Why Are we in a Big Cybersecurity Mess?

To answer this question logically and truthfully we have to go back to how computers have evolved and connected to each other.

During WW2 the beginning stages of electronic machines tabulating artillery tables faster and more accurately than humans (Colossus mark 1 and 2)

(public Domain picture)

As the computers evolved more and more effort was put in for how the programming and processing abilities occurred and security was not even a worry, as security was physically done not networking wise.

So when and what was the first networked computer?

The first network was the precursor of the internet as we know it and it was called ARPANET (Advanced research Projects Agency Network): EDN Network article discusses this.  On Arpanet in 1969 and shortly thereafter the focus was on making the network operational (it finally was deemed “operational” in 1975 at six years later).  The work on this technology is available for everyone to see: TCP Transmission Control Protocol as it was developed in the public domain :  The RFC 793 September1981

If you look at the Table of Contents of the TCP RFC (Transmission Control Protocol – Request For Comment) document there is no place for security or encryption.  It is up to you to develop security. So that is what we have done. New technologies with SSL(Secure Socket Layer) and TLS(Transport Layer Security) have been built on top of the TCP technology.

As you may know from our past blogpost SSL is no longer PCI compliant

So THIS IS THE PROBLEM !!!

We are developing our current software on an insecure platform.

Until there is a computer built from scratch for security using a network mechanism that is also built with security in mind, we will always be fighting a losing battle.

So we have developed Compliance mechanisms:

  1. PCI – Payment Card Industry  (2004 major credit card companies came together)
  2. HIPAA – Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996
  3. Other public company compliance regulations (SOX)

 

The compliance systems are not designed to make you 100%secure, they are designed for you to mitigate security problems. If you follow all the rules for the most part you will keep problems in check and thus  business risk is reasonable.

The bottom line  is for IT resources to provide business capabilities, in that environment security has to be mitigated. Until someone develops a 100% secure platform this is the life we have. We will have to keep up on patches, and review logs while always looking over our shoulders to see if the criminal hackers have finally come into  the environment or not.

Interesting to note, that as more people get connected  we stop to think about our security, I mean who thinks about cybersecurity as they get a new phone or tablet/laptop? especially if that is their first foray into smartphones.  The new connectee is interested only in how I can connect (usually with free WiFi or an unlimited data plan.  The reason we stop to think about security is that we expect security to be there.

The unfortunate aspect of more people connecting is that not all people are knowledgeable about phishing emails and other cyber security problems. It takes time to become knowledgeable in anything, so the overall understanding is pushed down (common denominator).

So my theory is as more people connect the average knowledge about cybersecurity is pushed down. Thus allowing more attacks to  be successful by the criminal  hackers.

In the following image Cisco predicted IoTs to balloon to 50billion devices by 2020. (this seems correct or low).

So nothing has changed – we are so busy connecting to the Internet we are not focusing on Security. This phenomenon is moving faster towards a larger Chaotic environment.

Contact us to discuss

Protect Privacy of Client Data using New Ways

Do you want to actually improve your level of Cybersecurity?

What will you do differently today or in the next few months better than last year?

As in past post the GDPR has laid out new regulations 

that affect an entity that has data of an EU resident with impact on any of the following:

  1. Private and family life, home and communications data
  2. Physical and mental integrity
  3. Personal data
  4. Freedom to work and choose occupation
  5. Freedom of thought , conscience and religion
  6. Freedom of expression

The key in this graph is to be near the Green shaded squares, and not the bright red squares. I.e. having a high probability with a critical impact is bad and requires focus.  Whereas an unlikely probability is negligible impact then this is not so important to focus on.

The problem is to find the Critical impact and high probability events in a manner that are easy to see as well.

In the computer world we have focused almost exclusively on personal data (PII – Personal Identifiable Identity).

But there are more difficult to identify privacy concerns such as:

What does it mean to protect freedom of expression?

