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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Splunk and Unstructured Data

By Adrian Lane

“What the heck is up with Splunk”? It’s a question I have been getting a lot lately. From end users and SIEM vendors. Larry Walsh posted a nice article on how Splunk Disrupts Security Log Auditing. His post prodded me into getting off my butt and blogging about this question.

I wanted to follow up on Splunk after I wrote the post on Amazon’s SimpleDB as it relates to what I am calling the blob-ification of data. Basically creating so much data that we cannot possibly keep it in a structured environment. Mike Rothman more accurately called it ” … the further decomposition of application architecture”. In this case we collect some type of data from some type of device, put it onto some type of storage, and then we use a Google-esque search tool to find what we are looking for. And the beauty of Google is that it does not care if it is a web page or voice mail transcript – it will find what you are looking for if you give it reasonable search criteria. In essence that is the value Splunk provides a tool to find information in a sea of data.

It is easy to locate information within a structure repository with known attributes and data types, and we know where certain pieces of information are stored. With unstructured data we may not know what we have or where it is located. For some time normalization techniques were used to introduce structure and reduce storage requirements, but that was a short-lived/low performance approach. Adding attributes to raw data and just linking back to those attributes is far more efficient. Enter Splunk. Throw the data into flat files and index those files. Techniques of tokenization, tagging, and indexing help categorize data with the ultimate goal of correlating events and reporting on unstructured data of differing types. Splunk is not the only vendor who does – several SIEM and Log Management vendors do the same or similar. My point is not that one vendor is better than another, but point out the general trend. It is interesting that Splunk’s success in this area has even taken their competitors by surprise.

Larry’s point …

“The growth Splunk is achieving is due, in part, to penetrating deeper into the security marketplace and disrupting the conventional log management and auditing vendors.”

… is accurate. But they are are able to do this because of the increased volume of data we are collecting. People are data pack-rats. From experience, less than 1% of the logged data I collect has any value. Far too, often organizations do not invest the time to determine what can be thrown away. Many are too chicken to throw useless data away. They don’t want to discard data, just in case it has value, just in case you need it, just in case it contains the needle in the haystack you need for a forensic investigation. I don’t want to be buried under the wash of useless data. My recommendation is to take the time to understand what data you have, determine what you need, and throw the rest away.

The pessimist in me knows that this is unlikely to happen. We are not going to start throwing data away. Storage and computing power are cheap, and we are going to store every possible piece of data we can. Amazon S3 will be the digital equivalent of those U-Haul Self Storage places where you keep your grandmother’s china and all the crap you really don’t want, but think has value. That means we must have Google-like search approaches and indexing strategies that vendors like Splunk provide just to navigate the stuff. Look for unstructured search techniques to be much sought after as the data volumes continue to grow out of control.

Hopefully the vendors will begin tagging data with an expiration date.

—Adrian Lane

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rapid7 Acquires Metasploit

By Adrian Lane

Rapid7 acquires Metasploit, the open source penetration testing platform. Wow. All I can say is ‘Wow’. I had been hearing rumors that Rapid7 was going to make an acquisition for weeks, but this was a surprise to both Rich and myself. Still coming to terms with what it means, and I have no clue what the financial terms look like, but almost certainly this is a cash+stock deal. On the surface, it is a very smart move for Rapid7.

Metasploit is considerably better known than Rapid7. Metasploit is a fixture in the security research world and there are far more people using Metasploit than Rapid7 has customers. If nothing else, this gets Rapid7 products in the hands of the people who are shaping web application security, and defining how penetration testing and vulnerability management will be conducted. In a quickly evolving market like pen testing, access to that community is invaluable for a commercial vendor. Plus they get H D Moore on staff, which is a huge benefit.

Metasploit is a well-architected framework that provides for easy extensibility and can be customized in innumerable ways. If you want to test anything from smart phones to databases, this platform will do it, from targeted exploits to fuzzing. Sure, there is work on your part and accessibility to people other than security researchers is low compared to commercial products like Core Security’s Impact, but it’s a solid platform and the integration of the two should not be difficult. It’s more a question of how best to allow Metasploit to continue its open source evolution while leveraging scans into meaningful vulnerability chaining, as well as risk scoring.

