Upgrade, Patch, and Reboot: No! Too Hard?

How can it be that upgrading software and hardware is too hard? Or is it that the reboot is too hard?

We don’t actually want to reboot do we?

I know some people who deliberately do not reboot their computers until forced to do so by power outage or other dramatic events.

Or is it that a reboot has a small chance of screwing up the balance of the computer? I.e. the registry might become corrupted (example of a registry failure after restart)? This phenomenon happens during faulty (or ‘buggy’) patches. But since we have heard about these things, we think postponing the update (for months) is better.

The solution? Test the patches with a suitable copy by your IT department. So again we run into the problem of resources.  The It department has to have a suitable test machine and has to have the time to test the upgrade with all of the software that you must use.

  1. Accounting
  2. Word/ excel (or Office)
  3. Website software compatibility  (Firefox, Chrome, Iexplorer)
  4. specialized software.

So now what seems like a 30 min job at most turned into several hours.  And remember now it also depends on the other tasks the IT department has. Updating servers are more complex which could take longer to update. This was likely the problem at Equifax where an Apache Struts application was not patched within a short time.  “Learning From Equifax Breach” Sep27 blogpost.

And I don’t know if you noticed but there are patches every month, sometimes more frequently:

 

Here is an example of a past patch Tuesday (2nd Tuesday of the month) in 2015 on this blog 

A single vulnerability may affect 8 different types of systems, and if you have many of those systems (due to not standardizing) then each system must be tested properly to figure out if the patch will work.

So it is not that the single act of rebooting is the cause of our consternation, rather it is the large testing regime that SHOULD be done. Of course a loose IT department can just wing it and patch without testing. On most months that would be ok, but periodically there will be problems and then a lot of downtime.

So ask yourself is there a lot of unscheduled downtime for different systems? then it may be time to do things differently.  We do not want to be the company that is in the news due to a cybersecurity incident (which may have started due to an insufficient update process).

Contact us for a review of your machines and processes

More Security or More Business? is it Us vs Them?

When we say We need to be more secure in cyberland, does that mean small business needs to change what they do to be more secure?

ISACA says we need governance:

Governance and management for Enterprise business should use the COBIT 5 principles

  1. Principle 1: Meet stakeholder needs
  2. Principle 2: Covering the enterprise from end-to-end
  3. Principle 3: Applying  single integrated framework
  4. Principle 4: Enabling a holistic approach
  5. Principle 5: Separating governance from management

The COBIT framework ‘simplified’ means for the business to drive “cybersecurity”. I.e. if you need to sell widgets on the Internet you have to have cybersecurity on the Internet with credit card processing then that is what you have to say: ” We have to protect our systems to sell our products and stay in business”.

The conversation cannot start with ” I need security more than sales” because we know how that conversation ends. In fact the Cybersecurity person needs to say we facilitate sales, and make sure they are done safely. We take care of government compliance.

Besides  some good sound bites, the hard work of creating a truly secure organization is to set up a framework of weighing risks versus threats and impact.

A methodology must be used instead of just telling your IT department “keep us as secure as possible” ok?

What consistent methods do we need to operate to make Cybersecurity for companies work effectively for the stakeholder?

I listed the 5 principles of COBIT, and one of the most important piece of one of the principles is to assess risk (likelihood * impact) for each computer and IT device in your company.

An Audit has to be performed where all the pieces of the network and computer systems for the business needs are cataloged and rated for importance and weaknesses.

Once this inventory has been created a Risk analysis with expenditure of money has to be accumulated and reviewed with the stakeholders.

The process of reporting is also important, how to report and whom to report to.

Principle 5: separating governance from management has it’s reasons. The IT department must be overseen and directed by a governing body. If you want to discover these details get an audit from an ISACA Auditor and get on the path to become more secure within your business needs and requirements.

Contact us to audit your business

 

Who is Responsible For Cybersecurity?

I am talking about the reality that someone must be responsible so we can hold their feet to the fire. We don’t want to get to the point of too many directions of responsibility, as then when a breach does happen it is dangerous to see what will happen from there? So the CISA (Certified Information Systems Auditor) exam prep says that the Board of the company is responsible as they are the stakeholders. The board ultimately controls the purse strings, and hiring/firing of the CEO. But the problem with Cybersecurity is the changing nature of threats with increasing use of technology. Thus if the CEO changed some parameters unknown to the board, or if the board has not had time to digest then the CEO should be part responsible as well.

So if the CEO is part responsible because of changes that are occurring without the board’s knowledge…  or is it that the board should have contingency plans for unknown changes?

Let’s review what responsibility means?

Definition from Google:

The state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone.

The state of fact of being accountable for something

The opportunity or ability to act independently and make decisions without authorization

I want to restate this dictionary definition for cybersecurity specifically:

The ISACA Auditing standard will stay as the “Financially” responsible entity will stay in the board.

But I want to pick into who is responsible for Cybersecurity? Is it the person who misuses one of the definitions:

“The opportunity or ability to act independently and make decisions without authorization”

We all use computers (and mobile devices) independently, and in fact more devices are coming into our lives that will  create problems if we do not use them properly.

