Tag Archives: defcon

Industrial Control Systems – the new security frontier, a call for Org change

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A quote similar stated that SCADA and basically systems controlling physical machines is the new attack surface.  It struck me as obvious and non-obvious upon reflection.  The security of these systems tends to be Facilities and not under the scope of concern of most CISO and certainly not the CIO.  That is unless the organization is structured where such operating roles are under the General Legal Counsel or the COO.  The structure of the organization as it relates to operational integrity, competitiveness, and ultimately compliance – security depends upon the organizational structures being adapted to the technology age. To often we forget the value of organizational strategy shifts, and this is one that will be necessary and provide valuable returns.

How can this trickle into the tactical operations of the business?

Consider this single example?

  • What controls do you have on checking the version of the HVAC units (software version) powering your data center and or corporate offices?
  • Is there a security control in place to have it; be sure it can handle the load, and testing to ensure it works?  I imagine yes to all 3, as these are ABC of operations

However ….

  • What is the version of the HVAC PLC / SCADA element that is being utilized by the vendor and monitoring teams that is accessible remotely?
  • When audits occur, do they check to be sure the device isn’t the Siemens or other manufacturer that was just highlighted at Defcon or on the news?

If this is the new frontier, we need to start structuring organizations in a manner that are designed to care for these considerations to allow for business to be agile and competitive.

Thoughts (a bit of latitude on the above terminology is requested, given I am simplifying the example to avoid to much technical specification and confusion)?

James

Android fragmented device market = high risk mobile platform

The market of mobile devices is experiencing faster growth than the PC, and with that growth comes user adoption, the need to enable systems to interoperate, and of course keep the data flowing. The challenge on mobile devices crosses many spectrums, but one area to highlight deals with the variety of “branches” of the Android operating system and device platforms.

A nice visual was put together over at OpenSignalMaps that shows the variant of devices running the Android OS based on their application collected data. This is by no means a complete list, but it effectively defines the problem space. There are a lot of platforms that can run Android, have apps installed, and each can be utilized by the consumer. This trend will only radically increase as more and more devices are enabled through Android licenses (TVs, cars, toasters, space ships, etc…).  The latest iterations from Amazon are a great demonstration of custom hardware, blended operating system components, and user linked service providers to application and device.

A quick bit of details on their findings – total distinct devices 3,997!  Though 1,363 were only seen once – may result of data source and one-hit wonders.  Still that is a very large population.  The device model breakdown is the top graphic .. the authors provided a number of different slices of the data, and it is worth reviewing.

As for an information security and compliance perspective, below are two key areas – software updates & chipsets:

  • Software updates … not timely, consistent, or completely absent depending on the platform.  This relates to the Apps compatibility with the platform and OS.  The operating system itself as highlighted on Google’s own dashboard shows a broader active OS base across legacy operating systems than Apple.  The lack of software updates – being applied; existing, and being compatible must be mitigated.  The problem must be framed here properly – Updates in the “new” mobile world are not always to patch security vulnerabilities.  Some, many, make feature updates that are user focused / backend improvements, etc…  Therefore some updates (read; SOME) are not necessary but are nice to haves.  The business needs to integrate these considerations within the broader IT framework management structure to ensure that risks are mitigated that exist.  Sometimes updating to the latest version (to get rid of that nasty little red number) is not the right course of action.
  • Hardware chipsets… not to be trusted.  The hardware that makes up these tablets is based on a global supply chain.  As organizations move beyond single vendor sourcing (ahh, the good ol’ days of Blackberry – yes I said it), to multi vendor / platform, awareness of the hardware becomes important.  Hardware is specifically a risk to be addressed when the focus is on High Value Assets and Persons.  Meaning those who have access to that type of data or are likely targets of attacks.  It it those persons you would manage the device platform selection upon.  The number of poisoned chipsets coming out of China and other areas is increasing.  An appropriate level of consideration is important.  Beyond poisoned chipsets (i.e., malware / trojans built in), some chipsets have flawed designs that are identified by researchers (and published such as at DefCon), and always utilized by attackers in the wild.

There are other areas of consideration, but the two above draw on the 80/20 rule… would love other thoughts here!

Google also has a developer dashboard that highlights information about the deployed operating system distribution and adoption (as recorded based on connection to Google’s Play) that is worth visiting.

To sum it up …Having worked with clients to understand, frame, and execute plans that embrace mobile technology across their business requires an understanding of what is the opportunity space. Each enterprise is a bit different as a result of industry, age of company, and of course their business objectives. The challenge of a fragmented (Android) market space is that it creates risks that need to be viewed across a spectrum within the organization. The fragmentation is not obvious (not 1,000+ iterations!) and so the field of risk is not within line of site.  Organizations tend to go through phases when adopting mobile technology (consumerization) – block; deny; resist; deny without blocking; and finally yield…  Given the fragmentation mature businesses move beyond simple prohibition, but instead initiate a process to put in place information security safeguards to mitigate the risk to an effective level.

