Tags: disk encryption, human behaviour, risk, security, security risk management
In a recent blog post, Bruce Schneier highlighted how a commercially available and low-cost (around £200) forensics tool is capable of cracking passwords for common commercial whole disk encryption products.
As I mentioned in a previous post, use of PGP Desktop to encrypt all laptop disks is compulsory at IBM and is enforced through our end-user computing standards.
The default power management configuration for laptops often just suspends the laptop when the lid is closed or when ‘sleep’ button is pressed. unless the laptop user selects ‘hibernate’ the disk drives are not encrypted. standards dictate that laptop configuration should be changed to hibernate in these circumstances, but how many users actually make the necessary changes?
The comprehensive help documents provided by IBM for configuring the whole disk encryption software step the user through making a ‘rescue disk’ to allow recovery in the event of a lost encryption password. So, how many users take any precautions to protect that?
Going back to the potential attack against whole disk encryption, it relies on the attacker being able to recover the encryption key from memory dumps or hibernation files, after the disk has been decrypted. Of course, if the laptop is always left safe (ie. powered down or at least hibernating) then that attack vector isn’t available. However, how many users leave their laptop unattended and logged in when they believe the environment is ‘safe’? And, how many leave their laptop unattended before the hibernation process has completed?
The common thread through all of this is that if users are careless, they can inadvertently cancel out any benefits from technical countermeasures. It’s simple enough to describe the exact behaviour that will prevent this. In Public sector security, we call this Security Operating Procedures, or SyOPs for short.
It’s usual to define the IT security risk management process as starting with risk assessment to select the right security controls, followed by incident management to deal with residual risk, invoking crisis management and BCP when required, to recover from the most severe incidents. I strongly believe that SyOP production and security awareness training for end users must form part of the risk management process and must be in place before a service is activated to ensure that the security controls operate as designed and to defend against the sort of attack described here.
As I said in the title, users are the one part of the system that can’t be patched to remove vulnerabilities. It’s vitally important to explain the importance of what we ask them to do and then to reinforce that through adherence to mandatory written instructions, in order to establish the ‘habit’.
testing post from Wildfire!
Tags: arduino, IoT, m2m, mqtt, nanode, Rasberry Pi, Twitter
The Internet of Things is not a new notion. It’s been proposed in differing forms over a period of more than 10 years. The IoT links uniquely identifiable physical objects (things) to their virtual representations online, which can contain or link to additional information on identity, status, location or any other business, social or privately relevant information.
The intention is to provide access to accurate and appropriate information in the right quantity and condition, at the right time and place and at the right price.
IBM’s strategic Smarter Planet initiative, currently featuring in a mainstream UK TV advertising campaign, has been in place for a number of years. During the course of 2012, ny work as an IBMer has taken me into the world of Smarter Planet and in particular, into the field of Smart Grid and Smart Meters.
Influenced by working with a team of experts, particularly Dr Andy Stanford-Clark (IBM’s UK CTO for Smarter Energy), I set out to investigate the possibilities of the IoT for myself, determined to be able to talk to the myriad devices I use daily and to have them talk back to me.
As a gauge of what can be achieved, I looked into the monitoring and automation that Andy had built into his own home on the Isle of Wight.
In this TEDX talk, Andy describes how his experimenting moved from the personal to the local to the regional and how he believes that the Internet of Things will evolve as a global system of systems, interconnecting regional smart grids.
To start with though, let’s talk about some of the attributes of the Internet of Things:
The IoT is based on the premise of pervasive computing. This means machine to machine communication (m2m) between potentially trillions of devices. These don’t have to be just new “smart” devices. The availability of small, simple and low-cost components means that legacy devices can be connected as well. Each devices then exhibits three key characteristics:
- Instrumented: Sensors are provided to monitor the device operation and collect key data
- Interconnected: The device has a means of communicating with other devices, or through a hub to deliver its data and receive requests or commands;
- Intelligent: The device has sufficient memory, storage and processing power to forward the data to an intelligent back end, where it’s analysed to form a world view.
