NoSQL and No Security

Of all of the presentations at Black Hat USA 2011, I found Brian Sullivan’s presentation on “Server-Side JavaScript Injection: Attacking NoSQL and Node.js” the most startling. While I was aware of the poor security of most NoSQL database installations – especially their lack of support for authorization and authentication – I was not aware of their susceptibility to injection of both commands and code. Apparently Mongo and many of the NoSQL databases are nothing more than JavaScript processing engines, without the stigma of authentication. Most of these products are subject to several classes of attack, including injection, XSS, and CSRF. Brian demonstrated blind NoSQL injection scripts that can both discover database contents and run arbitrary commands. He cataloged an entire Mongo database with a couple lines of PHP. Node.js is a commonly used web server – it’s lightweight and simple to deploy. It’s also insecure as hell! Node and NoSQL are basically new JavaScript based platforms – with both server and client functionality – which makes them susceptible to client and server side attacks. These attacks are very similar to the classic browser, web server, and relational database attacks we have observed over the past decade. When you mix in facilities like JSON (to objectify data elements) you get a bunch of methods which provide an easy way for attackers to inject code onto the server. Brian demonstrated the ability to inject persistent changes to the Node server, writing an executable to the file system using Node.js calls and then running it. But it got worse from there: JSONP – essentially JSON with padding – is intended to provide cross-origin resource sharing. Yes, it’s a tool to bypass the same-origin policy. By wrapping query results in a callback, you can take action based upon the result set without end user participation. Third-party code can make requests and process the results – easily hijacking the session – without the user being aware of what’s going on. These are exactly the same vulnerabilities we saw with browsers, web servers, and database servers 10 years ago. Only the syntax is different. What’s worrisome is the rapid adoption rate of these platforms – cheap, fast, and easy is always attractive for developers looking to get their applications running quickly. But it’s clear that the platforms are not ready for production applications – they should be reserved for proofs of concept do to their complete lack of security controls. I’ll update this post with a link when the slide deck is posted. It’s worth your time to review just how easy these compromises are, but he also provides a few hints for how to protect yourself at the end of the presentation. Share:

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Introducing the Data Security Lifecycle 2.0

Four years ago I wrote the initial Data Security Lifecycle and a series of posts covering the constituent technologies. In 2009 I updated it to better fit cloud computing, and it was incorporated into the Cloud Security Alliance Guidance, but I have never been happy with that work. It was rushed and didn’t address cloud specifics nearly sufficiently. Adrian and I just spent a bunch of time updating the cycle and it is now a much better representation of the real world. Keep in mind that this is a high-level model to help guide your decisions, but we think this time around we were able to identify places where it can more specifically guide your data security endeavors. (As a side note, you might notice I use “data security” and “information-centric security” interchangeably. I think infocentric is more accurate, but data security is more recognized, so that’s what I tend to use.) If you are familiar with the previous model you will immediately notice that this one is much more complex. We hope it’s also much more useful. The old model really only listed controls for data in different phases of the lifecycle – and didn’t account for location, ownership, access methods, and other factors. This update should better reflect the more complex environments and use cases we tend to see these days. Due to its complexity, we need to break the new Lifecycle into a series of posts. In this first post we will revisit the basic lifecycle, and in the next post we will add locations and access. The lifecycle includes six phases from creation to destruction. Although we show it as a linear progression, once created, data can bounce between phases without restriction, and may not pass through all stages (for example, not all data is eventually destroyed). Create: This is probably better named Create/Update because it applies to creating or changing a data/content element, not just a document or database. Creation is the generation of new digital content, or the alteration/updating of existing content. Store: Storing is the act committing the digital data to some sort of storage repository, and typically occurs nearly simultaneously with creation. Use: Data is viewed, processed, or otherwise used in some sort of activity. Share: Data is exchanged between users, customers, and partners. Archive: Data leaves active use and enters long-term storage. Destroy: Data is permanently destroyed using physical or digital means (e.g., cryptoshredding). These high-level activities describe the major phases of a datum’s life, and in a future post we will cover security controls for each phase. But before we discuss controls we need to incorporate two additional aspects: locations and access devices. Share:

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Data Security Lifecycle 2.0 and the Cloud: Locations and Access

