Los Alamos Missing Computers

Yahoo! News is reporting that the Los Alamos nuclear weapons research facility reportedly is missing some 69 computers according to a watchdog group who released an internal memo. Either they have really bad inventory controls, or they have a kleptomaniac running around the lab. Even for a mid-sized organization, this is a lot, especially given the nature of their business. Granted the senior manager says this does not mean there was a breach of classified information, and I guess I should give him the benefit of the doubt, but I have never worked at a company where sensitive information did not flow like water around the organization regardless of policy. The requirement may be to keep classified information off unclassified systems, but unless those systems are audited, how would you know? How could you verify if they are missing. We talk a lot about endpoint security and and the need to protect laptops, but really, if you work for an organization that deals with incredibly sensitive information (you know, like nuclear secrets) you need to encrypt all of the media regardless of the media being mobile or not. There are dozens of vendors that offer software encryption and most of the disk manufacturers are coming out with encrypted drives. And you are probably aware if you read this blog that we are proponents of DLP in certain cases; this type of policy enforcement for the movement of classified information would be a good example. You would think organizations such as this would be ahead of the curve in this area, but apparently not. Share:

Read Post

Adrian Appears on the Network Security Podcast

I can’t believe I forgot to post this, but Martin was off in Chicago for work this week and Adrian joined me as guest host for the Network Security Podcast. We recorded live at my house, so the audio may sound a little different. If you listen really carefully, you can hear an appearance by Pepper the Wonder Cat, our Chief of Everything Officer here at Securosis. The complete episode is here: Network Security Podcast, Episode 137, February 10, 2009 Time: 32:50 Show Notes: Arizona tracking drug prescriptions. I swear that stuff was from my shoulder surgery, officer! Kaspersky hacked. We mostly talk about the response. Metasploit to add an online service component. We can’t wait to learn more about what they are going to offer beyond password cracking. Melissa Hathaway appointed head of White House office of cybersecurity. We talk about some new info we have on the Heartland breach that isn’t in the press yet, so no link. Share:

Read Post

The Business Justification for Data Security: Additional Positive Benefits

So far in this series we have discussed how to assess both the value of the information your company uses, and some potential losses should your data be stolen. The bad news is that security spending only mitigates some portion of the threats, but cannot eliminate them. While we would like our solutions to eradicate threats, it’s usually more complicated than that. Fortunately there is some good news, that being security spending commonly addresses other areas of need and has additional tangible benefits that should be factored into the overall evaluation. For example, the collection, analysis, and reporting capabilities built into most data security products – when used with a business processing perspective – supplement existing applications and systems in management, audit and analysis. Security investment can also be readily be leveraged to reduce compliance costs, improve systems management, efficiently analyze workflows, and gain a better understanding of how data is used and where it is located. In this post, we want make short mention of some of the positive & tangible aspects of security spending that you should consider. We will put this into the toolkit at the end of the series, but for now, we want to discuss cost savings and other benefits. Reduced compliance/audit costs Regulatory initiatives require that certain processes be monitored for policy conformance, as well as subsequent verification to ensure those policies and controls align appropriately with compliance guidelines. As most security products examine business processes for suspected misuse or security violations, there is considerable overlap with compliance controls. Certain provisions in the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX), and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) either call for security, process controls, or transactional auditing. While data security tools and products focus on security and appropriate use of information, policies can be structured to address compliance as well. Let’s look at a couple ways security technologies assist with compliance: Access controls assist with separation of duties between operational, administrative, and auditing roles. Email security products provide with pretexting protection as required by GLBA. Activity Monitoring solutions perform transactional analysis, and with additional polices can provide process controls for end-of-period-adjustments (SOX) as well as address ‘safeguard’ requirements in GLBA. Security platforms separate the roles of data collection, data analysis, and policy enforcement, and can direct alerts to appropriate audiences outside security. Collection of audit logs, combined with automated filtering and encryption, address common data retention obligations. DLP, DRM, and encryption products assist in compliance with HIPAA and appropriate use of student records (FERPA). Filtering, analysis, and reporting help reduce audit costs by providing auditors with necessary information to quickly verify the efficacy and integrity of controls; gathering this information is typically an expensive portion of an audit. Auditing technologies provide a view into transactional activity, and establish the efficacy and appropriateness of controls. Reduced TCO Data security products collect information and events that have relevance beyond security. By design they provide a generic tool for the collection, analysis, and reporting of events that serve regulatory, industry, and business processing controls; automating much of the analysis and integrating with other knowledge management and response systems. As a result they can enhance existing IT systems in addition to their primary security functions. The total cost of ownership is reduced for both security and general IT systems, as the two reinforce each other – possibly without requiring additional staff. Let’s examine a few cases: Automating inspection of systems and controls on financial data reduces manual inspection by Internal Audit staff. Systems Management benefits from automating tedious inspection of information services, verifying that services are configured according to best practices; this can reduce breaches and system downtime, and ease the maintenance burden. Security controls can ensure business processes are followed and detect failure of operations, generating alerts in existing trouble ticketing systems. Risk reduction Your evaluation process focuses on determining if you can justify spending some amount of money on a certain product or to address a specific threat. That laser focus is great, but data security is an enterprise issue, so don’t lose sight of the big picture. Data security products overlap with general risk reduction, similar to the way these products reduce TCO and augment other compliance efforts. When compiling your list of tradeoffs, consider other areas of risk & reward as well. Assessment and penetration technologies discover vulnerabilities and reduce exposure; keeping data and applications safe helps protect networks and hosts. IT systems interconnect and share data. Stopping threats in one area of business processing can improve reliability and security in connected areas. Discovery helps analysts process and understand risk exposure by providing locating data, and recording how it is used throughout the enterprise, and ensuring compliance with usage policies. Also keep in mind that we are providing a model to help you justify security expenditures, but that does not mean our goal is to promote security spending. Our approach is pragmatic, and if you can achieve the same result without additional security products to support your applications, we are all for that. In much the same way that security can reduce TCO, some products and platforms have security built in, thus avoiding the need for additional security expenditures. We recognize that data security choices typically are the last to be made, after deployment of the applications for business processing, and after infrastructure choices to support the business applications. But if your lucky enough to have built in tools, use them. Share:

Read Post

Totally Transparent Research is the embodiment of how we work at Securosis. It’s our core operating philosophy, our research policy, and a specific process. We initially developed it to help maintain objectivity while producing licensed research, but its benefits extend to all aspects of our business.

Going beyond Open Source Research, and a far cry from the traditional syndicated research model, we think it’s the best way to produce independent, objective, quality research.

Here’s how it works:

  • Content is developed ‘live’ on the blog. Primary research is generally released in pieces, as a series of posts, so we can digest and integrate feedback, making the end results much stronger than traditional “ivory tower” research.
  • Comments are enabled for posts. All comments are kept except for spam, personal insults of a clearly inflammatory nature, and completely off-topic content that distracts from the discussion. We welcome comments critical of the work, even if somewhat insulting to the authors. Really.
  • Anyone can comment, and no registration is required. Vendors or consultants with a relevant product or offering must properly identify themselves. While their comments won’t be deleted, the writer/moderator will “call out”, identify, and possibly ridicule vendors who fail to do so.
  • Vendors considering licensing the content are welcome to provide feedback, but it must be posted in the comments - just like everyone else. There is no back channel influence on the research findings or posts.
    Analysts must reply to comments and defend the research position, or agree to modify the content.
  • At the end of the post series, the analyst compiles the posts into a paper, presentation, or other delivery vehicle. Public comments/input factors into the research, where appropriate.
  • If the research is distributed as a paper, significant commenters/contributors are acknowledged in the opening of the report. If they did not post their real names, handles used for comments are listed. Commenters do not retain any rights to the report, but their contributions will be recognized.
  • All primary research will be released under a Creative Commons license. The current license is Non-Commercial, Attribution. The analyst, at their discretion, may add a Derivative Works or Share Alike condition.
  • Securosis primary research does not discuss specific vendors or specific products/offerings, unless used to provide context, contrast or to make a point (which is very very rare).
    Although quotes from published primary research (and published primary research only) may be used in press releases, said quotes may never mention a specific vendor, even if the vendor is mentioned in the source report. Securosis must approve any quote to appear in any vendor marketing collateral.
  • Final primary research will be posted on the blog with open comments.
  • Research will be updated periodically to reflect market realities, based on the discretion of the primary analyst. Updated research will be dated and given a version number.
    For research that cannot be developed using this model, such as complex principles or models that are unsuited for a series of blog posts, the content will be chunked up and posted at or before release of the paper to solicit public feedback, and provide an open venue for comments and criticisms.
  • In rare cases Securosis may write papers outside of the primary research agenda, but only if the end result can be non-biased and valuable to the user community to supplement industry-wide efforts or advances. A “Radically Transparent Research” process will be followed in developing these papers, where absolutely all materials are public at all stages of development, including communications (email, call notes).
    Only the free primary research released on our site can be licensed. We will not accept licensing fees on research we charge users to access.
  • All licensed research will be clearly labeled with the licensees. No licensed research will be released without indicating the sources of licensing fees. Again, there will be no back channel influence. We’re open and transparent about our revenue sources.

In essence, we develop all of our research out in the open, and not only seek public comments, but keep those comments indefinitely as a record of the research creation process. If you believe we are biased or not doing our homework, you can call us out on it and it will be there in the record. Our philosophy involves cracking open the research process, and using our readers to eliminate bias and enhance the quality of the work.

On the back end, here’s how we handle this approach with licensees:

  • Licensees may propose paper topics. The topic may be accepted if it is consistent with the Securosis research agenda and goals, but only if it can be covered without bias and will be valuable to the end user community.
  • Analysts produce research according to their own research agendas, and may offer licensing under the same objectivity requirements.
  • The potential licensee will be provided an outline of our research positions and the potential research product so they can determine if it is likely to meet their objectives.
  • Once the licensee agrees, development of the primary research content begins, following the Totally Transparent Research process as outlined above. At this point, there is no money exchanged.
  • Upon completion of the paper, the licensee will receive a release candidate to determine whether the final result still meets their needs.
  • If the content does not meet their needs, the licensee is not required to pay, and the research will be released without licensing or with alternate licensees.
  • Licensees may host and reuse the content for the length of the license (typically one year). This includes placing the content behind a registration process, posting on white paper networks, or translation into other languages. The research will always be hosted at Securosis for free without registration.

Here is the language we currently place in our research project agreements:

Content will be created independently of LICENSEE with no obligations for payment. Once content is complete, LICENSEE will have a 3 day review period to determine if the content meets corporate objectives. If the content is unsuitable, LICENSEE will not be obligated for any payment and Securosis is free to distribute the whitepaper without branding or with alternate licensees, and will not complete any associated webcasts for the declining LICENSEE. Content licensing, webcasts and payment are contingent on the content being acceptable to LICENSEE. This maintains objectivity while limiting the risk to LICENSEE. Securosis maintains all rights to the content and to include Securosis branding in addition to any licensee branding.

Even this process itself is open to criticism. If you have questions or comments, you can email us or comment on the blog.