Can security software keep pace with advanced threats?

Moderated by Ed Bott | June 9, 2014 -- 07:00 GMT (00:00 PDT)

Summary: The threat landscape has changed dramatically over the last decade. How well are security software companies keeping up with the new challenges?

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes




Larry Seltzer

Larry Seltzer


Audience Favored: No (88%)

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

Continues to play essential role

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes: There's no doubt that the security landscape has changed dramatically over the past decade, and that threats have evolved from relatively simple viruses and macros designed to cause mayhem buried in documents and files, to advanced threats designed to steal data and carry out corporate sophisticated espionage.

When it comes to security, make one false move and your company can make headlines – in a very bad way. While no amount of security software can compensate for bad judgment by the people behind the keyboard, but it can help the user make informed decisions, and help IT admins to lock down systems and protect the whole infrastructure from attack. But lately there has been concern that security software won't be able to keep up with the advanced threats facing enterprises, especially given the complexity of these threats and the fact that many are customized based on the target.

The problem with this statement is that it's not new – naysayers have been making the claim for years that security software won't be able to keep up with the rapidly changing landscape, and yet keep up with threats it has. And keep up with future threats it will continue to do.


A lot more than software

Larry Seltzer: When a Symantec executive declared recently that antivirus was "dead," it was inevitable that he would be misinterpreted. Security software, including antivirus, is an indispensable tool for IT to block advanced threats. It just can't do the job alone.

In an enterprise, all the best security software in the world won't secure your users and data unless the right policies are in place and administrators have the authority to enforce them. Some of these policies can be unpleasant for users, who must be required to use complex passwords and change them frequently, to use two-factor authentication, to log in to corporate resources over and over again.

Best practices, best defined by OWASP in their Top 10 Web Application Security Flaws, can make things hard on administrators and developers too: They have to be careful how they design web pages and access databases, how they handle user passwords, and so much more.

A company that follows these rules and does security right has a lot more than software. It has good IT people and senior management that is committed to giving them what they need to protect the company.


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  • It'll always be an arms race.

    Unless something truly groundbreaking or magical happens - it'll always be an arms race.

    I just don't see a way around it. There will always be more flaws to find, and there will always be more tricks that criminals use that security software needs to deal with.

    I just don't see any end in sight. Security software can *maybe* keep pace, but that pace will eternally be changing.
    Reply 59 Votes I'm Undecided
    • Only Possible To Slow Race

      There are two possible ways to slow the race but both are probably unacceptable. They will never totally stop it.

      1) A fundamental change in the web that makes hiding your identity much more difficult. This means things like using real names, etc. I think this is inevitable but I will probably not see it my life time.
      2) Government Action. This would take an international effort to strengthen laws and regulations. This could sharply increase risk and curtail profitability. It would never stop one government going after another one.
      Reply 43 Votes I'm Undecided
  • Eternal vigilance

    I figured this one would be a no-brainer, but apparently not.
    John L. Ries
    Reply 54 Votes I'm for No
    • Part of the problem is that....

      it takes more than brains (re: "no-brainer") to work and live safely - and way too many folks either do not catch on, choose convenience over safety, or may indeed be too ignorant to make an intelligent decision.
      Reply 52 Votes I'm Undecided
      • LOL! Well Said

        Thanks for the morning laugh.
        Reply 34 Votes I'm Undecided
      • Ignorant

        Ignorance does not lead to unintelligent, it leads to uninformed. Stupidity leads to unintelligent.
        Reply 26 Votes I'm Undecided
  • Not a chance.

    The problem is that vendors release bugs faster than they fix them. Next, the "security software" can't paper over the bugs until the bugs are identified - thus there is always a delay.

    The only way to keep up is for vendors to release fewer bugs, and fix them faster than they can be exploited.
    Reply 54 Votes I'm for No
    • Or if you're a big organization...

      ...and you use open source software, you can always put some of your own people to work finding and fixing bugs. In that case, you're not entirely dependent on the vendor.
      John L. Ries
      Reply 56 Votes I'm Undecided
      • And... a consequence, you end up with some in-house security expertise (less need to rely on consultants).
        John L. Ries
        Reply 48 Votes I'm Undecided
        • Quality Not Consistent

          There are a lot of different skill levels. Not every company would have or could afford the best. Also there are different kinds of threats that that take different expertise. Only consultants with large dedicated staffs can have the level of expertise needs. In-house is not a solution.

          One of the primary laws of software is there is no software that is totally bug free except that which is obsolete and no longer used. It is kind of like a dead organism. It will not catch any new diseases that will kill it.
          Reply 36 Votes I'm Undecided