Saturday, August 31, 2013

Cybersecurity is a never-ending Tom and Jerry cartoon

The Coming Wave of Security Startups

The threat from cyber-intrusions seems to have exploded in just the last 18 months. Mainstream media now report regularly on massive, targeted data breaches and on the digital skirmishes waged among nation states and cybermilitants. Unlike other looming technical problems that require innovation to address, cybersecurity never gets solved.

The challenges of circuit miniaturization, graphical computing, database management, network routing, server virtualization, and similarly mammoth technical problems eventually wane as we tame their complexity. Like antibiotic-resistant bacteria, attackers adapt to our defenses and render them obsolete. As in most areas of IT and computing, innovation in security springs mostly from startup companies. Larger systems companies like Symantec, Microsoft, and Cisco contribute to the corpus of cybersecurity, but mostly acquire their new technologies from startups.

Government agencies with sophisticated cyberskills tend to innovate more on the offensive side. Anyone looking to found or invest in one of those small security companies destined for success should focus on the tsunami of change rocking the IT world known as cloud computing.

According to Forrester, the global market for cloud computing will grow more than sixfold this decade, to over a quarter trillion dollars. Cloud security, as it is known, is today one of the less mature areas of cloud computing, but it has already become clear that it will become a significant chunk of that vast new market. A Gartner report earlier this year predicted that the growth of cloud-based security services would overtake traditional security services in the next three years. Just like other software products, conventional security appliances are being replaced by cloud-based alternatives that are easier to deploy, cheaper to manage, and always up-to-date.

Cloud-based security protections can also be more secure, since the vendor can correlate events and profile attacks across all of its customers’ networks. This collaborative capability will be critical in the coming years as the private sector looks to government agencies like the National Security Agency for protection from cyberattacks. The cloud also enables new security services based on so-called big data, which could simply not exist as standalone products.

Companies like SumoLogic can harvest signals from around the Web for analysis, identifying attacks and attackers that couldn’t be detected using data from a single incident or source. These new data-centric, cloud-based security products are crucial to solving the challenges of keeping mobile devices secure. Most computers shipped today are mobile devices, and they make juicier targets than PCs because they have location and payment data, microphones, and cameras. But mobile carriers and employers cannot lock down phones and tablets completely because they are personal devices customized with personal apps. Worse, phones and tablets lack the processing power and battery life to run security processes as PCs do.

Cloud approaches to security offer a solution. Software-as-a-service security companies like Zscaler can scan our mobile data traffic using proxies and VPNs, scrubbing them for malware, phishing, data leaks, and bots. In addition startups like Blue Cava, Iovation, and mSignia using Big Data to prevent fraud by fingerprinting mobile devices. Cloud security also involves protecting cloud infrastructure itself. New technologies are needed to secure the client data inside cloud-based services against theft or manipulation during transit or storage.

Eventually it should become possible for cloud computing customers to encrypt and destroy data using their own encryption keys. Until they do, there is an opportunity for startups such as CipherCloud and Vaultive to sell encryption technology that is used by companies over the top of their cloud services to encrypt the data inside.

Lastly, cloud security also includes protecting against the cloud, which enables creative new classes of attack. For example, Amazon Web Services can be used for brute force attacks on cryptographic protocols, like that one German hacker used in 2010 to break the NSA’s Secure Hashing Algorithm. Attackers can use botnets and virtual servers to wage distributed denial of service attacks; and bots can bypass captcha defenses by crowdsourcing the answers. Cloud-based attacks demand innovative defenses that will likely come from startups.

For example, Prolexic and (a company Bessemer has invested in) operate networks of filters that buffer their clients from cloud-based DDOS attacks. Cloud computing may open up enormous vulnerabilities on the Internet, but it also presents great opportunity for innovative cybersecurity. In the coming decade, few areas of computing will be as attractive to entrepreneurs, technologists, and investors.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Top 5 Tools Every Security Professional Must Learn

5 basic tools for security professionals

As the role of the information security professional continues to evolve within organizations towards that of an executive level position, we see a growing emphasis on traditional business administration skills over the more technical skills that previously defined the top security leadership job.

Nonetheless, Information Security Professionals need to keep abreast of the latest down-in-the-weeds tools and technologies that can benefit their organization’s security posture, as well as those tools that are widely available which could be misused by malicious actors to identify and exploit network security weaknesses.

ToolsWatch is a free interactive service designed to help auditors, penetration testers, and other security professionals keep their ethical hacking toolbox up to date with the latest and greatest resources.


Metasploit has become over the years the best framework to conduct penetration testing on network systems and IT infrastructure. Nevertheless, Armitage an open source effort to bring user-friendly interface to Metasploit.