The authors of the original study made a good point at the end – the blessing and curse of Android is the fragmentation and not knowing where the application will run and on what hardware (country, etc…).  Finding an operational balance is the key.

Thoughts?

James DeLuccia

Convergence Risk: Google Chrome and Extensions, at BlackHat 2011

Interesting quotes from guys that demonstrated attack vectors in Google’s Chrome during Blackhat 2011:

“The software security model we’ve been dealing with for decades now has been reframed,” Johansen said.  “It’s moved into the cloud and if you’re logged into bank, social network and email accounts, why do I care what’s stored in your hard drive?”

  • An important illumination regarding the shifting of the risk landscape.  How the user interfaces with data and the system has changed and challenges the current technology controls relied upon to safeguard the intellectual property.
  • What is the effective rate of end-point security (malware / phishing agents, anti-virus) on this new user case?
  • What is being deployed and effective – policy, procedure, technology, a hybrid?

“While the Chrome browser has a sandboxing security feature to prevent an attack from accessing critical system processes, Chrome extensions are an exception to the rule. They can communicate among each other, making it fairly easy for an attacker to jump from a flawed extension to steal data from a secure extension.”

  • Speaks to the issue of convergence of apps that are emerging on iPhones, Androids, respective tablets, TVs, browsers, operating systems, etc…  Similar to the fragmentation attacks of the past – where packets would be innocent separate, but when all received they would reform to something capable of malicious activity.

Interesting extension of risk here is that the platform and / or devices may be trusted and accepted by enterprises, but it is these Apps / Widgets / Extensions that are creating the security scenarios.  This requires a policy and process for understanding the state of these platforms (platforms here including all mobile devices, browsers, and similar App-Loadable environments) beyond the gold configuration build.

Another article on the Google Chrome extension risk described above.

Thoughts?

James DeLuccia

Joseph Black, ex-CIA, spoke on cyberwar and the future at Blackhat

Joseph Black a counter-terrorism expert spoke at Blackhat on Cyberwar and the challenges of communicating the threats to leadership.  A few core highlights of that talk:

“…toughest thing about predicting terrorist attacks was getting people in power to take the predictions seriously and to do something about it.”

  •  Similar challenges exist within business organizations where risk landscapes may be incomplete or lack linkages across the enterprise’s business elements and information security programs.
  • The media attention to data breaches though may create clarity on this threat.

“Validation of threats will come into your world,” Black said. “There is a delay to that validation. This is the greatest issue you are going to face.”

  • Meaning it will occur, but definitive examples and “reasons for deterrence” will not arise until it has already occurred.  So appropriate to begin maturing the minimization and management of valuable data and the incident response capabilities…

“…We are moving from the Cold War to ‘code war.’”

  • A code war yes for governments, but the driver for business leaders is the notion around businesses and nation states stealing intellectual property (which is defined loosely and inaccurately by many) to create competitive alternatives OR to bolster local quality of life for a unit of people.

There are interesting public examples where digital attacks created an advantage for an attacking force, and achieved the results that would have required military kinetic force.  Two examples include the hacking of Syria’s radar software in 2007 that allowed for the bombing of a nuclear reactor (Syrian radar screens were made blank), and Stuxnet that caused the centrifuges to spin aggressively while displaying readings to operators showing normal operation (this caused a multi-year negative impact to these plants).

“…the problem with cyber warfare is the “false flag,” where countries responsible for cyber attacks will be able to plausibly deny responsibility or otherwise shift the blame to a rogue element.”

  • Attribution challenges make kinetic responses highly susceptible to trickery / fraud.

The seriousness and sophistication of attack, motivation, and intent against organizations is palpable.  The next few years equal sophistication must be applied to deterrence and management of information security.

Other thoughts, research, insights?

- James DeLuccia

Wireless networks are vulnerable, again (WPA2 Hack)

This week we learned that after considerable effort a vulnerability has been uncovered within the popular and previously most secure method of wireless encryption – WPA2.  In classic form, the researcher will demonstrate at Defcon 18.  You may find additional (repetitive) writings here and here.

To recap WPA2 has been the recommended standard for many public industry best practice guidances, and has been the classic default in most wireless deployments.  However, this is not a “serious problem“…

Deploying wireless has been proven to be insecure since its inception, and as such best practices consistently advise that these wireless networks be deployed “as if they they were public connection”, and therefore are secured accordingly.  Specifically wireless networks are advised to be deployed on a network connection external to your corporate data network.  In this architecture the user may gain access to the public internet (with advisable filtering and automated trigger monitoring to prevent a slew of spam generation), and simply leverages their already familiar VPN connectivity software.  This provides a secure tunnel for all data transmissions and eliminates the past, present, and upcoming wireless encryption vulnerabilities.

The PCI DSS standard in fact requires compensating controls if an organization chooses to deploy wireless to enhance the existing security state where wireless is required.
Wireless is a great business enabler, but should be architected, secured, and monitored in a manner that reflects the inherent trust aspects raised with the implementation.

A nice writeup, as always, can be found at Darknet.

Best,

James