InfoSec Island

What Does Being Data-Centric Actually Look Like?

InfoSec Island - Fri, 01/17/2020 - 10:46am

“Data-centric” can sometimes feel like a meaningless buzzword. While many companies are vocal about the benefits that this approach, in reality, the term is not widely understood.

One source of confusion is that many companies have implemented an older approach – that of being “data-driven” – and just called this something else. Being data-centric is not the same as being data-driven. And, being data-centric brings new security challenges that must be taken into consideration. 

A good way of defining the difference is to talk about culture. In Creating a Data-Driven Organization, Carl Anderson starts off by saying, “Data-drivenness is about building tools, abilities, and, most crucially, a culture that acts on data.” In short, being data-driven is about acquiring and analyzing data to make better decisions.

Data-centric approaches build on this but change the managerial hierarchy that informs it. Instead of data teams collecting data, management teams making reports about it, and then CMOs taking decisions, data centrism aims to give everyone (or almost everyone) direct access to the data that drives your business. In short, creating a data-driven culture is no longer enough: instead, you should aim to make data the core of your business by ensuring that everyone is working with it directly.

This is a fairly high-level definition of the term, but it has practical implications. Implementing a data-centric approach includes the following processes.

1. Re-Think Your Organizational Structure

Perhaps the most fundamental aspect of data-centric approaches is that they rely on innovative (and sometimes radical) management structures. As Adam Chicktong put it a few years ago, these structures are built around an inversion of traditional hierarchies: instead of decisions flowing from executives through middle management to data staff, in data-centric approaches everyone’s “job is to empower their team do their job and better their career”.

This has many advantages. In a recent CMO article, Maile Carnegie talked about the ‘frozen middle’ where middle-management is inherently structured to resist change. By looking closely at your hierarchy and identifying departments and positions likely to resist change, you’ll be able to streamline the structure to allow transformation to more easily filter through the business. As she puts it, “Increasingly, most businesses are getting to a point where there are people in their organization who are no longer are experts in a craft, and who have graduated from doing to managing and basically bossing other people around and shuffling PowerPoints.”

2. Empowering the Right People

Once these novel managerial structures are in place, the focus must necessarily shift toward empowering, rather than managing, staff. Effectively employing a data-centric approach means giving the right people access to the data that underpins your business, but also allowing them to affect the types of data you are collecting. 

Let’s take access first. At the moment, many businesses (and even many of those that claim to be data-driven) employ extremely long communicative chains to work with the data they collect. IT staff report their findings, ultimately, to the executive level, who then disseminate this to marketing, PR, risk and HR departments. One of the major advantages of new data infrastructures, and indeed one of the major advantages of cloud storage, is that you can grant these groups direct access to your cloud storage solution. 

Not only does this cut down the time it takes for data to flow to the "correct" teams, making your business more efficient. If implemented skillfully, it can also be a powerful way of eliciting input from them on what kinds of data you should be collecting. Most businesses would agree, I think, that executives don't always have a granular appreciation for the kind of data that their teams need. Empowering these teams to drive novel forms of data collection short-circuits these problems by encouraging direct input into data structures.

3. Process Not Event

Third, transitioning to a data-centric approach entails not just a change in managerial structure, responsibility, and security. At the broadest level, this approach requires a change in the way that businesses think about development.

Nowadays, running an online business is not as simple as identifying a target audience, creating a website, and waiting to see if it is effective. Instead, the previously rigid divide between the executive, marketing, and data teams means that every business decision should be seen as a process, not an event.

4. Security and Responsibility

Ultimately, it should also be noted that changing your managerial structure in this way, and empowering teams to take control of your data collection processes, also raises significant problems when it comes to security.

At a basic level, it’s clear that dramatically increasing the number of people with access to data systems simultaneously makes these systems less secure. For that reason, implementing a data-centric approach must also include the implementation of extra security measures and tools. 

These include managerial systems to ensure responsible data retention, but also training for staff who have not worked with data before, and who may not know how to take basic security steps like using secure browsers and connecting to the company network through a VPN when using public WiFi. On the other hand, data centrism can bring huge benefits to the overall security of organizations. 

Alongside the approach’s contribution to marketing and operational processes, data-centric security is also now a field of active research. In addition, the capability to share emerging threats with almost everyone in your organization greatly increases the efficacy of your cybersecurity team.

Data-centric approaches are a powerful way of increasing the adaptability and profitability of your business, but you should also note that becoming truly data-centric involves quite radical changes in the way that your business is organized. Done correctly, however, this transition can offer huge advantages for almost any business.

About the author: A former defense contractor for the US Navy, Sam Bocetta turned to freelance journalism in retirement, focusing his writing on US diplomacy and national security, as well as technology trends in cyberwarfare, cyberdefense, and cryptography.