Armitage demonstrations are very convincing and allow you to analyze weak and vulnerable machines in a network in just a few clicks. This tool has brilliantly hidden the complexity of Metasploit (for a non-technical audience) in favor of usability, and is a great way to demonstrate the security in depth of an IT architecture.


There is constantly a battle between security folks and users when it comes to passwords. Although it is simple to deploy a Password Policy in a company, it’s also very difficult to justify it.

Because in a perfect world from users perspective, the best password would be the name of the family cat with no expiration date, and this fact applies  to any system that requires authentication.

HashCat has shown that the selection of a strong  password must be done carefully, and this tool allows us to demonstrate the ease with which a password can be recovered.


You know what you have connected to when using your hardwired network, but have you ever wondered if the air is playing tricks on you? To test your WiFi security, Wifite has the simplest way.

Wifite allows the discovery of all devices that have an active wireless capability enabled by default (like some printers for example). Wifite is a very simple and convincing way to validate the security of wireless networks.


Known for many years as Ethereal, WireShark is probably the best tool when it comes to sniffing for and collecting data over a network.

On the one hand, WireShark has boosted its capabilities with the support of several types of networks (Ethernet, 802.11, etc.) and also in the simplicity of its use through a very friendly user interface.

WireShark allows to demonstrate that outdated protocols such as Telnet / FTP should be banned from a corporate network, and that sensitive information should be encrypted to avoid being captured by a malicious user


SET is a framework that helps the in creation of sophisticated technical attacks which operated using the credulity of the human. It can be used in the process of preparing a phishing attack mimicking a known website or trapping PDF files with the appropriate payload. The simplicity of use via an intuitive menu makes it an even more attractive tool.

It is the dream of every CISO to drive security awareness campaigns without ruining the security budget. With SET, the team in charge of security audits can design attacks scenarios and distribute them internally to the targeted users.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Visualizing The World's Biggest Data Breaches

In corporate servers we trust? A beautiful interactive timeline puts the growing vulnerabilities to our personal online security in stark relief

The experience is becoming so common it’s scary. You're sitting there minding your own business, when up pops an email (or worse, a letter via snail mail) from some company you may or may not be familiar with telling you that your data has been compromised by a security breach. Change your password, post haste--if you’re lucky that a password is the worst of what was compromised.

More than 50% of CEOs surveyed by the Ponemon Institute, a cybersecurity think tank, say that their company experiences cyber attacks daily or even hourly.

These attacks are becoming more and more sophisticated, and increasingly, they are successful--to date this year, there have 343 data breaches reported in the U.S., which already exceeds the number in all of 2006, according to the Wall Street Journal. A new visualization of the world’s biggest data breaches on a timeline since 2004 puts the rise of cyberattacks in stark relief.

You can explore the graphic more here. And to protect yourself against certain kinds of data breaches, it's always good to follow good hygiene for passwords and PINs to your online accounts, like making sure you use different passwords for all sites. You can see a few additional tips on how to secure your passwords here.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

10 easyways to reduce security headaches in a BYOD world

How you can improve security "Old School style" in a BYOD World?

Security is a huge concern when it comes to BYOD. Here are several steps you can take to protect your network and keep your organization's data safe. 

You're about to officially allow Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in your organization. Understandably, you're concerned with the security of your network and data. With all those unknown variables entering the mix, how will you safeguard your company and keep sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands?

To put your mind at ease, you need to tackle BYOD with an eye toward security. This means policies and plans must be put into place. With BYOD, you can't always think in the same way you do with standard networking. Here are 10 ideas that might help you get through this transition.

1: Secure your data
Before you allow any non-company devices onto your network, you need to make sure your data is secure. This should go without saying, but if you have sensitive data on open shares, you're asking for trouble. Every network administrator must know the company's data is secure. But if you are about to open the floodgates to BYOD, this must be a priority.

2: Tighten your network security
Just as you've secured your data, you must make sure your network security is rock solid. Do not rely on Windows Firewall to secure your data -- you need to deploy an actual, dedicated device (such as SonicWALL, Cisco, or Fortinet) to handle network security. Pay close attention to making sure the outside world is carefully locked out of your network. With all of those new devices coming in -- and the possible security holes they can create -- you must make sure you have a solid network security plan in place.

3: Implement a BYOD antivirus/anti-malware policy
Any device running an operating system that is susceptible to viruses must be running a company-approved antivirus solution. For devices that do not run a vulnerable platform (Android, IOS, Linux), make sure those users are not passing along suspect files to fellow workers (or customers). To that end, you can still require these users to install and use an antivirus solution to check all outgoing files for signs of infection.

