Monthly Archives: November 2012

IPS Grows Up But IDS On Life Support?

In the November 2012 issue of SC Magazine (Pg 26-28) titled “IPS Grows Up”, an article by Fahmida Rashid discusses some of the changing landscape for intrusion protection systems with a variety of experts. There are a variety of interesting topics and statistics regarding IPS such as the following:

While IPS won’t be able to block attacks exploiting zero-day vulnerabilities or thwart skilled adversaries using sophisticated tactics, it should “prevent 99 percent of push-button or automated attacks, Al-Abdulla says.”

While many can agree with that statement, what probably would not receive a great deal of agreement was the following statement within the article:

Holden predicts IDS will “fall by the wayside” in the next three to five years.

While it is understood that IDS is not detective rather than reactive, but one of the things that many businesses and agencies have a hard time tuning IPS in a way that there will not be any issues with mission or business critical traffic. The thought that IDS will no longer be necessary seems very short-sighted and limited. Granted most IPS devices are also IDS, but if defense in-depth is still a valid concept and that risk is a business decision, then IDS will remain in use for the foreseeable future.

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Cyber Pearl Harbor or Just Cyber Space…

There has been a lot of news recently about the potential for the coming Cyber Pearl Harbor. A cyber attack that would mirror the devastation that hit the naval base in Pearl Harbor during the beginning of WWII. According to an article in CSO Magazine on October 18, 2012, the United States is concerned of a coming cyber attack. The concept of comparing the attack to Pearl Harbor has been around for several years. It wasn’t until a recent a speech by U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Penetta in New York that this has become more of a topic.

The article states the following:

The results of cyberttacks by a hostile nation-state on critical infrastructure like transportation, water supply or the electric grid “could be a cyber Pearl Harbor — an attack that would cause physical destruction and the loss of life,” Panetta said. “In fact, it would paralyze and shock the nation and create a new, profound sense of vulnerability.”

Panetta also invoked the image of a cyberattack on the level of 9/11. “Before September 11, 2001, the warning signs were there. We weren’t organized. We weren’t ready and we suffered terribly for that lack of attention. We cannot let that happen again. This is a pre-9/11 moment,” he said.

In a follow-up article in CSO Magazine November 7th, the opposing viewpoint was brought forth. Many in the security industry feel that the concept and description of a Cyber Pearl Harbor is nothing more than hot air. Experts including Bruce Schneier have chimed in. Bruce has reduced the extent to which he believes the concept to be exaggerated but according to he article:

Critics argue argue that not only is the threat of a catastrophic cyberattack greatly exaggerated, but that the best way to guard against the multiple risks they agree exist is not with better firewalls or offensive strikes against potential attacks, but to “build security in” to the control systems that run the nation’s critical infrastructure.

Bruce Schneier, author, Chief Technology Security Officer at BT and frequently described as a security “guru,” has not backed off of his contention made at a debate two years ago that the cyber war threat “has been greatly exaggerated.” He said that while a major attack would be disruptive, it would not even be close to an existential threat to the U.S.

“This [damage] is at the margins,” he said, adding that even using the term “war” is just a, “neat way of phrasing it to get people’s attention. The threats and vulnerabilities are real, but they are not war threats.”

The reality is that it is probably somewhere in the middle of the two viewpoints. It can be likened to the Y2K issue a little over a decade ago. The world was going to come to an end and the dark ages would re-emerge. The reality was that preparation help minimize what little impact there may have been. Security is a risk decision, but most risk decisions are defensive in nature. The other decision of a preemptive cyber capability is another aspect of the decision-making that needs to be addressed. Should the U.S. begin cyber strikes on perceived threats? What is the impact of doing this on the long-term? The world has already seen a small view of what can be done with Stuxtnet and will these type of state-sponsored cyber attacks the new nuclear deterrent…that is yet to be seen.

Regardless of the direction that gets taken, business needs to look at potential cyber attacks/hacks as a real potential threat and determine what risk is willing to be accepted and what will need to be mitigated. Whether the issue is the size of a country or your home computer, measure twice, cut once is still the best direction.

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Windows 8 is Here and So Are is the Zero-Day…

Microsoft’s new flagship operating system Windows 8 was released at the end of October, but with its release, so has a new zero-day. In a recent article in SC Magazine, the article describes how the French security firm Vupen is offering the recently discovered zero-day for sale. In fact, a mere $50,000.00 could allow you to obtain the vulnerability that has been described as affecting the new Internet Explorer 10 browser.

According to the article:

Last week, Vupen CEO Chaouki Bekrar tweeted that “various” IE10 and Windows 8 vulnerabilities had been combined to circumvent exploit mitigation safeguards in Windows 8, which was released to the public on Oct. 26. The exploit was reportedly not disclosed to Microsoft, nor was its price made public. Vupen did reveal that the zero-day could allow a particularly skilled hacker to bypass embedded security measures, which include high-entropy address space layout randomization (HiASLR), anti-return oriented programming (AntiROP), data execution prevention (DEP) and protected-mode sandbox.

According to the article, Vupen only sells the vulnerability information to governments and business, but this is very concerning. The fact that they have not shared it with Microsoft, this could become a way to hold applications, business and governments hostage. Secure coding needs to be the priority of developers and the time to market needs to be properly married to insuring limited vulnerabilities.

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Seeing the Light of Security…

A recent article in DFI News discusses some interesting research. The article discusses research by physicists at Heriot-Watt Univ. and Univ. of Strathclyde. They are working with tiny particles of light to create a new way of verifying electronic messages and transactions as authentic, helping address the huge cost of e-crime and avoiding potentially catastrophic fraud, online hacking and theft of digital data.

According to the article discusses how the research shows how photons can be used to verify security and authenticity of any transaction or communication with a “digital signature.” The article specifically states it does the following:

Quantum-based secure signatures mean that an “eavesdropper” — a malevolent third party listening in — cannot fake a signed message which is being sent to multiple recipients.

  • The sender writes the signature with encoded light particles and sends it to the receiver
  • The receiver cannot yet read the signature. However, it can be sure it received an authentic signature
  • To confirm a message is authentic and to also read it, the receiver has to receive both the message (the “signature”) plus additional information required to decipher it
  • The multiple receivers confirm that they have received identical signatures – only then does the sender provide the additional information required to read the signature
  • This process takes place without the user (e.g. a shopper) being required to do anything differently to current security methods

When physicist begin looking at how they can impact and improve e-commerce, you know there is a big amount of money at stake. It will be interesting to see how this can be implemented in the real-world and also how it will be circumvented…

 

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ApplyLogic Jobs…

ApplyLogic has a number of openings.

If you want to work with exceptional people in a variety of organizations and environments, go to the ApplyLogic Employment Page and complete the application form or send your resume to careers@applylogic.com.

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What Is Your Decision…

The elections in the United States is drawing close, tomorrow, and it is important to remember that you need to make decision. Now this is not to discuss your decision on which president you select, but rather the risk your company chooses to select.

Risk is an issue that is a critical factor every day of the year to your business. The recent effects of Sandy and the potential impact of new a new storm could paralyze the already devastated North East. Your business needs to make decisions that will limit its exposure to risk, whether it is financial, natural, or technical. So, during this time of decision-making, make sure you make a commitment to evaluate your companies risk on a regular basis and plan effectively. Remember…risk is not static and your business should not be either.

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