Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Great WindowsXP Cataclysm - Part 1

This post is cross-posted to my HP Corp blog as well at http://hp.gom/go/white-rabbit
The end is nigh!

Let me start off this two-part series by saying that I survived the first time this happened. If you've been around a long time in IT you may remember this operating system called WindowsNT 4.0 - and I was there when it finally, for real this time, truly and for sure went end-of-life. I think there is much parallel between what happened then, and where we are today.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Analyzing the Target Breach "Kill Chain Analysis" Report

-- If you haven't read it yet, the document "A "Kill Chain" Analysis of the 2014 Target Data Breach" is a must read for anyone in the role of enterprise [cyber] defense.

I've been studying recent breaches through the looking glass of the "Lockheed Martin Kill Chain". If you'd like a primer on the importance and background of the kill chain methodology you should read Rodrigo Bijou's fantastic analysis. The LM kill chain methodology for examination and defense from an attack is actually quite brilliant. It's not necessarily revolutionary - but enterprise security professionals now have a structured and documented way of trying to thwart attackers, and learn from breaches. So it's fair to say that this is something everyone in defense (and oddly enough, offense) should know like the back of their hand.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Attribution - The 10 Ton Elephant in the Room

First let me tell you why I'm writing this post you're reading, and why I hesitated to write this post in the first place. I am not a full-time threat or security researcher, let me just get that out of the way. I'm fully aware I don't qualify to have the in-depth attribution conversation which I'll leave up to the experts but there are many things that still fall into my wheelhouse, so here is a semi-organized collection of my thoughts on this specific topic of attribution in cyber.

This current discussion on the DailyDave regarding the APT1 report Mandiant put out (one year on) list is seriously boiling my bunny(tm).

Monday, March 10, 2014

Here a box. There a box. Everywhere a breach. Notes from RSA 2014

TL;DR - More of the same, and security is still a 1U 'solution' that fails every time, eventually.

Hey everyone, I’m writing you from the settled dust of RSA Conference 2014. It typical fashion I made grandiose plans to meet up with people I’d not seen in years, and meet people I only knew by a handle over Twitter or some other online forum … and it all went to hell. Best laid plans and all that, right? Every year RSA Conference is the same. You show up in San Francisco and hit the ground in a fast sprint. Although I don’t feel like I was sprinting so much as the ground underneath me was moving so fast I could only keep up by running my hardest. Analogies aside, I ended up with a talk, a panel and some booth time and of course time with our often very interesting client base. Then I made the mistake of walking the showroom floors. That’s right, there’s an s at the end of that word because there were in fact two sides of Moscone this year that were used for exhibition.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Entry level hiring in InfoSec - the comedy of errors

I have a good friend who is trying to get work as an entry level InfoSec talent. He's a distinguished army vet, a family man, and genuinely the kind of person I'd love to live next door to. He's never really had specific work in Information Security, but he can talk processes, tools, and technologies and I feel like he's on one of those rare people who get it when it comes to making relevant policy decisions for enterprise security.

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 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

Guest Post: Follow up to "Where Risk Calculations Fall Apart [Again]"

In a previous post "Where Risk Calculations Fall Apart [Again]" I made the argument that a complex formula variable in a risk calculation like "likelihood-of-exploit" is essentially (at best) undesirable, and at worst detrimental if not nonsensical. I posted the blog link to Twitter and as expected debate struck up. I think I'm going to write another follow-up on this because there still seems to be some confusion as to what I am arguing ... I appreciate all the replies and discussion so far. I even received an email from a colleague who agreed with my viewpoint and had put together a very comprehensive reply but couldn't fit it into the comments section so instead here it is in it's entirety ... I encourage you to read Heath's lengthy, but extremely well-thought-out reply.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Where risk calculations fall apart [again]

I suspect this may upset some people who believe these types of things are possible, or are even performing such actions today - and to those folks I apologize in advance but this is merely my opinion.

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

On withdrawing your [RSA Conference] talk in protest

By now the news has settled a bit in people's brains, that RSA (the company) was allegedly paid by the NSA some $10M to weaken encryption. Reuters broke the story with this quote:
"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:

  1. Make a T-shirt that says "RSA has violated our trust" and wear it during your talk
  2. Take 2 minutes at the start of you talk, and discuss the issue you're taking with RSA's alleged behavior
  3. Blog about the issue and publicize it
  4. Change your talk, without telling the organizers, to be about the damage that their alleged wrong-doing have caused
  5. Speak at the conference, but refuse to give RSA any positive press
  6. Speak at Security BSides SF and draw attention to the issue
  7. Make a sign and stand outside the RSA Conference venue in protest
  8. Refuse to buy/use/endorse RSA products/services
  9. Urge others to refuse to buy/use/endorse RSA products/services
  10. Work with the industry to identify and flag uses of the weakened crypto component in software packages - as a vulnerability finding
..there are, of course, many more ways to protest. You don't need to hurt the attendees in the process, and I think that's exactly what cancelling your talk and refusing to speak does in the end.