In our last post we reviewed the Data Security Lifecycle, but other than some minor wording changes (and a prettier graphic thanks to PowerPoint SmartArt) it was the same as our four-year-old original version. But as we mentioned, quite a bit has changed since then, exemplified by the emergence and adoption of cloud computing and increased mobility. Although the Lifecycle itself still applies to basic, traditional infrastructure, we will focus on these more complex use cases, which better reflect what most of you are dealing with on a day to day basis. Locations One gap in the original Lifecycle was that it failed to adequately address movement of data between repositories, environments, and organizations. A large amount of enterprise data now transitions between a variety of storage locations, applications, and operating environments. Even data created in a locked-down application may find itself backed up someplace else, replicated to alternative standby environments, or exported for processing by other applications. And all of this can happen at any phase of the Lifecycle. We can illustrate this by thinking of the Lifecycle not as a single, linear operation, but as a series of smaller lifecycles running in different operating environments. At nearly any phase data can move into, out of, and between these environments – the key for data security is identifying these movements and applying the right controls at the right security boundaries. As with cloud deployment models, these locations may be internal, external, public, private, hybrid, and so on. Some may be cloud providers, other traditional outsourcers, or perhaps multiple locations within a single data center. For data security, at this point there are four things to understand: Where are the potential locations for my data? What are the lifecycles and controls in each of those locations? Where in each lifecycle can data move between locations? How does data move between locations (via what channel)? Access Now that we know where our data lives and how it moves, we need to know who is accessing it and how. There are two factors here: Who accesses the data? How can they access it (device & channel)? Data today is accessed from all sorts of different devices. The days of employees only accessing data through restrictive applications on locked-down desktops are quickly coming to an end (with a few exceptions). These devices have different security characteristics and may use different applications, especially with applications we’ve moved to SaaS providers – who often build custom applications for mobile devices, which offer different functionality than PCs. Later in the model we will deal with who, but the diagram below shows how complex this can be – with a variety of data locations (and application environments), each with its own data lifecycle, all accessed by a variety of devices in different locations. Some data lives entirely within a single location, while other data moves in and out of various locations… and sometimes directly between external providers. This completes our “topographic map” of the Lifecycle. In our next post we will dig into mapping data flow and controls. In the next few posts we will finish covering background material, and then show you how to use this to pragmatically evaluate and design security controls. Share:

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Use THEIR data to tell YOUR story

I’m in the air (literally) on the way to Metricon 6; so I’m thinking a lot about metrics, quantification, and the like. Of course most of the discussion at Metricon will focus on how practitioners can build metrics programs to make their security programs more efficient, maybe more effective, and certainly more substantiated (with data, as opposed to faith). Justifiably so – to mature the practice of security we need to quantify it better. But I can’t pass up the opportunity to poke a bit at the type of quantification that comes from the vendor community. Surveys and analyses which always end up building a business case for security products and services. The latest masterpiece from the king of vendor-sponsored quantification, Larry Ponemon, is the 2nd annual cost of cyber-crime survey – sponsored by HP/ArcSight. To be clear, I’m not picking (too much) on Dr. Larry, but I wanted to put the data he presents in the report (PDF) in the proper context and talk briefly about how a typical end user should use reports like this. First of all, Ponemon interviewed 50 end users to derive his data. It’s been a long time since I’ve done the math to determine statistical significance, but I can’t imagine that a sample size of 50 qualifies. When you look at some of the results, his findings are all over the map. The high level sound bites include a median annualized cost of $5.9 million from “cyber crime,” whatever that means. The range of annualized losses goes from $1.5 to $36.5 million. That’s a pretty wide range, eh? His numbers are up fairly dramatically from last year, which plays into the story that things are bad and getting worse. Unsurprisingly, that’s good for generating FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt). And that’s what we need to keep in mind about these surveys. Being right is less important than telling a good story, but we’ll get to that. Let’s contrast that against Verizon Business’s 2011 DBIR, which used 761 data points from their own data, data from the US Secret Service, and additional data from Dutch law enforcement as a supplement. 761 vs 50. I’m no mathematician, but which data set sounds more robust and representative of the overall population to you? Even better is one of Larry’s other findings, which I include in its entirety because it must be seen to be believed. The most costly cyber crimes are those caused by malicious code, denial of service, stolen or hijacked devices and malicious insiders. These account for more than 90 percent of all cyber crime costs per organization on an annual basis. Mitigation of such attacks requires enabling technologies such as SIEM and enterprise GRC solutions. Really? Mitigation of malicious code attacks requires SIEM and GRC? Maybe I’m splitting hairs here, but this kind of absolute statement make me nuts. The words matter. I understand the game. Ponemon needs to create some urgency for ArcSight’s prospects to justify the report, so throw a little love at SIEM and GRC. Rock on. Yeah, the cynic is in the house. This statement is then justified by some data that says surveyed customers using SIEM lost on average 25% less than those without SIEM. Those folks with SIEM were able to detect faster and contain more effectively. Which is true in my experience. But only if the company makes a significant and ongoing investment. Right – to the tune of millions of dollars. I wonder if any of those 50 companies had, let’s say, a failed SIEM implementation? Were they counted in the SIEM bucket? Again, let’s not confuse correctness of the data with the story you need to tell to do your job. That’s the value of these reports. They provide data, that is not your own, allowing you to tell a story internally. Lord knows our organizations want to see hard costs, showing real losses, to justify continued spending on security. This is the same message I deliver with our Data Breaches presentation. The data doesn’t matter – the story does. A key skill for any management position is the ability to tell a story. In the security business, our stories must paint a picture of what can happen if the organization takes its eyes off the ball. If the money is spent elsewhere and the flanks are left unprotected. Understand that your VP of Sales is telling his/her story, about how further investment in sales is important. VPs of manufacturing tell stories about the need to upgrade equipment in the factories, and so on and so forth. So your story needs to be good. Not all of us are graced with a breach to create instant urgency for continued security investment. Though if you believe Ponemon’s data, fewer and fewer escape unscathed each year. So you need to create your own story – preferably leveraging another organization’s pain rather than your own. In this case, the empirical correctness of the data isn’t important. It’s how the data allows you to make the points you need. Share:

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