Category Archives: News

Storage: Traditional Hardware Refresh Cycles

Attempting to keep pace with never-ending demands for storage space in the enterprise is a daunting task. While the DAS and NAS technologies of yesterday have been largely replaced by SANs hosting virtualized infrastructure, one constant remains: the use of the traditional hardware refresh cycle as a means to address organizational storage needs.

Any IT professional responsible for storage planning will be familiar with this exercise. With each hardware refresh cycle, IT planners ask themselves…

  • What is our current storage footprint?
  • What is our expected rate of change over the life of the storage platform under consideration?
  • How well-suited is the storage platform for expansion over its planned life?

Until recently this approach may have sufficed. Enter big-data.

Big-data is acting as the disruptor to hardware refresh cycles, and more specifically in the arena of data storage.

In response, IT professionals and organizations alike need a more dynamically responsive approach to storage provisioning.

Some organizations have turned to cloud storage architecture as a means to address this challenge head on. With its elastic nature and scale-out capability – public, private, and/or hybrid cloud storage solutions are likely to be the cornerstone of organizational IT infrastructure.

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What to Secure…

encryptionRecent News articles detailing the NSA surveillance monitoring has shown to extend to other countries and that of their high-level officials. A more recent article states the following:

“The U.S. monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders, according to a National Security Agency document provided by its former contractor, Edward Snowden, according to The Guardian newspaper.”

Although most people cannot communicate using secure phone calls, it does raise the importance that the data be what is secured, not just the mode of transport. A phone call or even Internet usage should not be considered secure. There are numerous hops and intermediary systems that connect the signal being used. Each of those points of connection are a potential point of surveillance. Add the additional discoveries regarding ATT, Verizon, and other carriers, the expectation of privacy should no longer be expected.

This means that only the data, if encrypted or secured, provides the potential expectation of privacy. Insuring securing data at rest and during transport is critical to insure privacy. It may take more time and resources, but in an age of “continuous monitoring” of everything, it is the best way to provide the assurance most people and businesses desire.

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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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South Carolinas’s Majority of Social Security Numbers Exposed…

In an article in Dark reading, South Carolina officials announced that more than three-quarters of the states social security numbers were exposed in a recent hack. The data included debit and credit card information for the states residents as well. The most concerning issue was that the database that was compromised was not encrypted. As a state agency, it should have been an example to follow rather than one to avoid. The state’s Department of Revenue should have been held to not only federal regulatory requirements, but also PCI. This type of failure is not acceptable.

While not everything has been released as to the cause other than the database was breached and not encrypted, the article states the following:

Although state officials referred to the hack as a “database” breach, they didn’t specify just what flaw was exposed. Security experts say it was most likely a SQL injection or other vulnerability in the Web-based application that ultimately led to the data breach.

Chris Eng, vice president of research for Veracode, says it sounds like a SQL injection attack against a Web application. “That’s the simplest way in,” he says.

It is easy to make conjecture about how the breach occurred, but it would seem that the necessary due diligence was not followed. Security should be more than a check-box. States and Federal governments should be setting the examples for the rest of business…Another instance where measure twice and cut once should have been put in place…

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Are You Satisfied With Nothing…

Are you a small business? Are you satisfied with your customer and business data security? According to a recent survey of small businesses by Symantec and National Cyber Security Alliance, 86% state that they are. In an article in SC Magazine published 10/22, some of the interesting details of the survey are discussed.

According to the article, even those 86% are satisfied with the level of security protecting the customer and business data of their businesses. In addition, 77% of those small businesses surveyed believe that their business is safe from any breach. According to the article about the survey, the following is what is most concerning:

However, 87 percent of respondents have not written a formal security policy for employees, 83 percent lack any security blueprint at all and 59 percent have no plan in place to respond to a security incident.

