Vulnerability Management Evolution: Scanning the Infrastructure

As we discussed in the Vulnerability Management Evolution introduction, traditional vulnerability scanners, focused purely on infrastructure devices, do not provide enough context to help organizations prioritize their efforts. Those traditional scanners are the plumbing of threat management. You don’t appreciate the scanner until your proverbial toilet is overflowing with attackers and you have no idea what are they targeting. We will spend most of this series on the case for transcending device scanning, but infrastructure scanning remains a core component of any evolved threat management platform. So let’s look at some key aspects of a traditional scanner. Core Features As a mature technology, pretty much all the commercial scanners have a core set of functions that work well. Of course different scanners have different strengths and weaknesses, but for the most part they all do the following: Discovery: You can’t protect something (or know it’s vulnerable) if you don’t know it exists. So the first key feature is discovery. The enemy of a security professional is surprise, so you want to make sure you know about new devices as quickly as possible, including rogue wireless access points and other mobile devices. Given the need to continuously perform discovery, passive scanning and/or network flow analysis can be an interesting and useful complement to active device discovery. Device/Protocol Support: Once you have found a device, you need to figure out its security posture. Compliance demands that we scan all devices with access to private/sensitive/protected data, so any scanner should assess the varieties of network and security devices running in your environment, as well as servers on all relevant operating systems. Of course databases and applications are important too, but we’ll discuss those later in this series. And be careful scanning brittle systems like SCADA, as knocking down production devices doesn’t make any friends in the Ops group. Inside/Out and Outside/In: You can’t assume adversaries are only external or internal, so you need the ability to assess your devices from both inside and outside your network. So some kind of scanner appliance (which could be virtualized) is needed to scan the innards of your environment. You’ll also want to monitor your IP space from the outside to identify new Internet facing devices, find open ports, etc. Accuracy: Unless you enjoy wild goose chases, you’ll come to appreciate a scanner that minimizes false positives by focusing on accuracy. Accessible Vulnerability Information: With every vulnerability found, decisions must be made on the severity of the issue, so it’s very helpful to have information from either the vendor’s research team or other third parties on the vulnerability, directly within the scanning console. Appropriate Scale: Adding capabilities to the evolved platform makes scale a much more serious issue. But first things first: the scanner must be able to scan your environment quickly and effectively, whether that is 200 or 200,000 devices. The point is to ensure the scanner is extensible to what you’ll need as you add devices, databases, apps, virtual instances, etc. over time. We will discuss platform technical architectures later in this series, but for now suffice it to say there will be a lot more data in the vulnerability management platform, and the underlying platform architecture needs to keep up. New & Updated Tests: Organizations face new attacks constantly and attacks evolve constantly. So your scanner needs to keep current to test for the latest attacks. Exploit code based on patches and public vulnerability disclosures typically appears within a day so time is of the essence. Expect your platform provider to make significant investments in research to track new vulnerabilities, attacks, and exploits. Scanners need to be updated almost daily, so you will need the ability to transparently update them with new tests – whether running on-premises or in the cloud. Additional Capabilities But that’s not all. Today’s infrastructure scanners also offer value-added functions that have become increasingly critical. These include: Configuration Assessment: There really shouldn’t be a distinction between scanning for a vulnerability and checking for a bad configuration. Either situation provide an opportunity for device compromise. For example, a patched firewall with an any-to-any policy doesn’t protect much – completely aside from any vulnerability defects. But unfortunately the industry’s focus on vulnerabilities means this capability is usually considered a scanner add-on. Over time these distinctions will fade away, as we expect both vulnerability scanning and configuration assessment to emerge as critical components of the platform. Further evolution will add the ability to monitor for system file changes and integrity – it is the same underlying technology. Patch Validation: As we described in Patch Management Quant, validating patches is an integral part of the process. With some strategic integration between patch and configuration management, the threat management platform can (and should) verify installed patches to confirm that the vulnerability has been remediated. Further integration involves sending information to and from IT Ops systems to close the loop between security and Operations. Cloud/Virtualization Support: With the increasing adoption of virtualization in data centers, you need to factor in the rapid addition and removal of virtual machines. This means not only assessing hypervisors as part of your attack surface, but also integrating information from the virtualization management console (vCenter, etc.) to discover what devices are in use and which are not. You’ll also want to verify the information coming from the virtualization console – you learned not to trust anything in security pre-school, didn’t you? Leveraging Collection So what’s the difference with all of these capabilities from what you already have? It’s all about making 1 + 1 = 3 by integrating data to derive information and drive priorities. We have seen some value-add capabilities (configuration assessment, patch validation, etc.) further integrated into infrastructure scanners to good effect. This positions the vulnerability/threat management platform as another source of intelligence for security professionals. And we are only getting started – there are plenty of other data types to incorporate into this discussion. Next we will climb the proverbial stack and evaluate how database and application scanning play into the evolved platform story. Share:

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Friday Summary: April 6, 2012

Rich here… Normally I like to open the Summary with a bit of something from my personal life. Some sort of anecdote with a message. In other words, I blatantly ripped off Mike’s format for the Security Incite… long before he took over half the company. (With Mike, even a partnership can probably be defined as a hostile takeover, based solely on his gruff voice and honesty of opinion). Heck, I can’t even remember any good anecdotes from the CCSK cloud security class Adrian and I taught last week in San Jose. Even when we hooked up with Richard Baker and our own James Arlen for dinner, I think half the conversation was about my and Jamie’s recent family trips to dinner. And that stripmall Thai place is probably better than the fanciest one here in Phoenix. I don’t even have any good workout anecdotes. I’m back on the triathlon wagon and chugging along. Although I did get a really cool new heart rate monitor/GPS that I’m totally in love with. (The Garmin 910XT, which is friggin’ amazing). I probably need to pick a race to prep for, but am otherwise enjoying being healthy and relatively uninjured, and not getting run over by cars on my bike rides. The kids are still cute and the older one is finally getting addicted to the iPad (which I encourage, although it is making normal computers really frustrating for her to use). They talk a lot, are growing too fast, and are far more interesting than anything else in my life. By nope, no major life lessons in the past few weeks that I can remember. Although there are some clear analogies between having kids and advanced persistent threats. Especially if you have daughters. And work? The only lesson there is to be careful what you wish for, as I fail, on a daily basis, to keep up with my inbox. Never mind my actual projects. But business is good, some very cool research is on the way, and it’s nice to have a paycheck. And I swear the Nexus isn’t vaporware. It’s actually all torn apart as we hammer in a ton of updates based on the initial beta feedback. In other words… life doesn’t suck. I actually enjoy it, and am amazed I get to write this on my iPad while sitting outside in perfect weather at a local restaurant. Besides, this is a security blog – if you’re reading it for life messages you need to get out more. On to the Summary: Webcasts, Podcasts, Outside Writing, and Conferences Rich quoted by Ars Technica on iCloud privacy and security. Rich, again over at Ars, but this time on iPhone forensics. Favorite Securosis Posts Adrian Lane: iOS Data Security: Managed Devices. Both the post and the banter are quality. Mike Rothman: Defining Your iOS Data Security Strategy. Really liked this series by Rich. Great work and very timely. BYOD and other mobile security issues are the #1 concern of the folks I’m talking to during my travels. Rich: Vulnerability Management Evolution: Scanning the Infrastructure. Yes, we still have to deal with this stuff in 2012. Other Securosis Posts Incite 4/4/2012: Travel the Barbarian. Watching the Watchers: Protect Credentials. Vulnerability Management Evolution: Introduction. iOS Data Security: Securing Data on Partially-Managed Devices. Understanding and Selecting DSP: Core Features. Understanding and Selecting DSP: Extended Features. Favorite Outside Posts Adrian Lane: Hash Length Extension Attacks. Injection attack on MAC check. Interesting. Mike Rothman: Choosing Between Making Money and Doing What You Love. The answer? Both. Even if you can’t make your passion a full time gig, working at it a little every day seems to make folks happy. Good to know. Dave Lewis: Too many passwords? Just one does the trick. Rich: DNS Changer. Possibly the most important thing you’ll read this year. Research Reports and Presentations Network-Based Malware Detection: Filling the Gaps of AV. Tokenization Guidance Analysis: Jan 2012. Applied Network Security Analysis: Moving from Data to Information. Tokenization Guidance. Security Management 2.0: Time to Replace Your SIEM? Fact-Based Network Security: Metrics and the Pursuit of Prioritization. Tokenization vs. Encryption: Options for Compliance. Top News and Posts VMware High-Bandwidth Backdoor ROM Overwrite Privilege Elevation. Wig Wam Bam. & Citrix and CloudStack Citrix intends to join and contribute to Apache Software Foundation. This isn’t security specific, but it is big. Global Payments: Rumor and Innuendo. GPN is saying there was no POS or merchant account hacking, so this was a breach of their systems. Flashback Trojan Compromises Macs. Dear FBI, Who Lost $1 Billion? Oh my goodness, does Adam nail it with this one. Major VMWare vulnerability. Incredible research here. An only semi-blatant advertisement for our friend Mr. Mortman at EnStratus. ZeuS botnet targets USAirways passengers. (No, not while they’re on the plane… yet). Blog Comment of the Week Remember, for every comment selected, Securosis makes a $25 donation to Hackers for Charity. This week’s best comment goes to Ryan, in response to iOS Data Security: Managed Devices. Is it nicer to say “captive network” or “traffic backhauling”? That said, nice post, and definitely part of a strategy I’ve seen work, although the example that leaps to mind is actually a security products company Share:

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