus R&D resources towards the vulnerabilities that matter most.
  3. We also have great working relationships with our customers so that when something unfortunate does occur – which can be anything from something as simple as a ‘missed’ vulnerability, to a site that was no longer being scanned by our solution that contained a vulnerability, all the way to a real breach – we’re in the loop. This is how we can determine whether something we missed and should have found actually results in a breach.

Bottom line: in the past 10+ years of performing countless assessments and identifying millions of vulnerabilities, there have been only a small number of instances in which we missed a vulnerability that we should have found that we know was likely used to cause material harm to our customers. All told, our failure rate is far less than even one percent (<.01%), which is an impressive track record and one that we are quite proud of. I am not familiar with any other software scanning vendor who even claims to know what their failure rate metric is, let alone has the confidence to publicly talk about it. And it is for this reason that we can confidently stand behind our own security guarantee for customers with the new Sentinel Elite.

Introducing: Sentinel Elite

Sentinel Elite is a brand new service line from WhiteHat in which we deploy our best and most comprehensive website vulnerability assessment processes. Sentinel Elite builds on the proven security of WhiteHat Sentinel, which offers the lowest false-positive rate of any web application security solution available as well as more than 10 years of website vulnerability assessment experience. This service, combined with a one-of-a-kind security guarantee from WhiteHat gives customers the confidence in both their purchase decisions as well as the integrity of their websites and data.

Sentinel Elite customers will have access to a dedicated subject matter expert (SME) who expedites communication and response times, as well as coordinates the internal and external activities supporting your applications security program. The SME will also supply prioritized guidance support, so customers know which vulnerabilities to fix first… or not! Customers also receive access to the WhiteHat Limited Platinum Support program, which includes a one-hour SLA, quarterly summaries and exploit reviews, as well as a direct line to our TRC. Sentinel Elite customers must in turn provide us with what we need to do our work, such as giving us valid website credentials and taking action to remediate identified vulnerabilities. Provided everyone does what they are responsible for, our customers can rest assured that their website and critical applications will not be breached. And we are prepared to stand behind that claim.

If it happens that a website covered by Sentinel Elite gets hacked, specifically using a vulnerability we missed and should have found, the customer will be refunded in full. It’s that simple.

We know there will be those in the community who will be skeptical. That’s the nature of our industry and we understand the skepticism. In the past, other security vendors have offered half-hearted or gimmicky guarantees, but that’s not what we’re doing here. We’re serious about web security, we always have been. We envision an industry where outcomes and results matter, a future where all security products come with security guarantees, and most importantly, a future where the vendors’ best interests are in line with their customers’ best interests. How amazing would that be not only for customers but also for the Internet and the world we live, work and do business in? Sentinel Elite is the first of many steps we are taking to make this a reality.

For more information about Sentinel Elite, please click here.