What I Learned at RSAC

I was surprised at the negative tweets and blog posts after the RSA show this year, many by the security professionals at the core of this industry. I have been to RSA most years since 1997. This year, discontent and snarkiness seemed to be running high. “There is nothing new.” “There is no innovation.” “The vendors are all lying.” “These products don’t work as advertised.” “I have seen this presentation before.” “That attack won’t work in ‘the real world’.” I saw nobody excited about the concept of winning a car – what’s up with that!?! You know it’s bad when attendees complain about booth babes – booth babes! – and then go to the Barracuda party. You know who you are. This year, like most years, I learned a lot. I got a great introduction to mobile OS security fron Zach Lanier (Quine) over dinner. I learned a lot about Amazon EC2 and related seurity issues. I learned that a vendor may have lied to me about their key manager. Jeremiah Grossman’s presentation got me thinking about how I can improve my Agile SDL presentation. I learned that CIOs and CISOs are still struggling with the same challenges I did 10 years ago; and falling victim to the same role, organizational, and communication pitfalls. Chris Hoff answered a question on why app level encryption will probably scale better when protecting data in VMs. Talking to attendees, I learned there are a couple technologies that are still giant mysteries to average IT professionals. I learned that far fewer developers have worked within an Agile process than I expected. And by watching security and non-security people, I am still learning what makes a good analyst. Beyond what I learned, there is the whole personal side of it: meeting friends and getting some of the inside stories about security breaches and vendors. I got to meet, face to face, a couple of the people I criticized here, and was relieved that they appreciated my comments and did not take them personally. I got to meet people I admire and respect, including Michael Howard of Microsoft and Ivan Ristic of Qualys. I got to talk Rugged software with a very diverse group of people. But perhaps the biggest single event, and the one I have the most fun at every year for the last four, is the Security Bloggers Awards – where else in the world am I going to attend a professional gathering and see 50 friends in the same room at the same time? I recognize that only about 35% of this is due to sessions and RSA sanctioned events; but all the other training sessions, parties, and people would not be in San Francisco at one time if it was not for the conference. The sheer gravity of the RSA Conference pulls all these people and events together. If you’re not getting something out of the conference, if you are burned out and not learning, look in the mirror. Not every year can you be hit on the head with a career-altering revelation, but there are too many smart people in attendance for you not to come away with lots of new ideas and reshaped perceptions. I am overjoyed that I can still get excited about this profession after 15 years, because there is always something new to learn. Share:

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What You *Really* Need to Know about Oracle Database Firewall

Nothing amuses me more than some nice vendor-on-vendor smackdown action. Well, plenty of things amuse me more, especially Big Bang Theory and cats on YouTube, but the vendor thing is still moderately high on my list. So I quite enjoyed this Dark Reading article on the release of the Oracle Database Firewall. But perhaps a little outside perspective will help. Here are the important bits: As mentioned in the article, this is the first Secerno product release since their acquisition. Despite what Oracle calls it, this is a Database Activity Monitoring product at its core. Just one with more of a security focus than audit/compliance, and based on network monitoring (it lacks local activity monitoring, which is why it’s weaker for compliance). Many other DAM products can block, and Secerno can monitor. I always thought it was an interesting product. Most DAM products include network monitoring as an option. The real difference with Secerno is that they focused far more on the security side of the market, even though historically that segment is much smaller than the audit/monitoring/compliance side. So Oracle has more focus on blocking, and less on capturing and storing all activity. It is not a substitute for Database Activity Monitoring products, nor is it “better” as Oracle claims. Because it is a form of DAM, but – as mentioned by competitors in the article – you still need multiple local monitoring techniques to handle direct access. Network monitoring alone isn’t enough. I’m sure Oracle Services will be more than happy to connect Secerno and Oracle Audit Vault to do this for you. Secerno basically whitelists queries (automatically) and can block unexpected activity. This appears to be pretty effective for database attacks, although I haven’t talked to any pen testers who have gone up against it. (They do also blacklist, but the whitelist is the main secret sauce). Secerno had the F5 partnership before the Oracle acquisition. It allowed you to set WAF rules based on something detected in the database (e.g., block a signature or host IP). I’m not sure if they have expanded this post-acquisition. Imperva is the only other vendor that I know of to integrate DAM/WAF. Oracle generally believes that if you don’t use their products your are either a certified idiot or criminally negligent. Neither is true, and while this is a good product I still recommend you look at all the major competitors to see what fits you best. Ignore the marketing claims. Odds are your DBA will buy this when you aren’t looking, as part of some bundle deal. If you think you need DAM for security, compliance, or both… start an assessment process or talk to them before you get a call one day to start handling incidents. In other words: a good product with advantages and disadvantages, just like anything else. More security than compliance, but like many DAM tools it offers some of both. Ignore the hype, figure out your needs, and evaluate to figure out which tool fits best. You aren’t a bad person if you don’t buy Oracle, no matter what your sales rep tells your CIO. And seriously – watch out for the deal bundling. If you haven’t learned anything from us about database security by now, hopefully you at least realize that DBAs and security don’t always talk as much as they should (the same goes for Guardium/IBM). If you need to be involved in any database security, start talking to the DBAs now, before it’s too late. BTW, not to toot our own horns, but we sorta nailed it in our original take on the acquisition. Next we will see their WAF messaging. And we have some details of how Secerno works. Share:

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Incite 2/23/2011: Giving up

I’ve been in the security business a long time. I have enjoyed up cycles through the peaks, and back down the slope to the inevitable troughs. One of my observations getting back from RSAC 2011 is the level of sheer frustration on the part of many security professionals today. Frustration with management, frustration with users, frustration with vendors. Basically lots of folks are burnt out and mad at the world. Maybe it’s just the folks who show up at RSA, but I doubt it. This seems to be true across the industry. A rather blunt tweet from 0ph3lia sums up the way lots of you feel: Every day I’m filled with RAGE at this f***ing industry & the fact that I work in it. Maybe I’m just not cut out for the security industry. This is a manifestation of many things. Tight budgets for a few years. The ongoing skills gap. Idiotic users and management. Lying vendors. All contribute to real job dissatisfaction on broad scale. So do you just give up? Get a job at Starbucks or in a more general IT role? Leave the big company and go to a smaller one, or vice versa? Is the grass going to be greener somewhere else? Only you can answer that question. But many folks got into this business over the past 5 years because security offered assured employment. And they were right. There are tons of opportunities, but at a significant cost. I joke that security is Bizarro World, where a good day is when nothing happens. You are never thanked for stopping the attack, but instead vilified when some wingnut leaves their laptop in a coffee shop or clicks on some obvious phish. You don’t control much of anything, have limited empowerment, and are still expected to protect everything that needs to be protected. For many folks, going to work is like lying on a bed of nails for 10-12 hours a day. So basically to be successful in security you need an attitude adjustment. Shack had a good riff on this yesterday. You can’t own the behaviors of the schmucks who work for your company. Not and stay sane. Sure, you may be blamed when something bad happens, but you have to separate blame from responsibility. If you do your best, you should sleep well. If you can’t sleep or are grumpy because security gets no love and you get blame for user stupidity; or because you have to get a new job every 2-3 years; or for any of the million other reasons you may hate doing security; then it’s okay to give up. Your folks and/or your kids will still love you. Promise. I gave up being a marketing guy because I hated it. That’s right, I said it. I gave up. After my last marketing gig ended, I was done. Finito. No amount of money was worth coming home and snapping at my family because of a dickhead sales guy, failed lead generation campaign, or ethically suspect behavior from a competitor. My life is too short to do something I hate. So is yours. So do some soul searching. If security is no good for you, get out. Do something else. Change is good. Stagnation and anger are not. -Mike Photo credits: “happiness is a warm gun” originally uploaded by badjonni Domo Arigato My gratitude knows no bounds regarding winning the “Most Entertaining Security Blog” award at the Social Security Blogger Awards last week. Really. Truly. Honestly. I’ve got to thank the Boss because she’ll kick my ass if I don’t mention her first every time. Then I need to thank Rich and Adrian (and our extended contributor family) who put up with my nonsense every day. But most of all, I need to thank you. Every time you come up to me at a show and tell me you read my stuff (and actually like it), it means everything to me. I’m always telling you that I know how lucky I am. And it’s times like these, and getting awards like this, that make it real for me. So thanks again and I’ll only promise that I’ll keep writing as long as you keep reading. -Mike Incite 4 U Marketecture does not solve security problems: That was my tweet regarding Cisco’s new marketecture SecureX. The good news is that Cisco has nailed the issues – namely the proliferation of mobile devices and the requisite re-architecting of networks to address the onslaught of bandwidth-hogging video traffic. This will fundamentally alter how we provide ingress and egress, and that will require change in our network security architectures. But what we don’t need is more PowerPoints of products in the pipeline, due at some point in the future. And that’s not even adressing the likelihood of data tagging actually working at scale. If Cisco had delivered on any of their other grand marketecture schemes (all of which looked great on paper), I’d have a little more patience, but they haven’t. Maybe Gillis and Co. have taken some kind of execution pill and will get something done. But until then I wouldn’t be budgeting for much. Is there a SKU for a marketecture? Cisco will probably have it first. – MR You can’t secure a dead horse: Well, technically you can secure an actual deceased horse, but you know what I mean. Microsoft is getting ready to release Service Pack 1 for Windows 7, but nearly all organizations I talk with still rely on Windows XP to some degree. You know, the last operating system Microsoft produced before the Trustworthy Computing Initiative. The one that’s effectively impossible to secure. No matter what we do, we can’t possibly expect to secure something that was never built for our current threat environment. We’re hitting the point where the risks clearly outweigh the non-security related justifications. FWIW, my new favorite saying is: “If you are more worried about the security risks of cloud computing and iOS devices than using XP

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