So even though the board is financially responsible, we are all responsible for using our devices with a certain amount of Cybersecurity intelligence.

The board has to set the stage with enough funding for firewalls, and audits and the like, but the users are responsible for using the devices without clicking on phishing emails or going to questionable websites that will cause problems even in the most secure environments.

Contact Us to create a security policy for the future.

How Can You Tell If Hackers Are Hacking You?

Obviously if you have been hacked and have ransomware that is too late to know that you have been hacked:

I would like to discuss how we can find out if hackers are altering your files or are looking around in your network. There are several ways to explain what is happening when a criminal hacker is trying to attack your machines. Usually it starts with reconnaissance of your computers, online profile and other system methods.

 

The cybersecurity  industry has  created something called the Cyber Kill Chain which explains this phenomena(how does a criminal hacker attack you). CSOonline explains it a little… But Cyber Kill Chain was created by Lockheed Martin, a defense contractor with defense terminology.

Advanced (targeted)                 Persistent(month after month)       Threat (person with intent, opportunity and capability)

 

The cybersecurity industry is obsessed with this Cyber Kill Chain – why? because the explanation is a good method of detailing the steps an attacker uses to find a way into your network.

If you think about it there must be a way for us to explain how an attacker attacks, so that we can look and find this attack.

I tried to use less technical  terms with my SVAPE & C diagram using the Mandiant attack analysis of the Chinese hackers.

Scan Vulnerability Analysis – Penetrate Exploit and Control  – i.e. SVAPE & C

The portion of criminal attack we want to dissect is the Penetrate and Exploit.  In other words, recon has already been done, vulnerabilities analyzed, and reviewed.Or as in the Cyber Kill Chain, somewhere between delivery, exploitation, and installation.

Now the attacker is actually trying to take over the machine, by exploiting the system somehow.

What is it that we are looking for? If a system is being altered by a human being the event logs  will also be altered. So keeping an eye on event logs is a good idea.

But if this attack is by an automated program (bot or virus or other malware) then the event logs will only be changed if the bot decides to do this, so likely the bot needs to send information back to the programmer at some point (information like cc numbers, health info, whatever data that you keep on your computer).

How do these criminal hackers attack your computers?

It turns out they use the same techniques as people in DEFCON 25 would (latest convention in Las Vegas). So you can browse through the media server to see what the presentations were.

I like the Leveraging-Powershell-Basics by Carlos Perez

In this presentation the theme is to run little known commands using Powershell which you have to be looking for when trying to find hackers in your network.

The Powershell commands can perform many things for the hackers, and to find out whether commands are run you must turn on advanced auditing enabled, some command line jiu-jitsu is also required.  Hackerhurricane Blog discusses the commands  and settings in Win7 and Windows 2008  and later.

So the key is to find what the hackers do and then try to detect these types of actions.  But then there is another issue, including making sure there are people to modify the scripts to detect the criminal hackers.

Target had the methods(detection) but failed in personnel to act on the detection, because one has to find the real problem within the many false positives.

Most important there must be a will to defend and act.

Contact Us to review your plans, we can audit your defensive plans.

 

To Measure Risk, Measure Impact : Major Threats and Effects

To Measure Risk means to measure impact and threats(likelihood)

(R=L*I) Risk = Likelihood * Impact

 

So what does that mean? What are the threats and their effects to your environment? Answering this will give the true impact of the problem figuring out what risk one really has.

(Above image was copied from @ipfconline1 twitter images)

So let’s assume these are the major threats and Major concerns (from image)

  • Unauthorized Access  53%
  • Hijacking Accounts  44%
  • Insecure interfaces / APIs  39%
  • External sharing of data

Major Concerns

  • Data Loss/leakage  49%
  • Data Privacy  46%
  • Confidentiality  42%
  • Legal and regulatory compliance   39%

The threat is one portion of risk, the impact is another.

The idea is to view all of the threats coming at you and review where you should spend your time.

The problem with this methodology is one has to have a decent understanding of the impact and likelihood of various threats. Some of these items need to be also taken into context.

If you have 100 computers and they are all running Windows Operating systems (different versions 7,8,Server, 10) then a threat to your Windows base for MS17-10 is not as dangerous for all computers.

But what if a virus/trojan attacked and affected 20 computers?  Now the impact would be higher. So the Risk to your organization is higher from a relatively minor Microsoft vulnerability.

So one thing you will find is that even minor vulnerabilities can grow into major problems. So the potential effect of an exploited vulnerability  is the issue. Every month new patches are released and at the same time criminal hackers are trying to exploit the patch exploitability.

Unfortunately every vulnerability has an attack timeline.

Here is the crux of the issue, what is the impact for each separate vulnerability to your environment? As criminals develop better attacks you have to keep the threats in mind and do proper patching so as to defend your network.


By performing an audit of your environment and  reviewing impacts and likelihood you will hopefully be able to evaluate your risk properly.

Contact Us to help you with this process.