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Data Security in the SaaS Age: Quick Wins

As we wrap up our series on Data Security in the SaaS age, let’s work through a scenario to show how these concepts apply in a specific scenario. We’ll revisit the “small, but rapidly growing” pharmaceutical company we used as an example in our Data Guardrails and Behavioral Analytics paper. The CISO has seen the adoption of SaaS accelerate over the past two years. Given the increasing demand to work from anywhere at all organizations, the CTO and CEO have decided to minimize on-premise technology assets. A few years ago they shifted their approach to use data guardrails and behavioral analytics to protect the sensitive research and clinical trial data generated by the business. But they still need a structured program and appropriate tools to protect their SaaS applications. With hundreds of SaaS applications in use and many more coming, it can be a bit overwhelming to the team, who needs to both understand their extended attack surface and figure out how to protect it at scale. With guidance from their friends at Securosis, they start by looking at a combination of risk (primarily to high-profile data) and broad usage within the business, as they figure out which SaaS application to focus on protecting first. The senior team decides to start with CRM. Why? After file storage/office automation, CRM tends to be the most widespread application, representing the most sensitive information stored in a SaaS application: customer data. They also have many business partners and vendors accessing the data and the application, because they have multiple (larger) organizations bringing their drugs to market; they want to make sure all those constituencies have the proper entitlements within their CRM. Oh yeah, and their auditors were in a few months back, and suggested that assessing their SaaS applications needs to be a priority, given the sensitive data stored there. As we described in our last post, we’ll run through a process to determine who should use the data and how. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll generalize and answer these questions at a high level, but you should dig down much deeper to drive policy. What’s the data? The CRM has detailed data on all the doctors visited by the sales force. It also contains an extract of prescribing data to provide results to field reps. The CRM has data from across the globe, even though business partners distribute the products in non-US geographies, to provide an overview of sales and activity trends for each product. Who needs to see the data? Everyone in the company’s US field organization needs access to the data, as well as the marketing and branding teams focused on targeting more effective advertising. Where it gets a little squishy is the business partners, who also need access to the data. But multiple business partners are serving different geographies, so tagging is critical to ensure each customer is associated with the proper distribution partner. Federated identity allows business partner personnel to access the CRM system, with limited privileges. What do they need to do with the data? The field team needs to be able to create and modify customer records. The marketing team just needs read-only access. Business partners update the information in the CRM but cannot create new accounts. That happens through a provider registration process to ensure multiple partners don’t call on the same doctors or medical offices. Finally, doctors want to see their prescribing history so they need access as well. If the team were starting from scratch, they would enumerate and build out the policies from whole cloth, and then deploy the CRM with the right rules the first time. But that train has already left the station. Thousands of people (internal, business partners, and customers) already access the CRM system, so the first order of business is a quick assessment of the SaaS application’s current configuration. Quick Assessment They didn’t have the internal bandwidth to perform the assessment manually during the timeframe required by the auditors, so they engaged a consulting firm which leveraged a SaaS management tool for the assessment. What they found was problematic. The initial entitlements allowed medical practices to access their prescribing history. But with overly broad privileges, any authorized user for a specific medical practice could see their entire customer record — which included not just the history of all interactions, but also notes from the sales rep. And let’s just say some of the reps were brutally honest about what they thought of some doctors. Given the potential to upset important customers, it’s time to hit the fire alarm and kick in the damage control process. The internal IT team managing the CRM took a quick look and realized the access rule change happened within the last 48 hours. And only a handful of customers accessed their records since then. They reverted to the more restrictive policy, removed access to the affected records, and asked some (fairly irate) VPs to call customers to smooth over any ruffled feathers. The cardiologist who probably should have taken their own advice about health and fitness appreciated this gesture (and mentioned enjoying the humble pie). There were a few other over-privileged settings, but they mostly affected internal resources. For example the clinical team had access to see detailed feedback on a recent trial, even though company policy is only to share anonymized information with clinicians. Though not a compliance issue, this did violate internal policy. They also found some problems with business partner access rules, as business partners in Asia could see all the accounts in Asia. They couldn’t make changes (such as reassigning doctors to other partners), but partners should only see the data for doctors they registered. The other policies still reflect current business practices, so after addressing these issues, the team felt good about their security posture. Continuous Monitoring But, of course, they cannot afford to get too comfortable given the constant flow of new customers, new partners, and new attacks. The last aspect of the SaaS data security program

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Data Security in the SaaS Age: Thinking Small

