Incite 9/22/2010: The Place That Time Forgot

I don’t give a crap about my hair. Yeah, it’s gray. But I have it, so I guess that’s something. It grows fast and looks the same, no matter what I do to it. I went through a period maybe 10 years ago where I got my hair styled, but besides ending up a bit lighter in the wallet (both from a $45 cut and all the product they pushed on me), there wasn’t much impact. I did get to listen to some cool music and see good looking stylists wearing skimpy outfits with lots of tattoos and piercings. But at the end of the day, my hair looked the same. And the Boss seems to still like me regardless of what my hair looks like, though I found cutting it too short doesn’t go over very well. So when I moved down to the ATL, a friend recommended I check out an old time barber shop in downtown Alpharetta. I went in and thought I had stepped into a time machine. Seems the only change to the place over the past 30 years was a new boom box to blast country music. They probably got it 15 years ago. Aside from that, it’s like time forgot this place. They give Double Bubble to the kids. The chairs are probably as old as I am. And the two barbers, Richard and Sonny, come in every day and do their job. It’s actually cool to see. The shop is open 6am-6pm Monday thru Friday and 6am-2pm on Saturday. Each of them travels at least 30 minutes a day to get to the shop. They both have farms out in the country. So that’s what these guys do. They cut hair, for the young and for the old. For the infirm, and it seems, for everyone else. They greet you with a nice hello, and also remind you to “Come back soon” when you leave. Sometimes we talk about the weather. Sometimes we talk about what projects they have going on at the farm. Sometimes we don’t talk at all. Which is fine by me, since it’s hard to hear with a clipper buzzing in my ear. When they are done trimming my mane to 3/4” on top and 1/2” on the sides, they bust out the hot shaving cream and straight razor to shave my neck. It’s a great experience. And these guys seem happy. They aren’t striving for more. They aren’t multi-tasking. They don’t write a blog or constantly check their Twitter feed. They don’t even have a mailing list. They cut hair. If you come back, that’s great. If not, oh well. I’d love to take my boy there, but it wouldn’t go over too well. The shop we take him to has video games and movies to occupy the ADD kids for the 10 minutes they take to get their haircuts. No video games, no haircut. Such is my reality. Sure the economy goes up and then it goes down. But everyone needs a haircut every couple weeks. Anyhow, I figure these guys will end up OK. I think Richard owns the building and the land where the shop is. It’s in the middle of old town Alpharetta, and I’m sure the developers have been chasing him for years to sell out so they can build another strip mall. So at some point, when they decide they are done cutting hair, he’ll be able to buy a new tractor (actually, probably a hundred of them) and spend all day at the farm. I hope that isn’t anytime soon. I enjoy my visits to the place that time forgot. Even the country music blaring from the old boom box… – Mike. Photo credits: “Rand Barber Shop II” originally uploaded by sandman Recent Securosis Posts Yeah, we are back to full productivity and then some. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be separating the posts relating to our research projects from the main feed. We’ll do a lot of cross-linking, so you’ll know what we are working on and be able to follow the projects interesting to you, but we think over 20 technically deep posts is probably a bit much for a week. It’s a lot for me, and following all this stuff is my job. We also want to send thanks to IT Knowledge Exchange, who listed our little blog here as one of their 10 Favorite Information Security Blogs. We’re in some pretty good company, except that Amrit guy. Does he even still have a blog? The Securosis 2010 Data Security Survey Report Rates the Top 5 Data Security Controls New Paper (+ Webcast): Understanding and Selecting a Tokenization Solution FireStarter: It’s Time to Talk about APT Friday Summary: September 17, 2010 White Paper Released: Data Encryption 101 for PCI DLP Selection Process: Infrastructure Integration Requirements Protection Requirements Defining the Content Monitoring up the Stack: Threats Introduction Understanding and Selecting an Enterprise Firewall: Advanced Features, Part 1 Advanced Features, Part 2 To UTM or Not to UTM? Selection Process NSO Quant Posts Manage Metrics – Signature Management Manage Metrics – Document Policies & Rules Manage Metrics – Define/Update Policies & Rules Manage Metrics – Policy Review Monitor Metrics – Validate and Escalate Monitor Metrics – Analyze Monitor Metrics – Collect and Store LiquidMatrix Security Briefing: September 20 September 21 Incite 4 U What’s my risk again? – Interesting comments from Intel’s CISO at the recent Forrester security conference regarding risk. Or more to the point, the misrepresentation of risk either towards the positive or negative. I figured he’d be pushing some ePO based risk dashboard or something, but it wasn’t that at all. He talked about psychology and economics, and it sure sounded like he was channeling Rich, at least from the coverage. Our pal Alex Hutton loves to pontificate about the need to objectively quantify risk and we’ve certainly had our discussions (yes, I’m being kind) about how effectively you can model risk. But the point is not necessarily to get a number, but

