Sunday, February 16, 2014
I bring him up because the guy can't seem to get a break.
You see, he doesn't have any real InfoSec experience to speak of, and while he's doing the certifications thing and as I've already said he knows his stuff - it's a weird world out there. I started looking amongst my circles and it appears that the conclusion I'm reaching is that hiring, at the lower levels of the Information Security talent spectrum is an absolute train wreck.
It seems that every entry level gig I've been able to dig up that would be even remotely worthwhile (for loose definitions of worthwhile) require ~2 years experience and a CISSP. Say what?
He told me the other day that in an otherwise promising interview path he was asked about specific flags for tools like NMAP and others ... Say what?
So let me get this straight..........to get an entry level job you have to already have 2 years+ relevant work experience and the ~5yrs of practical experience to have a CISSP? What definition of entry level does that match? Certainly not one I'm aware of.
What this industry is doing is effectively filtering out those that are eager to provide fresh perspectives, and alternative viewpoints from the outside in a time we are absolutely desperate for that exact thing. I talked to a director of DFIR at a global financial services firm and he's actually stopped hiring people with infosec backgrounds and started hiring accountants and other types right out of college. Coincidentally he needs people who can do forensic accounting and DFIR work - but you can teach the tools and techniques to be a good response analyst but you can absolutely not fake the external perspective.
So why the hell is this happening? Myopia... new song, same lyrics as before.
Hiring managers who have no clue what they actually need look for 'penetration testers' and people who know the specific technologies they're currently using thinking this makes a good employee. Wrong. You should never hire someone based on whether they're intimately familiar with the details of your current setup - hell I would have failed many of these job interviews! What you should be looking for is someone who says "yes, I'm familiar with that tool, it does x, y, z, and the way to figure out the detailed command line switches is flag --h (or whatever)" ...
Bottom line - you need people who can learn and are smart enough to know when they need to go look it up in an intelligent way. "I don't know that answer, but it'll take me 10 seconds to get it" should be more than adequate... but it's not and these jobs are going to people who are from that same rut that we have a problem with now. People who do the same job, day in and day out, same technologies, same principles and never think outside their little boxes. This is such a recipe for failure I can't even begin to express it here... just look around your peers in the industry and you should see many examples of this.
/Rant over ... but seriously this is nuts.
On a serious note, if someone out there is looking for a strong analytic mind, someone who questions and has that special drive to be an InfoSec revolutionary while supporting and bettering your processes today... let me know, I'd love to help out a friend.
Saturday, February 1, 2014
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
This morning, one of the few people who actually understand application/software security, Jeremiah Grossman of White Hat, dropped an interesting tweet. Lots of intelligent people replied, and what seemed like an interesting debate was unfolding.
Then Dan Cornell said something interesting, which got me thinking.
Monday, January 13, 2014
"Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that the NSA created and promulgated a flawed formula for generating random numbers to create a "back door" in encryption products, the New York Times reported in September."Enough about the alleged wrongdoings of an encryption company and our own National Security Agency. Whether they did it, or they didn't, needs to be vetted in public, and RSA not denying the allegations is making this issue even more interesting. But let's talk about some of the fallout in the security community.
What has become interesting is the slow trickle of #InfoSec echo chamber big-shots that have been 'cancelling their talk' at RSA. Now, I'm not criticizing anyone's moral imperative ... but if you're cancelling your talk/training/etc long after many of the attendees have purchased their tickets and scheduled their attendance - who are you really hurting? This is a sticking point with me. If you're going to take a stand against RSA's alleged malfeasance, then you should do it in a way that creates the least amount of collateral damage, and cancelling your talk or training is a, in my personal opinion, poor choice.
So, here are a few things you could do instead of cancelling your appearance and screwing over attendees:
- Make a T-shirt that says "RSA has violated our trust" and wear it during your talk
- Take 2 minutes at the start of you talk, and discuss the issue you're taking with RSA's alleged behavior
- Blog about the issue and publicize it
- Change your talk, without telling the organizers, to be about the damage that their alleged wrong-doing have caused
- Speak at the conference, but refuse to give RSA any positive press
- Speak at Security BSides SF and draw attention to the issue
- Make a sign and stand outside the RSA Conference venue in protest
- Refuse to buy/use/endorse RSA products/services
- Urge others to refuse to buy/use/endorse RSA products/services
- Work with the industry to identify and flag uses of the weakened crypto component in software packages - as a vulnerability finding
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
There are those in our security community that feel that a breach is a [failed] end-state. To me, these people fundamentally don't understand security in the modern context.
Before you start writing your comment to scold me for my directness, consider this... how many organizations can you name that can honestly claim that they are 'secure' - with evidence to back that up? Conversely, look at the tremendous number of organizations, enterprises and, yes even government entities that have been breached and not only survived the breach but are inexplicably thriving as an aftermath.