Our last post in Data Security in a SaaS World discussed how the use and sharing phases of the (frankly partially defunct) Data Security Lifecycle remain relevant. That approach hinges on a detailed understanding of each application to define appropriate policies for what is allowed and by whom. To be clear, these are not – and cannot be – generic policies. Each SaaS application is different and as such your policies must be different, so you (or a vendor or service provider) need to dig into it to understand what it does and who should do it. Now the fun part. The typical enterprise has hundreds, if not thousands, of SaaS services. So what’s the best approach to secure those applications? Any answer requires gratuitous use of many platitudes, including both “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” and that other old favorite, “You can’t boil the ocean.” Whichever pithy analogy you favor for providing data security for SaaS, you need to think small, by setting policies to protect one application or service at a time. We’re looking for baby steps, not big bangs. The big bang killed initiatives like DLP. (You remember DLP, right?) Not that folks don’t do DLP successfully today – they do – but if you try to classify all the data and build rules for every possible data loss… you’ll get overwhelmed, and then it’s hard to complete the project. We’ve been preaching this small and measured approach for massive, challenging projects like SIEM for years. You don’t set up all the SIEM rules and use cases at once – at least not if you want the project to succeed. The noise will bury you, and you’ll stop using the tool. People with successful SIEM implementations under their belts started small with a few use cases, then added more once they figured out how to make a few sets set work. The Pareto principle applies here, bigtime. You can eliminate the bulk of your risk by protecting 20% of your SaaS apps. But if you use 1,000 SaaS apps, you still need to analyze and set policies for 200 apps – a legitimately daunting task. We’re talking about a journey here, one that takes a while. So prioritization of your SaaS applications is essential for project success. We’ll also discuss opportunities to accelerate the process later on — you can jump the proverbial line with smart technology use. The Process The first SaaS app you run through the process should be an essential app with pretty sensitive data. We can bet it will be either your office suite (Office365 or G Suite), your CRM tool (likely Salesforce), your file storage service (typically Dropbox or Box), or your ERP or HR package (SAP, Workday, or Oracle). These applications represent your most sensitive data, so you’ll then want to maximize risk mitigation. Start with the app with the most extensive user base. We’ll illustrate the process with CRM. We get going by answering a few standard questions: What’s the data? Your CRM has all your marketing and sales data, including a lot of sensitive customer/prospect data. It may also have your customer support case data, which is pretty sensitive. Who needs to see the data? Define who needs to see the data, and use the groups or roles within your identity store – no reason to reinvent the wheel. We discussed the role of federation in our previous post, and this is why. Don’t forget to consider external constituencies – auditors, contractors, or even customers. What do they need to do with the data? For each role or group, figure out whether they need to read, write, or otherwise manage data. You can get more specific and define different rights for different data types as required. For example, finance people may have read access to the sales pipeline, while sales operations folks have full access. Do you see what we did there? We just built a simple entitlement matrix. That wasn’t so scary, was it? Once you have the entitlement matrix documented, you write the policies. At that point, you load your policies into the application. Then wash, rinse, and repeat for the other SaaS apps you need to protect. Each SaaS app will have a different process to implement these policies, so there isn’t a whole lot of leverage to be gained in this effort. But you probably aren’t starting from scratch either. A lot of this work happens when deploying the applications initially. Hopefully, it’s a matter of revisiting original entitlements for effectiveness and consistency. But not always. To accelerate a PoC, the vendor uses default entitlements, and the operations team doesn’t always revisit them when the application goes from testing into production deployment. Continuous Monitoring Once the entitlements are defined (or revisited), and you’ve implemented acceptable policies in the application, you reach the operational stage. Many organizations fail here. They get excited to lock things down during initial deployment but seem to forget that moves, adds, and changes happen every day. New capabilities get rolled out weekly. So when they periodically check policies every quarter or year, they are surprised by how much changed and the resulting security issues. So continuous monitoring becomes critical to maintain the integrity of data in SaaS apps. You need to watch for changes, with a mechanism to ensure they are authorized and legitimate. It sounds like a change control process, right? What happens if the security team (or even the IT team in some cases) doesn’t operate these apps? We’ve seen this movie before. It’s like dealing with an application built in the cloud by a business unit. The BU may have operational responsibilities, but the security team should assume responsibility for enforcing governance policies. Security needs access to the SaaS app to monitor changes and ensure adherence to policy. And that’s the point. Security doesn’t need to have operational responsibilities for SaaS applications. But they need to assess the risk of access when

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Data Security in the SaaS Age: Focus on What You Control

