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Infrastructure Security Research Agenda 2011—Part 4: Egress and Endpoints

By Mike Rothman

In the first three posts of my 2011 Research Agenda (Positivity, Posturing and RFAB, Vaulting and Assurance) I mostly talked about how we security folks need to protect our stuff from them. You know, outside attackers trying to reach our stuff. Now let’s move on to people on the inside. Although most of us prefer to focus on folks trying to break in, it’s also important to put some forethought into protecting people inside the perimeter. Whether an employee loses a device (and compromises data), clicks the wrong link (resulting in a compromised device and giving attackers a foothold on the internal network), or even maliciously tries to exfiltrate data (WikiLeaks, anyone?) all of these attack scenarios are very real.

So we have to think from the inside out about protecting endpoint devices, because nowadays that is probably the most common way for attackers to begin a multi-faceted attack. They’ll pwn an endpoint and then use it to pivot and find other interesting stuff. Yet, we also have to focus a bit on breaking one of the legs of Rich’s Data Breach Triangle – the egress leg. Unless the attackers can get the data out, it’s not a breach. So a lot of what we’ll do as part of the egress research agenda is focus on content filtering at the edge to ensure our sensitive stuff doesn’t escape.

Endpoints

The good news is that we did a bunch of research to lay the foundation for endpoint security in 2010. Looking at 2011, we want to dig deeper and start thinking about dealing with all of these newfangled devices like smartphones, and examine technologies like application white listing which implements our positivity model on endpoint devices.

Background: Endpoint Security Fundamentals

  1. Endpoint Protection Suite Evolution: Using the Endpoint Fundamentals content as a base; we need to delve into what the EPP suite looks like moving forward; and how capabilities like threat intelligence, HIPS, and cloud services will remake what we think of as the endpoint suite.
  2. Application White Listing: Where, When, and Why? We’ve written a bit about application white listing concepts, but it’s still not necessarily a general purpose control – yet. So we’ll dig into specific use cases where white listing makes sense and some deployment advice to make sure your implementation is successful (and avoid breaking too much).
  3. Mobile device security: There is a lot of hype but not much by way of demonstrable weaponized threats to our smartphones, so we’ll document what you need to know and what to ignore, and discuss some options for protecting mobile devices.
  4. Quick Wins with Full Disk Encryption: Everyone is buying FDE, but how do you choose it and how do you get quick value?

Again, lots of stuff to think about for protecting endpoints, so we’ll be pretty busy on these topics in 2011.

Egress

Egress filtering on the network will be covered by the Positivity research. But as Adrian mentions in his research agenda, there is plenty of content that goes out of your organization via email and web protocols, and we need to filter that traffic (before you have a breach).

  1. Understanding and Selecting DLP, v2: Rich’s recent updated to this paper is a great base, and we may dig into specific endpoint or gateway DLP to prevent critical content from leaving the organization – which plays directly into this egress theme.
  2. Web Security Evolution: Web filters and their successors have been around for years, so what is the future of the category and how can/should customers with existing web security implementations move forward? And how will SaaS impact how customers provide these services?
  3. Email Security Evolution: Very similar conceptually to web security evolution, but of course the specifics are very different.

So there you have it. Yes, I’ll be pretty busy next year and that’s a good thing. I’m still looking for feedback on these ideas, so if one (or more) of these research projects resonates please let me know. Or if some things don’t, that would be interesting as well.

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