Neither is exactly an ‘enterprise ready’ product. That’s not a slam, as NeXpose performs its primary function as well as most. But Rapid7’s platform is just now breaking ground into larger companies. They have a long way to go in UI, ease of use, pragmatic analysis, integration of risk scoring, SaaS, exploit chaining, and back-end integration. That said, I am not sure they need to be an enterprise ready product, at least in the short term. It makes more sense to continue their mid-market penetration while they complete the integration. Breadth of function, which is what they now have, has proven to be a major factor in winning deals over the last couple years. They can worry about the advanced non-technical stuff later.

Identity in the market is an issue for Rapid7. They have waffled between general assessment, pen testing, and vulnerability management, without a clear identity or differentiator when going toe-to-toe with Qualys, nCircle, Tenable, Secunia, and the like. Sure, ‘compliance scoring’ is a useful marketing gimmick, but Metasploit gives them a unique identity and differentiation. Rather than scan-and-patch for known vulnerabilities, focusing mostly inside the network, they will now be able to go far deeper into externally facing custom applications. Taking a risk score across multiple applications and/or platforms is a better approach. If the two platforms are properly integrated, they’ll be useful to IT, security, and software development.

I am sure Rich will chime in with his own take later in the week. Wow.

—Adrian Lane

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

IDM: Roles, Authorization and Data Centric Security

By David Mortman

There were some great comments on my last post, which bring to light a serious problem with the way authorization is done today and how roles don’t help as much as we’d like. First we hear from LonerVamp:

And even if you get the authentication part down, very few apps that I’ve seen then tie back into whatever is in place for role management.

This is an important point that often gets glossed over by IDM vendors. It turns out that while many applications have support for third party authentication mechanisms, very few have support for third party authorization methods. Which means that even if you can centralize your identities for the purposes of account creation/deletion, you still have to manage use inside each application. Furthermore, many of the applications that claim to support third party authorization really turn out to only support third party groups in LDAP or RADIUS, but you still have to map those groups onto roles within the applications.

Andrew Yeomans followed up with his own comment that shows that he’s been a dedicated Securosis reader for a while now:

I’m starting to think that a data-centric approach may be a way forward.

Today, authorizations are generally enforced by applications. Now firstly this leads to high complexity (as you describe) as there is no unifying set of “policy decision points” and “policy enforcement points”. Secondly, it allows for authorization restrictions to be bypassed by other applications that have access to the same data.

Andrew really hits the nail on the head here. We need to continue our shift towards Data-centric Security. The Data Security Lifecycle explicitly assumes that you can properly assign and control rights to who has what data, which is why IDM is so important. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If you don’t know who is accessing the data, how can you possibly tell if it is being abused or misused?

Finally Omie asked:

I’ve been hearing too much about identity management recently and how the move to roles will solve our compliance problems. And I’ve been wondering and asking how we plan to keep the roles maintained over time. Of course I’ve also been under the impression that every other organization has figured that out except ours, but your post is making me rethink that assumption. If there are some best practices/examples of how to approach role maintenance, I would love to learn about them.

Roles can definitely help you out with compliance, but you are correct – role maintenance is definitely a challenge. There is often an implicit assumption that roles, like the rest of the application configuration, are static, when in reality roles tend be dynamic so you absolutely need a process for adapting roles as necessary. Often the complexity of the application causes admins to add roles rather then edit the existing ones because it is easier in the short term. But in the long run this causes extra complexity. I’ll go into more details on this issue and how to deal with it in a later post, so stay tuned. In the meantime, NIST recently published some documents from their recent Privilege (Access) Management Workshop. In particular, you should check out A Survey of Access Control Models, to give you an idea of some ways that role based access control is problematic.

—David Mortman

Monday, October 19, 2009

The First Phishing Email I Almost Fell For

By Rich

Like many of you, I get a ton of spam/phishing email to my various accounts. Since my email is very public, I get a little more than most people. It’s so bad I use 3 layers of spam/virus filtering, and still have some messages slip through (1 cloud based filter [Postini, which will probably change soon], one on-premise UTM [Astaro], and SpamSieve on my Mac). If something gets through all of that, I still have some additional precautions I take on my desktop to (hopefully) help against targeted malware. Despite all that, I assume that someday I’ll be compromised, and it will probably be ugly.