As we launched our series on Data Security in the SaaS Age, we described the challenge of protecting data as it continues to spread across dozens (if not hundreds) of different cloud providers. We also focused attention on the Data Security Triangle, as the best tool we can think of to keep focused on addressing at least one of the underlying prerequisites for a data breach (data, exploit, and exfiltration). If you break any leg of the triangle you stop the breach. The objective of this research is to rethink data security, which requires us to revisit where we’ve been. That brings us back to the Data Security Lifecycle, which we last updated in 2011 in parts one, two and three). Lifecycle Challenges At the highest level, the Data Security Lifecycle lifecycle lays out six phases from creation to destruction. We depict it as a linear progression, but data can bounce between phases without restriction, and need not pass through all stages (for example not all data is eventually destroyed). Create: This is probably better called Create/Update because it applies to creating or changing a data/content element, not just a document or database. Creation is generating new digital content or altering/updating of existing content. Store: Storing is the act committing 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: Exchange of data between users, customers, or partners. Archive: Data leaves active use and enters long-term storage. Destroy: Permanent destruction of data using physical or digital means such as crypto-shredding. With this lifecycle in mind, you can evaluate data and make decisions about appropriate locations and access. You need to figure out where the data can reside, which controls apply to each possible location, and how to protect data as it moves. Then go through a similar exercise to specify rules for access, determining who can access the data and how. And your data security strategy depends on protecting all critical data, so you need to run through this exercise for every important data type. Then dig another level down to figure out which functions (such as Access, Process, Store) apply to each phase of the lifecycle. Finally, you can determine which controls enable data usage for which functions. Sound complicated? It is, enough that it’s impractical to use this model at scale. That’s why we need to rethink data security. Self-flagellation aside, we can take advantage of the many innovations we’ve seen since 2011 in the areas of application consumption and data provenance. We are building fewer applications and embracing SaaS. For the applications you still build, you leverage cloud storage and other platform services. So data security is not entirely your problem anymore. To be clear, you are still accountable to protect the critical data – that doesn’t change. But you can share responsibility for data security. You set policies but within the framework of what your provider supports. Managing this shared responsibility becomes the most significant change in how we view data security. And we need this firmly in mind when we think about security controls. Adapting to What You Control Returning to the Data Breach Triangle, you can stop a breach by either ‘eliminating’ the data to steal, stopping the exploit, or preventing egress/exfiltration. In SaaS you cannot control the exploit, so forget that. You also probably don’t see the traffic going directly to a SaaS provider unless you inefficiently force all traffic through an inspection point. So focusing on egress/exfiltration probably won’t suffice either. That leaves you to control the data. Specifically to prevent access to sensitive data, and restrict usage to authorized parties. If you prevent unauthorized parties from accessing data, it’s tough for them to steal it. If we can ensure that only authorized parties can perform certain functions with data, it’s hard for them to misuse it. And yes – we know this is much easier said than done. Restated, data security in a SaaS world requires much more focus on access and application entitlements. You handle it by managing entitlements at scale. An entitlement ensures the right identity (user, process, or service) can perform the required function at an approved time. Screw this up and you don’t have many chances left to protect your data, because you can’t see the network or control application code. If we dig back into the traditional Data Security Lifecycle, the SaaS provider handles a lot of these functions – including creation, storage, archiving, and destruction. You can indeed extract data from a SaaS provider for backup or migration, but we’re not going there now. We will focus on the Use and Share phases. This isn’t much of a lifecycle anymore, is it? Alas, we should probably relegate the full lifecycle to the dustbin of “it seemed like a good idea at the time.” The modern critical requirements for data security involve setting up data access policies, determining the right level of authorization for each SaaS application, and continuously monitoring and enforcing policies. The Role of Identity in Data Protection You may have heard the adage that “Identity is the new perimeter.” Platitudes aside, it’s basically true, and SaaS data security offers a good demonstration. Every data access policy associates with an identity. Authorization policies within SaaS apps depend on identity as well. Your SaaS data security strategy hinges on identity management, like most other things you do in the cloud. This dependency puts a premium on federation because managing hundreds of user lists and handling the provisioning/deprovisioning process individually for each application doesn’t scale. A much more workable plan is to implement an identity broker to interface with your authoritative source and federate identities to each SaaS application. This becomes part of your critical path to provide data security. But that’s a bit afield from this research, so we need to leave it at that. Data Guardrails and Behavioral Analytics If managing data security for SaaS

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Insight 6/2/2020: Walking Their Path

Between Mira and I, we have 5 teenagers. For better or worse, the teenage experience of the kids this year looks quite a bit different; thanks COVID! They haven’t really been able to go anywhere, and although things are loosening up a bit here in Atlanta, we’ve been trying to keep them pretty isolated. To the degree we can. In having the kids around a lot more, you can’t help but notice both the subtle and major differences. Not just in personality, but in interests and motivation. Last summer (2019) was a great example. Our oldest, Leah, was around after returning a trip to Europe with her Mom. (remember when you could travel abroad? Sigh.) She’s had different experiences each summer, including a bunch of travel and different camps. Our second oldest (Zach) also spent the summer in ATL. But he was content to work a little, watch a lot of YouTube, and hang out with us. Our third (Ella) and fifth (Sam) went to their camps, where each has been going for 7-8 years. It’s their home and their camp friends are family. And our fourth (Lindsay) explored Israel for a month. Many campers believe in “10 for 2.” They basically have to suffer through life for 10 months to enjoy the 2 months at camp each year. I think of it as 12 for 2 because we have to work hard for the entire year to pay for them to go away. Even if all of the kids need to spend the summer near ATL, they’ll do their own thing in their own way. But that way is constantly evolving. I’ve seen the huge difference 6 months at college made for Leah. I expect a similar change for Z when he (hopefully) goes to school in the fall. As the kids get older, they learn more and inevitably think they’ve figured it out. Just like 19-year-old Mike had all the answers, each of the kids will go through that invincibility stage. The teenage years are challenging because even though the kids think they know everything, we still have some control over them. If they want to stay in our home, they need to adhere to certain rules and there is (almost) daily supervision. Not so much when they leave the nest, and that means they need to figure things out – themselves. I have to get comfortable letting them be and learning lessons. After 50+ years of screwing things up, I’ve made a lot of those mistakes (A LOT!) and could help them avoid a bunch of heartburn and wasted time. But then I remember I’ve spent most of my life being pretty hard-headed and I that I didn’t listen to my parents trying to tell me things either. I guess I shouldn’t say didn’t, because I’m not sure if they tried to tell me anything. I wasn’t listening. The kids have to walk their own path(s). Even when it means inevitable failure, heartbreak, and angst. That’s how they learn. That’s how I learned. It’s an important part of the development process. Life can be unforgiving at times, and shielding the kids from disappointment doesn’t prepare them for much of anything. The key is to be there when they fall. To help them understand what went wrong and how they can improve the next time. If they aren’t making mistakes, they aren’t doing enough. There should be no stigma of failing. Only to quitting. If they are making the same mistakes over and over again, then I’m not doing my job as a parent and mentor. I guess one of the epiphanies I’ve had over the past few years is that my path was the right path. For me. I could have done so many things differently. But I’m very happy with where I am now and am grateful for the experiences, which have made me. That whole thing about being formed in the crucible of experience is exactly right. So that’s my plan. Embrace and celebrate each child’s differences and the different paths they will take. Understand that their experiences are not mine and they have to make and then own their choices, and deal with the consequences. Teach them they need to introspect and learn from everything they do. And to make sure they know that when they fall on their ass, we’ll be there to pick them up and dust them off. Photo credit: “Sakura Series” originally uploaded by Nick Kenrick Share:

