Tom Olzak

Posts Tagged ‘Cybercrime’

Facebook employees should know better

In Business Continuity, Cloud Computing, Computers and Internet, Data Security, Insider risk, Java on February 15, 2013 at 20:27

While I believe that posting any private information to a social networking site is… well… nuts, I also believe we should have a reasonable expectation of privacy.  This means companies like Facebook must do a good job of protecting themselves from potential attacks.  So why were laptops used by Facebook employees targets of a recent zero-day attack?

Yes, it was zero-day.  We can’t foresee all possible attack vectors.  The threat agent used a hole in Java to infect the laptops.  Further, the Java exploit was setting on a developer site.  Doh!  Didn’t see that coming, Facebook?  You should have.

Java is full of holes.  It is an exploit waiting to happen, and it is not the first time attackers circumvented the Java sandbox to get at the underlying platform.  Some, like Andrew Storms at nCircle Security, believe Java needs a complete overhaul (via Gregg Keizer, Computerworld).

 “Oracle should just take a mulligan and redesign Java before everyone completely loses faith in it…”

Apparently, Facebook didn’t get the memo.  Why would a social network company allow its employees to visit risky sites and then connect back to a network where customer and other sensitive data reside?  Why would any organization?

For more information on end-user device security, see Chapter 6 – End-user Device Security.

YAWN!!!!

In Application Security, Business Continuity, Cyber Espionage, Cyber-warfare, Cybercrime, Government, Network Security, Regulation, Security Management on February 10, 2013 at 19:44

Another article from AP today about the U.S. vulnerability to cyber attacks.  No longer news, this kind of information is simply depressing.  Mike Rogers, a member of the House of Representatives, believes that 95% “of private sector networks are vulnerable and most have already been hit.”  Maybe, but nowhere does the article offer actual statistics or source research.  Further, no mention is made of the porous security protecting government agencies.  Figures…

Rogers contends that all the government has to do is share classified threat information and all will be well.  What is he smoking?  Everyone already knows what is needed to protect our national infrastructure.  This looks like a good copout by Republicans: protecting business by doing something useless while convincing the gullible they are doing something worthwhile.  Compromising national security isn’t necessary; all we have to do is start forcing the slackers to meet minimal security requirements.  The Feds should start with their own minimal security guidelines included in FIPS PUB 200.

In my opinion, this grandstanding by legislators needing another law passed to prove their value (God knows something has to) is not helpful.  What is helpful is applying meaningful efforts to identify weaknesses–can anyone say public utilities–and apply the necessary pressure to remove them.  This must happen without whining about cost to affected businesses and industries.  My MBA helps be understand the business side, but my common sense and sense of insecurity drive me to scream, “ENOUGH!!”

Controls: The absolute minimum

In Application Security, Cybercrime, Data Security, Log Management, Network Security, Physical Security, Risk Management, Security Management on February 3, 2013 at 17:07

CSIS Logo (SANS)Lulled into false security by years of being told anti-malware is the best way to protect networks and devices, many network administrators  leave their networks wide open.  Using only anti-malware software a firewall, and an IPS leaves gaping holes in the security controls framework.  Attackers with limited experience can locate and exploit attack vectors with little regard for these venerable controls.  While firewalls and IPS devices help, they were never intended to provide a complete prevention/detection/response solution.

SANS provides an up-to-date list of 20 critical security controls (now at version 4.0).  The downloadable documentation provides guidance on in depth, layered integration of controls necessary to fill gaps left by traditional approaches to minimal security.

Twitter hacked. So what’s new?

In Access Controls, Password Management, Social Networking on February 3, 2013 at 16:31

Twitter reported last week that about 250,000 customers might have had their usernames, email addresses, session tokens, and password hashes stolen.  This is just one more instance in which the social networking world is shown as having a humongous target on its collective back.  Anyone believing anything is safe when posted on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social network is just kidding themselves.  This doesn’t mean that Facebook, for example, doesn’t care about your information.  What it means is that cyber-criminals are attracted to social networking sites like Trekkers to a George Takei book signing.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I fall into the Trekker category.)

Caution about the credentials used to access these sites is just as important as what not to post: maybe more.  However, the normal user likely uses the same password for Twitter as he does for BYOD devices, bank logins, etc.  Twitter gets it and has tried to inform its customers.  An entry in Twitter Blog reads,

“Make sure you use a strong password – at least 10 (but more is better) characters and a mixture of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols – that you are not using for any other accounts or sites. Using the same password for multiple online accounts significantly increases your odds of being compromised.”

If you have users who don’t get it yet, gently help them see the light.

The Internet is Broken, Part II: NetFlow Analysis

In Application Security, Computers and Internet, Cybercrime, Data Leak Prevention, Data Security, Forensics, Insider risk, Log Management, NetFlow, Network Security, Policy-based access control, Risk Management, Security Management on January 13, 2013 at 21:52

Last week, I introduced the broken Internet, with SIEM technology as a way to help identify bad things happening on your network.  This week, I continue this theme by looking at a technology often deployed with SIEM: NetFlow analysis.

NetFlow is a protocol developed by Cisco.  Its original purpose was to provide transparency into traffic flow for network performance and design analysis.  Today, however, NetFlow has become a de facto industry standard for both performance and security analysis.

Over time, security analysts found that event correlation alone might not be enough to quickly detect anomalous behavior.  NetFlow, in addition to a SIEM portal, allows quick insight into traffic flow.   It helps detect network behavior outside expected norms for a specific network.

NetFlow compatible devices, as shown in Figure 1, collect information about packets traveling through one or more ports.  The collected information is aggregated and analyzed.  If supported, alerts are sent to security personnel when traffic flow through a switch port, for example, exceeds a defined threshold.  (See Figure 2 for a portal example.) This is a good way to detect large data transfers or transfers between a database server and a system with which the server doesn’t usually communicate.

Figure 1: Cisco NetFlow Configuration

Figure 1: Cisco NetFlow Configuration

Figure 2: NfSen Screen Shot (Retrieved from http://www.networkuptime.com/tools/netflow/nfsen_ss.html)

Figure 2: NfSen Screen Shot (Retrieved from http://www.networkuptime.com/tools/netflow/nfsen_ss.html)

For example, assume an attacker gains control of a database administrator’s (DBA) desktop computer.  All access by the DBA’s system will likely look normal: until a NetFlow analysis alert reports large amounts of data passing from a database production server, through the DBA system, and to the Internet.  (Granted, other controls might prevent this altogether… humor me.)  The alert allows us to react quickly to mitigate business impact by simply shutting down the DBA computer.

It isn’t just external attackers NetFlow helps detect.  The infamous disgruntled employee is also detectable when large numbers of intellectual property documents begin making their way from the storage area network to an engineer’s laptop located in his or her home office.  NetFlow analysis can be particularly useful when two or more employees collude to steal company information.

NetFlow analysis is a good detection tool.  It helps support prevention controls we rely on to prevent connections to unknown external systems.   In addition, NetFlow alerting can call our attention to an employee defecting from policy compliance and violating management trust.

Next week, I conclude this series by examining incident response in support of SIEM and NetFlow analysis.

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