My $0.1999 ...if you disagree or believe I'm wrong - use the comments section or catch me on Twitter.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Breach is Not a Failed End State (get over it)

I struggled with the right way to start this blog post, but ultimately I settled on the most blunt approach which is the naked truth.

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:

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
Now, this is where it turns into a "choose your own adventure" book (remember those?)... the good security organizations think beyond simply preventing a breach and are always in detection mode, ready to respond to the intrusion and resolve any incident and consequently learn from it. Poorly run security organizations just get breached, and pandemonium ensues when they eventually, often accidentally, figure it out.

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

Security Intelligence for the Enterprise - Part 3

As promised, this is the 3rd installment of my Security Intelligence for the Enterprise post where I’ll drop some of the things that I find useful for clients looking to adopt a less “on your heels” security stance in the cyber realm.

I’ve already explained my position on what Security Intelligence is and why it’s different from Threat Intelligence, so I won’t revisit that… you can read part 1 and part2 respectively if you want that background.


Before you dive into this campaign, and it is just that – a campaign, you’ll need to spend some time understanding what it is you want to accomplish. I suggest defining and setting your own goals since others will likely not fit in line with your business strategy or budget or resource constraints.

If you’re going to mobilize for a new function, or maybe you’re starting a not-so-successful program from another time, you have to set goals and understand direction. Security intelligence is a holistic thing, so you have to approach it as such. First ask yourself “What is lacking in our business-aligned security program?” If your security program is yet to be business-aligned, start there and come back to Security Intelligence only after you’re got appropriately tight business alignment.

Remember, ultimately you’re hoping that your security intelligence program helps you answer security-related questions faster and with greater certainty. It’s a way to learn from the past, analyze in the present and be more risk-averse in the future.

Capacity is a big issue. One of the first things I advise my clients to do is take a look at their existing security program and assess whether they have the human resources and capital to take on such an endeavor. If your staffers are pulling 50+ hour weeks and are overworked already you’re not going to have the ability to start a security intelligence program. Unless, that is, you drop one of your existing program elements or consolidate/repurpose. That’s actually quite common. And since I know you’re going to ask what the most common program element that disappears as a stand-along function is I may as well tell you that it’s the TVM (Threat and Vulnerability Management) piece. TVM nicely matures into Security Intelligence – if done properly. I will attempt to cover the metamorphosis from TVM to SecIntel in a future post, hopefully it won’t take as long to publish as this one did.

So once you’ve lined up your goals, done due diligence on resource checking, you’re ready to begin the actual planning. Although it’s not the stylish thing to do these days, the security intelligence programs I build for clients start from the inside and work outward. This means you’re not going to be reverse-engineering malware and signing up for a pricey threat intel feed just yet. Security Intelligence inside-out means you’re converting at least a few of your vulnerability analysts (depending on company size) temporarily into business analysts. Look internally into your organization and start by going over some of your old RCAs (Root Cause Analyses) from incidents you’re experienced. Find the trouble spots, from both a technical and business perspective and focus on those. If you’ve never had an incident, or don’t have major anything to work with, look at the various aspects of how security interacts with the operation of business and ask yourself what things are causing the most friction.

Now you’re on the right track to better protecting the business by having the correct information, at the right time, with the level of certainty you need. Certainty is crucial here – you can’t make decisions (such as preventing a project going live) with impartial data, or information you don’t have a high degree of confidence in.

At this stage you’ve added in the externalities that will be implemented later on as part of the holistic approach. Hacker group profiles (TTPs), external feeds of raw data, and timely research are all part of your master plan, each with specific value and specific payback for your program.

Basically ask yourself the question: “How does this widget/thing help me meet the operational goals of security for this enterprise?” Be ready to justify these items to both yourself, your team, and your management.

Execute the plan

Now that your plan is looking good and has been appropriately signed off it’s time to execute. I recommend that organizations seeking to adopt a more holistic approach using security intelligence start slow – with their existing TVM program. Modify your current TVM program as much as you can to suit the purpose of decision making … now with added business context.