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Data Security in the SaaS Age: Rethinking Data Security

Securosis has a long history of following and publishing on data security. Rich was the lead analyst on DLP about a zillion years ago during his time with Gartner. And when Securosis first got going (even before Mike joined), it was on the back of data security advisory and research. Then we got distracted by this cloud thing, and we haven’t gone back to refresh our research, given some minor shifts in how data is used and stored with SaaS driving the front office and IaaS/PaaS upending the data center (yes that was sarcasm). We described a lot of our thinking of the early stages of this transition in Tidal Forces 1 and Tidal Forces 3, and it seems (miraculously) a lot of what we expected 3 years ago has come to pass. But data security remains elusive. You can think of it as a holy grail of sorts. We’ve been espousing the idea of “data-centric security” for years, focusing on protecting the data, which then allows you to worry less about securing devices, networks, and associated infrastructure. As with most big ideas, it seemed like a good idea at the time. In practice, data-centric security has been underwhelming as having security policy and protection travel along with the data, as data spreads to every SaaS service you know about (and a bunch you don’t know about), was too much. How did Digital Rights Management work at scale? Right. The industry scaled back expectations and started to rely on techniques like tactical encryption, mostly using built-in capabilities (FDE for structured data, and embedded encryption for file systems). Providing a path of least resistance to both achieve compliance requirements, as well as “feel” the data was protected. Though to be clear, this was mostly security theater, as compromising the application still provided unfettered access to the data. Other techniques, like masking and tokenization, also provided at least a “means” to shield the sensitive data from interlopers. New tactics like test data generation tools also provide an option to ensure that developers don’t inadvertently expose production data. But even with all of these techniques, most organizations still struggle with protecting their data. And it’s not getting easier. The Data Breach Triangle Back in 2009, we introduced a concept called The Data Breach Triangle, which gave us a simple construct to enumerate a few different ways to stop a data breach. You need to break one of the legs of the triangle. Data: The equivalent of fuel – information to steal or misuse. Exploit: The combination of a vulnerability or an exploit path to allow an attacker unapproved access to the data. Egress: A path for the data to leave the organization. It could be digital, such as a network egress, or physical, such as portable storage or a stolen hard drive. Most of the modern-day security industry focused on stopping the exploit, either by impacting the ability to deliver the exploit – firewall/IPS or preventing the compromise of the device – endpoint protection. There also were attempts to stop the egress of sensitive data via outbound filters/FW/web proxy or DLP. As described above, attempts to either protect or shield the data have been hard to achieve at scale. So what do we get? Consistent breaches. Normalized breaches. To the point that an organization losing tens of millions of identities no longer even registers as news. SaaS exacerbates the issue Protecting data continues to get more complicated. SaaS has won. As we described in Tidal Forces, SaaS is the new front office. If anything, the remote work phenomenon driven by the inability to congregate in offices safely will accelerate this trend. Protecting data was hard enough when we knew where it was. I used to joke how unsettling it was back in 1990 when my company outsourced the mainframe, and it was now in Dallas, as opposed to in our building in Arlington, VA. At least all of our data was in one place. Now, most organizations have dozens (or hundreds) of different organizations controlling critical corporate data. Yeah, the problem isn’t getting easier. Rethinking Data Security What we’ve been doing hasn’t worked. Not at scale anyway. We’ve got to take a step back and stop trying to solve yesterday’s problem. Protecting data by encrypting it, masking it, tokenizing it, or putting a heavy usage policy around it wasn’t the answer, for many reasons. The technology industry has rethought applications and the creation, usage, and storage of data. Thus, we security people need to rethink data security for this new SaaS reality. We must both rethink the expectations of what data security means, as well as the potential solutions. That’s what we’ll do in this blog series Data Security for the SaaS Age. We haven’t been publishing as much research over the past few years, so it probably makes sense to revisit our Totally Transparent Research methodology. We’ll post all of the research to the blog, and you can weigh in and let us know that we are full of crap or that we are missing something rather important. Comments on this post are good or reach out via email or Twitter. Once we have the entire series posted and have gathered feedback from folks far smarter than us, we package up the research as a paper and license it to a company to educate its customers. In this case, we plan to license the paper to AppOmni (thanks to them), although they can decide not to license it at the end of the process – for any reason. This approach allows us to write our research without worrying about anyone providing undue influence. If they don’t like the paper, they don’t license it. Simple. In the next post, we focus on the solution, which isn’t a product or a service; rather it’s a process. We update the Data Security Lifecycle for modern times, highlighting the need for a systematic approach to identifying critical data and governing the use of that data in

