Incite 11/28/2012: Meet the MastersBy Mike Rothman
I am not a car guy. Nor do I need an ostentatious house with all sorts of fancy things in it. Give me a comfortable place to sleep, a big TV, and fast Internet and I’m pretty content. That said, I enjoy art. The Boss and I have collected a few pieces over the years, but that has slowed down as other expenses (like, uh, the kids) have ramped up. But if someone were to drop a bag of money in our laps, we would hit an art gallery first – not a Ferrari dealer.
When we go on holiday, we like to see not only the sights, but also the art. So on our trip to Barcelona last spring, we hit the Dali, Miro, and Picasso museums. We even took a walking art tour of the city, which unfortunately kind of sucked. Not because the art sucked – the street sculptures and architecture of Barcelona are fantastic. The guide was unprepared, which was too bad.
As budgets continue to get cut in the public school systems, art (and music) programs tend to be the first to go. Which is a shame – how else can our kids gain an appreciation for the arts and learn about the world’s rich cultural heritage? Thankfully they run a program at the twins’ elementary school called “Meet the Masters.” Every month a parent volunteer runs a session on one of the Masters and teaches the kids about the artist and their style of art, and runs an art project using the style of that master. I volunteer for the Boy’s class, after doing it for two years for XX1.
Remember, I do a fair bit of public speaking. Whether it’s a crowd of 10 or 1,000, I am comfortable in front of a room talking security. But put me in front of a room of 9 year olds talking art history, and it’s a bit nerve wracking. I never wanted to be that Dad who embarrasses my kids, and see them cringe when I show up in the classroom. With their friends I crack jokes and act silly, but in the classroom I play it straight. And that’s hard. I can’t make double entendres, I have to speak in simple language (they are 9), and I can’t make fun of the kids if things go south.
I can’t use my public speaking persona, so I need another way to get their attention and keep them entertained. So I break out some technical kung fu and impress the kids that way. Most of the classrooms have projectors now, so I present off my iPad. They think that’s cool. When it’s time to check out one of the paintings, I found this great Art Project site (sponsored by evil Google). It shows very high resolution pictures of the artwork online, and allows you to highlight the nuances of the piece and show off the artist’s talent. Last month we covered Vermeer’s The milkmaid. Check out that link. How could you not be impressed by the detail of that painting?
Today I am doing a session on Braque. He was a cubist innovator and Picasso’s running buddy. So I will spend some time tonight checking out his work, getting my whiz-bang gizmos ready, and trying to avoid being too much of a tool in front of the Boy’s class tomorrow. If one or two of them gain a better appreciation for art, my time will be well spent.
Photo credits: Dali Museum originally uploaded by Pedro Moura Pinheiro
We are back at work on a variety of blog series, so here is a list of the research currently underway. Remember you can get our Heavy Feed via RSS, where you can get all our content in its unabridged glory. And you can get all our research papers too.
Building an Early Warning System
Understanding and Selection an Enterprise Key Manager
Newly Published Papers
- Defending Against Denial of Service Attacks
- Securing Big Data: Security Recommendations for Hadoop and NoSQL Environments
- Pragmatic WAF Management: Giving Web Apps a Fighting Chance
Incite 4 U
What’s a cheater to do? As Petraeus’ recent fall from grace of shows, it is very hard to hide stuff if people with access want to find it. That old public Gmail draft folder sharing tactic? Not so effective. Using public computers in a variety of locations? Not if you have any credit card charges in the same city. Text messages? Available under subpoena from mobile carriers. This underscores the fuzzy nature of e-discovery, modern-day investigation, and how to draw the boundaries around crime. There are no bright lines but lots of gray areas, and many more folks will fall before acceptable norms are established for how governments should balance privacy against fighting crime. I suppose folks could keep their equipment holstered, stop trying to cut corners, and basically do the right thing. Then there would be nothing to find, right? Yeah, but what fun is that? – MR
The real state of ‘Cyberterror’ I asked Mike to put my two Incites back to back this week for reasons that will be pretty obvious. First up this week is a very well written article on ‘cyberterrorism’ by Peter Singer of the Brookings Institute. The most telling part of the piece is the opening statistics – 31,000 articles written on cyber terrorism, and 0 people injured or killed. Cyberterror is no more than a theory at this point. For years I have said it doesn’t exist because it doesn’t meet the FBI definition of terrorism (TL;DR version: loss of life or property to coerce a government or society in furtherance of a political or social agenda). Is it possible? Probably, but it sure isn’t easy. Methinks we are overly influenced by lone genius hackers in movies, marketing FUD, and political FUD used by particular agencies, governments, and contractors to get more cash. – RM