If the fact that a company's stock can look like the below graph (thanks Adrian, brilliant graphics work) after a breach boggles your mind, read on. Even if you get it, read on anyway ... maybe you'll find something to disagree with?
I've been going on and on about this topic for a while now, but let me be clear on my stance - everyone gets breached. I firmly believe there are two types of companies/organizations: those that have experienced a breach and those that don't know they have. This seems to be a universal truth more and more as I and my peers venture into organizations who claim to be "secure" only to find broad and rather obvious evidence of either past intrusions and exfiltration - or worse - active intrusions on the corporate assets. Depending on how you define an intrusion it's virtually impossible to find an organization without some active threat or adversary inside their prized assets. There is simply too much to protect in security*, but I digress.
Let's take one of the largest, most prolific breaches in recent memory - the TJX breach. I can recall that at the time of the breach there were plenty of high-profile folks, including some in the media, who called for their immediate demise. To be truthful, even I (being young(er) and naive) believed that the breach would be their undoing. Well, suffice to say we were all wrong. Check out the company's stock courtesy of Adrian's graphical handywork:
@Wh1t3Rabbit @taosecurity Annotated version of TJX stock, pointing out significant milestones. pic.twitter.com/IQKc4ONYLs
— Adrian Sanabria (@sawaba) December 10, 2013
So what gives? If the company's stock drop was simply a blip on the radar to an otherwise wildly profitable company - why bother with security at all? Granted this was more than a few years ago - but is anyone reading this foolish enough to think that consumer sentiment has changed that much? I dare say not. Furthermore, I know what some of you are thinking ... this is the retail sector and retail shoppers are notorious for not really caring much about a credit card breach because ultimately credit cards are trivial to replace and rarely does it mean financial loss for the customer. More of a nuisance, really. True. Other industries and market segments of course will wildly vary, and I don't claim to have insight into every market segment.
Here's my logic.
- Even the best-run, best-staffed, best-equipped security organizations are overwhelmed with operational tasks and there is bound to be some avenue or attack vector you leave unguarded for even a split-second
- Attackers will exploit this weakness and breach your organization
There are a number of factors that contribute to successfully riding out that inevitable dip in confidence and likely stock price:
- How effectively your organization communicates the issue
- How truthful your organization's communications are
- How transparent and open your organization is about the breach or incident
- The timeliness of notification of individuals, and the public, put at risk
- The level of accountability your organization takes
- The ultimate scope of the breach or incident (for example, was the entire database stolen, or did the attacker only get away with 1/4 of the records before they were stopped?)
- The speed at which the issue is resolved
- What changes your organization makes, tactically and strategically, to your defensive posture as a result of the lessons learned
Now, assuming you do a reasonably good job at the bullet points above, you may ride out the issue just fine, and in fact may come out of the poop-storm smelling like a rose! Of course the court of public opinion gets to determine how well your organization is perceived to do, and the standard goes up with each major breach). You will of course be measured against yourself in a previous breach (consecutive breaches inside your organization get less and less sympathy from your customers, partners, and the media), and your competitors - so it's not a low bar to get over necessarily.
When I explain this to CIOs and CISOs, I often find myself saying that the big issue isn't that you are experiencing a [perceived] catastrophic breach, but the true issue and Enterprise Security's responsibility is to "shorten the dip" (in the case of publicly traded companies). The better your security organization is the more integrated it will be throughout the company into legal, risk and yes even PR and marketing. The better you do in managing the incident and public perception the shorter that dip in stock price will be, and the less likely you are to hurt long term.
In fact, and this is shown up in the graphic above, there is a very good chance that even if your handling of your breach is mediocre, you will still get some tremendous exposure to new people, and will get a chance to set a high-bar for the next organization to follow. Consumers, partners and clients understand that and largely respond to it. In the case of the Buffer compromise** the company was transparent, did all the right things to mitigate the compromise, and then rolled out quick fixes... and where I wasn't a customer before I was so impressed with their handling of the incident I'm a Buffer user now. Go figure, a breach brings in new customers...
There you have it. That's my thinking on why a breach isn't a failed end state but rather an opportunity for enterprise security to shine and actually drive the company's position and confidence in the enterprise forward.
* There will be more (much more) on this later as it necessitates a separate thread of discussion.
** If you're interested in hearing an interview on the BufferApp compromise and how they fared - check that out here on my Down the Rabbithole podcast. (shameless plug)
Monday, December 9, 2013
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
In fact, I'm noticing something of a phenomenon lately that may have everything to do with how difficult it is to succeed in an enterprise security leadership role. No less than three of my real-life colleagues and friends in the last 90 days have left the enterprise role for a vendor or consulting opportunity. Now, this may all just be a coincidence but if you look back over the past year successively more and more very smart people from the enterprise are leaving their roles.