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Insight 5/27/2020: Samson

Do you ever play those wacky question games with your friends? You know, where the questions try to embarrass you and make you say silly things? I was never much of a game player, but sometimes it’s fun. At some point in every game, a question about your favorite physical feature comes up. A lot of people say their eyes. Or their legs. Or maybe some other (less obvious) feature. It would also be interesting to ask your significant other or friends what they thought. I shudder to think about that. But if you ask me, the answer is pretty easy. It’s my hair. Yeah, that sounds a bit vain, but I do like my hair. Even though it turned gray when I was in my early 30s, that was never an impediment. It probably helped early in my career, as it made me seem a bit older and more experienced, even though I had no idea what I was doing (I still don’t). The only issue that ever materialized was when I first started dating Mira (who also has great hair). She showed my picture to her daughter (who was 12 at the time), and she asked, “why are you dating that old guy?” That still cracks me up. This COVID thing has created a big challenge for me. I usually wear my hair pretty short, trimmed with a clipper on the sides, and styled up top. But for a couple of months, seeing my stylist wasn’t an option. So my hair has grown. And grown. And grown. As it gets longer, it elevates. It’s like a bird’s nest elevation. You know, like losing your keys in there elevation. I could probably fit a Smart Car in there if I don’t get it cut at some point soon. If I’m going to grow my hair out, I want to have Michael Douglas’s hair. His hair is incredible, especially during his Black Rain period. The way his hair flowed as he was riding the motorcycle through Tokyo in that movie. It was awesome, but that is not to be. My destiny is to have big bird nest hair. Mira told me to shave it off. I have a bunch of friends that have done the home haircut, and it seems to work OK. I learned that a friend of mine has been doing his hair at home for years. And he looks impeccable even during the pandemic. I’m a bit jealous. I even bought a hair clipper to do it myself. I figured I’d let one of the kids have fun with it, and it would make for a fun activity. What else are we doing? The clipper is still in its packaging. I can’t bring myself to use it. Even if the self-cut turned out to be a total fiasco, my hair grows so fast it would only take a few weeks to grow out. So we aren’t talking about common sense here. There is something deeper in play, which took me a little while to figure out. I used to wear my hair very short in college during my meathead stage. So it’s not that I’m scared of really short hair. Then I remembered the one time I did a buzz cut as an adult. It was the mid-90s when I was 60 lbs heavier and into denim shirts. Yes, denim shirts were cool back then, trust me. So combine a big dude with a buzz cut in a denim shirt, and then one of my friends told me I looked like Grossberger from Stir Crazy, that was that. No more buzz cut. Clearly, I’m still scarred from that. I guess I have a bit of a Samson complex. It’s like I’ll lose my powers if I get a terrible haircut. I’m not sure what powers I have, but I’m not going to risk it. I’ll just let the nest keep growing. Mira says she likes it, especially when I gel my hair into submission and comb it straight back. I call it the poofy Gekko look. But I fear the gel strategy won’t last for much longer. By the end of the day, the top is still under control, but my sides start to go a little wacky, probably from me running my hands through my hair throughout the day. I kind of look like Doc Brown from Back to the Future around 6 PM. It’s pretty scary. What to do? It turns out hair salons were one of the first businesses to reopen in Georgia. So I made an appointment for mid-June to get a cut from my regular stylist. Is it a risk? Yes. And I’ve never checked her license, but I’m pretty sure her name isn’t Deliah. The salon is taking precautions. I’ll be wearing a mask and so will she. We have to wait outside, and she cleans and disinfects everything between customers. It’s a risk that I’m willing to take. Because at some point, we have to return to some sense of normalcy. And for me, getting my hair cut without risking a Grossberger is the kind of normalcy I need. Share:

