Since launching our web classification service in 2006, we’ve seen tremendous interest in our threat and web classification services, along with an evolution of the types and sizes of cybersecurity vendors and service providers looking to integrate this type of curated data into their product or service. Over the years, we’ve had the good fortune to work with partners of all sizes, from global networking and security vendors to innovative and dynamic start-ups across the world.
With the end-of-life of Broadcom’s Symantec RuleSpace OEM Web Classification service, we’ve received numerous inquiries from their former customers evaluating alternative solutions. Here we’ll outline the things to consider in a replacement. For more on why Webroot is poised to fill the gap left by the Broadcom, you can read the complete whitepaper here.
Your use case: how well does it align with the vendor?
Each use case is unique. Every vendor or service provider brings its own benefit to market and has its own idea about how their service or solution adds value for customers, clients or prospects. That’s why our adaptive business model focuses on consulting with partners on technical implementation options, spending the time to understand each business and how it may benefit from a well-architected integration of classification and/or intelligence services.
Longevity and track record
A key factor influencing change on the internet is innovation. Every service provider is continuously enhancing and improving its services to keep pace with changes in the threat landscape, and with general changes to the internet itself. As well as keeping up with this change, it’s important that a vendor brings a historical perspective to the partnership. This experience will come in handy in many ways. Scalability, reliability and overall business resilience should be expected from a well-established vendor.
Fair comparative evaluations of web classification and threat intelligence providers are difficult to achieve. We can offer guidance to prospective partners, but it’s often more reassuring to simply see the strong partner relationships we have today. Many of these we’ve worked with for well over a decade. When evaluating a vendor, we recommend looking closely at current partners and imagining the investments each have made in their integrated solutions. This speaks volumes about integration performance and the quality of the partnership.
A classification or threat dataset is only as good its sources and the analytics used to parse it. Many companies offer classification and/or threat intelligence data, but the quality of that data varies significantly.
Threat Intelligence Capabilities
Not all our partners’ use cases require threat intelligence, but for those that do it’s critical they understand where their threat data comes from. There are now a great many sources of threat data, but again these are far from equal. Worse still, comparing source is often no simple task.
Ease of integration
As mentioned, every use case is unique. So are the platforms into which web classification, malware detection and threat intelligence services are integrated. It’s therefore crucial that a vendor provide flexible integration options to accommodate any pioneering partner, service provider or systems integrator. Simply providing data via an API is useful, but will it always deliver the performance required for real-time applications? Delivering a local database of threats or classifications may help with performance, but what about new threats? Achieving a balance of flexible delivery, performance and security is crucial, so take time to discuss with potential vendors how they plan to deliver.
Phishing sites are some of the most dynamic and short-lived attack platforms on the web, so intelligence sources must be capable of detecting and tracking them in real-time. Most phishing intelligence sources depend on manual submissions of phishing sites by end users. This is far from ideal. Users are prone to error, and for every 10,000 users who click on a phishing site only one will report it to an authority or tracking service, leading to massive under-reporting of this threat vector.
Category coverage: beware category overload
There are various approaches to classifying the web and different vendors specialize in different areas. In many cases, this is determined by the data sources they have access to or the markets in which they operate. Again, it’s important to evaluate the partners to whom the vendor is delivering services and to consider how the vendor may or may not add value to the partnership.
Efficacy and performance
Efficacy is fundamental to web classification or threat detection capabilities, so it should be a core criterion when evaluating a vendor. Depending on the use case, false positives or false negatives may be the primary concern when making determinations. Potential vendors should be evaluated for performance in these areas and asked how they approach continuous improvement.
Building any third-party service or solution into a product, platform or service entails risk. There’s always the chance the new dependency negatively affects the performance or user experience of a service. So it’s importance to ensure a vendor can reliably deliver consistent performance. Examine each’s track record and customers base, along with the use cases they’ve previously implemented. Do the vendor’s claims match the available evidence? Can current customers be contacted about their experiences with the vendor?
In assessing vendors, it can be difficult to determine the level of scalability possible with their platform. It helps to ask questions about how they build and operate their services and looking for examples where they’ve responded to unexpected growth events that can help demonstrate the scaling capabilities of their platform. Be wary of smaller or upstart vendors that may have difficulty when their platform is heavily loaded or when called upon to grow faster than their existing implementation allows.
Some solutions may look technically sound, easily accessible and well-documented while a mutually agreeable business model remains elusive. Conversely, an agreeable business model may not be backed by the efficacy or quality of service that desired from a chosen vendor.
Feedback loops: making the best better
We’re often approached by contacts asking us for a “feed” of some kind. It may be a feed of threat data, malware information or classifications. In fact, many of our competitors simply push data for customers or partners to consume as their “product.” But this approach has inherent weaknesses.
Partnership: not just a customer relationship
As mentioned, we seek to build strong partnerships with mutual long-term benefit. Look for this approach when considering a vendor, knowing you’ll likely be working with them for a long time and fewer changes to your vendor lineup mean more time optimizing your products and services. Ask yourself: Who will we be working with? Do we trust them? How easy are they to get ahold of? These are critical considerations when selecting a vendor for your business.
We hope to have provided some food for thought when it comes to selecting an integration partner. To read the full whitepaper version of this blog, please click here. We’re always standing by to discuss prospective clients’ needs and to provide any possible guidance regarding our services. We’re here to help you craft the best possible solutions and services. Please contact us to take the next step towards an even more successful
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