This morning I got the first phishing email in a very long time that almost tricked me into clicking. It came from “Administrator” at one of my hosts and read:


On October 22, 2009 server upgrade will take place. Due to this the system may be offline for approximately half an hour. The changes will concern security, reliability and performance of mail service and the system as a whole. For compatibility of your browsers and mail clients with upgraded server software you should run SSl certificates update procedure. This procedure is quite simple. All you have to do is just to click the link provided, to save the patch file and then to run it from your computer location. That’s all.

http://updates.[cut for safety]

Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter and sorry for possible inconveniences.

System Administrator

Two things tipped me off. First, that system is a private one administered by a friend. While he does send updates like this out, he always signs them with his name. Second, the URL is clearly not really that domain (but you have to read the entire thing). And finally, it leads to an Active Server Pages domain, which that administrator never uses since our system is *nix based.

But it was early in the morning, I hadn’t had coffee yet, and we often need to upgrade our SSL after a system update on this server, so I still almost clicked on it.

According to Twitter this is a Zbot generated message:

SecBarbie: RT @mikkohypponen ZBot malware being spammed out right now in emails starting “On October 22, 2009 server upgrade will take place” Ignore it.

Thanks Erin!

It’s interesting that despite multiple obvious markers this was malicious, and be being very attuned to these sorts of things, I still almost clicked on it. It just goes to show you how easy it is to screw up and make a mistake, even when you’re a paranoid freak who really shouldn’t be let out of the house.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Summary - October 16, 2009

By Rich

All last week I was out of the office on vacation down in Puerto Vallarta. It was a trip my wife and I won in a raffle at the Phoenix Zoo, which was pretty darn cool.

I managed to unplug far more than I can usually get away with these days. I had to bring the laptop due to an ongoing client project, but nothing hit and I never had to open it up. I did keep up with email, and that’s where things got interesting.

Before heading down I added the international plan to my iPhone, for about $7, which would bring my per-minute costs in Mexico down from $1 per minute to around $.69 a minute. Since we talked less than 21 minutes total on the phone down there, we lose.

For data, I signed up for the 20 MB plan at a wonderfully fair $25. You don’t want to know what a 50 MB plan costs. Since I’ve done these sorts of things before (like the Moscow trip where I could never bring myself to look at the bill), I made sure I reset my usage on the iPhone so I could carefully track how much I used.

The numbers were pretty interesting – checking my email ranged from about 500K to 1MB per check. I have a bunch of email accounts, and might have cut that down if I disabled all but my primary accounts. I tried to check email only about 2-3 times a day, only responding to the critical messages (1-4 a day). That ate through the bandwidth so quickly I couldn’t even conceive of checking the news, using Maps, or nearly any other online action. In 4 days I ran through about 14 MB, giving me a bit more space on the last day to occupy myself at the airport.

To put things in perspective, a satellite phone (which you can rent for trips – you don’t have to buy) is only $1 per minute, although the data is severely restricted (on Iridium, unless you go for a pricey BGAN). Since I was paying $3/minute on my Russia trip, next time I go out there I’ll be renting the sat phone.

So for those of you who travel internationally and want to stay in touch… good luck.


On to the Summary:

Webcasts, Podcasts, Outside Writing, and Conferences

Favorite Securosis Posts

Other Securosis Posts

Favorite Outside Posts

Top News and Posts

Blog Comment of the Week

This week’s best comment comes from Rob in response to Which Bits are the Right Bits:

Perhaps it is not well understood that audit logs are generally not immutable. There may also be low awareness of the value of immutable logs: 1) to protect against anti-forensics tools; 2) in proving compliance due diligence, and; 3) in providing a deterrent against insider threats.


Where Art Thou, Security Logging?