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Insight 5/14/2020: Hugs

The pandemic is hard on everyone. (says the Master of the Obvious) It’s a combination of things. There are layers of fear — both from the standpoint of the health impact, as well as the financial challenges facing so many. We cannot underestimate the human toll, and unfortunately, the US has never prioritized mental health. As I mentioned last week in my inaugural new Insight, I’m not scared for myself, although too many people I care about are in vulnerable demographics. I’m lucky that (at least for now) the business is OK. I work in an industry that continues to be important and for a company that is holding its own. But it’s hard not to let the fear run rampant. The Eastern philosophies teach us to stay in the moment. To try to focus on what’s right in front of you. Do not fixate on decisions made or roads not taken. Do not think far ahead about all of the things that may or may not come to pass. Stay right here in the experience of the present. And I try. I really try to keep the things I control at the forefront. Yet there is so much I don’t control about this situation. And that creates a myriad of challenges. For example, I don’t control the behavior of others. I believe the courteous thing to do now is wear a mask when in public. There are certainly debates about whether the masks make a real difference in controlling the spread of the novel coronavirus. But when someone near me is wearing a mask, it’s a sign (to me anyway) that they care about other people. Maybe I’m immunocompromised (thankfully I’m not). Maybe I live with someone elderly. They don’t know. The fact is they likely don’t have the infection. But perhaps they do. It’s about consideration, not about personal freedoms. I have the right to approach someone sitting nearby and fart (from 6 feet away, of course). But I don’t do that because it’s rude. I put wearing a mask into the same category. But alas, I don’t control whether other people wear masks. I can only avoid those that don’t. NY Governor Andrew Cuomo said it pretty well. I don’t control who takes isolation seriously and who doesn’t. Many people have decided to organize small quarantine pods who isolate with each other because they don’t see anyone else. This arrangement requires discipline and trust and doesn’t scale much past 2 or 3 families. Being in a blended household means that I had my pod defined for me. There are my household and the households of both of our former spouses. It’s hard to keep everyone in sync. My kids were staying with their Mom in the early days of quarantine. But my son was seeing other kids in the neighborhood. Not a lot, but a few. And supposedly those kids were staying isolated – until they weren’t. One of the neighbors had a worker in the house and then had a visitor who was a healthcare professional in Canada. Sigh. So he goes into isolation for two weeks, and I can’t see my kids. Then my former spouse got religion about isolation and decided that she wasn’t comfortable with my pod, which includes Mira’s former spouse. She doesn’t know him, and in this situation, trust is challenging. Sigh. Another six weeks of not seeing my kids. Mira and I have done a few social distance walks with them, but it’s hard. You wonder if they are too close. So we adapted and set up chairs in a parking lot and hung out. It’s tough. All I wanted to do was hug my kids, but I couldn’t. To be clear, in the grand scheme of things, this is a minor problem. A point in time that will pass. Maybe in 6 months, or maybe in a year. But it will pass. And I’ve got it good, given my health and ability to still work. Many people don’t. They may be alone, or they may not have a job. Those are big problems. But I also don’t want to minimize my experience. It sucks not to be able to parent your kids. It’s getting more complicated by the day. Things in Georgia (where I live) are opening up. Many of the kid’s friends are getting together, and the reality is that we can’t keep them isolated forever. So their Mom and I decided we would keep things locked down through the end of May and then revisit our decision in June. My kids could stay with me for a little while. And that happened last week. When I went over to pick them up, I was overcome. It was only a hug, but it felt like a lot more than that. Over the past week, I got to wake them up, pester them to do online classes, eat with them, and sit next to them as we watched something on Netflix. We were going to figure out week by week where the kids would stay. I’m not going anywhere, so that would work great. But the best-laid plans… I found out that my oldest is seeing her friends. And isn’t socially distancing. Sigh. She’s an adult (if you call 19 an adult), and she made the decision. I’m unhappy but trying to be kind. I’m trying to understand her feelings as her freshman year in college abruptly ended. She went from the freedom of being independent (if you call college independent living) to being locked up in her Mom’s house. That when you are 19, you don’t really think about the impact of your actions on other people. That you can get depressed and forget about the rules and do anything to take a drive with a couple of friends. And now the other house where my kids live is no longer in my pod. One of the kids is with me, and she’ll stay for a couple of

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Insight 5/4/2020: Confessions

It’s a sunny late spring day. Mike steps into the dank building and can smell the must. It feels old but familiar. Strangely familiar. The building looks the same, but he knows it’s different. Too much time has passed. He steps into the confessional and starts to talk. Mike: Forgive me. It’s been almost 3 and a half years since I’ve been here. I’d say it was because I have been busy, which I have. But it’s not that. I spent close to 13 years here, and I had gone through a pretty significant personal transformation. As I was navigating the associated transitions, I guess I just wanted to live a bit and integrate a lot of the lessons I’ve learned behind the scenes for a while. Confessor: OK. That seems reasonable. How’s that been going? Mike: Pretty good, I’d say. I mentioned my new love (her name is Mira). We got married in mid-2017. I’ve packed my oldest daughter off to college last August and my step-son leaves for his college hopefully at the end of this summer. We’ve got a wonderful blended family and we’ve made some close friends as well. Physically I’m good as well. I’ve been able to maintain my fitness through intense workouts (thanks to OrangeTheory) and use the time in class as my mindfulness practice. And I just try to improve a little bit each day and live my life with kindness and grace. Confessor: How’s work going? You mentioned being busy, but what does that mean? Everyone is busy. Mike: That’s a good point. Culturally there is some kind of weird incentive to be busy. Or to look busy, anyway. Rich and I have been grinding away. Adrian decided to move on last December, so we’ve just kept pushing forward. Evidently cloud security is a thing, so we’ve benefited from being in the right place at the right time. But we spend a lot of time thinking about how work changes and the impact to security. We don’t quite know what it will look like, but we’re pretty sure it accelerates a lot of the trends we’ve been talking about for the past 5 years. I’m also happy to say DisruptOps is doing well (we closed a Series A back in late February). I guess I’m just grateful. I work with great people and I can still pay the bills, so no complaints. Confessor: Hmmm. So you are in a good spot personally and the business is doing well. It seems that you used the time away from here productively. Why come back now? Mike: I found that being here was a way of documenting my journey, for me. And that many of the people here enjoyed it and learned a thing or two. The fact is we are in the midst of a very uncertain time. Our society has undergone shocks to the system and we’re all trying to figure out what a “new normal” looks like. I don’t have any answers, to be clear, but I want to share my fears, my hopes, and my experiences and hope that we’ll all navigate these challenging and turbulent waters together. Confessor: Fear. That’s a good place to start. What are you scared of? Mike: Simply put, that COVID-19 impacts people that I love. We’ve been lucky so far, taking the quarantine seriously, but I am not taking that for granted and continuing to stay inside. Good thing I can come here virtually. Strangely enough, I have little fear regarding my own physical well-being. I made a deal with Mira that we’d be together for at least 44 years and I plan to make good on that deal. But our parents are old and in some cases, immunocompromised. We can’t control what other people do and whether they respect the threat or the science. So it’s definitely scary. Confessor: How are you holding up mentally? Mike: It’s tough. My head was spinning. I was consumed by the news and reacting to most every Tweet. It wasn’t productive. So I’ve started seated meditation again. I just needed to shut down my thoughts, even for a short time, and open up to possibility. To get into the habit of controlling my thoughts, my outlook, and my mood. Meditation helps me do that. And it’s hard to not be able to do the things we love and have no idea when things will return to some semblance of normal. You know, doing simple things that I took for granted, like travel. Mira and I love to travel and we’re very fortunate to go on very cool trips. We can’t see shows or live sports for the time being. That sucks. I also value the time I can spend with clients and at conferences. Who knew that the RSA Conference would be the last time many of us will travel for business for who knows how long? But you make the best of it. Confessor: We’ve changed a lot in the time that you were away. There are new people here. Some have moved on. Mike: It’s not like I’m the same person either. We’re all constantly changing. The goal is to navigate change in the most graceful way possible. I like to think my changes have been positive. I don’t need to act like a grump anymore, I was happy to leave that aspect of my persona behind. I think there is also something to be said about the wisdom of experience. I don’t claim to be wise, but I have a lot of experience. Mostly screwing things up. Hopefully, I’ll be able to continue sharing that experience here and we can learn together. We’re in uncharted territory and that can be pretty exciting if you are open to the inevitable changes ahead. Confessor: So when will you be back? And I suspect it won’t look the same, will it? Mike: You are pretty perceptive. I always enjoyed that about being here. I’m going to aim to

