Standalone security products are not enough to maintain the security posture of an entire organization. Between malware, phishing attacks, zero-day threats, advanced persistent threats, reconnaissance and brute force attacks, hackers are looking for any and every avenue into a network.
A number of solutions may be needed to protect against all of these threats. In this article, we’ll cover some of the most important tools to have in your security arsenal and some of the best vendors in each category.
We’ve narrowed this list down to four categories of products that are essential to modern cybersecurity: Endpoint detection and response (EDR), next-generation firewalls (NGFW), cloud access security brokers (CASB) and security information and event management (SIEM). And if you’re here looking for antivirus software, see our list of the best antivirus software for 2021.
Top Cybersecurity Software
Best EDR tools
CrowdStrike Falcon is a powerful EDR tool for response, cloud-based management, ease of use and support. but where it shines is its detection capabilities. Its advanced endpoint protection combines EDR with next-generation antivirus and a 24/7 managed hunting service.
CrowdStrike Falcon is on the more expensive side of EDR solutions but its rich features ensure that it’s worth the price tag. You’ll get all the critical features included with EDR tools, such as asset management, sandboxing, alerts, malware detection, behavioral analysis and reporting. For an additional cost, you can get advanced features, including automated remediation and vulnerability assessment, which take CrowdStrike a step above many other EDR solutions.
Key differentiator: CrowdStrike offers advanced features that you won’t find with many of its competitors.
SentinelOne is another feature-rich EDR solution. It uses AI-powered threat detection and response to keep up with attackers who incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning into their methods.
SentinelOne combines EDR with endpoint protection platform (EPP) capabilities to cover all aspects of detection, response and remediation. Automated remediation is an included feature and is highly rated by users.
SentinelOne does lack some helpful features, such as full-disk encryption, VPN, mobile support, and web content filtering. But even without these additions, Gartner Peer Insights named SentinelOne as the top-rated endpoint protection platform.
Key differentiator: A focus on automation makes SentinelOne a powerful choice easy enough for less sophisticated teams to manage.
Check Point SandBlast is a full-featured EDR solution built for ease of use and tailored towards teams that may have fewer resources and a smaller budget. It’s on the lower price end of EDR solutions but packs a serious punch for the price tag. And Check Point is still powerful enough to serve the needs of larger, more complex organizations.
The one feature that Check Point is missing is the ability to create custom rules. Users have also reported issues with implementation. But overall the price makes up for these issues.
Key differentiator: One of the best EDR products in its price range.
Palo Alto Networks
Palo Alto Networks has proven to be a powerhouse in multiple areas of security, including EDR and CASB. Its NGFW offerings topped the list of both the Gartner Magic Quadrant and Forrester Wave, and came out on top in our analysis too.
Palo Alto’s NGFWs offer the ability to create comprehensive, precise security policies for authorized access across all network traffic. Policies can be assigned to applications, application functions, users and types of content. The goal is to manage applications, users and content by classifying and determining the business use case and assigning policies to protect access to relevant applications and block threats.
Palo Alto is one of the more expensive options in the NGFW market. However, it’s a good choice for companies who need advanced features and protection and have the budget for it.
Key differentiator: Precise security policies can monitor and assign policies to all network traffic.
Fortinet FortiGate NGFWs are a strong solution at a reasonable price. They’re also some of the most popular. Fortinet ranked among other top contenders, Plato Alto Networks and Check Point, in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant and has proven its performance in extensive independent testing.
Purpose-built security processor units (SPUs) deliver scalable performance and low latency. The NGFWs receive regular threat intelligence updates from FortiGuard Labs to ensure they can stand up against new and evolving attacks.
Fortinet FortiGuard may not have some of the more advanced features of its competitors, but at its price point, it should be on your shortlist of NGFW vendors.
Key differentiator: Best-in-class for its price point.
Part of what makes Cisco’s Firepower NGFW offerings so valuable is that they integrate with Cisco’s robust suite of other products, such as its CASB and Intrusion and Prevention offerings, not to mention its extensive networking offerings. As a whole, the Cisco suite is a powerful zero trust security solution.
