My 2011 Security Predictions

Someone will predict a big cyberattack someplace that may or may not happen. Someone will predict a big SCADA attack/failure someplace that probably won’t happen, but I suppose it’s still possible. Someone will predict that Apple will do something big that enterprises won’t adopt, but then they will. Someone will predict some tech will die, which is usually when a lot of people will buy it. Most people will renew every security product currently in their environment no matter how well they works (or don’t). Someone will predict that this time it’s really the year mobile attacks happen and steal everyone’s money and nekked photos off their phones. But it probably won’t happen, and if it does the press headlines will all talk about ‘iPhone’ even if it only affects Motorola StarTACs. Vendors will scare customers into thinking 20 new regulations are right around the corner – all of which require their products. There will be a lot of predictions with the words “social networking”, “2.0”, “consumerization”, “Justin Bieber”, and whatever else is trending on Twitter the day they write the predictions. Any time there’s a major global event or disaster, I will receive at least 8 press releases from vendors claiming bad guys are using it for spam/phishing. Some botnet will be the biggest. And a bonus: #11. The Securosis Disaster Recovery Breakfast at RSA will totally rock. I miss anything? Update – 12. Someone will predict cloud computing will cause/fix all these other problems (via @pwrcycle) Share:

Read Post

Infrastructure Security Research Agenda 2011—Part 1: Positivity

Ah yes, it’s that time of year. Time for predictions and pontification and soothsaying and all sorts of other year-end comedy. As I told the crowd at SecTOR, basically everyone is making sh*t up. Sure, some have somewhat educated opinions, but at the end of the day nobody knows what will kill us in 2011. Except for the certainty that it will be something. We just don’t know what that something will be. As the Securosis plumber, I cover infrastructure topics, which really means network and endpoint security, as well as some security management stuff. It’s a lot of ground to cover. So I’ll be dribbling out my research agenda in 4-5 posts over the next week. The idea here is to get feedback on these positions and refine them. As you’ll see, all of our blog series (which eventually become white papers) originate from the germs of these concepts. So don’t be bashful. Tell us what you think – good, bad, and ugly. Before I get started, in order for my simple mind to grasp the entirety of securing the infrastructure, I’ve broken the topics up into buckets I’ll call ingress and egress. Ingress is protecting your critical stuff from the bad folks out there. Now that the perimeter is mostly a myth, I’m not making an insider/outsider distinction here. Network security (and some other stuff) fits into this area. Egress is working to protect your devices from bad stuff. This involves protecting the endpoints and mobile devices, with device-resident solutions, as well as gateways and cloud services aimed at protection. Ingress Positivity I’m going to start off with my big thought, and for a guy who has always skewed toward ‘half-empty’, this is progress. For most of its existence, security has used a negative security model, where we look for bad things – usually using signatures or profiles of known bad behavior. That model is broken. Big time. We’ll see like 25+ million new malware samples this year. We can’t possibly look for all of them (constantly), so we have to change the game. We have to embrace the positive. That’s right, positivity is about embracing a positive security model anywhere we can. This means defining a set of acceptable behaviors and blocking everything else. Sounds simple, but it’s not. Positivity breaks things. Done wrong, it’ll break your applications and your user experience. It’ll keep your help desk busy and make you a pariah in the lunch room. But it’s probably your only chance of turning the tide against many of these new attacks. This isn’t a new concept. A lot of folks have implemented default deny on their perimeters, and that’s a good thing. Application white listing on the endpoint has been around for a while, and achieved some success in specific use cases. But there are lots of other places we need to defend, so let’s list them out. Perimeter Gateway: We discussed this in the Enterprise Firewall paper, but there is a lot more to be said, including how to implement positivity on the EFW or UTM without getting fired. We also need to look critically at the future of IDS/IPS, given that it is really the manifestation of a negative security model, and there is significant overlap with the firewall moving forward. Web Application Firewall (WAF): The WAF needs to be more about a positive security model (right now it’s mostly negative), so our research will focus on how to leverage WAF for maximum effect. Again, there is significant risk of breaking applications if the WAF rules are wrong. We will also examine current efforts to do the first level of WAF in the cloud. The Return of HIPS: HIPS got a bad wrap because it was associated with signatures (given its unfortunate name), but that’s not how it works. It’s basically a white listing approach for app servers. Our research here will focus on how to deploy HIPS without breaking applications, and working through the inevitable political issues of trying to work with other IT ops teams for deployment, given how much they enjoy the security team starts mucking around with things. Database Positivity: One feature of current Database Activity Monitoring products is the ability to block queries/commands that violate policy. We will delve into how this works, how to do it safely, and how layering positivity at different layers of the infrastructure can provide better security than we’ve been able to achieve previously. Notice I didn’t mention application white listing specifically here, because we are focused on ingress. Application white listing will be a key topic when I talk about egress later this week. To be clear, the path to my definition of positivity is long and arduous. It won’t be easy and it won’t be widespread in 2011, but we need to start moving in that direction now – using technologies such as DAM, HIPS, and application aware firewalls. The old model doesn’t work. It’s time for a new one. Stop surrounding yourself with negativity. Embrace the positive and give yourself a chance. I’m looking forward to your comments. Don’t be bashful. Share:

Read Post

Incite 12/8/2010: the Nutcracker

When I see the term ‘nutcracker’, I figure folks are talking about their significant others. There are times when the Boss takes on the role of my nutcracker, but usually I deserve it. At least that’s my story today because I’d rather not sleep in the doghouse for the rest of the year. But that’s not what I want to talk about. Let’s discuss the holiday show (and now movie) of the same name. To open up the book of childhood angst, I remember Mom taking me to see a local production of the Nutcracker when I was about 8. We got all dressed up and I figured I was seeing a movie or something. Boy, was I terrified. The big mouse dude? To an 8 year old? I still have nightmares about that. But as with everything else, I’m evolving and getting over it. At least when it comes to the Nutcracker. Both of my girls dance at a studio that puts on a big production of the Nutcracker every winter. They practice 3-4 times a week and have all the costumes and it’s quite a show. All building up to this weekend, where they’ll do 5 shows over 3 days. I’m actually looking forward to the shows this year, which I think may correlate to getting past my fear of a 14 year old with a big mouse head. This will be XX1’s third year and XX2’s first. They start small, so XX2 will be a party girl and on stage for about 5 minutes total. XX1 gets a lot more time. I think she’s a card and a soldier during the mouse battle. Though I can’t be sure because that would require actually paying attention during the last month’s 7×24 Nutcracker preparation. They just love it and have huge smiles when they are on stage. But it brings up the bigger idea of year-end rituals. Besides eating Chinese food and seeing a movie on Xmas Day. This year I’m not going to be revisiting my goals or anything because I’m trying to not really have goals. But there will be lots of consistency. I’ll spend some time with my family on our annual pilgrimage up North and work a lot as I try to catch up on all the stuff I didn’t get done in 2010. I’ll also try to rest, as much as a guy like me rests. 2010 was a big year. I joined Securosis and did a lot of work to build the foundation for my coverage areas. But there is a lot more to do. A whole lot more. We are working hard on an internal project that we’ll talk more about after the New Year. And we need to start thinking about what we’ll be doing in Q1. So my holidays will be busy, but hopefully manageable. And I’ll also leave some time to catch up on my honey-do list. Because the last thing I need is to enter 2011 with a nutcracker on the prowl. Photo credits: “Mouse King and Nutcracker” originally uploaded by Mike Mahaffie Incite 4 U The (R)Snake slithers into the sunset: We need to send some props to our friend Robert Hansen, otherwise known as RSnake. I’ve learned a lot from Robert over the years and hopefully you have too. As great a researcher as he is, he’s a better guy. And his decision to stop focusing on research because it isn’t making him happy anymore is bold, but I’d expect nothing less. So who picks up the slack? The good news is that there is no lack of security researchers out there looking for issues and hopefully relaying that knowledge to make us better practitioners. And if you weren’t sure what to start poking, check out RSnake’s list. That should keep all of you RSnake wannabes busy for a while. – MR The price of vanity: Is WikiLeaks doing what it is supposed to do? I was reading about the shakeup after the WikiLeaks incidents and how it has caused shuffling of U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers, in essence for reporting on what they saw. But I don’t have sympathy for the US government on this because the leaks did what leaks do: spotlight the silliness of the games being played. I understand that comments like these reveal more than just the topics being discussed; and that and who, how, and why information was gathered tells yet another story. But it seems to me that the stuff being disclosed is spotlighting two kids passing notes in high school rather than classified state secrets. Unless, of course, you really think Muammar Gaddafi seeing someone on the side is an issue of national security. Sure, it’s an embarrassment because it’s airing dirty laundry rather than exposing state secrets. There is no doubt that WikiLeaks will drive security services. People who consider themselves important are embarrassed, and in some cases their reputations will suffer, and being embarrassed will make it harder for them to maintain the status quo (if WikiLeaks is successful, at least). Care to bet on what will drive more security sales: data security requirements/regulation or political CYA? – AL That cloud/virtualization security thing is gonna be big: Early on in the virtualization security debate a lot of vendors thought all they needed to do was create a virtual appliance running their products, toss them into the virtual infrastructure, set up some layer 2 routing, and go buy a Tesla. It turns out the real world isn’t quite that simple (go grab a copy of Chris Hoff’s Four Horsemen presentation from a couple years ago). Juniper recognizes this and has announced their acquisition of Altor Networks. Altor provides compliance and security, including a hypervisor-based stateful firewall, for virtualization and private cloud. But even if the tech is total garbage (not that it is), Juniper scores a win by buying themselves a spot in the now-defunct VMSafe program. Unlike the VShield zones approach, with VMSafe participating vendors gain