Copyright 2010 Respective Author at Infosec Island
Categories: InfoSec Island

The Big 3: Top Domain-Based Attack Tactics Threatening Organizations

InfoSec Island - Fri, 01/17/2020 - 10:37am

Nowadays, businesses across all industries are turning to owned websites and domains to grow their brand awareness and sell products and services. With this dominance in the e-commerce space, securing owned domains and removing malicious or spoofed domains is vital to protecting consumers and businesses alike. This is especially important because domain impersonation is an increasingly popular tactic among cybercriminals. One example of this is ‘look-a-like’ urls that trick customers by mimicking brands through common misspellings, typosquatting and homoglyphs. With brand reputation and customer security on the line, investing in domain protection should be a top priority for all organizations.

Domain-based attacks are so popular, simply because of how lucrative they can be. As mentioned above, attackers often buy ‘look-alike’ domains in order to impersonate a specific brand online. To do this, bad actors can take three main approaches: copycatting, piggybacking and homoglyphs/typosquatting. From mirroring legitimate sites to relying on slight variations that trick an untrained eye, it’s important to understand these top tactics cybercriminals use so you can defend your brand and protect customers. Let’s explore each in more detail.

1. Copycatting Domains

One tactic used by bad actors is to create a site that directly mirrors the legitimate webpage. Cybercriminals do so by copying a top-level domain (TLD), or TLD, that the real domain isn’t using, or by appending multiple TLDs to a domain name. With these types of attacks, users are more likely to be tricked into believing they are interacting with the legitimate organization online. This simplifies the bad actor’s journey as the website appears to be legitimate, and will be more successful than an attack using a generic, throwaway domain. To amplify these efforts, bad actors will also use text and visuals that customers would expect to see on a legitimate site, such as the logo, brand name, and products. This sense of familiarity and trust puts potential victims at ease and less aware of the copycat’s red flags. 

2. Piggybacking Name Recognition

The first approach attackers utilize is spoofed or look-alike domains that help them appear credible by piggybacking off the name recognition of established brands. These domains may be either parked or serving live content to potential victims. Parked domains are commonly leveraged to generate ad revenue, but can also be used to rapidly serve malicious content. They are also often used to distribute other brand-damaging content, like counterfeit goods.

3. Tricking Victims with Homoglyphs and Typosquatting

This last tactic has two main methods --  typosquatting and homoglyphs -- and looks for ways to trick unsuspecting internet users where they are unlikely to look or notice they are being spoofed. 

  • Typosquatting involves the use of common URL misspellings that either a user is likely to make on their own accord or that users may not notice at all, i.e. adding a letter to the organization’s name. If an organization has not registered domains that are close to their legitimate domain name, attackers will often purchase them to take advantage of typos. Attackers may also infringe upon trademarks by using legitimate graphics or other intellectual property to make malicious websites appear legitimate.
  • With homoglyph, the basic principles of domain spoofing remain the same, but an attacker may substitute a look-a-like character of an alphabet other than the Latin alphabet -- i.e., the Cyrillic “а” for the Latin “a.” Although these letters look identical, their Unicode values is different and as such, they will be processed differently by the browser. With over 100,000 Unicode characters in existence, bad actors have an enormous opportunity. Another benefit of this type of attack is that they can be used to fool traditional string matching and anti-abuse algorithms. 

Why domain protection is necessary

Websites are a brand’s steadfast in the digital age, as they are often the first source of engagement between a consumer, partner, prospective employee and your organization. Cyberattackers see this as an opportunity to capitalize on that interaction. If businesses don’t take this problem seriously, their brand image, customer loyalty and ultimately financial results will be at risk. 

While many organizations monitor domains related to their brand in order to ensure that their brand is represented in the way it is intended, this is challenging for larger organizations composed of many subsidiary brands. Since these types of attacks are so common and the attack surface is so large, organizations tend to feel inundated with alerts and incidents. As such, it is crucial that organizations proactively and constantly monitor for domains that may be pirating their brand, products, trademarks or other intellectual property.

About the author: Zack Allen is both a security researcher and the director of threat intelligence at ZeroFOX. Previously, he worked in threat research for the US Air Force and Fastly.

Copyright 2010 Respective Author at Infosec Island
Categories: InfoSec Island

Security Compass Receives Funding for Product Development and Expansion

InfoSec Island - Fri, 01/17/2020 - 9:39am

Toronto, Canada-based Security Compass has received additional funding from growth equity investment firm FTV Capital. The amount has not been disclosed, indicating that it is likely to be on the smaller side.  

According to the security firm, the purpose of the cash injection is to allow it to enhance its product portfolio and accelerate a planned global expansion.  

The company was founded by Nish Bhalla in 2005. Former COO Rohit Sethi becomes the new CEO. Bhalla remains on the Board, and is joined by Liron Gitig and Richard Liu from FTV Capital.  