Firepower NGFWs provide advanced malware protection, security intelligence, sandboxing, DDoS mitigation and a next-generation intrusion prevention system. As with Cisco’s other solutions, it is highly scalable to meet the needs of growing organizations. Cisco also offers Firepower NGFWv, a virtualized version of the firewall solution.
If you already use other Cisco security and networking solutions, Firepower is one of the best options for you.
Key differentiator: Part of a powerful suite that implements a zero trust security approach.
Netskope Security Cloud takes a data-centric approach to deliver comprehensive 360-degree visibility and threat protection to manage cloud access. It’s proven effective in detection, response, management, support and value for its money.
This CASB solution can target and control user activity across all cloud services and websites. It is also reliable for maintaining regulatory compliance. Many users praise Netskope’s comprehensive and quick-to-respond support.
Netskope CASB is not cheap but it’s also not as expensive as some of its competitors. But overall it delivers value to match the price tag.
Key differentiator: Offers great support and value.
McAfee MVISION is another data-centric CASB platform that uses nearly a billion sensors around the world and advanced analytics to deliver best-in-class threat intelligence. It combines automation and artificial intelligence to ensure reliable cloud security of sensitive data and intellectual property.
It offers excellent malware and antivirus protection, as well as phishing detection. However, the phishing feature requires a browser plug-in. Its comprehensive threat intelligence also bolsters robust reporting capabilities.
One of its major advantages is that it can fit virtually any deployment model. It can be used in solely cloud-based environments, on-premises or hybrid-cloud systems.
Key differentiator: Best-in-class threat intelligence and deployment in virtually all environments.
Bitglass is an agentless CASB solution that combines forward and reverse proxies with APIs to identify threats. It offers real-time threat protection and searchable cloud encryption to protect data-at-rest. It’s also effective for maintaining compliance, making it a popular choice in the financial and healthcare sectors.
One of its strongest features is the Zero-Day Shadow IT Discovery. This feature automatically analyzes applications on the fly to detect potential threats as they arise. Bitglass can support both mobile and unmanaged devices.
One of the few issues reported by users is some difficulties during deployment.
Key differentiator: The ability to detect and block zero-day threats.
Best SIEM solutions
Securonix is a cloud-based, highly customizable SIEM platform. Its multi-tiered, best-in-class analytical capabilities make it a powerful tool for threat hunting and detection. It also comes with built-in frameworks for maintaining compliance.
Securonix offers MITRE-based detection to analyze malicious behavior and build comprehensive threat intelligence. Customized correlation rules can be created to cross-reference threat intelligence to identify patterns that indicate suspicious behavior.
Unlike many security vendors, Securonix offers a transparent straightforward pricing model based on an organization’s number of employees.
Key differentiator: Best-in-class analytics and threat intelligence.
IBM QRadar is built for large enterprise organizations to offer company-wide threat detection and response capabilities. It comes with a variety of pre-built frameworks to expedite setup and can be deployed as an appliance, in virtual and cloud environments or in hybrid systems.
QRadar offers valuable integrations with other IBM security solutions to bolster its capabilities, such as User Behavior Analytics (UBA), Incident Forensics and Advisor with Watson to provide automated root cause research.
Possibly the biggest downside to IBM QRadar is not in the product itself, but that IBM does not offer its own EDR product. However, it does support third-party EDR solutions.
Key differentiator: Integration with a number of other valuable IBM security tools.
LogRhythm NextGen tops the list of SIEM platforms as far as comprehensive features go. It doesn’t come with user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) and network monitoring out-of-the-box but they can be added at an additional cost.
Some of its most valuable features include UEBA, network detection and response (NDR) and security orchestration, automation and response (SOAR). The platform is often praised for its detection, response, compliance and log management capabilities.
LogRhythm can be deployed in cloud, on-premises and in hybrid-cloud systems.
Key differentiator: Includes virtually all features needed for a best-in-class SIEM platform.