By David J. Meier

Today you’d be hard pressed to find a decent sized network that doesn’t have some implementation of Security Event Management (SEM). It’s just a fact of modern regulation that a centralized system to collect all that logolicious information makes sense (and may be mandatory). Part of the problem with architecting and managing these systems is that one runs into the issue of securely collecting the information and subsequently verifying its authenticity.

Almost every network-aware product you might buy today has a logging capability, generally based on syslogRFC3164. Unfortunately, as defined, syslog doesn’t provide much security. In fact if you need a good laugh I’d suggest reading section 6 of the RFC. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you start to digest information about odors, moths and spiders. It becomes apparent, very quickly, when reading subparagraphs 6.1 through 6.10, that the considerations outlined are there more to tip you off that the authors already know syslog provides minimal security – so don’t complain to them. At this point most sane people question using such a protocol at all because surely there must be something better, right? Yes and no.

First let me clarify: I didn’t set out to create an exhaustive comparison of [enter your favorite alternative to syslog here] for this writeup. Sure RFC5424 obsoletes the originally discussed RFC3164 and yes RFC5425 addresses using TLS as a transport to secure syslog. Or maybe it would be better to configure BEEP on your routers and let’s not forget about the many proprietary and open source agents that you can install on your servers and workstations. I freely admit there are some great technologies to read about in event logging technology. The point though is that since there is considerable immaturity and many options to choose from, most environments fall back to the path of least resistance: good ol’ syslog over UDP.

Unfortunately I’ve never been asked how to do logging right by a client. As long as events are streaming to the SEM and showing up on the glass in the NOC/SOC, it’s not a question that comes up. It may not even be a big deal right now, but I’d be willing to bet you’ll see more on the topic as audits become more scrutinizing. Shouldn’t the integrity of that data be something a little more robust than the unreliable, unauthentic, repudiable and completely insecure protocol you probably have in production? You don’t have to thank me later, but I’d start thinking about it now.

—David J. Meier

Thursday, October 15, 2009

IDM: Reality Sets In

By David Mortman

As I have mentioned in previous posts, although in principle IDM isn’t that complicated, real world practicalities make it fairly challenging. To quote myself:

Businesses can have hundreds if not thousands of applications (GM purportedly had over 15,000 apps at one point) and each application itself can have hundreds or thousands of roles within it. Combine this with multiple methods of authentication and authorization, and you have a major problem on your hands which makes digging into the morass challenging to say the least.

I was chatting with Rich the other day, and he reminded me that there were several issues that I hadn’t brought up yet. By way of example, he sent me the following list:

  • Most organizations of even moderate size have already lost control of identities.
  • The challenge is to regain control, while instituting the processes you describe.
  • The average large enterprise has 1 custom application for every 100 employees
  • A surprising number of enterprise applications have more roles than users (especially ERP systems, as admins “cheat” and create new roles for different tasks of a user to deal with application restrictions).
  • Due to compliance, for in-scope applications you often need a full user/role analysis… 2 years ago.
  • Because of these factors, the IDM market is massive and has been one of the fastest growing in the security industry for years (I think it’s tapering off now, but it really isn’t my area so I could be wrong).
  • The IDM market itself is complex, with multiyear implementations, and customer satisfaction is often low until the pain of implementation is complete.
  • There are still a lot of issues integrating any kind of IDM into many custom applications.

As if that weren’t enough to make you want to go do something easier, the problem gets even worse when you realize that while compliance forces organizations to evaluate annually whether people should still have the roles they do, there is little to no compliance required around regularly adjusting the roles themselves within applications. As a result, the roles themselves only get reevaluated at major upgrade times (and often not even then) which means maybe every 18-24 months. The ugliness comes in because the business tends to change its needs much more quickly – this is why most major ERM, ERP, CRM, etc. rollouts fail: IT simply can’t keep up with the business. So it’s not enough to just solve the process problem, but in the long run, you will also need to deal with some fundamental business and IT cultural issues of how applications are handled. Essentially, IT will have to become a lot more agile in its ability to respond to changing business needs. While this is hardly limited to the IDM space, IDM nicely highlights the issue. After all, if the roles are meaningless, knowing who has what role may be helpful from an incident response or investigation standpoint, but cannot really help understand your risk or compliance profile.

