Monitoring up the Stack: DAM, Part 1

Database Activity Monitoring (DAM) is a form of application monitoring by looking at the database specific transactions, and integration of DAM data into SIEM and Log Management platforms is becoming more prevalent. Regular readers of this blog know that we have covered this topic many times, and gone into gory technical detail in order to help differentiate between products. If you need that level of detail, I’ll refer you to the database security page in the Securosis Research Library. Here I will give the “cliff notes” version, describing what the technology is and some of the problems it solves. The idea is to explain how DAM augments SIEM and Log Management analysis, and outfit end users with an understanding of how DAM extends the analysis capabilities of your monitoring strategy. So what is Database Activity Monitoring? It’s a system that captures and records database events – which at a minimum is all Structured Query Language (SQL) activity, in real-time or near-real-time, including database administrator activity, across multiple database platforms, and generating alerts on policy violations. That’s Rich’s definition from four years ago, and it still captures the essence. For those of you already familiar with SIEM, DAM is very similar in many ways. Both follow a similar process of collecting, aggregating, and analyzing data. Both provide alerts and reports, and integrate into workflow systems to leverage the analysis. Both collect different data types, in different formats, from heterogenous systems. And both rely on correlation (and in some cases enrichment) to perform advanced analytics. How are they different? The simple answer is that they collect different events and perform different analyses. But there is another significant difference, which I stressed within this series’ introductory post: context. Database Activity Monitoring is tightly focused on database activity and how applications use the database (for good and not so good purposes). With specific knowledge of appropriate database use and operations and a complete picture of database events, DAM is able to analyze database statements with far greater effectiveness. In a nutshell, DAM provides focused monitoring of one single important resource in the application chain, while SIEM provides great breadth of analysis across all devices. Why is this important? SQL injection protection: Database activity monitoring can filter and protect against many SQL injection variants. It cannot provide complete prevention, but statement and behavioral analysis techniques catch many known and unknown database attacks. By white listing specific queries from specific applications, DAM can detect tampered and other malicious queries, as well as queries from unapproved applications (which usually doesn’t bode well). And DAM can transcend monitoring and actually block a SQL injection before the statement arrives at the database. Behavioral monitoring: DAM systems capture and record activity profiles, both of generic user accounts, as well as, specific database users. Changes in a specific user’s behavior might indicate disgruntled employees, hijacked accounts, or even oversubscribed permissions. Compliance purposes: Given DAM’s complete view of database activity, and ability to enforce policies on both a statement and transaction/session basis, it’s a proven source to substantiate controls for regulatory requirements like Sarbanes-Oxley. DAM can verify the controls are both in place and effective. Content monitoring: A couple of the DAM offerings additionally inspect content, so they are able to detect both SQL injection — as mentioned above – and also content injection. It’s common for attackers to abuse social networking and file/photo sharing sites to store malware. When ‘friends’ view images or files, their machines become infected. By analyzing the ‘blob’ of content prior to storage, DAM can prevent some ‘drive-by’ injection attacks. That should provide enough of an overview to start to think about if/how you should think about adding DAM to your monitoring strategy. In order to get there, next we’ll dig into the data sources and analysis techniques used by DAM solutions, so you can determine whether the technology would enhance your ability to detect threats, while increasing leverage. Share:

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Proposed Internet Wiretapping Law Fundamentally Incompatible with Security