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Monitoring up the Stack: File Integrity Monitoring

We kick off our discussion of additional monitoring technologies with a high-level overview of file integrity monitoring. As the name implies, file integrity monitoring detects changes to files – whether text, configuration data, programs, code libraries, critical system files, or even Windows registries. Files are a common medium for delivering viruses and malware, and detecting changes to key files can provide an indication of machine compromise. File integrity monitoring works by analyzing changes to individual files. Any time a file is changed, added, or deleted, it’s compared against a set of policies that govern file use, as well as signatures that indicate intrusion. Policies are as simple as a list of operations on a specific file that are not allowed, or could include more specific comparisons of the contents and the user who made the change. When a policy is violated an alert is generated. Changes are detected by examining file attributes: specifically name, date of creation, time last modified, ownership, byte count, a hash to detect tampering, permissions, and type. Most file integrity monitors can also ‘diff’ the contents of the file, comparing before and after contents to identify exactly what changed (for text-based files, anyway). All these comparisons are against a stored reference set of attributes that designates what state the file should be in. Optionally the file contents can be stored for comparison, and what to do in case a change is detected as a baseline. File integrity monitoring can be periodic – at intervals from minutes to every few days. Some solutions offer real-time threat detection that performs the inspection as the files are accessed. The monitoring can be performed remotely – accessing the system with user credentials and running instructing the operating system to periodically collect relevant information – or an agent can be installed on the target system that performs the data collection locally, and returns data upstream to the monitoring server. As you can imagine, even a small company changes files a lot, so there is a lot to look at. And there are lots of files on lots of machines – as in tens of thousands. Vendors of integrity monitoring products provide the basic list of critical files and policies, but you need to configure the monitoring service to protect the rest of your environment. Keep in mind that some attacks are not fully defined by a policy, and verification/investigation of suspicious activity must be performed manually. Administrators need to balance performance against coverage, and policy precision against adaptability. Specify too many policies and track too many files, and the monitoring software consumes tremendous resources. File modification policies designed for maximum coverage generate many ‘false-positive’ alerts that must be manually reviewed. Rules must balance between catching specific attacks and detecting broader classes of threats. These challenges are mitigated in several ways. First, monitoring is limited to just those files that contain sensitive information or are critical to the operation of the system or application. Second, the policies have different criticality, so that changes to key infrastructure or matches against known attack signatures get the highest priority. The vendor supplies rules for known threats and to cover compliance mandates such as PCI-DSS. Suspicious events that indicate an attack policy violation are the next priority. Finally, permitted changes to critical files are logged for manual review at a lower priority to help reduce the administrative burden. File integrity monitoring has been around since the mid-90s, and has proven very effective for detection of malware and system compromise. Changes to Windows registry files and open source libraries are common hacks, and very difficult to detect manually. While file monitoring does not help with many of the web and browser attacks that use injection or alter programs in memory, it does detect many types of persistant threats, and therefore is a very logical extension of existing monitoring infrastructure. Share:

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