I've been thinking a lot about why this is happening, or whether it's just part of the normal cycle of things - but I think there is a pattern worth noting here. As the hum of 'cyber-security' becomes deafening even in the mainstream media and enters every crevice of our collective conscious - it's becoming difficult to spit without hitting something cyber-security related. With that as evidence perhaps it's simply true that the opportunities in the consulting and vendor world are far greater than in the enterprise. While this is probably true on a financial incentive level, these folks I know are not solely money driven so there must be more to it.
Is it simply too hard to thrive in the enterprise as a security leader?
Let's look at what factors in... First of course is the very definition of success. I know far too many organizations (large or small) that still have the delusional view that they expect their enterprise security folks to keep them from being attacked or hacked. This is a wildly unrealistic expectation in this climate. Hell this was wildly unrealistic 5 years ago...but I digress. If enterprise leadership that the CISO or security leader is to report to can't adequately understand how to define success for the CISO - what's the use in trying to dive in to achieve an undefined goal? That's madness! More precisely, if failure is easy to identify (being hacked/breached) and success is unclear - what are the odds of success here? I'd say pretty close to zero.
If you can get past the very definition of success and get to something mutually agreeable and achievable - there's always the issue of culture and budget. Some organizations are simply not going to adopt sane and sound security practices without a lot of forced retirement. I'm actually serious. Chris Hoff ( @beaker ) had a great quote a while back that certain paradigms (I think he was talking about cloud computing at the time) are literally waiting for us to die off (us being the dinosaurs) before they're mainstream adopted. Think about it. Those folks in you company that have been working there before computers were an everyday thing in all aspects of life, and before hackers and cyber was a common thing will probably never fully understand or mentally grasp the gravity of what you're going to ask them to do. So you'll literally have to wait until they're gone from the company before things get better. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the latest generation raised on FaceBook and SnapChat have any better clues on security but at least they're understanding the technologies better ... or so we'd hope. The other major hindrance is budget, and that's just a fact of life in the enterprise. When things are going well, you get budget. When things are going poorly (and you really need every penny) you're likely being asked to cut back - the problem is that in security it's nearly impossible to pare back "unnecessary items" unless you've really padded your budget (in which case, shame on you, and good job). So there's that.
Lastly - your adversaries are kicking your ass all over the playground. They have better toys, they have more time, and they're often times much better equipped to win. You're stuck affording a mid-level firewall resource who also has to use the web app scanner to scan your web apps while your adversary is financially driven and has an entire supply chain of bad-asses at their disposal. Seriously, you're screwed. There is no way you're entering a CISO role at an organization that has a public profile without getting some bruises and having one of those very, very long nights when things go sideways.
So perhaps getting out of the enterprise (like I did back in '08) is just the thing to do right now, because to play defense is challenging to put it politely. Or perhaps the consulting and vendor side just pays way, way better and offers more challenge and a climate where it's at least possible to succeed. Or perhaps this is all just a coincidence ... but I bet it's more than that.
What do you think? Have you recently made the switch from enterprise to the dark side? Or have you gone back the other way (vendor/consultant to enterprise)? I'd like to hear from you in the comments section below...
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Now that we've crossed that magical 30-day line, I'm starting to get back to reading email, reading current events, and using Twitter for more than just posting pictures of the kids. With that, I thought I would share 10 things I've learned over the last month - or re-affirmed is more like it - from being a new dad of twins that also applies to our lives in the Enterprise Security space. Here we go...
- As in the enterprise with your end-uses and customers, you and the baby don't speak the same language, and often effective verbal communication is difficult at best. Figuring out how to fulfil their needs by hearing and understanding their cues is an art-form but not something to be taken lightly. The baby is up, crying. Is it a wet diaper? An upset tummy? Or does he or she just want to be held? Your VP says that his organization needs this app, but you know it's a nightmare. Figuring out what they really need and filling that need separates those that are good at their jobs from those that are great.
- I can't say this enough - there is no such thing as being over-prepared. A quick run to the grocery store with the twins seems easy enough and shouldn't take long at all. No need to stock a diaper bag with baby bottles and all the stuff that takes 30 minutes to prepare - it's just a quick run. Wrong. Like in your enterprise security day job there is no such thing as being over-prepared. In fact, make over-preparation a full time job. Make sure that you have your tools and preparation laid out, tested, and ready to go. Even if you don't think you'll need it. You probably won't ever need to get the logs from that low-risk app server out in the partner DMZ, but archive it anyway, and make sure you can read the data and pump it through an analytics tool as well. With the twins, we pack a diaper bag with bottles, formula, bibs, diapers, wipes, at least 2 sets of new clothes and other things you probably think you don't need. Trust me. Nothing like being in traffic and realizing you really, really need to change that diaper...and the car seat cover, your kid's outfit, and roll the windows down a bit.