It’s been a while since I waded in on one of these government-related privacy thingies, but a report this morning from the New York Times reveals yet another profound, and fundamental, misunderstanding of how technology and security function. The executive branch is currently crafting a legislative proposal to require Internet-based communications providers to support wiretap capabilities in their products. I support law enforcement’s capability to perform lawful intercepts (with proper court orders), but requirements to alter these technologies to make interception easier will result in unintended consequences on both technical and international political levels. According to the article, the proposal has three likely requirements: Communications services that encrypt messages must have a way to unscramble them. Foreign providers that do business inside the United States must establish a domestic office capable of performing intercepts. Developers of software that enables peer-to-peer communication must redesign their services to allow interception. Here’s why those are all a bad ideas: To allow a communications service to decrypt messages, they will need an alternative decryption key (master key). This means that anyone with access to that key has access to the communications. No matter how well the system is architected, this provides a single point of security failure within organizations and companies that don’t have the best security track record to begin with. That’s not FUD – it’s hard technical reality. Requiring foreign providers to have interception offices in the US is more of a political than technical issue. Because once we require it, foreign companies will reciprocate and require the same for US providers. Want to create a new Internet communications startup? Better hope you get millions in funding before it becomes popular enough for people in other countries to use it. And that you never need to correspond with a foreigner whose government is interested in their actions. There are only 3 ways to enable interception in peer to peer systems: network mirroring, full redirection, or local mirroring with remote retrieval. Either you copy all communications to a central monitoring console (which either the provider or law enforcement could run), route all traffic through a central server, or log everything on the local system and provide law enforcement a means of retrieving it. Each option creates new opportunities for security failures, and is also likely to be detectable with some fairly basic techniques – thus creating the Internet equivalent of strange clicks on the phone lines, never mind killing the bad guys’ bandwidth caps. Finally, the policymakers need to keep in mind that once these capabilities are required, they are available to any foreign governments – including all those pesky oppressive ones that don’t otherwise have the ability to compel US companies to change their products. Certain law enforcement officials are positioning this as restoring their existing legal capability for intercept. But that statement isn’t completely correct – what they are seeking isn’t a restoration of the capability to intercept, but creation of easier methods of intercept through back doors hard-coded into every communications system deployed on the Internet in the US. (I’d call it One-Click Intercept, but I think Amazon has a patent on that.) I don’t have a problem with law enforcement sniffing bad guys with a valid court order. But I have serious a problem with the fundamental security of my business tools being deliberately compromised to make their jobs easier. The last quote in the article really makes the case: “No one should be promising their customers that they will thumb their nose at a U.S. court order,” Ms. Caproni said. “They can promise strong encryption. They just need to figure out how they can provide us plain text.” Yeah. That’ll work. Share:

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Attend the Securosis/SearchSecurity Data Security Event on Oct 26

We may not run our own events, but we managed to trick the folks at Information Security Magazine/SearchSecurity into letting us take over the content at the Insider Data Threats seminar in San Francisco. The reason this is so cool is that it allowed us to plan out an entire day of data-protection goodness with a series of interlocked presentations that build directly on each other. Instead of a random collection from different presenters on different topics, all our sessions build together to provide deep actionable advice. And did I mention it’s free? Mike Rothman and I will be delivering all the content, and here’s the day’s structure: Involuntary Case Studies in Data Security: We dig into the headlines and show you how real breaches happen, using real names. Introduction to Pragmatic Data Security: This session lays the foundation for the rest of the day by introducing the Pragmatic Data Security process and the major management and technology components you’ll use to protect your organization’s information. Network and Endpoint Security for Data Protection: We’ll focus on the top recommendations for using network and endpoint security to secure the data, not just… um… networks and endpoints. Quick Wins with Data Loss Prevention, Encryption, and Tokenization: This session shows the best ways to derive immediate value from three of the hottest data protection technologies out there. Building Your Data Security Program: In our penultimate session we tie all the pieces together and show you how to take a programatic approach, rather than merely buying and implementing a bunch of disconnected pieces of technology. Stump the Analysts: We’ll close the day with a free-for-all battle royale. Otherwise known as “an extended Q&A session”. There’s no charge for the event if you qualify to attend – only a couple short sponsor sessions and a sponsors area. Our sessions target the management level, but in some places we will dig deep into key technology issues. Overall this is a bit of experiment for both us and SearchSecurity, so please sign up and we’ll see you in SF! Share:

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NSO Quant: The End is Near!

As mentioned last week, we’ve pulled the NSO Quant posts out of the main feed because the volume was too heavy. So I have been doing some cross-linking to let you who don’t follow that feed know when new stuff appears over there. Well, at long last, I have finished all the metrics posts. The final post is … (drum roll, please): NSO Quant: Health Metrics – Device Health I’ve also put together a comprehensive index post, basically because I needed a single location to find all the work that went into the NSO Quant process. Check it out, it’s actually kind of scary to see how much work went into this series. 47 posts. Oy! Finally, I’m in the process of assembling the final NSO Quant report, and that means I’m analyzing the survey data right now. If you want to have a chance at the iPad, you’ll need to fill out the survey (you must complete the entire survey to be eligible), by tomorrow at 5pm ET. We’ll keep the survey open beyond that, but the iPad will be gone. Given the size of the main document – 60+ pages – I will likely split out the actual metrics model into a stand-alone spreadsheet, so that and the final report should be posted within two weeks. Share:

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