An article on Linked entitled 'The Truth about Practices" started a discussion thread with some of my colleagues.
The most pertinent comment came from Alan Rocker:
I'm not sure whether to quote "Up the Organisation", ("If you must have a policy manual, reprint the Ten Commandments"), or "Catch-22" (about the nice "tidy bomb pattern" that unfortunately failed to hit the target), in support of the article. Industry-wide metrics can nevertheless be useful, though it's fatal to confuse a speedometer and a motor.
However not everyone in the group agreed with our skepricism and the observations of the autor of the article.
And Anton aren't the controls you advocate so passionately best practices? >
NOT. Make that *N*O*T*!*!*! Even allowing for the lowercase!
I get criticised occasionally for long and detailed posts that some readers complain treat them like beginners, but sadly if I don't I get comments such as this in reply
Data Loss is something you prevent; you enforce controls to prevent data
leakage, DLP can be a programme, but , I find very difficult to support
with a policy.
Does one have visions of chasing escaping data over the net with a three-ring binder labelled "Policy"?
Let me try again.
Policy comes first.
Without policy giving direction, purpose and justification, supplying the basis for measurement, quality and applicability (never mind issues such as configuration) then you are working on an ad-hoc basis.
Java 7 Update 10 and earlier contain an unspecified vulnerability
that can allow a remote, unauthenticated attacker to execute arbitrary
code on a vulnerable system.
By convincing a user to visit a specially crafted HTML document,
a remote attacker may be able to execute arbitrary code on a vulnerable
Well, yes .... but.
From the left hand doesn't know what the right hands is doing department:
Ngair Teow Hin, CEO of SecureAge, noted that smaller companies
tend to be "hard-pressed" to invest or focus on IT-related resources
such as security tools due to the lack of capital. This financial
situation is further worsened by the tightening global and local
economic climates, which has forced SMBs to focus on surviving
above everything else, he added.
Well, lets leave the vested interests of security sales aside for a moment.
I read recently an article about the "IT Doesn't matter" thread that basically said part of that case was that staying at the bleeding edge of IT did not give enough of a competitive advantage. Considering that most small (and many large) companies don't fully utilise their resources, don't fully understand the capabilities of the technology they have, don't follow good practices (never mind good security), this is all a moot point.
Last month, this question came up in a discussion forum I'm involved with:
Another challenge to which i want to get an answer to is, do developers
always need Admin rights to perform their testing? Is there not a way to
give them privilege access and yet have them get their work done. I am
afraid that if Admin rights are given, they would download software's at
the free will and introduce malicious code in the organization.
The short answer is "no".
The long answer leads to "no" in a roundabout manner.
Unless your developers are developing admin software they should not need admin rights to test it.
Call me a dinosaur (that's OK, since its the weekend and dressed down to work in the garden) but ...
And this doesn't actually stop them form making use of 'insider information' they just have to declare it within 30 days.
No, wait, sorry ... you mean that the legislators are saying that legislators shouldn't do something that is illegal anyway? Or that, if they do something that is already illegal, it is OK as long as they declare it within 30 days? ...
It gets worse:
I'd like to claim the system is rigged so 'the rich get richer' but if I did that some people who claim they are right wing would accuse me of being left wing. Indeed, this tells me that their political outlook has not progressed since 20 June 1789. This one-dimensional view fails to describe the rich variety of political attitudes in the Washington, never mind the rest of the USA and points elsewhere on the physical compass.
Just those two show we need more that 4 axes to describe a political stance. But as I mentioned in a previous post, journalists are simple-minded and expect the rest of the world to be as limited in outlook and understanding.
Try this test:
How does this all relate to InfoSec, you ask.
Well part of that Political Compass is a view of 'how authoritarian'.
And that gets back to issues we have to deal with such as Policy and Enforcement, Do We Let Employees have Access to the Internet, and the like.
Hans Eysenk pointed out that the right wing (e.g. Fascism and Nazism) had a lot in common with the left wing (communism). Both are repressive, undemocratic and anti-Semitic. So on these issues, at least, the left-right distinction is meaningless.