Long-serving Sethi was Security Compass' first hire, and was an integral part of the creation of the company's SD Elements platform -- now the focus of the firm' operations. SD Elements helps customers put the Sec into DevOps without losing DevOps's development agility.   

"The strong trends towards agile development in DevOps," he says, "increased focus on application security and on improving risk management are on course for collision. Security Compass is uniquely positioned to help organizations address the inherent conflicts. With FTV's investment, we're poised to accelerate our growth while maintaining the culture of excellence we've worked so hard to build."  

The worldwide growth in security and privacy regulations, such as GLBA, FedRAMP, GDPR, CCPA and many others, requires that security is built into the whole product development lifecycle. "Security Compass' SD Elements solution," says FTV Capital partner Gitig, "is uniquely focused on the software stack, enabling DevOps at scale by helping enterprises develop secure, compliant code from the start."  

He continued, "SD Elements provides both engineering and non-engineering teams with a holistic solution for managing software security requirements in an efficient and reliable manner, alleviating meaningful friction in the software development life cycle, accelerating release cycles and improving business results. We are excited to work with the Security Compass management team in its next phase of global growth as a trusted information security partner."  

Security Compass claims more than 200 enterprise customers in banks, federal government and critical industries use its solutions to manage the risk of tens of thousands of applications.  

RelatedChef Launches New Version for DevSecOps Automated Compliance 

RelatedChatOps is Your Bridge to a True DevSecOps Environment 

RelatedShifting to DevSecOps Is as Much About Culture as Technology and Methodology   

Copyright 2010 Respective Author at Infosec Island
Categories: InfoSec Island

Password Shaming Isn’t Productive – Passwords Are Scary Business

InfoSec Island - Wed, 01/15/2020 - 3:25pm

We’ve all been in the situation trying to set a new password – you need one uppercase character, one number and one character from a special list. Whatever password we come up with needs to be between 8 and 24 characters long. Once created, we need to remember that password and heaven help us should we need to reset it. Yes, that’s the dreaded “you can’t reuse the last five passwords” message – but IT security requires the password to be changed every month. If you’ve lived in the corporate world, this experience is quite familiar. So too is this a common experience with most web properties.

Then along comes the dreaded “your account was part of a set of accounts which may have been breached” letter. As a consumer, you’re now left with some anxiety over what data might be in the hands of proverbial “bad guys”. Part of the anxiety comes from the prospect that these same bad guys might also now know your password, so you need to change it. If you’re like many people, that password likely was used in many places so the anxiety increases as you recall each of the websites you now need to update your password on – just to be safe.

Into this mess we have security pundits suggesting that multiple security factors are the solution. The net results being that not only do users need to remember their password, but they also need to enter a second code – often a set of numbers – in order to access their account. While each of these password complexity, password expiration, and multiple factor authentication rules can deter attempts to compromise an account, they do nothing to simplify the experience and when it comes to consumer grade devices or consumer websites, simplification is what we should be striving for.

Consider the current situation with Ring customers. It’s being reported that some users of Ring video devices are experiencing random voices speaking through their video devices. Some have even reported threats against them. These users are rightfully concerned for their safety, but some have been quick to lay the blame for the situation at the feet of the user. When someone states that “you should have a more secure password” or “you should enable 2FA”, those statements are fundamentally a form of victim shaming. The end user likely isn’t a security expert, but an expectation is being set that they should know how best to secure these devices.

The current situation with Ring devices isn’t new. We need only look back to September of 2016 when the US saw a major internet outage caused by an attack on the DNS infrastructure. This attack originated from a large quantity of DVRs, webcams and other consumer grade devices which weren’t properly password protected. At the time, there were similar cries that ‘password123’ wasn’t an effective password and users shouldn’t use it. This situation even prompted major service providers like GitHub to advise their customers to change their password – not because the user’s data had been part of a breach, but that the password had itself been part of a set of data sold on the black market.

These examples highlight a key challenge with product security– how to properly prevent unauthorized access while maintaining ease of use. This goal can’t be met if we shame users based on their security choices. Instead, product designers should look at the ways to use context to best secure systems. In the case of a video camera, access to the camera in all forms should be from approved devices. For example, if a user configured the camera from an Android phone, then that device is by definition an approved device to access the camera. Since the phone can’t be in two locations in two places at the same time, if the app is running on the phone, then there is only one possible way to access the camera until the user authorizes additional devices from within the app. This entire example doesn’t rely on password complexity to secure the camera, but rather uses user context as part of the overall system security where passwords are but one component. The net result being that while a simple password may not be advised from a security pundit perspective, the contextual information helps ensure that users don’t harm themselves. With the complexity of consumer devices only increasing, contextual security should be a priority for all – a situation which would avoid password shaming.