The ready availability of low-cost compute nodes, such as arduino and nanode and more recently the Raspberry Pi makes it simple to get started with adding these capabilities to existing devices.
The consequence of these pervasive computing capabilities is inevitably an explosion in the amount of data available. This explosion can be described in terms of:
- Volume: The amount of data accumulated either from a single device or multiple devices of the same type (accumulation);
- Variety: The types of data made available, structured and unstructured, including voice, video and other rich data types;
- Velocity: The rate at which events are received by the hub or the subscriber.
Big data can be as much a hindrance as a help, unless we keep in mind a couple of key design principles:
- Device data needs to be filtered to make it relevant – a change in inside temperature of 0.1deg isn’t significant, a drop of outside temperature to < 4degC is.
- Just like any well designed metric, the event the device generates must be actionable by the person viewing it.
- The utility of data (big or otherwise) increases exponentially, as it is enriched through aggregation with data from other devices or sensors.
- The collection, filtering, aggregation and analysis of data needs to be focussed on supporting a specific human decision.
- From devices and sensors into local networks, using a simple, small footprint subscribe and publish messaging protocol such as MQ Telemetry Transport (MQTT)
- Allow the network to communicate with the outside world through a microblogging service, such as Twitter
Over a series of posts, I will describe my adventures on the IoT, experimenting at the personal level with these components, to:
- Monitor power usage within my own house
- Connect devices within the house, through the MQTT messaging protocol
- Contribute data to community sensor projects
Tags: Advanced Persistent Threat, cloud, consumer devices, consumerisation, crisis management, GRC, smartphones, tablets
According to Andy Warhol, everyone gets 15 minutes of fame. If you’re a security consultant, maybe that 15 minutes is the chance you get, face to face with the CEO of your customer, to convince them to focus on security.
The other day I found myself in conversation with a couple of senior execs from a large and well-known security vendor. During the discussion, they made the point that oftentimes a security health check or investigation means presenting bad news. The CISO is not always going to be overjoyed by what you have to report, so you need to present your conclusions direct to the decision maker.
So, this was the challenge – how are you going to get the CEO’s attention and a commitment to action, all in just 15 minutes? Clearly, there’s no use talking about operational security – that’s the CISO’s patch. So, I mused, frame the discussion in terms of Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC). Most organisations of any size are now quite adept at security compliance. Faced with a plethora of legislation, regulation and contract schedules and armed with a bewildering array of control frameworks and certification schemes, IT security teams spend most of their time looking backwards at what already happened. Beyond that, the Business grants authority to the CISO and his team to implement sufficient controls to enforce the corporate IT security policy. Governance is about monitoring how that decision-making process is working. Finally, the real objective looking forward should be to deploy adequate security to meet the business risk. That ought to be something the CEO cares about.
OK, so now we have a context, but what are the big issues in security for the business? I came up with a Top 3 (you may well disagree):
- Consumerisation: Like it or not, staff are going to use their own devices (smart phones, tablets, home computers) in the course of their work. Of course, these devices are outside the control of the IT department, so how do you enforce security policies? What happens if the device is lost? Can you do a remote wipe (which will include the owner’s data as well as the company data)? This loss of control of physical assets and their configuration provides a toehold in the network for an attacker.
- Advanced Persistent Threats: The business may find itself under attack from an APT, armed with a wide range of skills and resources and focused on a long-term (months or even years) objective. Even if the IT Security team detects ATP activity, this may only be a fleeting glimpse of what’s actually happening The business may well have no idea why it is being targetted. All the while, the APT will be syphoning off vast amounts of data, maybe sensitive business information, maybe intellectual property, but also maybe personal information belonging to the business’s clients or employees.
