Will independent endpoint protection review improve products?

ICSA Labs recently announced the creation of the Endpoint Security Consortium to create industry-wide standards for endpoint security products. Will this group have an effect on the endpoint security product market? Our organization is considering some significant endpoint security purchases later this year. Should we hold off until vendors implement some of this group’s recommendations?

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Generally speaking, I’m a supporter of any effort by trusted organizations to develop product standards and then evaluate products against them in an independent manner.  These arrangements, when executed well, benefit organizations on both sides of the equation:  The security products industry sees increased product demand through the program’s educational outreach, while enterprises gain a yardstick against which to measure potential solutions during their own endpoint protection review process.

ICSA Labs, an independent business division of Verizon, is clearly a trusted partner in the security product evaluation space and has been evaluating antivirus software for many years.  In their announcement of the Endpoint Security Consortium, they set forth a mission to “create publicly vetted, objective and credible criteria to test and certify endpoint security products against, as well as educate end users about endpoint products.”

One good indicator pointing to the success of this effort is the variety of initial partners that ICSA Labs has assembled: McAfee Inc., Microsoft and AVG Technologies.  These three vendors are clear competitors in the endpoint space and each would benefit from biasing any evaluation process.  The fact that they’re all collaborating with ICSA Labs on this effort lends a natural check-and-balance to the evaluation process and is an encouraging sign that good things will come from the collaboration.  Stay tuned on that front!

Turning to the second half of your question, I wouldn’t delay a significant endpoint security effort merely because an external certification program is on the horizon.  I suggest continuing with the internal product evaluation process that you already plan to use.  If ICSA Labs later evaluates your product against a new standard, that’s merely more information you can use when considering renewal and/or discussing roadmap product features with your chosen partner.

This was first published in September 2011

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