Database Security Webcast Tomorrow

Tomorrow I’ll be giving the first webcast in a three part series I’m presenting for Oracle. It’s actually a cool concept (the series) and I’m having a bit more fun than usual putting it together. The first session is Database Security for Security Professionals. If you are a security professional and want to learn more about databases, this is targeted right between your eyes. Rather than rehashing the same old issues, we’re going to start with an overview of some database principles and how they mess up our usual approaches to security. Then we’ll dig into those things that the security team can control and influence, and how to work with DBAs. Although we are focusing on Oracle, all the core principles will apply to any database management system. And I swear to keep the relational calculus to myself. The next webcast flips the story and we’ll be talking about security principles for DBAs. Yes, you DBAs will finally learn why those security types are so neurotic and paranoid. The final webcast in the series will be a “build your own”. We’ll be soliciting questions and requests ahead of time, and then I’ll crawl into a cave throw it all together into a complete presentation. The webcast tomorrow (December 17th) will be at 11 am PT and you can sign up here. Share:

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Securosis Hits Macworld (And San Francisco)

Just a quick note that I’ll be out in San Francisco for Macworld on January 5-8. While most of my time is dedicated to the conference, I will be able to take some meetings in the SF area. You can drop me a line at I’m under strict orders to not come home with any new shiny Apple devices. We’ll have to see how that goes. (Last year I came home with an iPhone, totally against orders.) Share:

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Structured Security Program, meet Agile Process

Bryan Sullivan’s thought-provoking post on Streamlining Security Practices for Agile Development caught my attention this morning. Reading it gave me the impression of a genuine generational divide. If you have ever witnessed a father and son talk about music, while they are talking about the same subject, there is little doubt the two are incompatible. The post is in line with what Rich and I have been discussing with the web application series, especially in the area of why the web apps are different, albeit on a slightly more granular level. This article is about process simplification and integration, and spells out a few of the things you need to consider if moving from more formalized waterfall process into Agile with Security. The two nuggets of valuable information are the risk based inclusion of requirements, where the higher risk issues are placed into the sprints, and the second is how to account for lower priority issues that require periodic inspection within a non-linear development methodology. The risk-based approach of placing higher security issues as code gets created in each sprint is very effective. It requires that issues and threats be classified in advance, but it makes the sprint requirements very clear while keeping security as a core function of the product. It is a strong motivator for code and test case re-use to reduce overhead during each sprint, especially in critical areas like input validation. Bryan also discusses the difficulties of fitting other lower priority security requirements extracted from SDL into Agile for Web Development. In fact, he closes the post with the conclusion that retrofitting waterfall based approaches to secure Agile development is not a good fit. Bravo to that! This is the heart of the issue, and while the granular inclusion of high risk issues into the sprint works, the rest of the ‘mesh’ is pretty much broken.  Checks and certifications triggered upon completed milestones must be rethought. The bucketing approach can work for you, but what you label the buckets and when you give them consideration will vary from team to team. You may decide to make them simple elements of the product and sprint backlog. But that’s the great thing about process is you get to change it to however it suits your purpose. Regardless, this post has some great food for though and is worth a read. Share:

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Building a Web Application Security Program: Part 6, Secure Deployment