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Understanding COVID, ARDS, and Mechanical Ventilation

April 7 Update: some research is emerging since I posted this that COVID related ARDS is not typical ARDS. Here’s the medical reference for providers but it’s very early evidence so far we should keep an eye on: COVID-19 Does Not Lead to a “Typical” ARDS. This was further validated by an article in MedScape that previews some emerging peer-reviewed research. Thus while my explanations of ARDS and ventilators is accurate, the ties to COVID-19 are not and new treatment protocols are emerging. Although this is a security blog, this post has absolutely nothing to do with security. No parallels from medicine, no mindset lessons, just some straight-up biology. As many readers know I am a licensed Paramedic. I first certified in the early 1990’s, dropped down to EMT for a while, and bumped back up to full medic two years ago. Recently I became interested in flight and critical care and completed an online critical care and flight medic course from the great team at FlightBridgeED. Paramedics don’t normally work with ventilators – it is an add-on skill specific for flight and critical care (ICU) transports. I’m a neophyte to ventilator management, with online and book training but no practice, but I understand the principles, and thanks to molecular biology back in college, have a decent understanding of cellular processes. COVID-19 dominates all our lives now, and rightfully so. Ventilators are now a national concern and one the technology community is racing to help with. Because of my background I’ve found myself answering a lot of questions on COVID-19, ARDS, and ventilators. While I’m a neophyte at running vents, I’m pretty decent at translating complex technical subjects for non-experts. Here’s my attempt to help everyone understand things a bit better. The TL;DR is that COVID-19 damages the lungs, which for some people triggers the body to overreact with too much inflammation. This extra fluid interferes with gas exchange in the lungs, and oxygen can’t as easily get into the bloodstream. You don’t actually stop breathing, so we use the ventilators to change pressure and oxygen levels, in an attempt to diffuse more oxygen through this barrier and into the lungs without, causing more damage by overinflating them. We start with respiration Before we get into COVID and ventilators we need to understand a little anatomy and physiology. Cells need oxygen to convert fuel into energy. Respiration is the process of getting oxygen into cells and removing waste products – predominantly CO2. We get oxygen from our environment and release CO2 through ventilation: air moving in and out of our lungs. Those gases are moved around in our blood, and the actual gas exchange occurs in super-small capillaries which basically wrap around our cells. The process of getting blood to tissues is called perfusion. Theis is all just some technical terminology to say: our lungs take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide, we move the gases around using our circulatory system, and we exchange gases in and out of cells in super-small capillaries. Pure oxygen is a toxin, and CO2 diffused in blood is an acid, so our bodies have all sorts of mechanisms to keep things running. Everything works thanks to diffusion and a few gas laws (Graham’s, Henry’s, and Dalton’s are the main ones). Our lungs have branches and end in leaves called alveoli. Alveoli are pretty wild – they have super-thin walls to allow gases to pass through, and are surrounded by capillaries to transfer gasses into and out of our blood. They look like clumps of bubbles, because they maximize surface area to facilitate the greatest amount of gas exchange in the smallest amount of space. Healthy alveoli are covered in a thin liquid called surfactant, which keeps them lubricated so they can open and close and slide around each other as we breathe. Want to know one reason smokers and vapers have bad lungs? All those extra chemicals muck up surfactant, thicken cell walls, and cause other damage. In smokers a bunch of the alveoli clump together, losing surface area, in a process called atelectasis (remember that word). Our bodies try to keep things in balance, and have a bunch of tools to nudge things in different directions. The important bit for our discussion today is that ventilation is managed through how much we breathe in for a given breath (tidal volume), and how many times a minute we breathe (respiratory rate). This combination is called our minute ventilation and is normally about 6-8 liters per minute. This is linked to our circulation (cardiac output), which is around 5 liters per minute at rest. The amount of oxygen delivered to our cells is a function of our cardiac output and the amount of oxygen in our blood. We need good gas exchange with our environment, good gas exchange into our bloodstream, and good gas exchange into our cells. COVID-19 screws up the gas exchange in our lungs, and everything falls apart from there. Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome ARDS is basically your body’s immune system gone haywire. It starts with lung damage – which can be an infection, trauma, or even metabolic. One of the big issues with ventilators is that they can actually cause ARDS with the wrong settings. This triggers an inflammatory response. A key aspect of inflammation is various chemical mediators altering cell walls, especially those capillaries – and then they start leaking fluid. In the lungs this causes a nasty cascade: Fluid leaks from the capillaries and forms a barrier/buffer of liquid between the alveoli and the capillaries, and separates them. This reduces gas exchange. Fluid leaks into the alveoli themselves, further inhibiting gas exchange. The cells are damage by all this inflammation, triggering another stronger immune response. Your body is now in a negative reinforcement cycle and making things worse by trying to make them better. This liquid and a bunch of the inflammation chemicals dilute the surfactant and damage the alveolar walls, causing atelectasis. In later stages of ARDS your

