Symantec Tames IT Risk Management With Control Compliance Suite 11

REVIEW: Symantec aims to tame the burden of IT system governance, risk and compliance (GRC) management with Control Compliance Suite 11.

Released this summer, Control Compliance Suite 11 from Symantec is aimed at helping enterprises manage the complex requirements set forth by governance, risk and compliance (GRC) management, a technology segment that has brought confusion and angst to those managing enterprise networks.

Although the company has offered tools to help with GRC in the past, this latest product release brings something new to the table, namely the company's Control Compliance Suite Risk Manager Module, which automates much of the governance and auditing process. It also equips IT managers with a better understanding of how complex IT infrastructures impact critical business concerns, such as risk and compliance.

Symantec Control Compliance Suite 11 (CCS) is a network-installed security product that brings auditing functionality to IT managers, who are focused on risk assessment, compliance and overall governance of complex IT infrastructures.

CCS is designed to function as an on-premise software offering, which requires onsite installation and configuration. The product relies on MS Windows Server 2003 SP2 or 2008 and Microsoft SQL Server 2005 SP2 to function, along with the related hardware to run those Microsoft products.

Installation, as with other Symantec products, is wizard-driven and relatively straightforward, although significant knowledge about the subject network (and related infrastructure) is required to properly deploy the product. Nevertheless, most IT managers should have little trouble deploying CCS.

The modular solution, comprised of five key components, is typically licensed for enterprise-wide deployments, with Risk Manager and Policy Manager pricing being determined by company size. Symantec states that a typical configuration runs about $150 per user.

The newest module, and arguably the most relevant, is the Risk Manager Component, which is designed to help IT managers determine the level of risk presented by IT Infrastructures. Risk Manager uses a process-based approach, where administrators use Risk Manager to define an asset and then are able to use the associated tools to visualize the risk. In other words, Risk Manager audits and documents the asset to provide actionable information to reduce risk.

Administrators are able to set triggers, such as "risk thresholds," which can function as alerts for notification purposes. Those alerts can quickly inform administrators when an asset's security is in jeopardy. Risk Manager also provides remediation recommendations and assists administrators in prioritizing remediation tasks.

CCS uses a browser-based GUI, which proves easy-to-use, especially when working with the product's customizable dashboards. Dashboards support drill-down capabilities, which allow administrators to dive directly into concerns, without having to launch other management interfaces.

CCS relies heavily on Microsoft Management styles, making the dashboards and associated menus instantly familiar to Microsoft shops. That helps reduce the learning curve and deliver a unified experience across various management utilities commonly deployed on Windows servers.

The real power of CCS comes from the assessment process, where the suite is used to discover critical vulnerabilities and vet procedures and then report back on the findings. CCS gathers data in a number of ways, using both agent-based and agentless clients to query systems. What's more, CCS can leverage other security products installed in the enterprise by importing data. Data can be imported using ODBC, WEB APIs and flat file formats.

Much of the product's capabilities are based on administrator-defined policies. Administrators can create those policies using included templates and customize those policies to meet specific needs. Symantec bundles in as many as 150 mandates, best practices, regulations and other elements that help make policy creation a straightforward process.

Those policies are mapped to Risk Manager's controls, which gives administrators detailed support for remediation actions, which are used to solve noncompliance issues and reduce risk. CCS includes an integrated workflow tool that can be used to assign remediation tasks. However, most enterprises already leverage third-party ticketing systems, limiting the viability of the product's integrated workflow. Yet, that should not present a problem for most users; CCS can integrate with third-party ticketing systems, bringing unified task management into the picture.