Benefits of Cybersecurity Software
Each type of product on this list offers multiple benefits as part of comprehensive cybersecurity defenses.
Entry points are always at risk. EDR tools allow teams to continuously monitor endpoints for malware and other malicious attacks. Many of these solutions can also automatically respond to some threats and offer steps for remediation.
Many EDR tools are quickly converging with EPP. These tools offer more protection against advanced threats compared to traditional antivirus solutions, with the added benefit of centralized management. A tool that combines both EDR and EPP capabilities makes for a powerful combination that not only detects threats but stops them dead in their tracks.
NGFWs are the third generation of firewalls. This new era introduced multiple new features alongside traditional firewall capabilities. Some of the most beneficial include:
- Intrusion prevention systems (IPS): This allows NGFWs to inspect, alert and actively remove malware and intruders.
- Deep packet inspection (DPI): DPI offers targeted inspection and can locate, categorize, block or reroute packets that contain problematic code or data payloads.
- Layer 7 application control: NGFWs can protect data in layer 7 of the OSI model, which presents data in a form that user-facing applications can use. This is commonly where distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks take place, making it a critical layer to protect.
CASB products are cloud-based or on-premises software that enforce security policies, regulatory compliance and governance requirements when accessing cloud services. These tools are able to manage single sign-on, log data, authentication and authorization, device profiling and encryption and tokenization.
CASB solutions can also block access to cloud services if they detect attempts to access resources from unauthorized users or applications. They also alert teams of malware and other possible attacks when they are detected.
SIEM products serve two primary purposes. The first is to collect, store, analyze, investigate and report on log and other data. The second is to alert security staff to the most important threats.
Insights pulled from this analysis help with the early detection of attacks, facilitate improved incident response and assist in maintaining regulatory compliance. SIEM systems also typically incorporate threat intelligence feeds that offer data on correlated events to help identify attacks.
Building comprehensive security
Many vendors offer comprehensive security suites that offer all the products you will need under one umbrella, sometimes packaged as XDR platforms. However, it is possible to pick and choose products to create a custom security suite. There are pros and cons to taking this approach.
Customizing your cyber defenses can be a good way to save money and avoid vendor lock-in. This allows you to choose some products that are on the cheaper side if they can fulfill your needs, or possibly bypass them completely. Or you may want to piece together “best of breed” solutions rather than going with a suite of solutions from a single vendor. There may be certain standalone products that are more tailored to your specific industry or use case to better serve your needs.
Researching all of the different standalone products and whether or not they are able to integrate well and be deployed on the same system can consume substantial time and effort on your part. And the more products you add from different vendors, the more complex it becomes to manage them all. Security platforms from a single vendor, on the other hand, can all be managed from a single, centralized dashboard.
How to Choose Cybersecurity Software
There are a few key factors you should consider when choosing the right cybersecurity software for your organization.
Types of threats
You should determine whether there are specific threats you’re most concerned about. For example, are you particularly wary of phishing, malware or advanced persistent threats (APT)? If so, look for a suite that specializes in these areas.
How much can you manage?
You should also determine how much you can realistically manage internally. Some security products are built to be intuitive or to provide substantial automation to take much of the management load off of security teams so they can focus on remediation efforts and other valuable aspects of the business. Other suites may require a more hands-on approach.
If you overestimate how much you can handle in-house, not only could this lead to gaps in your security but also other aspects of your business falling to the wayside. Choosing to customize your own security defenses is a good indication that you will require more internal management.
Ensure that any tools you’re researching will integrate well with your existing security infrastructure. Do you already have some security solutions in place? Then make sure they can operate harmoniously with a new security suite or other standalone products.
If you foresee substantial organizational growth in the near future, ensure that your security solutions can scale in tandem. This often depends on how the pricing plans are set up. Some vendors may price their tools according to a per-device basis. In these cases, make sure you can also afford the higher-priced plans to accommodate your growth. And some security solutions can’t scale to the same capacity as others so buy with your future growth in mind.