—David Mortman

It Isn’t Risk Management If You Can’t Lose

By Rich

I was reviewing the recent Health and Human Services guidance on medical data breach notifications and it’s clear that the HHS either was bought off, or doesn’t understand the fundamentals of risk assessment. Having a little bit of inside experience within HHS, my vote is for willful ignorance.

Basically, the HHS provides some good security guidance, then totally guts it. Here’s a bit from the source article with the background:

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) required HHS to issue a rule on breach notification. In its interim final rule, HHS established a harm standard: breach does not occur unless the access, use or disclosure poses “a significant risk of financial, reputational, or other harm to individual.” In the event of a breach, HHS’ rule requires covered entities to perform a risk assessment to determine if the harm standard is met. If they decide that the risk of harm to the individual is not significant, the covered entities never have to tell their patients that their sensitive health information was breached.

You have to love a situation where the entity performing the risk assessment for a different entity (patients) is always negatively impacted by disclosure, and never impacted by secrecy. In other words, the group that would be harmed by protecting you gets to decide your risk.

Yeah, that will work.

This is like the credit rating agencies, many aspects of fraud and financial services, and more than a few breach notification laws. The entities involved face different sources of potential losses, but the entity performing the assessment has an inherent bias to mis-assess (usually by under-assessing) the risk faced by the target.

Now, if everyone involved is altruistic and unbiased this all works like a charm. Hell, even in Star Trek they don’t think human behavior that perfect.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Which Bits Are the Right Bits?

By Adrian Lane

(The following post covers some rather esoteric bits of security philosophy, or what Rich has affectionately called “Security Jazz” in the past. Unless you are into obscure data-centric security minutiae, you will probably not be interested).

Richard Bejtlich tweeted and posted on data integrity:

The trustworthiness of a digital asset is limited by the owner’s capability to detect incidents compromising the integrity of that asset.

This statement is absolutely correct and a really important point that is often overlooked. The problem is that most technologies which produce digital assets do not build tamper detection in, thus giving owners no way to detect integrity violtaions. And far too often people confuse interested party with owner of digital assets, as there can be many copies, each in the possession of a different person or group. It’s not that we can’t provide validation, because technology exists to provide assurance and authenticity.

Let’s look at an example: Who owns syslog data? Is it the IT administrator? The security professional? An auditor? In my opinion, none of them do. The OS owns the syslog, as it created the content. Much like you may think you own ‘your’ credit card number, but you don’t – it is something the issuing bank created and owns. They are the custodians of that number, and change it when they choose to.

syslog has no way to verify the contents of the log it creates over time. We take it on faith that it is unlikely a log file was corrupted or altered. If we need to verify integrity in the future, too bad. If you did not build in safeguards and a method for validating integrity when you created the data, it’s too late. The trustworthiness of the digital asset is limited to the owner’s capability to detect a compromise, and for many digital assets like syslog, that is nil.

For most digital assets, it is sufficient that we use them every day, as this provides sufficient confidence in their integrity. Encryption keys are a useful example. If the keys are corrupted, especially in a public-key situation, either the encryption or decryption operations fail. We may keep a backup somewhere safe to compare our working copy to, and while that can be effective in the most common problem situations, it’s only relevant for certain (common) use cases. Digital assets have an additional challenge over physical objects in terms of generations. Even if we can verify a particular iteration of a digital object, we can have infinite copies, so we need to be able to verify the most current iteration is in use.

For digital assets like encryption keys, account numbers, access tokens, and digital representations of self, the owner has a strong vested interest in not sharing the asset, keeping it safe, and possibly even keeping redundant copies against future emergencies or for verification. There are several technologies to prove integrity, they are just not used much. I posted a comment on Richard’s blog to this effect:

The trustworthiness of a digital asset is limited more by the trustworthiness of the owner than tamper detection. An owner with desire of privacy and data integrity has the means to protect digital assets.

Richard’s premise is an important one as we very seldom build in safeguards to validate ownership, state, authenticity or integrity. Non-repudiation tools and digital escrow services are nearly non-existent. There simply is not enough motivation to implement the tools we have which can provide assurance.