These statistics are very concerning. If you take this survey of 1,015 small businesses (250 employees or less) as a reasonable grouping of all small businesses this survey is frightening. Even if you take it with a grain of salt, it is scary that no planning is being put in place for most. One can only assume why a business would not put a plan, even one that is basic, in place. Is it the cost of security or the thought that “this business is too small to be hit” mindset? What ever the rationale used to make the decision, it was a decision to accept that risk of compromise and breach, but as more and more businesses begin to use cloud services and other mechanism on the Internet, they are turning from an obscure local “mom and pop” business to one with a larger footprint that can span the globe.

Preparation is always a wise decision. Regardless if you document that you buy the top of the line next-gen firewall and intrusion protection system or just change the Linksys encryption from WEP to WPA-2 and change the default admin password, the documented plan is a step in the right direction. Remember it is important to measure twice and cut once.

In closing the following quote is something for everyone to consider:

“Invincibility lies in the defence; the possibility of victory in the attack.” — Sun Tzu

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Zero-Day Attacks Last Longer Than Zero…

Research from Symantec has been published in ACM on October 16. The research, which was also referenced in articles in SC Magazine and Dark Reading, looks at the amount and duration of zero-day attacks. Specifically:

A zero-day attack is characterized by a vulnerability that is exploited in the wild before it is disclosed, i.e., t0 > te. Similarly, a zero-day vulnerability is a vulnerability employed in azero-day attack. Our goals in this paper are to measure the prevalence and duration of zero-day attacks and to compare the impact of zero-day vulnerabilities before and after t0.

The research within the paper has some important considerations to business and the need for effective patching and defense-in-depth within the enterprise. Specifically, the paper found the following conclusion:

Zero-day attacks have been discussed for decades, but nostudy has yet measured the duration and prevalence of these attacks in the real world, before the disclosure of the corresponding vulnerabilities. We take a first step in this direction by analyzing field data collected on 11 million Windows hosts over a period of 4 years. The key idea in our studyis to identify executable files that are linked to exploits of known vulnerabilities. By searching for these files in a dataset with historical records of files downloaded on end-hosts around the world, we systematically identify zero-day attacks and we analyze their evolution in time.We identify 18 vulnerabilities exploited in the wild before their disclosure, of which 11 were not previously known to have been employed in zero-day attacks. Zero-day attacks last on average 312 days, and up to 30 months, and they typically affect few hosts. However, there are some exceptions for high profile attacks such as Conficker and Stuxnet, which we respectively detected on hundreds of thousands and millions of the hosts in our study, before the vulnerability disclosure. After the disclosure of zero-day vulnerabilities, the volume of attacks exploiting them increases by up to 5 orders of magnitude. These findings have important implications for future security technologies and for public policy.

Based on these findings, it will be interesting to see if the various technology vendors, programmers, and business will take this to heart and work harder in getting less vulnerable software and systems to market. Follow on research from this paper could be to evaluate the cost impact associated with zero-day attacks or vulnerabilities that were left unpatched. The reality is that security is about risk acceptance and in some cases the cost may be deemed an acceptable risk by some businesses.

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Taking the Hacker and Heading Home…

Many may have heard of the ongoing dispute between England and the United States about the pending extradition of British hacker Gary McKinnon. Well the wait is over, the British Home Secretary Theresa May in an announcement yesterday before Parliament stated that she would block the extradition of Gary McKinnon. She based her decision on the several medical examinations and his Asperger’s Syndrome diagnosis. He has been charged by the United Stated for hacking into highly classified Pentagon computer systems, for what McKinnon alleges in search of proof of extraterrestrial evidence.  USAToday.com has a good article on the coverage.

According to the article:

Officials in Washington expressed disappointment at the outcome, and State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the decision meant McKinnon would not “face long overdue justice in the United States.”

British prosecutors will now decide if he should face charges in the U.K.

There has also been discussion that England will also renegotiate the extradition treaty to make it harder for British citizens to be extradited to the United States.

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