Infosec Management Tip: Prioritize Based on the Business

July 23, 2012 Comments off

Prioritize Based on the Business

A lot of data isn’t worth what we spend to protect it. What’s worth protecting and what’s just not? That’s not a decision IT and IT Security should be making. Instead, count on the business to help you prioritize. This goes along with our tip to cultivate understanding between the business and Infosec. Prioritize security controls that play into what the business needs and leave the others for later. (And document this decision for the auditors!)

Example: If you’re working for Coca-Cola and you say to your Chief Taste Magician (or whatever his title would be) that you want to help him protect the secret formula he probably won’t care. Anybody with access to a mass spectrometer and a basic understanding of how to read the printout can figure out the formula. But he is going to care about patenting the technology they’re developing to get the soda fountain mouth-feel into a plastic bottle. That’s his priority for the Taste Lab and it should be yours too.

This is part of a series of short tips for Information Security Managers, where Stratigos Security will provide you with some of the benefits of our experience working with others like you. If you like what you read, come back for more!

Infosec Management Tip: Beware Security Fads

July 20, 2012 Comments off

Tools are a Means, Not an End
One of the biggest shames of our industry right now is that “silver bullet” tools have such a hold on media and mind share. Organizations typically try to deploy the latest product in isolation, without understanding what’s causing the issues they’re seeing. But tools used this way are bound to fail, raid the corporate budget, tie up valuable resources and just obscure the symptoms of the problem for a while longer. Organizations can only fix what’s broken by understanding the problems clearly and developing a solution using proven methods that fixes them. Only then should you start thinking about what tool fits into the solution.

Example: A lot of companies have asked about “tuning” their latest flashy box that’s not working right. But when you get talking to them, you find that the problem isn’t with the product it’s somewhere else. Even if the product was at 100% efficiency, you still wouldn’t be able to solve the problem. One company had spent tens of millions of dollars on SIEM and other tools, but were using business school interns to run the SOC and didn’t have any plan for handling incidents! Another company had a DLP device that sat on the shelf for 2 years, and they hadn’t even clearly defined what data they cared about or where it should and shouldn’t be. Tuning in those situations would only be an expensive way of buying false assurance.

This is part of a series of short tips for Information Security Managers, where Stratigos Security will provide you with some of the benefits of our experience working with others like you. If you like what you read, come back for more!

Infosec Management Tip: Focus on Fundamentals

July 18, 2012 Comments off

Focus on Fundamentals
The basics take attention, consistency, time and iterative improvements. And they’re very effective! But too often we get distracted by other things to do what’s needed. Instead, planning and project management can go a long way towards actually putting the fundamentals into place. Automating and making the basics a part of a routine can free you up to think about other issues and allow you to take action when you find something that really does need attention. And these things usually turn out to be very effective and cost efficient.

Example: I’ve audited a few places with very good security. And they’re the ones who start by giving their IT department the authority to operate (solid, board-approved policies), have standardized processes for things that are followed (formal procedures and light audits), hardening their systems (limited user, no default accounts or passwords), having good network limitations and visibility (segmentation with ACLs and open source IDS sensors that are watched), solid patch management (quarterly cycles with emergency processes, including servers and workstations, not just the OS but also client-side third party software), and good security awareness (human-based training, awareness at the executive level, regular testing and improving based on the results). These are all things that take consistency and improvement over time, rather than expensive tools and huge one-time projects.

This is part of a series of short tips for Information Security Managers, where Stratigos Security will provide you with some of the benefits of our experience working with others like you. If you like what you read, come back for more!

Infosec Management Tip: Cultivate Understanding

July 16, 2012 Comments off

Cultivate Understanding
This is the opposite of running around trying to inform everybody of what you think is the biggest problem. It means getting with them to understand what their problems are, where their risk prioritization is and then find out where your concerns fit in there. Maybe they’re already aware of the threat and aren’t concerned; or maybe they have a way to mitigate it you hadn’t thought of; or maybe they need to listen, but don’t trust Infosec yet. By bringing the business into the Infosec decision making process, there’s more trust, more chance they’ll listen when you talk, more chance you’ll have the right answer for their needs and usually that all means more budget, plus more willingness to go along with what you want!

Example: I know of a company that was going into China to open R&D centers. The CISO was trying to say “no we shouldn’t, it’s too risky because somebody could steal our IP.” But the business knew this – their strategy around it was to lean on other assets like brand reputation (which is actually fairly well protected in China) to prevent against that. In other words, lost IP wouldn’t necessarily translate into lost revenue or profits. In another company the BOD wanted to have their updates and formal reports delivered to an iPad. The CISO worked with Finance to say yes because the costs of securing the digital distribution were less and results better than securing the hard copies. IT and Security helped save money, reduce risk and got a high visibility win for the company.