Gunnar Peterson blogged on this subject earlier this week as well, taking a slightly more applied look at the problem. His statement that these issues are outside the purview of DLP are absolutely correct. DLP is an outside-in model. This discussion has more to do with Digital Rights Management, which is an inside-out model. The owner must attest to integrity, and while a 3rd party proxy such as a DLP service could be entrusted with object escrow and integrity certification, it would require an alteration of the DLP’s “discover and protect” model. DRM is designed to be part of the application that creates the digital object, and while it is not often discussed, digital object ownership is part of that responsibility. Attestation to ownership is not possible without some form of integrity and state checking.

I have seen select DRM systems that were interested in high integrity, but none were commercially viable. Which answers Gunnar’s question:

Our ability using today’s technologies to deliver vastly improved audit logging is, I believe, a worthwhile and achievable goal. But it’s fair to ask - why hasn’t it happened yet?

There has been no financial incentive to do so. We have had excellent immutable log technologies for years but they are only used in limited cases. Web application audit trails are an interesting application of this technology and easy to do, but there is no compelling business problem motivating people to spend money on retrofitting what they have. I would like to see this type of feature for consumer protection, built into financial transactions where we really need to protect consumers from shoddy corporate record-keeping and failed banking institutions.

—Adrian Lane

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Barracuda Networks Acquires Purewire

By Adrian Lane

Today Barracuda Networks announced their acquisition of Purewire. Barracuda has an incredibly broad product suite, including AV, WAF, Anti-spam, anti-malware, SSL gateways, and so on, but are behind their competition in web filtering and seriously lacking in solutions delivered as SaaS. The Purewire product set closes Barracuda’s biggest product gap, giving them URL filtering and some basic content inspection. But most importantly it can be delivered as SaaS. This is important for two reasons: first, Barracuda has been losing market share to email and web security vendors with comprehensive SaaS product lines. SaaS offers flexible deployment and extends the usable lifespan of existing appliance/software security investments. Second, SaaS can be sold ‘up-market’ or ‘down-market’, as pricing is simply adjusted for the desired capacity. This will keep the handful of Barracuda enterprise customers happy, and provide SME customers the ability to add capacity as needed, hopefully keeping them from bolting to other providers.

I have never had my hands on the Purewire product so I have little knowledge of its internal workings or competitive differentiators. I have only spoken with a couple customers but they seemed to be satisfied with the web filtering capabilities. No wholehearted endorsements, but I did not hear any complaints either – nothing wrong if the endorsements are not passionate as often the best than can be said for web filtering products is they perform their jobs and go unnoticed. Based on recent press releases and joint customer announcements, I was expecting Proofpoint to be the acquirer. Regardless, this is a better fit for both companies given Proofpoint’s significant overlap with Purewire. And Barracuda has greater need for this technology. It has been a long time coming but they are finally turning around and showing a dedication to a service based delivery model. Remember, it was only two years ago that Barracuda bet on Web Application Firewalls acquired with Netcontinuum. That bet did not pay off particularly well, as the WAF market never blossomed as predicted. And it further entrenched Barracuda as a box shop. This is a move in the right direction.

—Adrian Lane

Microsoft Security Updates for October 2009

By Adrian Lane

We don’t normally cover Patch Tuesday unless there is something unusual, but the October 2009 advanced notification appears to be just that. It lists patches for 13 different security bulletins, for what looks like 30 separate security problems. Eight of the bulletins are for critical vulnerabilities with the possibility of remote code execution. The majority of the patches are for Windows itself, with a couple for SQL Server, Office, and Forefront, but it looks like just about every production version of Windows is affected. Given the scope of this security patch and the seriousness of the bugs, it looks like IT departments are going to be working overtime for a while.

Details of each of the vulnerabilities will be released later today, and I will update this post with specific points of interest as I find them. I am assuming that at least one of the patches is in response to the Server Message Block vulnerability discovered back in August. IIS is not listed as one of the affected products, but odds are the underlying OS will be, and folks will be restarting app servers either way. I am still trying to determine the issue with SQL Server. More to come…

==== Updated ==== Microsoft has updated the bulletin and included the security advisory links and some details on the threats. The SQL Server vulnerability is not within the core database engine, but the GDI ActiveX library in the print server. It’s in 2005, not 2000.

