Tag Archives: research

Russians used non-public exploits to hack governments; Debunking: skill vs. budget

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Organizations being hacked is not always the result of superior adversary, but more often than not (I think the figure is closer to 85% defender mistakes vs. 15% “very skilled) the result of poor defenses. The recent Russian hacking highlights against the White House website (note that GAO rated MOST Federal agencies as failing w/ regards to their information security postures) was noted as skilled, because they used yet known vulnerabilities. This is a generous leap in conclusion.

Their sophistication is not a factor here, but they have budget to buy such vulnerabilities off the open market. These are easily available and a successful attack could be orchestrated with less than $10k. According to public sources, the very expensive vulnerabilities cost around $100k. Easily within the reach of any financed attack group.

As we enter the week of RSA, and likely a slew of discoveries that are released this week let’s be pragmatic on their impacts and the defenders role.

They’ve determined that APT28, a politically-motivated Russian hacking group, used unpatched exploits in Flash Player and Windows in a series of assaults against a “specific foreign government organization” on April 13th. Patches for both flaws are either ready or on the way, but the vulnerabilities reinforce beliefs that APT28 is very skilled — less experienced groups would use off-the-shelf code.

via Russians are using undiscovered exploits to hack governments.

See you at RSA!

James @jdeluccia

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Bored w/ Security warnings? MRIs show our brains shutting down when we see security prompts

Ever find yourself just click click clicking through every message box that pops up? Most people click through a warning (which in the land of Web Browsers usually means STOP DON’T GO THERE!!) in less than 2 seconds. The facts seem to be due to be from habituation – basically, you are used to clicking, and now we have the brain scans to prove it!

What does this mean for you? Well specifically you won’t be able to re-wire your brain, but perhaps you can turn up the settings on your web browser to not allow you to connect to a site that has the issues your web browser is warning against. Simple – let the browser deal with it and take away one nuisance.

From the study:

The MRI images show a “precipitous drop” in visual processing after even one repeated exposure to a standard security warning and a “large overall drop” after 13 of them. Previously, such warning fatigue has been observed only indirectly, such as one study finding that only 14 percent of participants recognized content changes to confirmation dialog boxes or another that recorded users clicking through one-half of all SSL warnings in less than two seconds.

via MRIs show our brains shutting down when we see security prompts | Ars Technica. (photo credit Anderson, et al)

Don’t forget to check out – www.facebook.com/hntbh if you are looking for quick reminders. The book is coming along and chapter releases are (finally) coming in April!

Hardware failure can lead to 70% breakout in Cloud / virtualization setup

cosmic raysGoogle released details on how an attacker can take advantage of the physical design and setup of some memory chips in computers. This exploit basically is based on setting and releasing a charge on one memory block to the point it leaks over to the neighbor block (simplifying here). Stated another way – Imagine cutting an onion and then using the same knife to cut a tomato… the taste of the onion would definitely transfer to the tomato, ask any toddler ūüėČ

  • What does this mean to enterprises – well it is early, but this type of risk to an organization should be addressed and covered in your third party supplier / procurement security team. Leading organizations are already vetting hardware vendors and the components included in each purchase to prevent malicious firmware and snooping technology.
  • In addition, the supplier team managing all of the deployed cloud and virtualization relationships (your Cloud Relationship Manager) should begin a process of reviewing their provider evaluations.

Of course this is a new release and the attack is not simple, but that doesn’t mean it won’t and could not occur.

The attack identified by Google plus the virtualized environment creates a situation where an attacker “…can design a program such that a single-bit error in the process address space gives him a 70% probability of completely taking over the JVM to execute arbitrary code” – Research paper

Given the probability of success, it is definitely valuable to have this on your risk and supplier program evaluations.

Here is the full analysis by Google and the virtualized research paper.

Best,

James DeLuccia

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Methodology for the identification of critical connected infrastructure and services ‚ÄĒ SAAS, shared services..

ENISA released a study with a methodology identifying critical infrastructure in communication networks. While this is important and valuable as a topic, I dove into this study for a particularly selfish reason … I am SEEKING a methodology that we could leverage for identifying critical connected infrastructure (cloud providers, SAAS, shared services internally for large corporations, etc..) for the larger public/private sector. ¬†Here are my highlights – I would value any additional analysis, always:

  • Challenge to the organization: “..which are exactly those assets that can be identified as Critical Information Infrastructure and how we can make sure they are secure and resilient?”
  • Key success factors:
    • Detailed list of critical services
    • Criticality criteria for¬†internal and external interdependencies
    • Effective collaboration between providers (internal and external)
  • Interdependency angles:
    • Interdependencies within a category of service
    • Interdependencies between categories of services
    • Interdependencies among data assets
  • Establish¬†baseline security guidelines (due care):
    • Balanced to business risks & needs
    • Established at procurement cycle
    • Regularly verified (at least w/in 3 yr cycle)
  • Tagging/Grouping of critical¬†categories of service
    • Allows for clean tracking & regular security verifications
    • Enables troubleshooting
    • Threat determination and incident response
  • Methodology next steps:
    • Partner with business and product teams to identify economic entity / market value
    • Identify the dependencies listed about and mark criticality based on entity / market value
    • Develop standards needed by providers
    • Investigate how monitoring to standards can be managed and achieved (in some cases contracts can support you, others will be a monopoly and you’ll need to augment their processes to protect you)
    • Refresh and adjust annually to reflect modifications of business values

I hope this breakout is helpful. The ENISA document has a heavy focused on promoting government / operator ownership, but businesses cannot rely or wait for such action and should move accordingly. The above is heavily modified and original thinking based on my experience with structuring similar business programs. A bit about ENISA’s original intent of the study:

This study aims to tackle the problem of identification of Critical Information Infrastructures in communication networks. The goal is to provide an overview of the current state of play in Europe and depict possible improvements in order to be ready for future threat landscapes and challenges. Publication date: Feb 23, 2015 via Methodologies for the identification of Critical Information Infrastructure assets and services ‚ÄĒ ENISA.

Best, James

My RSA 2013 Conference Session details

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I am looking forward to seeing the world in San Francisco for the RSA Conference this year!  It is always such a rich experience speaking with everyone throughout the week.  I have the privilege of speaking during one of the sessions, and invite all to stop by before and after for greater dialogue.

I am open to all suggestions on new research and new ideas in the ongoing adventure of developing information technology organizations balancing security and compliance.  A good deal of interest in managing the complexities of the abstraction of services and challenging the assumptions of our time.

You can reach me @jdeluccia during the event.

Here is the link to my RSA Conference details.

Always seeking,

James DeLuccia IV