4: Mandate encryption
If your BYOD users will be sharing data from outside your secured LAN, you should require them to use some form of encryption. This might mean any application that stores data on the device will require its own password to gain access to that data (this is on top of the device password). Also, if users are storing company passwords on the device, those passwords must be protected under a layer of encryption.

5: Take advantage of mobile application management (MAM)
You have to know what applications are being used on your network. This doesn't mean you have to prevent users from accessing Facebook or playing games (that's your call, of course). But you must make sure any application being used isn't a threat to the security of your company data. Some devices, like Android, allow you to side-load applications, so any application not on the Google Play Store can be installed. You want to make sure one of your employees isn't inadvertently letting a sniffer or port scanner loose on your network.

6: Require apps like Divide
There are apps out there, like Divide, that do a great job of placing a barrier between your personal and work data. In fact, Divide provides completely separate desktops, so the user can make no mistake. Gaining access to the business side of Divide requires a password -- as well as simply knowing how to gain access to that (mostly) obfuscated desktop.

7: Require multi-layered password protection

You must require all devices to be password protected. But just having a single password to gain access to the device isn't enough. Any application, folder, or file that houses company data must also be password protected. Though it might be an inconvenience, the more password protection those mobile devices have, the safer your data will be. At the same time, you should make sure that users do NOT have passwords (such as those for company VPNs) stored on the machine, unless they are stored in an application that requires encrypted password to open.

8: Implement company-wide phone wipe

If your users want BYOD, they have to be willing to sign on to a plan that gives you the power to wipe their phone if it's lost or stolen. Though this should be the case with every user (not just those using their devices for work), many don't see the value in making sure their sensitive data can be easily deleted if the phone winds up in the wrong hands.

9: Require use of company wireless when on premise

You know some users will "forget" to connect to your wireless network when they arrive. You do not want them doing business on their carrier network. Make sure all users understand that if they are to use their device on premises, they must use your wireless network. Not only will this help secure your company data, it will allow you to better monitor and control what goes on.

10: Limit device support

If you open your company up to BYOD, you are within your rights to limit that policy to certain devices. Say you only want to open this up to tablets that do not have a carrier (so they are limited to Wi-Fi only) or to a single platform. By doing this, you not only make your job easier, you help keep your company network/data more secure.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Scam Of The Week: "Held For Ransom"

Your Computer Has Been Locked

I would like to alert your users that a particularly effective scam is growing by leaps and bounds recently. It's not new, but it's bursting into mainline cybercrime these last few weeks. The scam takes over the full screen of the PC, stating that the FBI has locked that PC until a fine is paid. The PC may look locked down, but it was a cyber criminal who did that, not the Feds.

What to do: Do NOT PAY

This is malware on the PC. Treat it like malware and clean that system. The bad guys have found this is a scam that works really well for them. Scared PC users are often willing to pay hundreds of dollars to avoid getting in hot water with the FBI.

More than $5 million per year is extorted from victims. If it's a PC in the office, call IT. If it's a PC at the house, here is a video from security company Symantec how to remove this for free:

Thursday, August 8, 2013

CIO can be Chief Digital Officer?

It's difficult — if not impossible — to build great digital capabilities without linking to your existing IT capabilities and people

CIOs who do great things in leading IT soon gain extra responsibilities. By helping business leaders to improve their businesses, the CIO becomes an obvious candidate to fill any open role that involves technology, process, or strong governance. Some CIOs become CIO-Plus-COO or CIO-Plus-Head of Shared Services. Others gain new responsibilities in strategy, integration, or innovation.

But there is another leadership role that has arisen in many organizations in recent years: the Chief Digital Officer (CDO). In many companies, "digital" is a cacophony of disconnected, inconsistent, and sometimes incompatible activities.

It's commonly seen that company have three simultaneous mobile marketing initiatives, conducted by different groups, using different tools and vendors. Other companies have multiple employee collaboration platforms with different rules and technologies. The problem is exacerbated as business units do their own things digitally, or as companies hire vendors who can only do things their own way.

The CDO's job is to turn the digital cacophony into a symphony. It's OK to experiment with new businesses and tools, but experimentation must be coupled with building scalable, efficient capabilities.

The CDO creates a unifying digital vision, energizes the company around digital possibilities, coordinates digital activities, helps to rethink products and processes for the digital age, and sometimes provides critical tools or resources. That's why Starbucks — an early leader in all things digital — hired a CDO last year. And it's why many other companies are naming CDOs before they get too far along the digital road.

The title CDO may or may not become permanent in the company. But the responsibilities of the CDO will be required. You may appoint a temporary CDO to get your house in order, or you may develop other ways to get the job done.