When SQL Server Reporting Services is installed, the affected installations of SQL Server software may host the RSClientPrint ActiveX control. This ActiveX control distributes a copy of gdiplus.dll containing the affected code. Customers are only impacted when the RSClientPrint ActiveX control is installed on Microsoft Windows 2000 operating systems. If the RSClientPrint ActiveX control is installed on any other operating system, the system version of GDI+ will be used and the corresponding operating system update will protect them.

The GDI+ vulnerability pretty much allows you to take down any Microsoft platform or function that uses the GDI dll, which is basically anything that uses images for forms, which is just about everything. My earlier comment that IIS was not listed was true, but there is in fact a bug linked to IIS: version 5.0 of the FTP service is vulnerable to remote code exploitation. Some of the exploits have workarounds and can be masked through firewall and web application firewall settings, however given the number and severity of the issues, we do recommend patching as soon as possible.

—Adrian Lane

Monday, October 12, 2009

Personal Information Dump

By Adrian Lane

Interesting story of a San Francisco commercial landlord who found 46 boxes of personal information and financial data for thousands of people left behind by a failed title company.

The boxes were the detitrus of what was until last year a thriving business, Financial Title. Then the economy tanked, and the company folded up its locations all across California, including the one Tookoian rented to it.

“They basically abruptly closed shop,” he said as he walked past the company’s logo still affixed to a white wall. “Turned the lights off, closed the door and walked away.”

Despite all of the data breaches and crazy stuff we see in the data security profession, I am still shocked at this type of carelessness. I expect to see prosecutors go after the owners of the company for failure to exercise their custodial responsibilities for these records.

Ridout says the Federal Trade Commission has implemented new laws requiring businesses to properly dispose of sensitive personal information. So far, an Illinois mortgage company was fined $50,000 for throwing personal records in a dumpster. But fines like that are rare.

And after his good deed of having the records destroyed, the landlord still had to pay the bill. Perhaps the FTC will set an example in this case.

—Adrian Lane

Friday, October 09, 2009

Friday Summary - October 9, 2009

By Adrian Lane

A lot of not this week. I was not at SECtor, although I understand it was a good time. I am not going to Oracle Open World. I should be going, but too many projects are either beginning or remain unfinished for me to travel to the Bay Area, visiting old friends and finding a good bar to hang out at. That is lots of fun I will not be having. I will not be going to Atlanta in November as the Tech Target event for data security has been knocked off the calendar. And I am not taking a free Mexican holiday in Peurta de Cancun or wherever Rich is enjoying himself. Oh well, weather has been awesome in Phoenix.

With the posts for Dark Reading this week I spent a bunch of time rummaging around for old database versions and looking through notes for database audit performance testing. Some of the old Oracle 7.3 tests with nearly 50% transactional degradation still seem unreal, but I guess it should not surprising that auditing features in older databases are a problem. They were not designed to audit transactions like we do today. They were designed to capture a sample of activity so administrators could understand how people were using the database. Performance and resource allocation were the end goals. Once a sample was collected, auditing was turned off. Security was not really a consideration, and no thought given to compliance. Yet the order of use and priority has been turned upside down, as they fill a critical compliance need but require careful deployment.

While I was at RSA this year, one database vendor pointed out some of the security vendors citing this 50% penalty as what you could expect. Bollocks! Database security and compliance vendors who do not use native database auditing would like you to embrace this performance myth. They have a competitive offering to sell, so the more people are fearful of performance degradation, the better their odds of selling you an alternative to accomplish this task. I hear DBAs complain a lot about using native auditing features because it used to be a huge performance problem, and DBAs would get complaints from database and application users.