About the author: Tim Mackey is Principal Security Strategist, CyRC, at Synopsys. Within this role, he engages with various technical communities to understand how to best solve application security problems.

Copyright 2010 Respective Author at Infosec Island
Categories: InfoSec Island

Five Key Cyber-Attack Trends for This Year

InfoSec Island - Tue, 01/14/2020 - 8:21am

‘It’s not if, but when’ is a long-established trope in the world of cybersecurity, warning organizations that no matter how robust their defenses, nor how sophisticated their security processes, they cannot afford to be complacent.

In 2020, little has changed – and yet everything has changed. The potential scale and scope of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks is far greater than it ever has been. Attackers can call on massive botnets to launch attacks, thanks to the ongoing rapid growth in cloud usage and expansion of the IoT, which has given more devices and resources which can be exploited. Furthermore, the vulnerabilities that these botnets can target are challenging to protect using standard network security solutions.

So what attack types will we see during this year? Here are 5 key trends that I expect to see developing during the coming months.

Attacks will reach unprecedented scale

According to the Department for Homeland Security, the scale of DDoS attacks has increased tenfold over the last five years. The DHS has also stated that if this trend continues, it not certain whether corporate and critical national infrastructures will be able to keep up.

A perfect storm of factors is feeding into the growth in DDoS scale. Criminals are hijacking cloud resources, or simply renting public cloud capacity using stolen card details to massively amplify their attacks.  At the same time, the explosion in IoT devices gives criminals more potential recruits as soldiers for their botnet armies.  As a result, the gap between an organization’s available bandwidth on its internet connection and the size of an average DDoS attack is widening.  Even the biggest security appliances currently available cannot compete with attack volumes that in many cases are over 50 times greater than the capacity of an organization’s internet connection.

Game-changing industrialized attacks

Furthermore, DDoS attacks are no longer the realm of digital vandalism, launched primarily by individuals interested in testing their own capabilities or causing a nuisance. The underground economy is booming, with new marketplaces for cybercrime tools and techniques being introduced all the time. There is a clear recognition amongst bad actors that cyberattacks, including DDoS attacks, can be enormously profitable – whether for criminal or even political purposes.  Criminals are monetizing their investments in creating massive botnets by offering DDoS-for-hire services to anyone that wants to launch an attack, for just a few dollars per minute. 

And on the subject of politics, with a US presidential election coming up in 2020, and following recent destabilizing events in the Middle East, the potential for a major politically-motivated cyberattack is higher than ever. It would not be the first such attack – Estonia fell victim to a country-wide DDoS attack over a decade ago – but the blackout-level potential of today’s attacks is far greater. Simultaneously, it is becoming ever easier to obfuscate the true source of an attack, making definite attack attribution very difficult. From a political perspective, the ability to ‘frame’ an enemy for a large-scale attack has obvious, and worrying consequences.

Power infrastructures under targeted attack

On a related point, targeting industrial controls has become an increasing focus for nation-state attacks. The US power grid, and power infrastructure in Ukraine are both known to have been targeted by state-sponsored Russian hackers.

As more industrial systems are exposed to the public internet, a targeted DDoS attack against these could easily cause outages that interrupt critical power, gas or water supplies (think industry 4.0). And at the other end of the supply chain, Trend Micro’s recent Internet of Things in the Cybercrime Undergroundreport described how hackers are sharing information on how to hack Internet-connected gas pumps and related devices often found in industrial applications. These devices could either be flooded to cause a wide-ranging blackout, or infected and recruited into botnets for use in DDoS attacks, or to manipulate industrial processes. 

APIs are the weakest link

However, DDoS attacks are no longer limited to merely attacking or exploiting organizations’ infrastructure. In 2020, I expect attacks against APIs to move into the spotlight. As we know, more and more organizations are moving workloads into the cloud, and this means that APIs are increasing in volume.

Every single smart device within an IoT ecosystem, for example, is ultimately interacting with an API. And far less bandwidth is needed to attack APIs, and they can rapidly become hugely disruptive bottlenecks. Unlike a traditional DDoS attack which bombards a website or network with bogus traffic so that infrastructure grinds to a halt, an API DDoS attack focuses on specific API requests which generate so much legitimate internal traffic that the system is attacking itself – rather like a massive allergic reaction.  Many cloud-based organizations are vulnerable to this, and APIs are harder to protect using conventional methods.  So I expect attackers to increasingly exploit this vulnerable spot in organizations’ defensive armor.

The cloud is not a safe haven

There is an assumption in the market that migrating workloads to public cloud providers automatically makes businesses better off – and in many ways of course, this is true. Flexibility, scalability, agility, cost-effectiveness – there are myriad business benefits to be gleaned from the cloud. Yet the assumption that the major providers automatically offer attack-proof security is an illusion. In October 2019, AWS was taken offline for eight hours, demonstrating that even the biggest public cloud providers are vulnerable to DDoS attacks, with hugely disruptive potential knock-on effects to their customers. Some studies estimate that knocking out a single cloud provider could already cause $50 billion to $120 billion in economic damage—on a par with the aftermath resulting from Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy.

