Autumn is the “hacking season,” when hackers work to exploit newly-disclosed vulnerabilities before customers can install patches. This cycle gives hackers a clear advantage and it’s time for a paradigm shift.
Each year, when the leaves start changing color you know the world of cybersecurity is starting to heat up.
This is because the cyber industry holds its two flagship events — DEFCON and BlackHat —over the same week in Las Vegas in late Summer. Something akin to having the Winter and Summer Olympics back-to-back in the same week, these events and other similar ones present priceless opportunities for the world’s most talented hackers to show their chops and reveal new vulnerabilities they’ve uncovered.
It also means that each Fall there’s a mad race against time as customers need to patch these newly revealed vulnerabilities before hackers can pull off major attacks — with mixed results.
A good example began in August, after researchers from Devcore revealed vulnerabilities in enterprise VPN products during a briefing they held at BlackHat entitled “Infiltrating Corporate Intranet Like NSA: Pre-auth RCE on Leading SSL VPNs.”
The researchers also published technical details and proof-of-concept code of the vulnerabilities in a blog post two days after the briefing. Weaponized code for exploits is also widely available online, including on GitHub.
News of the vulnerability rang out like a starter pistol, sending hackers sprinting to attack two enterprise VPN products in use by hundreds of thousands of customers — Pulse Secure VPN and Fortinet FortiGate VPN.
In both cases, White Hat hackers discovered the flaws months earlier and disclosed them confidentiality to the manufacturer, giving them the time and details needed to issue the necessary patches. Both Pulse Secure and Fortinet instructed customers to install the patches, but months later there were still more than 14,500 that had not been patched, according to a report in Bad Packets — and the number could be even higher.
Being that these are enterprise products, they are in use in some of the most sensitive systems, including military networks, state and local government agencies, health care institutions, and major financial bodies. And while these organizations tend to have trained security personnel in place to apply patches and mitigate threats, they tend to be far less nimble than hackers, who can seize a single device and use it to access devices across an entire network, with devastating consequences.
The potential for these attacks is vast, considering the sheer volume of targets. This was again demonstrated in the case of the “URGENT/11” zero-day vulnerabilities exposed by Armis in late July. The vulnerabilities affect the VxWorks OS used by more than 2 billion devices worldwide and include six critical vulnerabilities that can enable remote code execution attacks. Chances are that attackers are already on the move looking for lucrative targets to hit.
This is how it plays out — talented White Hat hackers sniff out security flaws and confidentially inform manufacturers, who then scramble to issue patches and inform users before hackers can pounce. And while manufacturers face the impossible odds of hoping that tens of thousands of customers — and often far more — install new security patches in time, the hackers looking to take advantage of these flaws only need to get lucky once.
It’s time for a paradigm shift. Manufacturers need to provide built-in security which doesn’t rely upon customer updates after the product is already in use. This “embedded security” creates self-protected systems that don’t wait for a vulnerability to be discovered before mounting a response.
This approach was outlined in a report from the US Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (“NIST”) published in July. Entitled “Considerations for Managing Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity and Privacy Risks,” the report detailed the unique challenges of IoT security, and stated that these devices must be able to verify their own software and firmware integrity.
There are already built-in security measures that can stack the deck against hackers, including secure boot, application whitelisting, ASLR, and control flow integrity to name a few. These solutions are readily available and it is imperative that leading manufacturers provide runtime protection during the build process, to safeguard their customers’ data and assets.
It’s a race against time and a reactive security approach that waits for a vulnerability to be discovered and then issues patches is lacking, to put it lightly. There will always be users who don’t install the patches in time and hackers who manage to bypass the security solutions before manufacturers can get their feet on the ground. And with White Hat hackers constantly looking for the next vulnerability to highlight, it’s a vicious cycle and one that gives hackers every advantage against large corporations.
And as Fortinet and Pulse Secure lick their wounds from the recent exploits, the onus is upon other manufacturers to realize that the current security paradigm simply isn’t enough.Copyright 2010 Respective Author at Infosec Island
Security is top of mind for every company and every IT team – as it should be. The personal data of employees and customers is on the line and valuable company information is at risk. Security protocols are subject to even closer scrutiny when companies are considering migrating to the cloud.
More and more enterprises recognize that they need to pursue cloud adoption to future-proof their tech stack and achieve their business transformation objectives. The agility and cost savings the cloud provides is fast becoming a requirement for competing in today’s marketplace. Despite the growing sense that cloud is the future, many companies are hesitant to migrate their applications as they believe the cloud is not as secure as on-premise. This is a common myth, and far from the truth. While security must remain a top priority for IT professionals during the migration process, there is a successful pathway to safely and securely migrate.
Who Owns What in the Cloud?
In today’s “cloud wars” landscape, it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction – and it’s clear that many IT professionals feel the cloud is less secure. It’s time to address this myth. The cloud can be just as secure, if not more so, than a traditional on-premise environment. A survey by AlertLogic found that security issues do not vary greatly whether the data is stored on-premise or in a public cloud. Although there is the belief that public cloud servers are most at risk for an attack, on-premise systems are typically older, complex legacy systems, which can be more difficult to secure. The public cloud has the advantage of being less dependent on other legacy technologies.