- Work at making your response (virtually) autonomic. Taking the night shift with the twins I can tell you that after the first week and a half I probably went through the motions of waking up, warming bottles, changing diapers, feeding, swaddling and putting them back into bed while not being fully awake. I am proud of that. I talk a lot about detect, respond, resolve in my enterprise security talks - and it's absolutely true that you must work at response until you can do it without thinking about it. When things go sideways, and they will go sideways at the worst possible moment, you're going to want to have you response training kick in and just take you through without having to read manuals or panic. Just do.
- Accept support, and provide it. This is a lesson I learned early on. In our industry, security, there is way, way too much individualistic drive and self-back-patting. Too many rock stars and those who like to tear others down to make their own egos feel better. There is no room for that when you're a parent at this stage, there just isn't. I was very proud of the fact that my wife and I didn't need my parents or anyone else's support (and stupidly turned it away at first) to get through the day. Then on day 4 when we realized we had an empty fridge, no time to grocery shop or cook, and zero time to sleep or even take a sanity break we did a self-check. Realizing that you're not the rock star that your ego tells you that you are, that's big. As a parent you put your children first, ahead of your big ego, your quarrels with family or friends and just learn to accept and ask for help. In the enterprise this isn't any different. Even if you're the smartest person you know, you're going to need help so learn to accept it, and give it graciously when you're able to.
- Work together, as a team. Your #InfoSec team is an autonomous unit. There are times that you literally succeed together, or fail together - there is no "I" in team. In the enterprise that's pretty true, but in parenthood that's an absolute. I've learned that if my wife is doing something slightly different than I would like, but I'm the backup or her support, I don't get to interrupt or impose my will on her process - I just go with it. She does likewise. Otherwise chaos ensues. Children pick up on dynamics between parents, you know you did as a kid. Your adversaries will pick up on dynamics inside your organization and where you have dysfunction and will absolutely exploit it to its fullest capacity. You're a team, act like it, respect and support each other and only disagree when you have a moment to debrief and there is nothing currently on fire. I'm taking this as an absolute golden rule in parenthood, and I encourage you to do the same in your enterprise security organization.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Sincerely, every security professional.
Let me sum up with what has just happened over at LinkedIn, in a very simple manner: features won over [common sense] security. Again.
In a world where companies feel ever-more pressured to "do the impossible" (seriously, marketing people, stop) features often win over common sense security. This is no exception. As this TechCrunch article clearly points out - what's going on is your mailbox is being MITM'd (Man-in-the-Middle). This means that sensitive content (see the Bishop Fox post) that you're exchanging between you and your email partner is being intercepted, changed, and re-packaged then re-sent to your device. Who does this sound like a good idea to? Honestly... think about it?
Seriously though, the very smart folks over at Bishop Fox already have a great piece on why Intro is a train wreck waiting to happen, so I won't re-hash what has already been said - but rather I have a few things to add:
- LinkedIn setting a dangerous precedent - As I said on Twitter, if this thing grows legs and attains any sort of momentum it's going to set a precedent that it's OK to launch more products like this, which clearly create security issues for your users and spit in the face of common sense. Yet another reason to discount those kooky security people, because LinkedIn understands security trust them, and because you absolutely need this new completely useless gadgetry for your inbox(es). There are already lots of examples of bad security practices being explained away as "it's a feature, not a bug", but this is perhaps the most blatant in recent memory.
- End users don't know better - The people who use your services see a shiny new gadget and blindly trust (although I can't explain why any more than I can explain why people text when they drive) that you're keeping their information and private communications safe. Your blog posts do not outline the many security problems which the Bishop Fox post points out plain as day, and instead focuses on the gimmicks. You're doing a disservice to your users... and I think you know it. When this is inevitably used to hack millions of mailboxes can we than call this willful negligence, because you know the risks full well, but your products folks chose to ignore them? (something to think about)
Thursday, October 17, 2013
After what appears to be decades of systematically ignoring security challenges, the recent climate of breaches seems to have shaken something loose. Purse strings have loosened. Boards have begun to ask security questions where they have never done so before. And most of all, I'm seeing several organizations formally hiring CISOs and giving them both accountability and control over the security future of the enterprise.
This makes me hopeful that change is in the air.
The problems with legacy drag
The latent risk that many CISOs at industrial and manufacturing sector companies are waking up to is potentially huge. Over the years they've accumulated large volumes of perfectly siloed equipment which was fully owned and managed by non-IT groups, and never connected to anything. As technology refresh cycles push forward many of these previously stand-alone components (think about a set of computers which is attached to a machine which takes a raw piece of material and produces a machine-milled part based on a digital drawing, CAD/CAM) are getting network cards and are being connected to other shop-floor types of components. The design workstation is being attached to the manufacturing station, to the quality control booth, and all tied together to the raw-material-management system. All over IP.