In conclusion, these points may paint a bleak picture for 2020. But companies that adopt the mindset of ‘not if, but when’ will be well positioned to counter the escalating threats.  Using solutions which are capable of fending off high-volume DDoS attacks as well as resource-intensive exploits on protocols and application levels, organizations can stay a step ahead of threat actors, and avoid becoming their next victim.

About the author: Marc Wilczek is Chief Operating Officer at Link11, an IT security provider specializing in DDoS protection.

Copyright 2010 Respective Author at Infosec Island
Categories: InfoSec Island

Five Ley Cyber-Attack Trends for This Year

InfoSec Island - Tue, 01/14/2020 - 8:21am

‘It’s not if, but when’ is a long-established trope in the world of cybersecurity, warning organizations that no matter how robust their defenses, nor how sophisticated their security processes, they cannot afford to be complacent.

In 2020, little has changed – and yet everything has changed. The potential scale and scope of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks is far greater than it ever has been. Attackers can call on massive botnets to launch attacks, thanks to the ongoing rapid growth in cloud usage and expansion of the IoT, which has given more devices and resources which can be exploited. Furthermore, the vulnerabilities that these botnets can target are challenging to protect using standard network security solutions.

So what attack types will we see during this year? Here are 5 key trends that I expect to see developing during the coming months.

Attacks will reach unprecedented scale

According to the Department for Homeland Security, the scale of DDoS attacks has increased tenfold over the last five years. The DHS has also stated that if this trend continues, it not certain whether corporate and critical national infrastructures will be able to keep up.

A perfect storm of factors is feeding into the growth in DDoS scale. Criminals are hijacking cloud resources, or simply renting public cloud capacity using stolen card details to massively amplify their attacks.  At the same time, the explosion in IoT devices gives criminals more potential recruits as soldiers for their botnet armies.  As a result, the gap between an organization’s available bandwidth on its internet connection and the size of an average DDoS attack is widening.  Even the biggest security appliances currently available cannot compete with attack volumes that in many cases are over 50 times greater than the capacity of an organization’s internet connection.

Game-changing industrialized attacks

Furthermore, DDoS attacks are no longer the realm of digital vandalism, launched primarily by individuals interested in testing their own capabilities or causing a nuisance. The underground economy is booming, with new marketplaces for cybercrime tools and techniques being introduced all the time. There is a clear recognition amongst bad actors that cyberattacks, including DDoS attacks, can be enormously profitable – whether for criminal or even political purposes.  Criminals are monetizing their investments in creating massive botnets by offering DDoS-for-hire services to anyone that wants to launch an attack, for just a few dollars per minute. 

And on the subject of politics, with a US presidential election coming up in 2020, and following recent destabilizing events in the Middle East, the potential for a major politically-motivated cyberattack is higher than ever. It would not be the first such attack – Estonia fell victim to a country-wide DDoS attack over a decade ago – but the blackout-level potential of today’s attacks is far greater. Simultaneously, it is becoming ever easier to obfuscate the true source of an attack, making definite attack attribution very difficult. From a political perspective, the ability to ‘frame’ an enemy for a large-scale attack has obvious, and worrying consequences.

Power infrastructures under targeted attack

On a related point, targeting industrial controls has become an increasing focus for nation-state attacks. The US power grid, and power infrastructure in Ukraine are both known to have been targeted by state-sponsored Russian hackers.

As more industrial systems are exposed to the public internet, a targeted DDoS attack against these could easily cause outages that interrupt critical power, gas or water supplies (think industry 4.0). And at the other end of the supply chain, Trend Micro’s recent Internet of Things in the Cybercrime Undergroundreport described how hackers are sharing information on how to hack Internet-connected gas pumps and related devices often found in industrial applications. These devices could either be flooded to cause a wide-ranging blackout, or infected and recruited into botnets for use in DDoS attacks, or to manipulate industrial processes. 

APIs are the weakest link

However, DDoS attacks are no longer limited to merely attacking or exploiting organizations’ infrastructure. In 2020, I expect attacks against APIs to move into the spotlight. As we know, more and more organizations are moving workloads into the cloud, and this means that APIs are increasing in volume.

Every single smart device within an IoT ecosystem, for example, is ultimately interacting with an API. And far less bandwidth is needed to attack APIs, and they can rapidly become hugely disruptive bottlenecks. Unlike a traditional DDoS attack which bombards a website or network with bogus traffic so that infrastructure grinds to a halt, an API DDoS attack focuses on specific API requests which generate so much legitimate internal traffic that the system is attacking itself – rather like a massive allergic reaction.  Many cloud-based organizations are vulnerable to this, and APIs are harder to protect using conventional methods.  So I expect attackers to increasingly exploit this vulnerable spot in organizations’ defensive armor.