Track changes you’re making, track issues you’ve encountered and gains you feel you’ve made along the way. This will help you to claim success at some point, without any uncertainty. I advocate CISOs hire on (at least temporarily) a project manager to assist with keeping things on an even keel. Security programs, including Security Intelligence, are prone to scope and project creep more than other things, I fear. I’m not sure why that is.

Don’t be afraid to test and fail. For example, one of my clients got ambitious and added web app server logs in full debug to their security intelligence platform and quickly realized that while they were getting some amazing data the systems they had in place for analysis and storage were being overwhelmed. They failed, but it only took a week, and they were able to work with their Operations organization to pare down the data volume while still receiving useful information they can process in a reasonable amount of time to make business-saving decisions. That’s pretty cool

Measure it

By now you’re aware of my addiction to measuring your gains/losses. Security Intelligence is no different, honestly. You’re investing, potentially quite heavily, in a new function to help your business be more agile in its security decision-making. If you can’t tell me how much more efficient or intelligent your org has become as a result of implementing your key items, you haven’t accomplished anything in my book.
In fact, I spend so much time on definition, collection and analysis of data for provability of effectiveness that I make it a centerpiece of the program.

My SecIntel strategy has a placeholder for developing KPIs based on the decisions you’re hoping to make faster or more effectively with relation to some business item. Maybe you can make decisions on “attack or not attack” 50% faster than before the program rolled out. If you don’t have the metrics to back that up, rolling up into a KPI dashboard you’re in trouble. People won’t take your word for it, the days of FUD ruling the enterprise are (hopefully) long over.

There you go, folks. A few tidbits that will hopefully help you kick off your security intelligence program right. If you’d got questions, you can always hit me up – I’m here to help in any way I can.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Enterprise Security Professionals Getting Out of the Enterprise?

Enterprise security is hard, and the role of enterprise security leader is getting even harder.

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

5 Life Lessons in InfoSec from Surviving the First Month of Twins

For some of you, those that don't know me on Twitter or in real-life, you may be asking yourself where the heck I've fallen off to lately. I have, in fact, largely fallen out of the #InfoSec roller coaster and as I write this I'm struggling to remember what day it seriously. On October 27th, 2013 my wife and I were blessed with twins, a boy and a girl, and since then life has been ...non-stop leaving very little room for anything other than #DadOps.

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...

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
There you have it. I hope that's helpful!

Who knew raising twins would be so much work, and yet feel so amazing. Kids are a gift, a little miracle and it just so happens that we were blessed with two of them at once. I think as silly as it may sound now, this experience will ultimately apply thoroughly in enterprise security and defense.

Have something you'd like to share than you think I missed? Want to add your own anecdote? Leave a comment or hit me on Twitter ( @Wh1t3Rabbit ) and let's talk about #DadOps :-)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

It's Not a Bug, It's a Feature - LinkedIn Intro Edition

Dear LinkedIn - please stop with Intro.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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)
Where were the risk people?
Where was the privacy and legal team?
I think we know the answers to those two questions right? They probably weren't invited to the meetings, or per the usual their lamentations were simply ignored. I refuse to believe risk, privacy and legal professionals would approve of something like this at a company like LinkedIn.

Once again ... I was pretty sure there were some very smart security people over at LinkedIn. Is this just a prime example of 'agile product development' (aka product and marketing people running feral), or is this a legitimate product that the company stands behind? To me, this product announcement proves (once again) why security people feel so disillusioned... a sad state of affairs indeed, but endemic to our trade.

Feature gimmicks win over even the most common sense security, nearly every time. Take it as fact.
So now what?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Renaissance in the Manufacturing and Industrial Sectors

Having worked in an enterprise security capacity in the industrial and manufacturing sectors I'm one of the first to admit that those two sectors haven't exactly been on the bleeding edge of security innovation over the last decade. The good news, if recent events hold, is that the industrial and manufacturing sector appears to be going through somewhat of a renaissance. This is thoroughly exciting news for many of you who have been hearing stout opposition to your efforts.

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
Those of you in the manufacturing and industrial sectors - remember all that complaining you did that your enterprises didn't find value in what you provided? You're about to get your chance to impress the business with your intimate knowledge of what it is your organization does, and how you should be supporting it going forward. You have a plan, right? 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Living in Glass Houses - #InfoSec Industry's Culture of Shaming

Edit (10/9/13 16:26 EDT)
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?