Joining a New Company Selling 20 year-old Software

I’ve enjoyed meeting many companies and leaders in the Bay Area over the past few months. The best surprise I had in doing so was with Corelight (where I recently joined as their chief product officer). Despite many years in security, when they proudly proclaimed “we’re bringing an easier, faster, commercially supported version of Bro to the market” I had to respond with a less than glorious “OK … but what is Bro?”

To find out, the first people I talked to were top incident responders … the ones with battle scars, the SANS trainers, the folks you call when “it” hits the fan. This was my first surprise:  The immediate answer was “of course I know Bro. I use it all the time, even to teach SANS security incident investigations classes.” It turns out, Bro creates a uniquely useful set of insights out of network data; insights that are far richer than NetFlow but far more concise and searchable than a full PCAP. Bro is the “Goldilocks” insight level for security investigations.

Next, I talked to CISOs I especially respected. They knew about Bro too, for how valuable the data was and for what it helped their teams do. These CISOs knew that Bro was taking off as part of the industry focus on improving SOC effectiveness and better arming their investigators. What they didn’t like was that open source Bro was a complex “roll your own” solution and deploying it required expert-level UNIX people, so getting access to the valuable data Bro provides meant taking their (scarce!) talent and putting them on infrastructure management. Those same people were often the very incident responders and threat hunters who should be focusing on defending networks, not installing technology. That is where Corelight comes in: the Corelight Sensor radically simplifies the deployment and operation experience, resulting in a lower hardware and operational cost. The number and caliber of customers signing on with Corelight as we speak is proof positive of that value.

After all that, there was a lingering question in my mind… if Bro is so awesome, why isn’t everyone using it? (While Bro is well known by some, its adoption by enterprises has lagged behind government agencies, universities and web-scale companies). The answer is actually pretty simple: Bro’s capabilities, while critical for 20 years at national labs, intelligence agencies and other organizations with existential threats from determined adversaries, were not needed by typical enterprises in the 1990s and even 2000s. Bro was created before the cloud, mobile, SAAS and high bandwidth links were in common use by “normal” companies. And most companies didn’t have SOCs or the level of security + technical expertise to get Bro working. Obviously, all that has changed — the problems faced by enterprises have grown into the long-extant capabilities of Bro.

My last question was “where can we go from here?” One of the clearest long-term trends in cyber is that better data enables better security. As a result, at Corelight there is a wide range of opportunities to both give organizations new insights and solve existing problems in far better ways. One example, driven by a mindset shift: many organizations wrestle to make their data analysis and investigation as seamless and effective as possible … but they treat the incoming data as immutable.  Corelight proves that it isn’t, and by improving both the quality and structure of that data the entire investigation stack gets better – and we can continue enriching the quality of that data. It reminds me of the old BASF ads … “we don’t make the things you buy, we make the things you buy better.”

This, of course, is just the beginning. I’m excited to join the Corelight team, and can’t wait to show you what we can do for you. Better security starts with better data.



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