The cloud is not a safe haven

There is an assumption in the market that migrating workloads to public cloud providers automatically makes businesses better off – and in many ways of course, this is true. Flexibility, scalability, agility, cost-effectiveness – there are myriad business benefits to be gleaned from the cloud. Yet the assumption that the major providers automatically offer attack-proof security is an illusion. In October 2019, AWS was taken offline for eight hours, demonstrating that even the biggest public cloud providers are vulnerable to DDoS attacks, with hugely disruptive potential knock-on effects to their customers. Some studies estimate that knocking out a single cloud provider could already cause $50 billion to $120 billion in economic damage—on a par with the aftermath resulting from Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy.

In conclusion, these points may paint a bleak picture for 2020. But companies that adopt the mindset of ‘not if, but when’ will be well positioned to counter the escalating threats.  Using solutions which are capable of fending off high-volume DDoS attacks as well as resource-intensive exploits on protocols and application levels, organizations can stay a step ahead of threat actors, and avoid becoming their next victim.

About the author: Marc Wilczek is Chief Operating Officer at Link11, an IT security provider specializing in DDoS protection.

Copyright 2010 Respective Author at Infosec Island
Categories: InfoSec Island

20/20 Vision on 2020's Network Security Challenges

InfoSec Island - Mon, 01/13/2020 - 1:20pm

As the new year starts, it’s natural to think about the network security challenges and opportunities that organizations are likely to face over the next 12 months – and how they will address them. Of course, we are likely to see brand-new threats emerging and unpredictable events unfolding. But here are four key security challenges that I believe will be at the top of enterprise agendas this year.

Managing misconfigurations

The first challenge that organizations will address is data and security breaches due to misconfigurations. These have been a constant problem for enterprises for decades, with the most recent example being the large-scale incident which impacted Capital One in 2019. These are usually caused by simple human error, leaving a security gap that is exploited by actors from outside the organization. Unfortunately, humans are not getting any more efficient in avoiding mistakes, so breaches due to misconfigurations will continue to be a problem that needs to be fixed.

At the same time, the technology environment that the network security staff is working within is getting ever more complex. There are more network points to secure – both on-premise and in public or private clouds – and therefore a much larger attack surface. The situation is getting worse – as highlighted in our 2019 cloud security survey, which showed that two thirds of respondents use multiple clouds, with 35% using three or more cloud vendors, and over half operating hybrid environments. The only solution to this growing complexity is network security automation. Humans need tools to help them set and manage network configurations more accurately and more efficiently, so the demand for security automation is only going to increase.

Compliance complexity

Achieving and maintaining regulatory compliance has long been a major challenge for networking staff, and as networks become more complex it is only getting harder. In recent years, we have seen a raft of new compliance frameworks introduced across multiple verticals and geographical regions. Regulators worldwide are flexing their muscles.

The crucial point to understand is that new regulations typically don’t replace existing regimes – rather, they add to what is already in place. The list of regulatory demands facing organizations is getting longer and achieving and demonstrating compliance is becoming an ever-larger commitment for organizations.  Once again, the only solution is more automation: Being in “continuous compliance”, with automatic creation of audit-ready reports for all the relevant regulations, delivers both the time and resource savings that organizations need in order to meet their compliance demands.

The turn to intent-based network security

What do I mean by intent-based network security? It is ultimately about asking a simple question – why is this security control configured the way it is?

Understanding the intent behind individual network security rules is crucial for a wide range of network maintenance and management tasks, from responding to data breaches to undertaking network cleanups, from working through vulnerability reports to dealing with planned or unplanned downtime. In every scenario, you need to understand why the security setting is the way it is, and who to notify if something has gone wrong or if you want to amend or remove the rule.

And the answer is always that a particular business application needed connectivity from point A to point B. The organization “just” needs to find out which application that was – and that’s 95% of the intent.

The trouble is that organizations are usually not diligent enough about recording this intent.  The result is a huge number of undocumented rules whose intent is unclear. In other words, organizations are in a ‘brownfield’ situation; they have too many rules, and not enough information about their intent.

So, I believe that this year, we will see more and more deployment of technologies that allow a retrospective understanding of the intent behind security rules, all based on the traffic observed on the network. By listening to this traffic and applying algorithms, these new technologies can reverse-engineer and ultimately identify, and document, the original intent.

Embracing automation

Public cloud vendors are providing more and more security features and controls, and this trend looks set to continue, with more security controls becoming available as part of their core offerings. This is a good thing. The more controls available, the more secure organizations can be – if they take advantage of the additional capabilities.