How many more such simplistic distinctions such as those foisted on us by journalists are equally meaningless.
Some while ago my Australian fellow ex-pat Les Bell, who apart from being a CISSP is also a pilot, pointed out to me that the method of 'root cause analysis' is no longer used in analysing plane crashes. The reality is that "its not just one thing", its many factors. We all know that applies in most areas of life.
I suspect most people know that too; its not restricted to the digerati.
There is the old ditty that explains how because of a nail an empire was lost, but no-one is proposing that we fix the failing of the "American Empire" by manufacturing more nails.
Except possibly Journalists.
This isn't news. Signature-based (and hence subscription based and hence that whole business model) AV is a wrong headed approach. As Rob Rosenberger points out at Vmyths.Com, we are addicted to the update cycle model and its business premise is very like that of drug pushers.
What's that you say? Other types of AV? Like what?
Well, you could have a front-end engine that checks all downloads and all email and all email attachments and all URL responses by emulating what would happen when they run on any PC or in any browser or any other piece of software such as any of the PDF readers you use, or any of the graphical display software you use or any of the word processors you use
or any of the spreadsheet programs you use or any music players you use ... and so on.
Many people in the industry - myself included - have proposed an alternative whereby each machine has a unique cryptographic ID and the legally and properly installed libraries are all signed with that ID, and the program loader/kernel will only load and execute correctly signed code.
Yes, Microsoft tried something similar with ActiveX, but that was signed by the vendor - which can be a good thing, and used PKI, which can also be a good thing. But both can be a problem as well: go google for details. A local signature had advantages and its own problems.
The local signature makes things unique to each machine so there is no "master key" out there. If your private key is compromised then do what you'd do with PGP - cancel the old one, generate a new one and sign all your software with the new one.
No technical measure can overcome human frailty in this regard.
- Avira antivirus upgrade wreaks 'catastrophic' havoc on Windows PCs (techworld.com.au)
- How can We Detect Viruses Without Antivirus Software? Built In Antivirus in your Browser (shanicomputers.wordpress.com)
- Intel and McAfee unveil plans for unified security future (go.theregister.com)
- John McAfee, antivirus pioneer, arrested by Belize police (networkworld.com)
- GlobalSign Develops Free Tool to Simplify Code Signing Process (prweb.com)
- A Modest Proposal: Please Don't Learn to Code Because It Will Damage Your Tiny Brain (inventwithpython.com)
- Why Authenticity Is Not Security (leviathansecurity.com)
- Certs 4 Less Announces Support For Individual Code Signing Certificates (prweb.com)
- 'Catastrophic' Avira antivirus update bricks Windows PCs (go.theregister.com)
- Avira fixes antivirus update that crippled many PCs (neowin.net)
- Free Anti-Virus Software Fails To Charm Enterprises (informationweek.com)
- Backpack Algorithms And Public-Key Cryptography Made Easy (coding.smashingmagazine.com)
- Cryptography pioneer: We need good code (infoworld.com)
- Contrary to Popular Opinion, Encryption IS the Hard Part (blogs.gartner.com)
- Public Key Cryptography Explained (q-ontech.blogspot.com)
Like many forms of presenting facts, not least of all about risk, reducing complex and multifaceted information to a single figure does a dis-service to those affected. The classical risk equation is another example of this; summing, summing many hundreds of fluctuating variables to one figure.
Perhaps the saddest expression of this kind of approach to numerology is the stock market. We accept that the bulk of the economy is based on small companies but the stock exchanges have their "Top 100" or "Top 50" which are all large companies. Perhaps they do have an effect on the economy the same way that herd of elephants might, but the biomass of this planet is mostly made up, like our economy, of small things.
The financial loss of internet fraud is non-trivial but not exactly bleeding us to death. Life goes on anyway and we work around it. But it adds up. Extrapolated over a couple of hundred years it would have the same financial value as a World Killer Asteroid Impact that wiped out all of human civilization. (And most of human life.)