Also notice how I specifically pointed out that all these systems have not previously (and in some cases still are not) been available to the IT organization for management and maintenance. This obviously means that security likely didn't know they existed. Now they're being connected to the same flat, non-segmented, layer-2 network that the SAP and email systems are riding on. As these systems were previously managed by non-IT employees (in some cases it was an outside contractor) this translates to a lot of confusion and misunderstanding. Imagine taking one of these ICS systems, such as the assembly line control system, and handing it to someone in IT (and then enterprise security) to manage. The results have not been positive.
The other big challenge, as if we needed another, is that many of these systems easily qualify for the label of ultra-legacy. This means that they're greater than 15 years old and still functioning. In one example we've got a DOS-based application running off of a 1.44MB floppy disk on a 486/DX266 which manages the time cards of ~300 shop floor workers. This technology predates many of you reading this blog post, which means your immediate thought of "Why don't we just re-write this in Python?" is likely to break things in a way that will likely cause ripples through your supply chain and your bottom line.
Planning for the technology-driven future
As one of my favorite CIOs put it - "We need to get with it right now, while our competitors are still largely in the same position, because we are entering a time when industrial and manufacturing enterprises are no longer able to ignore their dependence on technology." This is so true.
As enterprises start to connect Widget A with ancient shop-floor Thing B we inevitably find that not only do those combinations create security issues, but the systems themselves are antiquated and unable to provide much in the way of options for a more secure implementation. This means that CIOs are conspiring with CISOs to modernize much of the shop floors, and overhaul large bits of technology. Of course, Rome wasn't built in a day and clearly this desire doesn't translate into action as easily as that would appear. Lots of road blocks, integration challenges, and risks to be assessed.
The good news is this is a topic for discussion, and folks like myself and others are being brought in to support these transformations. Again, this gives me a sense that the manufacturing and industrial sector is experiencing an industry-wide renaissance of sorts. An awakening to the needs of innovation requires kid gloves from my fellow security practitioners - as you well already know we get maybe one shot at this.
Looking the future in the eye
Step one of this entire renaissance is understanding what ring of legacy IT hell you're currently residing. This means spending a great deal of time reflecting inward and doing the equivalent of pulling at strings until yet another mystery unravels. I'm currently in the process with a few of these types of organizations of setting the guideposts for the next 12 months. There are a lot of hurdles to overcome and many engineers and line managers to win over with your charm. As I've already said, we will get one shot at this. The first time you crater a production-line system with a security patch because it needs to be applied for security reasons will likely be your last for a long while. Measure twice, then measure again and test before you make that cut.
The approach you'll be taking is one of assessment, transformation, optimization, management. Figure out where you are, make plans for making it better and execute to plan, slowly raise the bar over time and then make sure nothing falls through the long-term cracks. It's relatively simple on paper.
Your key trouble spots, from my observations so far, will be those legacy systems you've never gotten your paws on, your network, and your user base. In that order.
- legacy systems - should be self-explanatory as these are the siloed and previously un-managed or under-managed systems which you suddenly have responsibility for securing since they now reside on your global, flat network
- network - speaking of your network it may be high time to start thinking about segmenting and compartmentalizing... this is of course much easier said than done - got netflow?
- user base - your users are likely not used to being 'managed' in any traditional sense, and while they've been running successfully with self-managed full admin capabilities, your meddling and trying to lock systems down and define user and admin profile will cause a stir
Monday, October 7, 2013
Thanks to Steve Ragan for pointing out that the Internet never forgets ... in case you want to see a glimpse of the original post which has since been (quietly) removed, click here.
If you're anything like me and like to keep up on the industry, you've no doubt been overloaded with news on the apparently epic Adobe hack. As some of you may no doubt point out I'm no apologist for companies who fail to take security seriously, and I've made my share of pokes and jokes at Adobe's expense over the years. There is, however, a line I hold myself and others who wish to be known as professionals to. That line is personal hit-pieces where you're targeting a particular individual for the sins of the collective. This is commonly known as bulls***.
That being said, I took serious offense when I saw the original version of this post (I wish I had taken a screen capture, but it was quite distasteful) from Richi Jennings on Computerworld. When I read the original which basically sought to crucify Brad Arkin for Adobe being hacked I got upset. So upset that I took to Twitter and let Richi know it, and I can't say I was too polite either... After a few others laid into the author, the post was dramatically changed, the picture of Brad with the overlay "Fire Me" came down, and there was an apology. Of course, if you want to see the sorts of trolls that apparently read that column, look no further than the comments...yikes.
Anyway... let me get to the point.
There are some points I think we largely still miss as a security industry, judging by the interesting and colorful discussion about firing CISOs in the wake of a breach we had earlier in the day this post was written.
First, security is hard. Those who lament the failures of security professionals on the defensive from their offense armchairs (aka penetration testers) need to play defense for a while. You'll get an attitude adjustment, I promise. I came from a small company penetration tester mentality when I joined a massive global conglomerate back in early 2000's - and let me tell you that attitude adjustment was harsh. My "why can't you just fix this" was met with retort like "because we have budget to do one of two things - release the product and make the company money and keep our jobs, or hope to add security" over and over. I eventually learned the harsh lesson, luckily before I was relieved of duty.