But this doesn’t mean less work for IT and security teams. They need to take ownership of these new capabilities, and to configure and manage them properly – and this takes us straight back to the misconfiguration issue I outlined earlier.

In conclusion, to distil my predictions for network security over this year into a single point, it would be the need to embrace more automation across all security and compliance-related processes. This is at the core of enabling organizations to manage the ever-growing complexity of their networks and responding to the constantly evolving threat landscape.

About the author: Professor Avishai Wool is the CTO and Co-Founder of AlgoSec.

Copyright 2010 Respective Author at Infosec Island
Categories: InfoSec Island

Is Cybersecurity Getting Too Complex?

InfoSec Island - Mon, 01/13/2020 - 1:14pm

Weighing SMB Security Woes Against the Managed Security Promise

Looking strictly at the numbers, it appears small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) are sinking under the weight of their own IT complexity. To be more efficient and competitive, SMBs are reaching to the same IT solutions that large enterprises consume: hybrid/multi-cloud solutions (61% have a multi-cloud strategy, with 35% claiming hybrid cloud use), remote work tools, and a dizzying array of platforms. But unlike the large enterprise, SMBs often have fewer dedicated information security staff to manage the increasing attack surface these systems create. As if to prove the point, attacks on the SMB are escalating: 66% experienced a cyberattack in the past year, with average incident costs on the rise. In a world where smaller business data is as monetizable as that of the large enterprise, it’s not surprising that bad actors target organizations they may reasonably assume have weaker defenses.

I think it’s safe to say the SMB is keeping pace with their larger brethren in terms of IT complexity (if not scale) but falling short in terms of the methods to keep a handle on it—and they appear to be suffering the consequences.

Are Managed Security Solutions the Answer?

While it appears many SMBs could use a lifeline, the extent to which managed security services (MSS) are that holistic answer requires a deeper analysis of the organization’s unique strengths and weaknesses. Cyber risk is not a simple problem, and solutions are not “one-size-fits-all.” On the plus side, MSS offers companies the ability to quickly augment internal capabilities with a high degree of specialized expertise, tools, and solutions they may lack without having to take on the daily maintenance, hire from a competitive labor pool, or burden existing staff. By outsourcing these capabilities, companies can leverage teams that are highly specialized in security, enabling them to improve their security defenses in key areas at a lower overall cost as measured against the CapEx, OpEx, and time requirements of standing up the same capabilities internally. Any measure of relative costs must also include the value of mitigating cyber risk—such risks, if capitalized upon by malicious actors, carries significant costs of its own.

However, there is a wide range of managed security services out there—and most providers would happily sell them all to every prospective customer. The burden is on the SMB to fully understand whether and in what areas they need that extra support to supplement the tools, people, processes, and capabilities they already have.

Managed Security Services: Assessing for Optimal Value

Most organizations have made investments in information security tools and resources. A few outperformers (usually large enterprises) may already be at best-practice security in many areas, with dedicated staff, their own Security Operations Center and endpoint detection and response capabilities. Such enterprises may have little need to outsource security functions. Others may focus little on security and require across-the-board help. Most organizations will be somewhere in the middle. Ultimately, the goal should be to maximize the use of the investments already made and augment staff with MSS only where you can get the most strategic value for the expenditure.

To begin, organizations should consider executing a security risk assessment—preferably against a security framework such as the NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) or other, potentially required industry-specific framework (HITRUST would be an example in the healthcare sector). These can be conducted in house or via third-party assessment firms. The output should enable the organization to take an in-depth look at their people, processes, and technology and get a realistic view of where their gaps lie. This up-front work should help isolate areas where MSS would be of great value; and it may identify areas where a few investments may be enough to build internal capabilities sufficiently to manage in house. 

At the end of the day, businesses must ensure they have enough resources to do everything from basic blocking and tackling on security—such as log monitoring, patching, sorting through alerts (routine, repetitive, time-consuming tasks) to incident readiness and response and security for endpoints, cloud, and Software as a Service (SaaS), among others. Because the SMB is indeed getting vastly more complex and difficult to defend, this span of specialized security requirements is where gaps often will lie in obvious pockets of both tools and people, leaving direct pointers to where MSS can potentially provide a lifeline.

Managed Security Services for the SMB: The Net-Net

There is no across-the-board answer for whether MSS is right for every SMB and which services offer the most value. Yet applied strategically, MSS can greatly help SMBs bridge the divide between their growing complexity (and associated security vulnerabilities) and that elusive utopia called “Best-Practice Security.” MSS providers do nothing but security and can help address the cybersecurity skills shortage. But to find the right services that complement specific resource gaps, enterprises should first fully assess their own security current state to find out where MSS will add the most value.

About the author: Sam Rubin is a Vice President at The Crypsis Group, where he leads the firm’s Managed Security Services business, assists clients, and develops the firm’s business expansion strategies.

