“A telemetry platform designed for a world that thinks in petabytes”
An already frenzied pool of cybersecurity vendors just witnessed a whale enter the waters: Google owner Alphabet today launching a cybersecurity offering built by the team who have designed and run Google’s own internal security infrastructure.
Alphabet subsidiary Chronicle – born in 2016 as a project within X, Alphabet’s moonshot factory – says it will offer three cybersecurity products: “Backstory”, “Uppercase” and “Virustotal” (a malware tracing tool Google bought in 2012).
It is Backstory – an “infinitely elastic” browser-based threat analysis application that runs on purpose-built core Google infrastructure – that stands out for impact: not least its likely ability to displace existing Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools in a cybersecurity market estimated to be worth $177 billion by 2025.
Backstory is essentially a “Google” of the threat landscape, capable of ingesting, retaining, and crunching high volumes of threat data for instant analysis. (Chronicle CEO Stephen Gillett described it in a Medium blog as “the first global security telemetry platform designed for a world that thinks in petabytes.”)
Gillett said: “Chronicle built a new layer over core Google infrastructure where you can upload your security telemetry, including high-volume data such as DNS traffic, netflow, endpoint logs, proxy logs, etc., so that it can be indexed and automatically analyzed by our analytics engine.” (Yes, so do many SIEMS. The difference here is scalability.)
Alphabet Cybersecurity Offering May Displace SIEMs
As an accompanying whitepaper [pdf] notes, SIEM platforms often buckle under large data volumes. Moreover, high-volume telemetry from endpoint detection and response (EDR) systems (i.e. your average antivirus product) are rarely fed into a SIEM and where/when it ingested, is typically only retained for a few weeks.
“Threat intelligence feeds are supposed to add more context, but are often too noisy or redundant and cause more static than they eliminate. Outsourcing to an MSSP simply turns capex into opex and shifts the problem elsewhere,” Chronicle says.
Backstory lets enterprises could privately retain, analyse and search the massive amounts of security and network telemetry they generate, with the tool indexing, correlating, and analysing the data — against its own data sets and against any third party and/or curated threat signals a given customer wants to feed into it.
Chronicle described it as an “infinitely elastic container for storing your enterprise security telemetry” with fixed pricing that won’t be based on telemetry volumes.
“Because we don’t charge based on data volume, you can afford to keep every bit of security data you generate”, the company said without offering further price details.
“[A user] would know, in milliseconds, every device in the company that communicated with any of domains or IP addresses [associated with a threat anywhere in Backstory’s huge data pool], ever – even if this required searching through dozens of petabytes of telemetry. Put differently, when this company’s CEO asked “could our bank have been hit by the same attack as the DNC?” the analyst could immediately answer “no, we’re safe” or “yes, we’d better take action… None of this required a single query to be written, and all can be performed with a single console.”
Backstory can ingest a variety of telemetry types, through a variety of methods, Chronicle said. The most common is the Backstory Forwarder, a lightweight software container, deployed in the customer’s network, that supports syslog, packet capture, and existing log management / SIEM solutions.
“Customers can also send telemetry via a secure API directly to the Backstory platform. Backstory can also pull telemetry from other cloud services such as Amazon S3. For example, Crowdstrike’s EDR solution pushes its endpoint logs to S3, and a joint Backstory-Crowdstrike customer can configure Backstory to pull from S3. In contrast, Carbon Black’s EDR uses an event forwarder to push endpoint telemetry directly to Backstory. Simply put, there are many ways for customers to upload their telemetry.”