Now, not apologizing for years of poor security practices in software products you sell to others to use, but Adobe has come a long way by my measures. They used to have Flash! bugs almost weekly - a torch which has been passed to Java. They also had poor practice in community interface, and other issues which no one really needs to hear over and over again. Brad Arkin's appointment to the Corporate CISO has made a tremendous improvement in that organization, and those who discount that simply don't know better...and if you don't know, stop talking.
Now back to security being hard. I can relate here. I've never been the CISO for a global conglomerate which has grown by acquisition as well as organically - but I did work for one. On that team which was responsible for global security but had very little mandate power - life was hard. When the company got breached we were in the firing line. When we worked tirelessly to do what we could with the few pennies we were given no one batted an eyelash. It's a thankless job trying to save the victim from drowning themselves - but that's what you sign up for when you go to work in #InfoSec in the corporate world. I get that. The last thing you need is some guy touting your employer relieving you of your job. Seriously?
Whether you're a Christian or not, there is a Bible verse which rings true in all our lives. John 8:7 says "..He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.." Remember this my friends and colleagues, as you read the news and jump on the bashing-the-victim bandwagon. Some day very soon, if logic holds, your organization will be breached, hacked, sacked and shamed publicly by people just like you. You'll want to tell your peers in the industry just how hard you've worked to make even the smallest changes in culture, and how long it takes to change hearts and minds, attitudes, and budgets. But no one will listen and instead they'll be calling you names, laughing, and calling for your head. That's probably not the right thing to do, you think?
As the saying goes "People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones". We all have to live with issues that at any moment could expose us - whether it's in our personal or professional lives. There is no secure. So the next time you want to get your names in the publication talking about how stupid that one vendor is because they got hacked - ask yourself - what would you want your peers to say when it happens to you?
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Today we are seeing this happening all over the place, mainly in the consumer online world. You can now log into several of your favorite websites and applications simply using your FaceBook identity. FaceBook verifies you know your password and are likely you, then federates (tells the 3rd party) that it has verified your credentials. Again, this is primarily happening in the consumer space right now, and while it's becoming more pervasive it's still a nice to have because almost every site still offers you the ability to create your own username and password. But ... let's be honest here, the convenience you get of having a single password to remember that works for many other places is hard to pass up and many of us (your humble blogger here included) simply acquiesce.
Is this really a good idea?
The answer to the question of whether this type of activity is a good idea or bad idea lies in whether you believe that individual web identities are manageable (I do not), and whether you trust yet another website with managing your credentials properly over FaceBook (I believe this is likely a toss-up, with FaceBook getting the benefit of the doubt).
Look, you're not good at managing the hundreds of websites, applications, and places where you have to create yet another username and password pair. Believe me when I say this because I know I'm terrible at it and I have to be paranoid for a living. I can probably remember ~15-20 site/app and credential pairs relatively sanely while using reasonably complex passphrases and passwords. Anything beyond that and I'm forced to re-use ... yep, I do it too. Let's face it though, the truth is that if I have 1 username/password combination for all the sites I'll never go back to again that have nothing really private about me, I don't care and neither do you.
So let's look at FaceBook. They've had many years to increase security in their authentication mechanism and federation system. I won't even insult your intelligence by saying they're secure, but they work very hard at knowing who you are, and being sure it's actually you. Why? Simple - this is how they make money, by getting good tracking data on you. Double-edged sword folks.
Do you really want to give FaceBook the power?
Well the simple answer to this question is heck no. Although ...you have to ask yourself what privacy you're additionally giving away and if the juice is worth the squeeze. Are you willing to maintain that thin illusion of privacy by trying to manage potentially hundreds of logins and credentials? I'll save you the brain cycles - the answer is really no.
The other thing here, if I'm honest, is that FaceBook probably already tracks you on many of those sites anyway ... seriously. I'm not saying this makes it OK by any stretch of the imagination, but ... maybe... ?
Yes, we're inching towards a situation where the folks over at FaceBook are going to hold incredible analytical capabilities when it comes to who we are, what we do, what we buy, where we visit and just about every aspect of our digital lives in exchange for the convenience and added security of safe-guarding that information to a single central party over hundreds or thousands of organizations we know we don't trust.
So what if FaceBook gets compromised? Great question.
You probably use something similar to 1Password (if you're smart) to manage all of your web presence and logins ... right? What if they get compromised? That's just a risk we take, it's a calculated risk based on the fact that we know your passwords are stored in a database that requires your passphrase to unlock. Could someone insert malicious code into that application by compromising that password management group - of course. Will they? Maybe. The fact is I would rather have that single point of failure - if I can be reasonably sure it's well-defended - than hundreds of poorly defended ones.