So if someone has a political cause that they follow, like Greenpeace. If for some reason another non-profit has an interest in getting new donations.  Here is a google search that had a “People also search for”  area:

So keeping even a log of searches or other information might lessen some freedom.

Freedom to choose an occupation?

How can lack of privacy screw up your freedom to choose an occupation? Besides the pictures on Facebook about your late night parties. What if you say one thing on Facebook, and yet another in interview?

Freedom of thought?

The freedom of thought may be happening already, but that may be “good”. If you are a criminal and try to add illegal items for sale, that may not be possible due to the filters. Although your freedom was curtailed, the overall good of less illegal acts on the Internet may be desirable. Other curtailing of freedom of thought as in my politics is better than yours is quite more complicated to curtail or even attempt to make fair, as it is in the eye of beholder. So politics may not be able to be policed.  This subject will depend on the country it is in, as USA has a unique constitution as in freedom of press and speech.

Private and home communications?

Here the nirvana of the advertiser means to learn how you use ‘stuff’ so that they can modify and make you buy their ‘stuff’ instead. So how much of private information should be ‘clouded’? Too bad there are  no smoke generators, where one can create a bunch of junk signals that makes the advertiser just confused.

 

So you can see that Cyber is about People and information, as an interesting Youtube Blackhat keynote said (presented by The Grugq) : Cyber is a new dimension in conflict which is still not fully theorized or conceptualized. Not that it is stopping anybody.

So we have to start focusing on privacy data protection in many new ways (and use the GDPR as a start – only because one can see into the initial bureaucracy mind of regulations of privacy).

 

Contact us to get a start on the new privacy regulations to come.

Attack Life Cycle Changed By Cloud

Great video from BSides Columbus Ohio 2018 :

“Zero to Owned in 1 Hour”

That is an interesting review of how the new potential weaknesses are in the Cloud itself.

Human Access to the cloud can be a weak point.

AWS (Amazon Web Services)

Does Multi-factor Authentication work with multiple people running things?

Service Provider (cloud company) – has a main login, here is where the hacker can get the keys to the kingdom.  what if the hacker can figure out to get the main account login somehow? we are so busy locking down all the desktops and more, it is the easy items that we seem to fall down on.

The comparison with the old life cycle is interesting, as we were so focused on denying system access last year (or pre-cloud).

Today  if the main account somehow is taken over the hacker does not need to escalate privileges or keep access in the network since the main control account can do all of that and more.

So due to the big beacon of if you capture this item then you have keys to kingdom, what can we do to prevent this?

You have to review how the system administration and ownership of the cloud account is handled.

  1. How many people are managing the main account
  2. How is the password/authentication performed?
  3. Who is reviewing the security of this important account?

I.e. who should be at fault if there is a security problem? The Cloud company (or service provider)  or our own IT people? At first blush, you would think it depends on the problem, but the interesting thing about this is that some cloud companies want to push that responsibility to the client.   Check this post by CSOonline.com :

12 top cloud Security threats  “Treacherous 12”

  1. Data Breaches
  2. Insufficient Identity, credential and access management
  3. Insecure interfaces and application programming interfaces (APIs)
  4. System vulnerabilities
  5. Account hijacking
  6. Malicious Insiders
  7. Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)
  8. Data loss
  9. Insufficient Due Diligence
  10. Abuse and nefarious use of cloud services
  11. Denial of Service (DoS)
  12. Shared Technology vulnerabilities

 

This is a nice list, so which threats could be classified “service provider”, and which would be more the client fault?

All of them could be both or either , except for System vulnerabilities which  is just Service provider. Denial of Service ought to be service provider as well.

The problem is that the client can affect almost all of them as the client drives the applications and thus the technological trail. Or the client really controls most of the issue like account hijacking (main account)

As usual someone has to review and check (technical Audit) to make sure that the technology is doing what it is supposed to be doing “securely”.

Contact to discuss

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