Read Post

Edge Tokenization

A couple months ago Akamai announced Edge Tokenization, a service to tokenize credit card numbers for online payments. The technology is not Akamai’s – it belongs to CyberSource, a Visa-owned payment processing company. I have been holding off on this post for a couple months in order to get a full briefing from CyberSource, but that is not currently happening, and this application of tokenization technology is worth talking about, so it’s time to forge ahead. I preface this by stating that I don’t write much about specific vendor announcements – I prefer to comment on trends within a specific industry. That’s largely because most product announcements are about smaller iterative improvements or full-blown puffy marketing doublespeak. To avoid being accused of being in somebody’s pocket, I avoid product announcements, except the rare cases that are important enough to demand discussion. A new deployment model for payment processing and tokenization qualifies. So what the heck is edge tokenization? Just what it sounds like: tokenization embedded in Akamai’s distributed edge platform. As we defined in our series on tokenization a few months ago, edge tokenization is functionally exactly the same as any other token server. It substitutes sensitive credit card/PAN data with a token as a reference to the original value. What’s different in this model is that it’s basically offloading the payment service to the Akamai infrastructure, which intercepts the credit card number before the merchant can receive it. The PAN and the rest of the payment data are passed to one of several payment gateways. At least theoretically it is – I have not verified which processors or how they are selected. CyberSource software issues the tokens during Akamai’s payment transaction with the buyer, and sends the token to the merchant as confirmation of approved payment. One of the challenges of tokenization is to enable the merchant to have full control over the user experience – whether point-of-sale or web – while removing their systems from the scope of a PCI audit. But from a security standpoint, removing the merchant is ideal. Edge tokenization allows the merchant to have control over the on-line shopping experience, but be completely out of the picture when handling the credit card. Without more information I cannot tell whether the merchant it is more or less removed from the sensitive aspects than with any other token service, but it looks like fewer merchant systems should be exposed. No service is ever simply ‘drop-in’, despite vendor assurances, so there will be some integration work to perform. But from Akamai’s descriptions it looks like the adaptations are no different than what you would do to accept tokens directly. This is one of several reasons I want to drill into the technology, but that will have to wait until I get more information from CyberSource. This announcement is important because it’s one of the few tokenization models that completely removes the merchant from processing the credit card. They only get a token on the back end for a transactional reference, and Akamai’s service takes care of clearing the payment and any needed remediation. Depending on how the integration is performed, this form of tokenization should also reduce PCI scope (just like those from NuBridges, Protegrity, RSA, and Voltage). Additionally, it’s build into the web infrastructure, instead of the merchant site. This gives merchants another option in case they are unhappy with the price, performance, or integration requirements of their existing payment processor’s tokenization offering (or lack thereof). And you would be surprised how often tokenization latency is the number one concern of merchants – rather than security. Imagine that! Finally, the architecture is inherently scalable, suitable for firms with multiple sites, and compatible with disaster recovery and failover. From what I understand, as tokens are single-use random numbers created on a per-merchant basis, so token generation should be very simple and fast. I do have a bit of an ethical dilema talking about this service, as Visa owns CyberSource. Creating a security standard for merchants to comply with, and then selling them a service to make them compliant, seems a bit dodgy to me. Sure, it’s great revenue if you can get it, but merchants are paying Visa – indirectly – to handle Visa’s risk, under Visa’s terms. This is our common refrain about PCI here at Securosis. But I guess this is the way things go. Trustwave’s offering tools to solve PCI checklist items that Trustwave QSAs review are not too different, and the PCI Council does not seem to consider that a conflict of interest. I doubt CyberSource’s Visa connection will raise concern either. In the big picture the goal is to have better security in order to reduce fraud, and for merchants it’s less risk and less cost – edge tokenization does both. I’ll update this post as I learn more. Share:

Read Post

Speaking at NRF in January

I am presenting at the National Retail Federation’s 100th annual convention in January 2011. I’ll be talking about the past, present, and future of data security, and how new threats and technologies affect payment card security. I am co-presenting with Peter Engert, who is in charge of payment card acceptance at Rooms To Go furniture, and Robert McMillon of RSA. Robert works with RSA’s tokenization product and manages the First Data/RSA partnership. We’ll each give a small slide presentation on what we are seeing in the industry, then we’ll spend the latter half of the session answering questions on any payment security issues you have. The bad news is that the presentation is on Sunday at 10:00 AM, on the first full day of the conference. The good news is both my co-presenters are very sharp guys and I expect this to be a very entertaining session. If you are not attending the conference, I’ll be around Sunday night and Monday morning, so shoot me an email if you are in town and want to chat! Look forward to seeing you. 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.