Whatever approach you choose, you need to create appropriate levels of digital technology synergy, brand integration, investment coordination, skill development, vendor management, and innovation over the long term.

In an increasingly digitizing business world, most companies need better digital leadership and coordination. You need to create a compelling digital vision, coordinate digital investments, drive appropriate synergies, build a clean technology platform, and foster innovation. You need to energize a busy workforce and generate shared understanding in your senior executive team. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

DDoS Security Checklist

Help I am under DDoS!! What should I do?

DoS or Denial of Service is an attempt to make a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users. When such a DoS is carried out by a large number of attack sources, it is called DDoS or Distributed Denial of Service.

Basic types are:

  • Consumption of computational resources
  • Disruption of configuration information
  • Disruption of state information
  • Disruption of physical network
  • Disruption of the communication media between the victim and its intended users.

How can I prevent DDoS?

While it would be incorrect to say that DDoS attacks can be prevented, the impact can be mitigated and even thwarted if your IT infrastructure is sufficiently hardened, distributed and secured. We have listed some of the preventive steps below:

  • Use rate-limiting in firewalls, routers, load balancers and other network perimeter devices.
  • Enable TCP SYN cookie protection.
  • Test your applications and deployment architecture for DoS vulnerabilities and fix them.
  • Conduct regular configuration audits of your perimeter devices.
  • Use updated software/firmware
  • Use updated Anti-virus and regularly check for malware, bots on your systems. (This way you are less likely to contribute to DDoS on others).
  • Use multiple ISPs or hosting providers for redundancy.
  • Maintain a backup site for quick switchover.
  • Install or configure network monitoring systems which can alert you as soon as any DDoS hits.
  • Check with your ISPs or hosting providers how they handle DDoS and be aware of financial implications in case you are hit with a massive DDoS.

Dealing with a DDoS underway is incredibly difficult. The first step should be to try to understand the type and source of the attack. Understanding the attack type greatly helps in effectively dealing with the attack. Some of the things that you may consider are:

  • Blackholing and sinkholing
  • Enable rate-limiting in firewalls, routers, load balancers and other network perimeter devices.
  • Obtain a new IP address or range from your ISP or hosting provider if the attacker is targeting an IP address or range. If you have multiple ISPs then try switching your primary ISP.
  • Switch to something like Akamai, Cloudflare or Incapsula who have known expertise to handle DDoS.

What to do post the incident?

  • Conduct a root cause analysis and ensure that no other malicious activity was done on your servers other than DDoS.
  • If blackholing or sinkholing was done, restore the same.
  • If the preventive measures listed above are missing, you may consider implementing some of them to be better prepared.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Beware - Trojans on Google Play Infected Up to 25,000 Devices

Malicious Apps were designed to send text messages to premium numbers

Researchers at Russian anti-virus company Doctor Web recently uncovered three malicious Android apps on Google Play that install the Android.SmsSend Trojan, which sends text messages to premium numbers without the user's permission.

All three apps, which are audio players and a video player that displays adult content, were uploaded by a Vietnamese developer called AppStore Jsc.

According to Doctor Web, the apps have been installed between 11,000 and 25,000 times.

Each app asks the user for permission to download additional content, such as adult video clips in the case of the video app -- but that download the installs the Trojan.

"The program covertly sends short messages to the short number 8775 which is specified in the malware's configuration file," Doctor Web notes.

"It is noteworthy that this Trojan really does enable a user to view adult video clips. Apparently, the attackers implemented this feature to avoid unnecessary suspicion."

Friday, August 2, 2013

NIST Updates Malware & Patch Management Guideines

First Revisions to Both Publications in Eight Years

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has published new guidance on malware incident prevention and handling for desktops and laptops as well as enterprise patch management technologies.

NIST Special Publication 800-83 Revision 1, "Guide to Malware Incident Prevention and Handling for Desktops and Laptops," provides recommendations for improving an organization's malware incident prevention measures. The publication also gives extensive recommendations for enhancing an organization's existing incident response capability so that it is better prepared to handle malware incidents, particularly widespread ones. Malware is the most common external threat to most hosts, causing widespread damage and disruption and necessitating extensive recovery efforts.

SP 800-40 Revision 3, "Guide to Enterprise Patch Management Technologies," provides an overview of enterprise patch management technologies. It also briefly discusses metrics for assessing the technologies' effectiveness. The publication is designed to assist organizations in understanding the basics of enterprise patch management technologies. Patch management is the process of identifying, acquiring, installing and verifying patches for products and systems.

NIST also issued SP 800-165, "2012 Computer Security Division Annual Report," which highlights the activities of NIST's Computer Security Division during fiscal year 2012, which ended Sept. 30.