More Holiday Cheer: SCIM Cloud Provisioning Standard Reaches A Big Milestone

I've blogged and published research before about the emerging Simple Cloud Identity Management (SCIM) standard. The SCIM group has just approved Version 1.0. No, it's not your imagination: important standards around loosely coupled identity management really are being developed, tested, and deployed at a faster rate than ever before.

What does this new pace mean for security pros? New identity protocols can be disruptive to large enterprises that have already deployed older solutions, but these new solutions will enable IT organizations to reduce costs and improve agility in managing access to/from smaller partners and customers that don't have the means to deploy the heavy stuff. That makes access control easier to achieve in a Zero Trust world. (Andras Cser and I touch on the theme of "leaner and cleaner" identity protocols in our just-published Identity And Access Management: 2012 Budget And Planning Guide, and I do a deeper dive, assessing the future of SAML and the business value of newer federation protocols, in OpenID Connect Heralds The "Identity Singularity".)

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A Christmas Present From MIT?

As much as the cloud computing model makes sense to me, my security sensibilities cry out about information risk every time I start to consider actual implementation for data of value across an enterprise.

A model which has always made sense has been to place only encrypted data in the cloud, holding the keys locally. This solution gives you control over data access, bypassing any Patriot Act concerns, but allows realization of the benefits of a shared, cloud infrastructure. It has always been recognized, however, that this solution has a number of drawbacks, such as:

  • The immense corporate sensitivity of the encryption keys utilised. These keys become essential to doing business.  If they are corrupted, lost or held hostage by hacktivists, for example, then the organization stops dead in the water.  
  • The difficulty of creating indexes, searching and applying transactions across encrypted data stores. If the concept is to keep the keys away from the cloud environment then actions such as indexing, searching or running database functions become very challenging.
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Xmas IAM Spending Spree: Quest Software Acquires BiTKOO, Enters IAM Suite Provider Market

With only 4 stack players in Identity and Access Management, it is always welcoming news to see a new company joining the space. Quest Software is on a shopping spree: it acquired e-DMZ (privileged identity management), Völcker Informatik AG (provisioning), Symlabs (virtual directories), and now BiTKOO (XACML entitlement management). Forrester expects that in reaction to its main competitor NetIQ taking over Novell’s IAM portfolio, Quest will expand significantly into the non-Windows, heterogeneous IAM space. Forrester further expects that Symantec and to some degree Intel will follow suit, as both of these companies announced cloud-based IAM offerings.

A European Perspective On The USA PATRIOT Act

The USA PATRIOT Act (more commonly known as “the Patriot Act”) was signed into law by George W. Bush on October 26, 2001 as a response to the September 11 attacks. The title of the act (USA PATRIOT) is actually an acronym that stands for “Uniting (and) Strengthening America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism”. Many aspects of the Act were to expire in 2005; however, renewals and extensions mean that the Act is here for a while yet.

For Security & Risk Professionals, the Patriot Act comes up in conversation mostly with regard to data access. The Act suggests that the US government is able to gain access to data held on US soil, or even by a US firm outside US territory, without the data owner being notified; this is of significant concern when it comes to considerations around the adoption of cloud technology. EU-based organizations are concerned that utilizing cloud as part of their infrastructure will make their data accessible to the US government. In 2004, the Canadian government passed laws prohibiting the storage of citizens’ personal data outside their physical boundaries, and a recent news article suggested that one large UK defense contractor walked away from Microsoft’s Office 365 due to lack of assurances on data location.   

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InfoSec: Enterprise Architecture Building Codes

There are many types of criminals. These include thrill-seeking hackers, politically motivated hackers, organized criminals after financial gain, and state-sponsored groups after financial gain and intellectual property or both.  Any of these have the potential to break these capabilities through information loss, or denial of service. Business processes and their associated transactions need to look at information security as a key component of any architectural design we might create as Enterprise Architects.

Security architecture is dependent on the idea of “security.”  Security by some definitions is the trade-off of convenience for protection.  When I am unloading the car and have an armful of groceries, it's challenging to unlock the front door at the same time. Alternatively I could just leave the front door unlocked but that might invite guests I had not planned for. So I trade convenience for protection.

  • Security is often seen as in conflict with business users; however, security is a process that protects the business and allows it to effectively operate.
  • Security is in response to perceived business risks.
  • Security can be seen as a benefit and a business enabler and can aid organizations to achieve their business objectives.
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Enterprises Continue To Drive Adoption Of Advanced Endpoint Security Tools, But SMBs Are Not Far Behind

Guest post from S&R Researcher Chris Sherman. 

Host-based intrusion prevention systems, host-based data leak protection, full disk and file level encryption . . . all are important tools used on the frontline of endpoint security. They all offer added levels of protection when used with traditional client AV and patch management systems, but at what cost? In order for these tools to be used correctly, organizations must be prepared to invest in increased IT staffing and product training for administrators. This generally proves to be too high of an obstacle for many SMBs, leaving a majority of the market to comprise of enterprises customers and big spenders. With their higher budgets and dedicated IT staff, enterprises are better positioned to take advantage of these advanced security technologies.

However, according to recent Forrester survey data, SMBs are just as interested in using these advanced security technologies. In our latest report "Endpoint Security Adoption Trends, Q2 2011 To Q4 2012," we present data showing adoption patterns of the various endpoint technologies in both SMBs and enterprises, while offering some analysis on what this means for security professionals looking to support current and future trends.

For those of you who are already planning on increasing your investment in endpoint security next year, which tools specifically are you looking at? What are your decision criteria?

@ChrisShermanFR