In our last episode, we continued our series on building a web application security program by looking at the secure development stage (see also Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5). Today we’re going to transition into the secure deployment stage and talk about vulnerability assessments and penetration testing. Keep in mind that we look at web application security as an ongoing, and overlapping, process. Although we’ve divided things up into phases to facilitate our discussion, that doesn’t mean there are hard and fast lines slicing things up. For example, you’ll likely continue using dynamic analysis tools in the deployment stage, and will definitely use vulnerability assessments and penetration testing in the operations phase. We’ve also been getting some great feedback in the comments, and will be incorporating it into the final paper (which will be posted here for free). We’ve decided this feedback is so good that we’re going to start crediting anyone who leaves comments that result in changes to the content (with permission, of course). It’s not as good as paying you, but it’s the best we can do with the current business model (for now- don’t assume we aren’t thinking about it). As we dig into this keep in mind that we’re showing you the big picture and everything that’s available. When we close the series we’ll talk prioritization and where to focus your efforts for those of you on a limited budget- it’s not like we’re so naive as to think all of you can afford everything on the market. Vulnerability Assessment In a vulnerability assessment we scan a web application to identify anything an attacker could potentially use against us (some assessments also look for compliance/configuration/standards issues, but the main goal in a VA is security). We can do this with a tool, service, or combination of approaches. A web application vulnerability assessment is very different than a general vulnerability assessment where we focus on network and hosts. In those, we scan ports, connect to services, and use other techniques to gather information revealing the patch levels, configurations, and potential exposures of our infrastructure. Since, as we’ve discussed, even “standard” web applications are essentially all custom, we need to dig a little deeper, examine application function and logic, and use more customized assessments to determine if a web application is vulnerable. With so much custom code and implementation, we have to rely less on known patch levels and configurations, and more on actually banging away on the application and testing attack pathways. As we’ve said before, custom code equals custom vulnerabilities. (For an excellent overview of web application vulnerability layers please see this post by Jeremiah Grossman. We are focusing on the top three layers- third-party web applications, and the technical and business logic flaws of custom applications). The web application vulnerability assessment market includes both tools and services. Even if you decide to go the tool route, it’s absolutely critical that you place the tools in the hands of an experienced operator who will understand and be able to act on the results. It’s also important to run both credentialed and uncredentialed assessments. In a credentialed assessment, the tool or assessor has usernames and passwords of various levels to access the application. This allows them inside access to assess the application as if they were an authorized user attempting to exceed authority. Tools There are a number of commercial, free, and open source tools available for assessing web application vulnerabilities, each with varying capabilities. Some tools only focus on a few kinds of exploits, and experienced assessors use a collection of tools and manual techniques. For example, there are tools that focus exclusively on finding and testing SQL injection attacks. Enterprise-class tools are broader, and should include a wide range of tests for major web application vulnerability classes, such as SQL injection, cross site scripting, and directory traversals. The OWASP Top 10 is a good starting list of major vulnerabilities, but an enterprise class tool shouldn’t limit itself to just one list or category of vulnerabilities. An enterprise tool should also be capable of scanning multiple applications, tracking results over time, providing robust reporting (especially compliance reports), and providing reports customized local needs (e.g., add/drop scans). Tools are typically software, but can also include dedicated appliances. Tools can run either manual scans with an operator behind them, or automatics scans for on a schedule. Since web applications change so often, it’s important to scan any modifications or new applications before deployment, as well as live applications on an ongoing basis. Services Not all organizations have the resources or need to buy and deploy tools to assess their own applications, and in some cases external assessments may be required for compliance. There are three main categories of web application vulnerability assessment services: Fully automatic scans: These are machine-run automatic scans that don’t involve a human operator on the other side. The cost is low, but they are more prone to false positives and false negatives. They work well for ongoing assessments on a continuous basis, but due to their limitations you’ll likely still want more in-depth assessments from time to time. Automatic scans with manual evaluation: An automatic tool performs the bulk of the assessment, followed by human evaluation of the results and additional testing. They provide a good balance between ongoing assessments and the costs of a completely manual assessment. You get deeper coverage and more accurate results, but at a higher cost. Manual assessments: A trained security assessor manually evaluates your web application to identify vulnerabilities. Typically an assessor uses their own tools, then validates the results and provides custom reports. The cost is higher per assessment than the other options, but a good assessor may find more flaws. Penetration Testing The goal of a vulnerability assessment is to find potential avenues an attacker can exploit, while a penetration test goes a step further and validates whether attack pathways result in risk to the organization. In a web

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I Do Not Have A Relationship With GDS International Or Business Management Magazine (Updated With GD

It came to my attention today that Business Management Magazine ( not linked on purpose), part of GDS International, is using my name to sell sponsorship of their publication and some roundtable event at the RSA conference. Not only do I have NOTHING to do with them, they were advised over a year ago to stop using my name or the Gartner brand to sell their reports. I participated in an interview nearly 2 years ago, mistakingly thinking they were a valid publication. Reports started coming in that they were using my name to sell themselves, implying endorsement, and I retracted the interview before publication. The editor I worked with quickly left the company afterwards based on seeing the deceptive practices himself. He warned me that his computer was seized and the interview used without permission. It’s over a year later and they are still using my name without permission. They are also implying that they are timing the release of their publication with a major report I’m releasing. This is completely false- I have not revealed my publishing schedule. I don’t even know exactly when the report is coming out. I’m pissed. The only people who can use my name to sell anything are Gartner. If you ever hear anyone else implying my sponsorship, endorsement, or participation, please let me know. Update on 16 December, 2008: For some reason, this post started receiving a large amount of comments about 2 months ago, many of which were inflammatory and inconsistent with this site. GDS then contacted us to discuss the incident.They provided a statement/apology that we agreed to add to this post, and we also offered to just remove all the comments and lock future comments.The incidents occurred years ago, and we see no reason to let this drag on. Here is a response from Spencer Green, Chariman of GDS: Dear Mr Mogull — while it is not my practice to respond to each and every comment on my company, I feel that this thread warrants particular attention. I too have the strange compulsion to defend. GDS International employed a member of staff two years ago who misrepresented our relationship with yourself and Gartner. He was caught before we received your letter and dealt with accordingly — fired for gross misconduct. The editor you mention did not leave the company based on seeing our “deceptive practices”: they too were sacked (for a number of reasons, yours included). No computers were “seized”. We made a full and frank apology to Gartner at the time, which was accepted, and our two companies moved forward. Misrepresentation is completely against GDS policies. It is antithetical to our business model — a short-term act that benefits the individual over long-term thinking that benefits the organisation. GDS is proud of the work we do, of the many long- and short-term business relationships that we maintain, and of our employees, who — this example excluded — consistently perform to our high standards. GDS has been trading for 15 years and currently employs over 450 people. In these last two years, we have grown 50% year-on-year. We are a robust, ambitious company with a solid, proven and scaleable business model — not a house of cards. It is a real shame that the actions of one GDS employee affected you. Hundreds more are working to produce the best business magazines, events and websites. I hope you will take the time to check us out. Thank you for the opportunity to draw a line under this incident. Regards, Spencer Green Chairman, GDS International Share:

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