The Internet will be regulated: I fear the cat is out of the bag, and the days of free speech on the Internet are already over. Media companies want governments to filter your traffic and digitally isolate you if you download the episode of America’s Top Model you missed. Law enforcement agencies want to tap and record all digital communications, so they don’t actually have to get those pesky warrants or blow the gas money to track bad guys by hand. And now there seem to be secret treaty meetings to place the Internet under the ITU and in the hands of individual governments. I’m trying not to be too cynical here, but the idea of an open, global, unregulated network is simply too much for special interests and power brokers to accept. And as much as we would like to think their lofty regulatory goals are impossible… historically speaking, especially in the past decade, the evidence doesn’t favor freedom. How does this relate to security? More regulation, more technical challenges to comply with regulations, and more government-enforced back doors that bad guys will certainly be much better at exploiting than the good guys. How’s that for some optimism? – RM
Monitoring the micro: Wendy brings up a great point in her recent Dark Reading post Log All The Things, which reminds me of our Monitor Everything philosophy. Adrian always chides me about defining everything (damn engineers), but as things get smaller (mobiles, VMs, micro-VMs, apps, cloud components, etc.) this idea of monitoring everything becomes even more challenging. So we will likely move to monitoring what’s important, and then get back to the art rather than the science of security. Of course we should still be capturing everything (packet capture is your friend) at least for a short period of time. And new-large scale security data management tactics (I will not use the buzzword) will help us pull relevant metadata from the packets. But the point is the point. As complexity mushrooms (and it will) and monitoring gets harder, the quick will figure out how to analyze what they need, while the dead will be… dead. – MR
Bad behavior: In an attempt to put a face with a threat, the specter of the “Insider Threat” is popping up again, this time with a Presidential memo that describes standards and – wait for it – best practices for monitoring users’ access to sensitive data. As someone who has spent a decade or so (but who’s counting?) designing behavioral monitoring software, there is really no difference between monitoring for malicious insiders and outsiders. You are just looking for bad behavior. You define misuse and you look for those patterns, either in specific transactions or in the metadata describing actions. The concept of an insider being a ‘credentialed’ user is a red herring, and there is no discernible technical benefit to labeling the threat as either inside or outside, as the “meteoric rise in incidents” suggests. This is policy justification via the “Bradley Manning” rallying cry. – AL
An Average Persistent Threat: The security industry doesn’t do a very good job of sharing information about attacks, so we get to learn the same things over and over again. But when a public sector entity gets pwned they typically don’t have a choice not to come clean – especially when private taxpayer data is exposed. So see in all its glory, the Mandiant summary report (PDF) of the South Carolina DOR (department of revenue) breach (h/t to Dave Piscatello). Nothing overly sophisticated here. Entrance via a phishing email. Privilege escalation, back doors, lateral movement, database compromise and eventual exfiltration. What can we learn now that we see what happened? Yeah, that blocking and tackling stuff like user awareness and monitoring for privilege escalation and exfiltration may not be able to stop an attack, but should help to detect it faster. And just in case you were wondering, the head of the entire DOR agency got canned. Someone has to pay, and usually it’s the CISO – but not this time. – MR
Data dump: When attempting to define big data in order to better scope issues and solutions, we debated whether unstructured data support is an essential characteristic. This is an issue because most big data clusters are column, tuple, or even document stores – all of which are semi-structured. And there are ACID and relational variants as well. Simon Wardley comes up a better definition with ‘un-modelled’ data, or bits and pieces of uncategorized ‘stuff’. Sure, some clusters are focused on specific types of event data, but many just slurp in everything, with the assumption that they will mine the data for value later. So you’re storing stuff you don’t know about, at a velocity that makes it unlikely you can screen (or filter) in advance. No one really knows what the heck is being stored, whether it’s sensitive or not, or how it might cause legal headaches. I wonder when we will start seeing data injection attacks into big data clusters for fun and mayhem? – AL
Measuring security awareness: It’s hard to quantify security. The results that business leaders care about are generally binary. Breach or no breach. Obviously the more quantification you can apply, the better for your efforts to improve operational discipline and implement more effective security controls (you hope). But security awareness? How can you quantify that? The folks over at MAD Security posted a security awareness maturity model, which makes some sense despite its lack of detail. Tracking who receives training and then who does stupid stuff that results in breaches can help justify an awareness program. And based on a number of conversations I have had with CISO types, we will see a much greater focus on awareness training in 2013. Just do yourself a favor and define success first, and then establish a baseline to show how well you climb the awareness maturity curve. – MR