This is part of a series of short tips for Information Security Managers, where Stratigos Security will provide you with some of the benefits of our experience working with companies large and small. If you like what you read, come back for more!

Clever Hack Makes In-App Purchases Free

July 13, 2012 Comments off

A Russian site today published a report that a simple and clever hack can allow Apple iOS in-app purchases to be made at no cost. The hack does not require the phone to be jailbroken.

To exploit the weakness in the in-app purchase, only two primary steps are required. First, an additional SSL certificate is installed on the device itself, which involves downloading the file and a couple of screen taps. The second and more difficult part requires control over the local network to create a custom DNS entry. (Stratigos Security researchers are looking at a way to simplify this.) When the iOS app then attempts to connect to Apple’s servers to make the purchase, the connection is redirected to a different server which provides a fraudulent authorization, which unlocks the in-game content. this poses a clear threat to Apple’s and game makers’ revenue.

But this could pose a risk to phone owners as well. If the app update mechanism or any other communication goes through this third-party server, it opens the possibility of introducing malicious code to the device. This is similar to other man-in-the-middle attacks facilitated by tools such as The Middler and Evilgrade. So device owners should consider these risks before carrying out these procedures.

At this time it is not yet possible to validate the Russian site’s story because the servers enabling it have been under heavy load and have apparently at least one has been taken down by the hosting provider from an Apple legal request. However, Stratigos Security researchers are working to independently confirm the issue in our lab.

UPDATE: A post on 9-to-5 Mac all but confirms the ability to circumvent the iOS App Store for in-app purchases. Other potential security issues have not yet been confirmed.

UPDATE: Macworld reports that both username and password are sent in plaintext to the server. This means that the server, or any attacker who successfully executes a man-in-the-middle-attack can access the victim’s credentials. These credentials are not just valid at the iOS App Store, but typically across multiple Apple properties and usually many others, due to password reuse. Instead, Apple should be protecting credentials on the device and sending the hash to the servers.

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Preventing Security Issues from Acquisitions

July 13, 2012 Comments off

Yahoo Voices – a 2010 acquisition by the search company – was breached, and an attacker compromised 450,000 accounts, including email addresses and passwords. This is the latest in a series of similar breaches, affecting eHarmony, LinkedIn and last.fm. However, unlike these companies, Yahoo Voices was using poor security practices when storing the data at rest. How did this 2010 acquisition cause security problems for the Internet giant, and how can you avoid having the same thing happen?

Over the last month, several online companies have suffered account credential breaches. And these companies were chastised for practicing poor web application security, as well as poor data protection. In most of the previous cases, the passwords were stored encrypted, but in a way that most passwords could be deciphered within a matter of hours. Exceptionally strong passwords, such as those recommended by most security practitioners, however remained relatively safe because the time to decipher them would be a matter of months. So people whose accounts were compromised have time to change them before any abuse can take place. In the case of Yahoo Voices, passwords were stored in plaintext, without any encryption. This means that even strong passwords have been compromised.

But the Yahoo Voices breach is interesting for a number of reasons. Analysis of the compromised accounts reveals that only 30% use Yahoo email addresses, and Yahoo reports that only 5% of the passwords for those corresponding email accounts are correct. This is a lower than expected number in both cases. In a Yahoo service, you’d expect to see nearly all accounts linked to Yahoo email addresses. And people don’t tend to change their personal email passwords very often, so you’d expect that the number of valid credentials would be much higher, as well. Yahoo themselves say the data is old. My guess is that the data is from pre-acquisition, was no longer used and may even have been somewhat corrupted.

That makes me wonder what pre and post acquisition assessments Yahoo did. Acquisitions can be a weak link in a security program for many reasons, even if the acquired company has an equivalent level of security. The Yahoo Voices problem could have been identified by talking to the developers, reading over policy documents and performing assessments on the company’s technical and data security. Any weaknesses would be identified and could be tracked until remediated.

So how could Yahoo have prevented this situation, and how can you avoid the same problem?

  • Use and enforce strong encryption practices for data at rest. Yahoo says this is their policy and that the Voices incident was an outlier. Always use strong password protection mechanisms, such as salted hashes or methods better yet, use something like bcrypt.
  • Use good data retention and destruction practices. If this was old and unused data, it should have been purged. Old data should be cleaned up properly and quickly.
  • Practice good data security diligence before, during and after an acquisition. Most organizations are coming to realize that potential information security issues can affect the diligence process. And although these issues should rarely halt an acquisition, foreknowledge of them certainly helps set expectations efforts to integrate new groups in a secure manner. That saves money and reduces risk, which is what the diligence process is all about.