- Cloud Services: I wrote in a previously post about the threats to security governance posed by cloud services. In many organisations, business units are adopting cloud services without the advice and support of their IT security specialists. The resulting agreements often provide little or no oversight as to how the provider will assure the security of critical or sensitive data and can place the business’ legal and/or regulatory compliance status in jeopardy.
All of these conspire to present a real and growing threat to the personal and sensitive information, stored by virtually every organisation these days. But, how to persuade the CEO that these threats are real? The challenge is to come up with a set of “world-class” questions – they don’t require an answer at the time, rather they should make our CEO reflect on what matters to the long-term health of the business. By coincidence, fellow IBMer Marc van Zadelhoff recently described his set of questions for the CISO in a blog post for the IBM Institute of Advanced Security. His candidate questions are rather more technical than what I had in mind, but that really reflects the dilemma of how to engage with the Business at a senior level. So, I thought about it for a while and this is what I came up with:
- Where is your data stored right now? Can you account for every copy? If you’ve entrusted data to a 3rd party, are you sure you can get it back if you end the service? Are you sure they’ll delete it when you tell them?
- Can you be sure that your sensitive data isn’t being exfiltrated by an attacker? If it was happening, would you know?
- If the worst were to happen and you become the target for a large-scale, highly public data breach, do you have a credible, tested crisis plan for dealing with it? Can you withstand the reputational damage while you execute your plan?
So, that’s my list, all related to the need to protect critical and sensitive data. How would your CEO answer?
Tags: human behaviour, Twitter
Not my normal security-related subject matter, but I had to pull together some highlights (wrong word?) of the appalling events in London over the past few days.The sequence below, taken from Twitter and Flickr and assembled in Storify (http://www.storify.com), show clearly that the vast majority of people in the UK are sickened by the mindless violence and sheer greed of the criminals who did this. The story also shows (to me at least) that when it comes down to it, the people of the UK, and particularly Londoners, will always rise above attempts to terrorise them and just get on with sorting things out.
Something we can all do to help. Publish the banner on your website or your blog or retweet the post. Let people know, so they can turn out to help with getting things back to normal.
For me, this picture sums up the violence of the whole thing. This morning’s television news showed footage of a 150 year old family run furniture store ablaze. Why? What did that achieve?
But, as bad as things get, people act with kindness and show their appreciation to the police..
And then this morning, I can only echo Professor Brian Cox on Twitter (above). it really does restore your faith in human nature.
People turned out in droves, responding to a spontaneous campaign to clean up the devastation left by the rioters.
|#riotcleanup pictures on PicFog
Check out this site for more pictures of the clean up operation around London.
Now something else we can all do to help. Look at the pictures from the Met Police. If you know any of these clowns, tell the police. They need to be stopped before someone gets seriously hurt.
Tags: Dunbar's number, photo ID, physical security, tailgating
“What the middle-aged Tory minister said to the young blonde Labour MP in a lift”
The Times 13 May 2011
It’s been a pretty hectic time for me work-wise recently – you may have noticed from the tumbleweed blowing through this blog in recent weeks! But, after a concerted push to get some deliverables out, I finally found myself working from home today, with a little less pressure than normal. So, I decided to set myself up for the day with an early morning trip to my favourite coffee shop, for a cappuccino (skinny, of course!) and a chance to read the newspaper in peace.
So it was that I found myself reading in the Times about a minor spat between two Members of Parliament. In a nutshell, a senior (male) MP challenged a young woman he encountered in a restricted area, on the basis that “”Well, I thought you looked too young to be an MP”. He challenged her to produce her pass, which she did. Awkward. Now, I don’t intend to defend the MP’s possibly boorish manner (after all, it seems he has form when it comes to acerbic remarks). Equally, it seems at least possible that the younger (newly elected) MP might have been less than cooperative, when challenged. So all in all, a storm in a tea-cup, but it reminded me of a serious point.
Must we wear photo passes?