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Mastering the Journey—Building Network Manageability and Security for your Path

This is the third post in our series, “Network Operations and Security Professionals’ Guide to Managing Public Cloud Journeys”, which we will release as a white paper after we complete the draft and have some time for public feedback. You might want to start with our first and second posts. Special thanks to Gigamon for licensing. As always, the content is being developed completely independently using our Totally Transparent Research methodology. Learning cloud adoption patterns doesn’t just help us identify key problems and risks – we can use them to guide operational decisions to address the issues they consistently raise. This research focuses on managing networks and network security, but the patterns include broad security and operational implications which cover all facets of your cloud journey. Governance issues aside, we find that networking is typically one of the first areas of focus for organizations, so it’s a good target for our first focused research. (For the curious, IAM and compliance are two other top areas organizations focus on, and struggle with, early in the process). Recommendations for a Safe and Smooth Journey Developer Led Mark sighed with relief and satisfaction as he validated the VPN certs were propagated and approved the ticket for firewall rule change. The security group was already in good shape and they managed to avoid having to add any kind of direct connect to the AWS account for the formerly-rogue project. He pulled up their new cloud assessment dashboard and all the critical issues were clear. It would still take the IAM team and the project’s developers a few months to scale down unneeded privileges but… not his problem. The federated identity portal was already hooked up and he would get real time alerts on any security group changes. “Now onto the next one,” he mumbled after he glanced at his queue and lost his short-lived satisfaction. “Hey, stop complaining!” remarked Sarah, “We should be clear after this backlog now that accounting is watching the credit cards for cloud charges; just run the assessment and see what we have before you start complaining.” Having your entire organization dragged into the cloud thanks to the efforts of a single team is disconcerting, but not unmanageable. The following steps will help you both wrangle the errant project under control, and build a base for moving forward. This was the first adoption pattern we started to encounter a decade ago as cloud starting growing, so there are plenty of lessons to pull from. Based on our experiences, a few principles really help manage the situation: Remember that to meet this pattern you should be new to either the cloud in general, or to this cloud platform specifically. These are not recommendations for unsanctioned projects covered by your existing experience and footprint. Don’t be antagonistic. Yes, the team probably knew better and shouldn’t have done it… but your goal now is corrective actions, not punitive. You goal is to reduce urgent risks while developing a plan to bring the errant project into the fold. Don’t simply apply your existing policies and tooling from other environments to this one. You need tooling and processes appropriate for this cloud provider. In our experience, despite the initial angst, these projects are excellent opportunities to learn your initial lessons on this platform, and to start building out for a larger supported program. If you keep one eye on immediate risks and the other on long-term benefits, everything should be fine. The following recommendations go a long way towards reducing risks and increasing your chances of success. But before the bullet points we have one overarching recommendation: As you gain control over the unapproved project, use it to learn the particulars of this cloud provider and build out your core cloud management capabilities. When you assess, set yourself up to support your next ten assessments. When you enable monitoring and visibility, do so in a way which supports your next projects. Wherever possible build a core service rather than a one-off. Step one is to figure out what you are dealing with: How many environments are involved? How many accounts, subscriptions, or projects? How are the environments structured? This involves mapping out the application, the PaaS services offered by the provider (they offer PaaS services such as load balancers and serverless capabilities), the IAM, the network(s), and the data storage. How are the services configured? How are the networks structured and connected? The Software Defined Networks (SDN) used by all major cloud platforms only look the same on the surface – under the hood they are quite a bit different. And, most importantly, Where does this project touch other enterprise resources and data?!? This is essential for understanding your exposure. Are there unknown VPN connections? Did someone peer through an existing dedicated network pipe? Is the project talking to an internal database over the Internet? We’ve seen all these and more. Then prioritize your biggest risks: Internet exposures are common and one of the first things to lock down. We commonly see resources such as administrative servers and jump boxes exposed to the Internet at large. In nearly every single assessment we find at least one instance or container with port 22 exposed to the world. The quick fix for these is to lock them down to your known IP address ranges. Cloud providers’ security groups are very effective because they just drop traffic which doesn’t meet the rules, so they are an extremely effective security control and a better first step than trying to push everything through an on-premise firewall or virtual appliance. Identity and Access Management is the next big piece to focus on. This research is focused more on networking, so we won’t spend much time on this here. But when developers build out environments they almost always over-privilege access to themselves and application components. They also tend to use static credentials, because unsanctioned projects are unlikely to integrate into your federated identity management. Sweep out static credentials, enable federation, and turn

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