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Posts Tagged ‘Security’

Can you be too secure?

July 31, 2014 Comments off

When I hear someone say “you can never be too secure,” I assume they don’t understand the implications of that statement. Perfect security can be seen as the absence of risk. This sounds like a tradeoff most people will want. But that’s not always the case. In fact in most business that’s the opposite of what you really want.

Risk is at the heart of the capitalist system. Without risk there is either no room for profit except through exploitation and collision. So businesses must take risks. If there were no risk competitors could easily enter the market and disrupt the industry.

So risk is necessary; risk is good. There is value in risk just as there is in security. Understanding and undertaking smart risks allows you to balance concerns with ambitions. Balance gives health; imbalance can lead to total collapse.

Incident Response to Data Breaches and Schrodinger’s Cat

March 19, 2013 Comments off

Untitled

Are sloppy security controls actually beneficial to a company during a breach?  This is an elephant in the room for Incident Response after a potential breach. If there is no way to definitively show that data was or was not breached, does the company have to report the issue? If you’re an Incident Responder you’ve likely seen the scenario play out a number of times.

A retail merchant, Genesco is suing Visa over fines from a security breach. The claim is that Visa improperly imposes penalties that are legally unenforceable and in violation of contracts. Genesco had a security breach, but claims that there’s no positive evidence that any credit card data was breached. Here’s Genesco’s logic, from what I can tell:

  • Whenever our server rebooted previously logged card numbers were removed.
  • Our server reboots. A lot. So often that no credit card numbers were ever in the log files.
  • We don’t have Network Security Monitoring that could say whether the credit card numbers were exfiltrated.
  • We can prove that some of the card numbers Visa said were breached couldn’t have been. No details provided.

This is the Schrodinger’s Cat of information security. In the lack of good evidence either way, a breach both has and has not occurred. In the vacuum of that ambiguous information, whether or not the data has been breached is as much a question of philosophy as physics…or Incident Response. So poor security monitoring actually help companies by giving them options on whether to declare a breach or not. This is an interesting cocktail party discussion topic for your next Infosec meeting and can make for some great conversations.

But the lawsuit probably won’t be decided on the technical security details of the case. The lawsuit seems to be more about how and when Visa can assess fines and penalties. There may be some technical talk during the proceedings, but it’s doubtful that a court would open its judgement up to questioning by letting the decision rest on what is sure to be conflicting testimony by each side’s experts.

Still, this will be interesting to watch as it has a lot to do with implementation of Payment Card Industry security standards. Genesco seems to be saying that they were compliant with the PCI-DSS at the time of the breach. That’s a frequent claim after breaches, but that status is often revoked after the fact by the card brands. And that’s bound to bring out heated discussions around the Infosec community and potentially in the courtroom.

Security Advisory: Bambuser Mobile Application

October 3, 2012 Comments off

Security Advisory: Bambuser Mobile Application

  • Advisory Title: Bambuser Mobile Application Information Disclosure Vulnerability
  • Internal ID: STRATSEC-2012-002
  • External ID: CVE Pending
  • Date discovered: August 10, 2012
  • Date reported: August 10, 2012
  • Date published: October 3, 2012
  • Current status: Vendor fix is in place
  • Discovered by: Beau Woods, Stratigos Security
  • Vendor: Bambuser (bambuser.com)
  • Affected product: Bambuser mobile application
  • Platform: iOS (confirmed); likely other versions (unconfirmed)
  • Vulnerable Version: 1.9.3 (confirmed); likely previous versions (unconfirmed)
  • Severity: 4.7 (CVSS v2)

Stratigos Security became aware of a vulnerability in the Bambuser mobile application and reported the issue to Bambuser on August 10, 2012. Bambuser quickly responded, provided estimated timeline for the fix and notified Stratigos Security when the updated version was published. Stratigos Security has confirmed that this vulnerability has been fixed in the updated version.

The formal advisory is published here: Security Advisory STRAT-2012-002 Bambuser Mobile Application Information Disclosure Vulnerability

Security Advisory: Ustream Mobile Application

October 3, 2012 Comments off

Security Advisory: Ustream Mobile Application

  • Advisory Title: Ustream Mobile Application Information Disclosure Vulnerability
  • Internal ID: STRATSEC-2012-001
  • External ID: CVE Pending
  • Date discovered: August 6, 2012
  • Date reported: August 10, 2012
  • Date published: October 3, 2012
  • Current status: Reported to Vendor, not yet fixed
  • Discovered by: Beau Woods, Stratigos Security
  • Vendor: Ustream (USTREAM.TV)
  • Affected product: Ustream mobile application
  • Platform: iOS (confirmed); likely other versions (unconfirmed)
  • Version: 2.3.1 (confirmed); likely previous versions (unconfirmed)
  • Severity: 4.7 (CVSS v2)

Stratigos Security became aware of a vulnerability in the Ustream iOS application and reported the issue to Ustream on August 10, 2012. As of October 3, 2012 Ustream had not yet fixed the issue, nor did they have a projected date for issuing a fix. Therefore, Stratigos Security has gone ahead and released details of this as yet unpatched vulnerability to the public. We do not like to do this, nor do we take the decision lightly. However, given the fact that some individuals using the application are doing so under conditions whereby the information disclosed could lead to their identification by repressive governments and bodily harm to them or their friends and family, we are releasing this information publically. It is highly likely that those who would exploit the vulnerability already know about it, whereas the potential victims are likely unaware.

The formal advisory is published here: Security Advisory STRAT-2012-001 Ustream Mobile Application Information Disclosure Vulnerability

Infosec Management Tip: Principles Are More Important Than Tactics

August 27, 2012 Comments off

Principles Are More Important Than Tactics

Security doesn’t come from the specific things you do. It comes from an overall approach to doing everything. In that sense, the principles that underpin your decisions and actions matter more than the decisions and actions themselves. Those statements may seem inscrutable or contradictory so I owe you further explanation.

Process and procedure can never be made so that they will, in isolation, provide optimum security. Even for very well thought out, nearly comprehensive tactics unplanned events will always come up. You’ll have to make decisions when there’s no written plan and no precedent. When you’re making those decisions you need to weigh all the factors you can take into account and move forward based on your judgement. Your judgement here is a point-in-time reflection of your principles. If your principles fail you, so will your judgement and you’d have to get lucky for your decision to be the right one.

In most organizations, processes and procedures leave a lot of room for decision making. It’s not just the occasional judgement call that has to be made, these usually happen on a daily basis at most levels of the organization. So strong tactics but poor principles will compound over time and erode even the best security program.

Instead, focus on coming up with strong principles, and make sure everyone knows them. Clear communication, understanding and internalization is key to having principles, not just tactics. This way whenever any decision is made, there’s a good chance that the judgement behind it is sound. This also, by the way, will push decision-making down in the organization, freeing up management to tackle larger and more strategic issues and critical problems.

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: 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!