A ridiculously dramatic example, yes, but this kind of reduction to a one-dimensional scale such as "dollar value" leads to such absurdities. Judges in court cases often put dollar values on human life. What value would you put on your child's ?
We know, based on past statistics, the probability that a US president will be assassinated. (Four in 200+ years; more if you allow for failed attempts). With that probability we can calculate the ALE and hence what the presidential guard cost should be capped at.
People keep asking questions like
If the risk equation I use is Impact * Probability, when it comes to calculating the residual risk value do I still need to consider the impact of Loss of confidentiality, integrity and availability of the asset afterwards ? My understanding us that the probability value may decrease after applying some controls to mitigate the risk, but how does does the impact change?
Personally I don't like the use of the generalization "Impact". It hides details and it hides seeing where the control is being applied. Assets are often affected by more than one threat or more than one vulnerability. You really need to recalculate the whole thing over again after the controls have been applied - don't try for short cuts.
I'd further suggest looking at
I discuss this kind of over-simplification at
- Planning means planning for success and for not-success (herdingcats.typepad.com)
Sometimes I wonder why we bother ...
In case you're not aware, ISECOM (Institute for Security and Open Methodologies) has OSSTMM3 - The Open Source Security Testing Methodology Manual - http://www.isecom.org/osstmm/
There's an interesting segue to this at
Skip over his ranting about the definition of "hackers"
This is the meat:
Wewrote the OSSTMM 3 to address these things. We knew that penetration
testing the way it continued to be marginalized would eventually hurt
security. Yes, the OSSTMM isn't practical for some because it doesn't
match the commercial industry security of today. But that's because the
security model today is crazy! And you don't test crazy with tests
designed to prove crazy. So any penetration testing standard, baseline,
framework, or methodology that focuses on finding and exploiting
vulnerabilities is only perpetuating the one-trick pony problem.
Furthermore it's also perpetuating security through patchity, a process
that's so labor intensive to assure homeostasis that nobody could
maintain it indefinitely which is the exact definition of a loser in the
cat and mouse game. So you can be sure it also doesn't scale at all with
complexity or size.
I've been outspoken against Pen Testing for many years, to my clients, at conferences and in my Blog. I'm sure I've upset many people but I do believe that the model plays up to the Hollywood idea of a Uberhacker,
produces a whack-a-mole attitude and is a an example of avoidance behaviour, avoiding proper testing and risk management such as incident response good facilities management.
I've seen to many "pen testers' and demos of pen testing that are just plain ... STUPID. Unprofessional, unreasonable and pandering to the ignorance of managers.
In the long run the "drama-response" of the classical pen-test approach is unproductive. It teaches management the wrong thing - to respond to drama rather than to set up a good system of governance based on policy, professional staffing, adequate funding and operations based on accepted good principles such as change management.
And worse, it
- shows how little faith your management have in the professional capabilities of their own staff, who are the people who should know the system best, and of the auditors who are trained not only in assessing the system but assessing the business impact of the risks associated with a vulnerability
- has no guarantees about what collateral damage the outsider had to do to gain root
- says nothing about things that are of more importance than any vulnerability, such as your Incident Response procedures
- indicates that your management doesn't understand or make use of a proper development-test-deployment life-cycle
Yes, classical hacker-driven pen testing is more dramatic, in the same way that Hollywood movies are more dramatic. And about as realistic!
"Crazy" is a good description of that approach.
Soe people ae under the mistaken impression that a Pen Test simulates a hacker's action. We get ridiculous statements in RFPs such as:
The tests shall be conducted in a broader way like a hacker will do.
LOL! If a real hacker is doing it then its not a test
Seriously: what a hacker does might involve a lot more, a lot more background research, some social engineering and other things. It might involve "borrowing" the laptop or smartphone from one of your salesmen or executives.
Further, a real hacker is not going to be polite, is not going to care about what collateral damage he does while penetrating your system, what lives he may harm in any number of ways.
And a real hacker is not going to record the results and present them in a nicely formatted Powerpoint presentation to management along with recommendations for remediation.