The real issue is the future...
The real issue is this article right here - "FaceBook wants to make mobile payments easier with 'AutoFill'"...there are many that sprang up over night reporting on the same issue. The question isn't only whether FaceBook will become the de facto standard for Internet enabled identity, but how pervasive that identity will become. If you can not only log into, but also quickly pay using your FaceBook identity - would you subscribe? I'm guessing those of you who think like I do are saying to yourselves "Hell no!". The truth is that your family members, colleagues and friends can't wait to jump in on this.
Why you ask? Simple. It simplifies your life. As your life in the real world melts more and more into your digital persona services like FaceBook's "AutoFill" will becomes increasingly popular and useful. No doubt in my mind.
Alright, I'm worried
...and you should be, but probably not for the reasons you're thinking.
This trend troubles me because the war over your online and physical identity is being fought fiercely in the background and no one appears to be taking notice. Security professionals aren't noticing, privacy professionals aren't noticing in large parts - and I don't see or hear a lot of talk about this.
Can FaceBook swallow the world, and become a reasonably secure global federated identity provider? I think the chances of this are likely, and they've probably got this on their business plan because they're smart. Will Google keep trying to oppose them - heck yes. Should we all take notice and start to look at the way FaceBook manages our authentication and federates (including WHAT access it gives to your information to the party they federate out to) - absolutely.
I think this is the final frontier in the collision of our still-separate physical and digital lives. Once the identities melt together into a single federated FaceBook (or whom ever wins this war) identity, the game will again change.
You'll notice this post hasn't even begun to tackle the topic of authorization yet - that's another story for another time.
I'm curious what you think ... am I totally off my rocker? Chat me up on Twitter @Wh1t3Rabbit and let's hear what you think.
Monday, September 23, 2013
"So hyperbole aside, #Apple just set back "real security" several years with this fingerprint gimmick (for the masses)? Awesome."That was supposed to be a bit ironic, and some people got that others got mad at me, as well as insightful. I've been thinking a lot about this Touch ID that Apple has released with their latest version of the iPhone, the 5S. For me it all comes down to the opening paragraph of the above references page on Touch ID -
"Much of our digital lives are stored on our iPhones, and everyone should use a passcode to help protect this important information and their privacy. Unfortunately, not everyone does; more than 50 percent of smartphone users don't use a passcode. Your fingerprint is one of the best passcodes in the world. It's always with you, and no two are exactly alike. Touch ID is a seamless way to use your fingerprint as a passcode. With just a touch of the Home button of your iPhone 5s, the Touch ID sensor quickly reads your fingerprint and automatically unlocks your phone. You can even use it to authorize purchases from the iTunes Store, App Store, and iBooks Store."Before we get into this, let me first give credit to Apple for good things they've done with the latest version of the iPhone and beyond. First, they've forced everyone to put in a passcode - this is already a leap forward. I've been telling people to protect their phones with a passcode, but it seems like every day I see someone new who isn't following that line of thinking and I have to explain all over again. So this push to something is better than nothing. Also, a 1 in 50,000 chance is always better than a 1 in 10,000, but when you consider many people never even use the passcode feature before this version of the phone - this seems kind of irrelevant. I wonder if Apple has statistics on how many people never enable the passcode at all, I'd be much more interested in that - although I suspect no one will ever give this information out, unfortunately.
Now - let me explain why I call Touch ID a gimmick. But one more thing... let me tell you what I'm taking as truth here...
- Apple is a largely consumer-based company, and markets primarily to the consumer
- The consumer demographic doesn't necessarily know the difference between good security and the stuff they see in the movies
- If you put 1 and 2 together above, you get "What Apple says people believe as gospel" for a large part of their user base (in other words: not for everyone)
OK, now that you understand where I'm coming from, let me move on.
To explain why I believe Touch ID is a gimmick I will simply cite two sources on the subject. First a presentation from PacSec 2006 (that's right 7 years ago) on the quality and worthiness of fingerprint readers as authentication mechanisms. You should walk through those slides on your own (Apple probably missed them), but if you're in a pinch let me sum it up for you with the conclusion Starbug reaches-
"Don't use fingerprint recognition systems for security relevant applications!"You're probably saying to yourself, "self, but this application isn't necessarily high security" and I would agree with you if you weren't wrong. The problem is that this fingerprint application is the key to your phone, and can be set up to authorize purchases as Apple tells us. As soon as this catches on the average user will be asking for Touch ID to be the authenticator of choice for FaceBook, Twitter, and other authentication type applications. Trust me, it'll happen. Right - but there's a 1 in 50,000 chance of your fingerprint colliding (being close enough to) someone else, right? Except that after 5 unsuccessful attempts you still have to use your passcode so you don't get the full 50,000 tries. Wait. Then we're back to the 1 in 10,000 4-digit passcode? That can't be right ...logic doesn't make sense here. Does it make sense to you?
