TraceCSO Brings Simplicity to Network Security Compliance, Risk Control

REVIEW: TraceCSO from TraceSecurity provides automated tools that simplify the procedures for security auditing and network penetration testing to meet security compliance rules.

Introduced Oct. 3, TraceCSO is the latest offering from TraceSecurity, a company that develops tools for security compliance reporting, network hardness validation and penetrations testing.

With the aim of bringing greater automation to the security compliance process, TraceCSO combines penetration testing, asset monitoring, threat detection and a bevy of other security features into a clean, browser-based management console that exemplifies what security validation should all be about.

TraceCSO is a cloud-based platform that delivers a unified approach to risk-based information security management. The service accomplishes this by using risk and compliance profiles that are customizable by the end user. The service is sold based upon an annual subscription that scales by the number of employees and starts at $5,000, which includes product support from the company.

A Closer Look at TraceCSO

I took TraceCSO for a virtual test drive and was impressed with the service’s management controls, dashboards and capabilities. As a cloud service, TraceCSO requires very little in the terms of installation. However, system configuration can be an involved chore. It all comes down to the number of devices and users that need to be imported into the system and how custom profiles are defined.

To simplify those tasks, TraceCSO is loaded with wizard-like tools and features a set-up dashboard that is task-oriented. In other words, the set-up dashboard is split up into task groups, such as user administration, network scanning and so on. The product is able to interact with Microsoft Active Directory to further ease user administration and department definition.

Other set-up chores include adding vendor information, assigning permissions, defining roles and so on. I was able to blast through those settings rather quickly, thanks to wizards that import existing directory information. To enable network scanning, I had to set up an external IP address, node discovery agents, schedules, node groups and a few other elements.

All in all, the set-up proved to be easy, but can be time-consuming, depending upon the depth and breadth of the infrastructure you need to monitor and manage. Nevertheless, when compared to an on-site system or an appliance-based governance, risk and compliance (GRC) product, TraceCSO proves to be very simple to set up and deploy.

However, deployment is only one part of the GRC equation. The most important element is how well the deployed product works. Here, I found no disappointments. TraceCSO worked as advertised (and expected).

The primary dashboard is easy on the eyes and simple to navigate. The intuitive interface divvies up all the associated tasks into easy-to-consume chunks. The primary dashboard screen is user-configurable and I was able to populate that dashboard with “portlets,” which are graphical elements that present at a quick glance the status of a given security element. For example, there are portlets for number of vulnerabilities, overall risk, policy acceptance levels and so on. The portlets use pie charts, bar graphs, scatter graphs and other elements to represent information visually.

Of course, the primary dashboard is for an at-a-glance look at GRC status. Those in charge of securing networks and maintaining compliance need more than a quick take on vulnerability statuses and to delve deeper. I found that TraceCSO meets those additional needs with ease. The product features in-depth GUIs for each GRC element that an IT professional must focus on. For example, I found the audit dashboard a welcome feature.

The audit console offers a graphical view using multiple charts of the current status of audits. I was able to drill down on each interface pane to get more details on the issues displayed. For example, with a single click on the control verification status pie chart, I was able to identify the percentage of unverified components on the network. Other charts displayed had pretty much the same behavior, allowing a quick and easy drill-down into the individual items represented.

I had similar experiences with the compliance, network scanning and risk consoles as well, where critical information is displayed graphically and more details can be pulled up. Policy monitoring and definition proved to be just as easy to use. Overall, I was very impressed with the quality and thought put into the management and monitoring consoles, which will readily meet the needs of the security professional, while still allowing junior techs to contribute to the GRC process.

To that end, TraceCSO includes an assignments module, where service tickets (items needing attention) can be assigned to the appropriate individuals. This feature should help smooth the compliance process a great deal and I think would be a fair way to attribute accountability to network security.

All the reporting and assignment options are just the administrator consumable part of the service. TraceCSO’s real power comes from its automated validation and testing infrastructure, which is designed to execute the various tests that surround GRC. With TraceCSO, I was able to select compliance templates, build queries and then schedule those for execution. The same process is used for auditing and policy acceptance. Once defined, the execution of those tasks can be assigned to individuals in the organization, meaning that accountability, as well as completion status can be easily tracked, a real boon to organizations needing to perfect the compliance process.

I was also impressed by the training module that was included in which courses can be defined and then assigned to individuals to study compliance and other security issues. The training module not only provides a centralized point to assign training, it also tracks what training has been done and by whom, bringing an auditing capability to security training.

Although I had a thorough look at the product and tested all the major capabilities, I finished this review feeling that I may have only scratched the surface of what TraceCSO offers. As a hosted service, I expect TraceCSO to grow and evolve as time goes on, with TraceSecurity adding more features or creating new compliance and auditing controls as the market dictates the need for them.