Significant advancements have been made to ensure cloud migration and management can be executed in a highly secure fashion. For example, the major cloud providers today have developed a large partner network with cloud-native tools and services built from the ground up to specifically address cloud security. Public cloud providers have extensive security-focused teams and experts on staff to ensure that the cloud remains secure, supported by an ecosystem of cloud certified Managed Service Providers (“MSPs”) who can monitor and assess threat risk every step of the way. If done properly, organizations can take advantage of these advanced products and skilled resources to secure and harden their cloud environment. Most IT organizations, driven to be lean and efficient, simply can’t replicate the same level of security which leverages layers of security expertise and experience. The biggest threats are people related, either through inadvertent implementation and configuration errors, lack of proactive management discipline (e.g. applying patches) or malicious exploitation of vulnerabilities which, unfortunately, originate most easily from someone inside.
Unlike an on-premise data center deployed and managed by internal IT staff in which the organization is solely responsible, security and compliance in public cloud operates under a shared responsibility model. The cloud provider is responsible for security of the cloud and the customer is responsible for security in the cloud. What this means is that providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), manage and control the host operating system, physical security of its facilities, hardware, software, virtualization layer and infrastructure including networking, database, storage and compute resources. Meanwhile, the customer is responsible for system security above the hypervisor – things like data encryption in-transit and at rest, guest operating systems, networking traffic protection, platform and application security including updates and security patches.
The hybrid cloud is another valuable pathway for companies that aren’t ready or able, for various reasons, to make the full leap to the public cloud. The shared responsibility model for security and compliance applies to hybrid cloud which utilizes a combination of public cloud, private cloud and/or on-premise environment. This definition, understanding and execution of roles is critical for cloud security. According to Gartner, by 2020, 90 percent of companies will utilize some form of the hybrid cloud. In the end, security requires expertise, tools, discipline and governance. The ability for organizations to leverage and push responsibility to vendors is an underlying benefit of cloud.
How to Move to Cloud Safely
The migration process isn’t a simple task. While there is no universal pathway to migrating securely, the following tips will help IT professionals make the move:
- Assess and plan in advance for all source data to be transferred. The data should be encrypted at rest on the source, prior to transfer, with a strong encryption algorithm.
- Perform a hardening of the server before copying any data. Allow only specific and minimal sets of ports with restrictions to specific IP and CIDR.
- Implement proper authorization and access control according to organizational security permission and roles. Restrict access as needed to data sourced, transmitted or stored in the cloud.
- Finally, establish audit and monitoring which must be enabled, maintained, monitored and archived for ongoing and historical analysis at any moment in time.
Having a plan in place post-migration is also vital, as security doesn’t stop when the migration is complete. Companies should continue to assess their applications to ensure security remains a top priority. Working with a third-party provider or MSP skilled in cloud security can help take some of the load off the IT team, as systems require continuous updates, maintenance and cost optimization that will need to be monitored to ensure that resources deployed in the cloud are being used as efficiently and safely as possible.
Cloud technology has advanced significantly over the past 5 years. While IT pros may miss the sense of security of actually being able to physically see, restrict and manage access to their tech stack in an on-premise environment, the tide has shifted so that the benefits of cloud along with the maturity and ongoing evolution of cloud security products and services has enabled organizations to achieve a high, if not increased, level of security if implemented properly.Copyright 2010 Respective Author at Infosec Island
Microsoft this week announced that users all around the world can now keep their most important files protected in OneDrive Personal Vault.
Launched earlier this summer, the Personal Vault is a protected area in OneDrive that requires strong authentication or a second identification step to access. Thus, users can store their files and ensure that they can’t be accessed without a fingerprint, face, PIN, or code received via email or SMS.
Now available worldwide on all OneDrive consumer accounts, Personal Vault allows users to securely store important information such as files, photos, and videos, including copies of documents, and more.
The added security ensures that, even if an attacker manages to compromise the OneDrive account, they won’t have access to any of the files in Personal Vault.
Personal Vault won’t slow users down, as they can easily access content from their PC, on OneDrive.com, or mobile device, Microsoft says.
On top of that, additional security measures are available, including the ability to scan documents or shoot photos directly into Personal Vault. Files and shared items moved into Personal Vault cannot be shared.
Both Personal Vault and files there will close and lock automatically after a period of inactivity, and Personal Vault files are automatically synced to a BitLocker-encrypted area of the user’s Windows 10 PC local hard drive.
“Taken together, these security measures help ensure that Personal Vault files are not stored unprotected on your PC, and your files have additional protection, even if your Windows 10 PC or mobile device is lost, stolen, or someone gains access to it or to your account,” Microsoft says.
OneDrive provides other security features as well, including file encryption, monitoring for suspicious sign-ins, ransomware detection and recovery, virus scanning on downloads, password-protection of sharing links, and version history for all file types.
To use Personal Vault, users only need to click on the feature’s icon, available in OneDrive. Only up to three files can be stored in Personal Vault on OneDrive free or standalone 100 GB plans, but that limit is as high as the total storage limit for Office 365 Personal and Office 365 Home plans.Infosec Island