Regular readers will know that I work for IBM where, in common with all technology based organisations and many large organisations of all types, it’s mandatory for all staff to have a pass to gain access to and move around the company sites. These access passes form a key component of physical access control systems and even, in more advanced deployments, provide strong authentication for access to computer systems. They also generally display a photo of the owner and their name. The idea is that the most basic element of physical security is for those in a restricted area to be aware of who should be present and who shouldn’t.
In modern organisations, staff often visit their “home” office only infrequently. Equally, the number of staff in any one location is often very large. As I wrote in a previous post, Dunbar’s Number suggests that we have difficulty keeping track of a circle of acquaintances numbering more than (say) 150. This is, in large part, the reason behind photographic ID. I’m sure IBM is not alone in insisting that these badges are worn in plain sight by all staff at all times.
They also help in avoiding embarrassing situations like the newspaper story, with which I opened. ”Tailgating” is frowned upon at card operated doors and clearly visible photo ID makes it easier for security staff to detect. It’s everyone’s responsibility – and should be drummed into new staff through security awareness training – to be aware of who is in the area and to confirm their right to be there. We also have to be prepared to challenge anyone not displaying the correct pass, though hopefully showing a little more tact than the Tory MP.Follow @Vintage1951
Tags: accreditation, CAPS, CCTM, CESG, Common Criteria, Critical National Infrastructure
I’m a regular reader (and subscriber) to Phil Stewart’s Excelgate Blog here on WordPress, since I met Phil through the UK Chapter of ISSA. In his latest post, Phil describes the launch by CESG of the CPA: Commercial Product Assurance scheme.
Over the last 20 years or so, I’ve had a hand in the design and delivery of a wide variety of systems for handling Protectively Marked or otherwise sensitive data, from both the vendor side and the customer side. In every case, it was easier to prove the required level of assurance to the Accreditor, when the solution was built on certified products.
However, the certification schemes available – principally the internationally supported Common Criteria (ISO 15408 – originally ITSEC in the UK) and the UK’s CESG Assisted Product Scheme (CAPS) for crypto products – are aimed mainly at the higher Impact Levels. As a consequence, certification is a lengthy and expensive process for the vendor. This commitment of cost and time must inevitably be passed on to the purchaser. For systems handling data up to Impact Level 3 (or Protectively Marked as Restricted), the level of both functionality and assurance offered by CC or CAPS products is more than is needed and the cost often prohibitive.
Such systems form the bulk of deployments in the UK’s Public Sector and Critical National Infrastructure, so what has long been needed is a catalogue of commercial security products, approved for use at the lower Impact Levels. The progress from the Claims Test Mark Scheme, piloted by CSIA and the Cabinet Office from 2004 to this new scheme is well documented in the Excelgate blog. For me though, the most attractive attributes of the CPA scheme include:
- CPA products are approved for use up to IL3 (CTM products may be used up to IL2);
- The criteria for approval recognise that threat levels differ even at the same Impact Level and provide for a Foundation and Augmented level of approval for each product. This allows a product to be awarded Foundation level approval (relatively) quickly, while evaluation continues for Augmented level.
- The process will accept evidence generated for other certification schemes, greatly reducing both the time and the cost to vendors of the approval process. Hopefully this will be reflected in a much wider range of security enabling products being submitted for approval.
- A wide range of security characteristics have been defined against which products can be tested. The scheme has established 3 tiers of priority for initial product testing, ensuring that the most commonly required security mitigations are served first.
Details of the transition from the CCTM scheme to CPA were published by CESG in February 2011. Acceptance of new products for CCTM evaluation will end in December 2011, with no product certificates remaining in force after December 2012. The CPA scheme goes live this month (April 2011) and of course, it remains to be seen how it works in practice. In my opinion, it will stand or fall by how well it succeeds in reducing the time and cost burden on vendors seeking approval. Success in that will ensure a wider range of solutions with security adequate to meet the business risk will be available to public sector customers, removing the need to over engineer their solutions in order to achieve accreditation. When that happens, everyone wins, not least the UK tax payer.