Auditing produces a lot of data. Something has to be done with that data. It needs to be parsed for significant events, reported on, acted upon, erased or backed up, or some combination thereof. In the past, database administrators performed these functions manually, or wrote scripts to partially automate the responsibility, and rewrote them any time something within IT changed. As a form of self preservation, DBAs in general do not like accepting this responsibility. And I admit, it takes a little time to get it set up right, and you may even discover some settings to be counter-intuitive. However, auditing is a powerful tool and it should not be dismissed out of hand. It is not my first choice for database security; no way, no how! But for compliance reporting and control validation, especially for SOX, it’s really effective. Plus, much of this burden can be removed by using third party vendors to handle the setup, data extraction, cleanup, and reporting.

Anyway, enough about database auditing. On to the Summary:

Webcasts, Podcasts, Outside Writing, and Conferences

Favorite Securosis Posts

Favorite Outside Posts

Top News and Posts

Blog Comment of the Week

This week’s best comment comes from Adam in response to Mortman’s Online Fraud Report:

It’s sort of hard to answer without knowing more about what data he has, but what I’d like is raw data, anonymized to the extent needed, and shared in both data and analyzed forms, so other people can apply their own analysis to the data.

—Adrian Lane

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Online Fraud Report: What Would You Want To See?

By David Mortman

So a buddy of mine back from when I was on the customer side contacted me recently. He’s at a new company doing some very interesting work on detecting certain classes of online fraud and amounts of malware on websites. So far he’s gathered some fascinating data on just how bad the problem is, and I’m trying to convince him that he should start publishing some of his aggregate data in a quarterly or semi-annual report. He is very interested but would love some community input on what the report should look like, which brings me to you.

Some of what should be in such a report is obvious – such as rate of detected fraud overall and by various industry verticals. The rest isn’t so clear and that’s where you all come in. Put on whatever hat you like – CISO, CFO, security researcher, risk officer, consumer, or whatever else – and what would you like to see in such a report? Are there things you hate about other reports? Or are there things you wish they covered which they never do? Throw out your requests, rants, comments, ideas, and questions in the comments and I’ll collect them all together and summarize them in a future post. If this really takes off, I’ll move it over to the forums.

—David Mortman

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Visa’s Data Field Encryption

By Adrian Lane

I was reading Martin McKeay’s blog this morning and saw his reference to Visa’s Data Field Encryption white paper. Martin’s point that Visa is the author, rather than the PCI council, is a good one. Now that I’ve read the paper, I don’t think Visa is putting it out as a sort of litmus test on behalf of the council, but instead Visa is taking a stand on what technologies they want endorsed. And if that is the case, Rich’s feeling prediction that “Tokenization Will Become the Dominant Payment Transaction Architecture” will happen far faster than we anticipated.

A couple observations about the paper:

… data field encryption renders cardholder data useless to criminals in the event of a merchant data breach decryption.

Use robust key management solutions…


Visa has developed best practices to assist merchants in evaluating the new encryption…

Use an alternate account or transaction identifier for business processes that requires[sic] the primary account number…

The recommendations could describe tokenization or format preserving encryption, but it looks to me like they have tokenization in mind. And by tokenization I mean the PAN and other sensitive data are fully encrypted at the POS, and their response to the merchant is a token. I like the fact that their goals do not dictate technology choices, and are worded in such a way that they should not be obsolete within a year.

But the document appears to have been rushed to publication. For example, goal #4: protect the cryptographic operations within devices from physical or logical compromises. It’s the cryptographic operations you want to protect; the device should be considered expendable and not sensitive to compromise.

Similarly, goal #1 states:

Limit cleartext availability of cardholder data and sensitive authentication data to the point of encryption and the point of decryption.

But where is the “point of encryption”? It’s one thing to be at the POS terminal, but if this is a web transaction environment, does that mean it happens at the web server? At the browser level? Somewhere else? Reading the document it seems clear that the focus is on POS and not web based transactional security, which looks likes a big mistake to me.

Martin already pointed out that the authors lumped encryption and hashing into a single domain, but that may have been deliberate, to make the document easier to read. But if clarity was the goal, who thought “Data Field Encryption” was a good term? It does not describe what is being proected. And with tokenization, encryption is only part of the picture. If you are a web application or database developer, you will see why this phrase is really inappropriate.

Make no mistake – Visa has put a stake in the ground and it will be interesting to see how the PCI Council reacts.

—Adrian Lane