Copyright 2010 Respective Author at Infosec Island
Categories: InfoSec Island

Global Security Threats Organizations Must Prepare for in 2020

InfoSec Island - Wed, 01/08/2020 - 3:43pm

As we kickoff a new decade, it's time, once again, to gaze into our crystal ball and look at the year ahead.

In 2020, businesses of all sizes must prepare for the unknown, so they have the flexibility to withstand unexpected and high impact security events. To take advantage of emerging trends in both technology and cyberspace, businesses need to manage risks in ways beyond those traditionally handled by the information security function, since new attacks will most certainly impact both shareholder value and business reputation.

After reviewing the current threat landscape, there are three dominant security threats that businesses need to prepare for in 2020. These include, but are not limited to:

  • The Race for Technology Dominance 
  • Third Parties, the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Cloud 
  • Cybercrime – Criminals, Nation States and the Insider

An overview for each of these areas can be found below:

The Race for Technology Dominance 

Technology has changed the world in which we live. Old norms are changing, and the next industrial revolution will be entirely technology driven and technology dependent. In short, technology will enable innovative digital business models and society will be critically dependent on technology to function. Intellectual property will be targeted as the battle for dominance rages. 

Evidence of fracturing geopolitical relationships started to emerge in 2018 demonstrated by the US and China trade war and the UK Brexit. In 2020, the US and China will increase restrictions and protectionist measures in pursuit of technology leadership leading to a heightened digital cold war in which data is the prize.  This race to develop strategically important next generation technology will drive an intense nation-state backed increase in espionage. The ensuing knee jerk reaction of a global retreat into protectionism, increased trade tariffs and embargos will dramatically reduce the opportunity to collaborate on the development of new technologies. The UK’s exclusion from the EU Galileo satellite system, as a result of the anticipated Brexit, is one example.

New regulations and international agreements will not be able to fully address the issues powered by advances in technology and their impact on society.  Regulatory tit for tat battles will manifest across nation states and, rather than encourage innovation, is likely to stifle and constrain new developments, pushing up costs and increasing the complexity of trade for multinational businesses.

Third Parties, the IoT and the Cloud 

A complex interconnection of digitally connected devices and superfast networks will prove to be a security concern as modern life becomes entirely dependent on technology. Highly sophisticated and extended supply chains present new risks to corporate data as it is necessarily shared with third party providers. IoT devices are often part of a wider implementation that is key to the overall functionality.

Few devices exist in isolation, and it is the internet component of the IoT that reflects that dependency. For a home or commercial office to be truly 'smart', multiple devices need to work in cooperation. For a factory to be 'smart', multiple devices need to operate and function as an intelligent whole. However, this interconnectivity presents several security challenges, not least in the overlap of consumer and operational/industrial technology.

Finally, since so much of our critical data is now held in the cloud, opening an opportunity for cyber criminals and nation states to sabotage the cloud, aiming to disrupt economies and take down critical infrastructure through physical attacks and operating vulnerabilities across the supply chain. 

Cybercrime – Criminals, Nation States and the Insider

Criminal organizations have a massive resource pool available to them and there is evidence that nation states are outsourcing as a means of establishing deniability. Nation states have fought for supremacy throughout history, and more recently, this has involved targeted espionage on nuclear, space, information and now smart technology. Industrial espionage is not new and commercial organizations developing strategically important technologies will be systematically targeted as national and commercial interests blur. Targeted organizations should expect to see sustained and well-funded attacks involving a range of techniques such as zero-day exploits, DDoS attacks and advanced persistent threats.

Additionally, the insider threat is one of the greatest drivers of security risks that organizations face as a malicious insider utilizes credentials to gain access to a given organization’s critical assets. Many organizations are challenged to detect internal nefarious acts, often due to limited access controls and the ability to detect unusual activity once someone is already inside their network. 

The threat from malicious insider activity is an increasing concern, especially for financial institutions, and will continue to be so in 2020.

Don’t Get Left Behind

Today, the stakes are higher than ever before, and we’re not just talking about personal information and identity theft anymore. High level corporate secrets and critical infrastructure are constantly under attack and organizations need to be aware of the emerging threats that have shifted in the past year, as well as those that they should prepare for in the coming year.

By adopting a realistic, broad-based, collaborative approach to cyber-security and resilience, government departments, regulators, senior business managers and information security professionals will be better able to understand the true nature of cyber-threats and respond quickly and appropriately. This will be of the highest importance in 2020 and beyond.

About the author: Steve Durbin is Managing Director of the Information Security Forum (ISF). His main areas of focus include strategy, information technology, cyber security and the emerging security threat landscape across both the corporate and personal environments. Previously, he was senior vice president at Gartner.

 

Copyright 2010 Respective Author at Infosec Island
Categories: InfoSec Island