OK, moving on, instead of trying to tell you why I think fingerprints are a bad idea for authentication, I'll just point you to Dave Aitel's "Daily Dave" mailing list which quotes Dave ...
"...[T]here are two important reasons why biometrics won't work, and why the old-fashioned password is still a better option: a person's biometrics can't be kept secret and they can't be revoked...Since a person can't change their fingerprint or whatever biometric is being relied upon, it's 'once owned, forever owned.' That is biometrics' major failing and the one that will be hardest to overcome." - Dave Aitel, USAToday, 12 September 2013"So let me sum it up for you...
- Because it's Apple, you'll now have a massive user base believing fingerprints are infallible, and likely be demanding this type of authentication for more applications (psst! your enterprise application is next)
- Your super-secure fingerprint vault and amazing scanner (1 in 50,000 chance of collision) still defaults to a simple passcode (1 in 10,000 chance of guessing) after 5 failure guesses
- Your fingerprint is relatively simple to find, and duplicate because it's not secret
- You can't change your fingerprint once it's copied and compromised (oh oh)
But now we get to the really fun part, in case you're still not clear on why this is a gimmick at best, and a bad, bad idea at worst. Put your tinfoil hat on and follow me here for a minute.
Apple now has control of one of the largest fingerprint stores in the world (albeit mathematical representations, and distributed ... so we're told), potentially more than many local law enforcement or federal databases - by sheer size. Remember there were more than 9 million iPhone 5S's sold just over the weekend from Sept 20 - 22nd. How long until the NSA or some Federal entity comes calling and asking Apple for access to that mechanism, or ask Apple to modify the code? Feel secure right about now, do you?
So why does this set back real security at least a half-decade? In my mind, we the "community" have been working very hard to change end-user's behaviors and to get them to make more complex passwords (pass-phrases) and not re-use, etc... and now along comes Apple promising security with the swipe of a finger. And just like that ... poof all that work we've done is out the window. Users will swipe their finger, enter 1234 as their backup pass-code because the fingerprint is good enough, and we're back to where we started.
 CCC breaks Touch ID blog post - http://www.ccc.de/en/updates/2013/ccc-breaks-apple-touchid
Friday, September 20, 2013
A recent post to the SC-L mailing list lamented an interview with an executive where the executive stated his company's approach to software security was to raise the cost/complexity bar for exploring their software.
The poster wrote "The response to vulnerabilities was to raise the cost/complexity of exploiting bugs rather than actually employing secure coding practices."
I don't believe the person posting really understands the goals of software security, or is simply failing to understand these are not opposing goals. If you still delusionally believe that you can engineer all security bugs out of your code, I think you don't understand modern software security. You may also be setting some unrealistic goals.
Even though I've assisted enterprises with employing "best practices" and a plethora of tools and procedures to integrate software security into their various SDLCs, they still produce security defects/bugs. This is nearly universal. Even organizations that understand the difference between flaw and vulnerability, to quote Gary McGraw, still fail to eliminate all security defects. The answer for these groups is to make defects more difficult and more costly to exploit. There is absolutely nothing wrong with setting this as a goal, in my experiences.
This approach doesn't herald giving up on writing secure software but rather acknowledging ratcheting cost/complexity of exploitation is a valid piece of the overall software security program.
Quite simply, failing to understand this results in frustration and continued alienation between security and development personnel.
Should your goal be to produce more secure software? Absolutely.
Should you're goal be to force your adversary to spend more anf work hardet to exploit your code? Absolutely.
Are these two opposing concepts? Hell no.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
- Cloud - good luck trying to sell the European Union on cloud services based in the US, or from US-based companies. Hereforth we'll have to answer for the extensive erosion of trust that the NSA has accomplished. Good luck getting your US-based cloud service sold to any organization outside the US in the near term.
- Hacktivism- globally, hacktivists have mobilized against the US (and UK via GCHQ) spy agencies. The problem is that hacktivists are opportunistic and often pick low-hanging and weak targets such as the NASA site cited above. US businesses, government agencies, and anything exposed will continue to be the target into the foreseeable future for this hacktivist, anti-spying, anti-US war mongering campaign. For the record, I'm not implying that this is something new - only that there is a renewed sense of common enemy.
- Boogeymen - have you noticed that nearly every time there has been even a minor incident involving hacking, malware, or infiltration immediately the question of GCHQ and NSA comes up? This story on Belgacom's issue with malware takes up the NSA and GCHQ boogeyman, as if on queue. Of course, the accusation of infiltration from the NSA may be entirely valid, but at this point (of this writing) it's entirely unsubstantiated, publicly.
If you're on the defense - understand that you're a target even if you're a government 3-letter agency. Keep your guard up extra, but as far as I can tell the good news is that much of this hacktivism is defacements and protest - very little of it is actually destructive or otherwise malicious.
Remember, they're from the government, they're here to help.