When you fly nearly every week, you can get pretty bored on a plane. When I am sick of working, playing games, or watching movies, my latest distraction is checking out laptop screens. Sometimes I'm curious what movie you are watching but other times I am interested in what type of confidential company information you are displaying for the world to see. In the past few weeks I have seen the following types of information on my fellow flyer's screens:
End of year/end of quarter sales numbers
Disciplinary emails regarding employee peformance
Pre launch marketing information (which I presumed to be under embargo)
Competitive displacement information
Most of the time I suggest that my fellow traveler invest in a privacy screen, and most of the time they are receptive to the suggestion. It really is astounding how many people don't spend the approximate $30 on one. If your company doesn't issue them, I suggest you work to change that stance. World readable aren't the permissions you want on your laptop screen, time for chmod (UNIX joke).
You remember the tribbles don't you? The cute, harmless looking alien species from the second season of the original Star Trek that turn out to be anything but benign. They are born pregnant and reproduce at an alarming rate. The tribbles threaten the ship, but fortunately Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott is able to transport all of the furry creatures to a departing Klingon ship. The tribbles remind me of technology investments:
You start out small, but before you realize it the technology is everywhere and you are overwhelmed. It ends up in places you never intended.
Like the relaxing purr of the tribbles, the flashing lights of racks and stacks of gear gives us warm comfort at night
Tribbles consume everything, just like the operational requirements of much of our technology investment: resources, budget, and productivity are all devoured.
Data security consistently tops the laundry list of security priorities because it must. Organizations are collecting data, creating data, using data, and storing data in some way or another. Mishandle data or disregard privacy, and you’ve got a public relations fiasco on your hands with the potential to disrupt business operations or hurt the bottom line.
So, we know that data security is a priority, but what does that mean? What are organizations actually doing here? How much are they spending, and where are they focusing their efforts? And what are they doing about privacy? I’ve dug into data from Forrester’s Forrsights Security Survey, Q2 2012 and data from the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) to answer these questions in a newly published benchmarks report for our Data Security and Privacy playbook. Note: This is not a shopping list, nor a check list, nor is it a “spend x% on data security because your peers are doing so!” manifesto. This report is meant to be a starting point for discussion for S&R pros within their organizations to take a closer look at their own data security and privacy strategy.
I recently went for coffee with a very interesting gentleman who had previously been responsible for threat and vulnerability management in a global bank – our conversation roamed far and wide but kept on circling back to one or two core messages – the real fundamental principles of information security. One of these principles was “know your assets.”
Asset management is something that many CISO tend to skip over, often in the belief that information assets are managed by the business owners and hardware assets are closely managed by IT. Unfortunately, I’m not convinced that either of these beliefs is true to any great extent.
Take, for example, Anonymous’ recent hack of a forgotten VM server within AAPT’s outsourced infrastructure. VM "sprawl" is one of the key risks that Forrester discusses, and this appears to be a classic example – a virtual server created in haste and soon forgotten about. Commonly, as these devices fall off asset lists, they get neglected – malware and patching updates are skipped and backups are overlooked – yet they still exist on the network. It’s the perfect place for an attacker to sit unnoticed and, if the device exists in a hosted environment, it can also have the negative economic impact of monthly cost and license fees. One anecdote I heard was of a system administrator who, very cautiously and very successfully, disabled around 200 orphaned virtual servers in his organisation – with no negative business impact whatsoever.
Now, I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as soon as I could. I’ve lived in Dallas, TX for 30 years so I consider myself an adopted native-Texan. I’ll be at South-by-Southwest Interactive this weekend, so I thought I’d share some tips for all my current and future friends. For those of you from out-of-state – known as furriners – I hope you’ll find this advice helpful.
Last Friday, after a long week of RSA conference events and meetings, I eagerly looked forward to slipping on my headphones and enjoying the relative silence of my flight back to Dallas. As I approached my seat, I saw I was sitting next to a United States Air Force (USAF) officer. I looked at his rank and saw two stars on his uniform, making him a major general. I had a sudden sense of nostalgia and I instinctively wanted to salute him. I resisted the urge, introduced myself, and thanked him for his service.
Over the next two hours I had the most unexpected and fascinating conversation of my RSA week. It turned out that my fellow traveler is the commanding officer of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). According to the website, the AFRL is “the Air Force’s only organization wholly dedicated to leading the discovery, development, and integration of war fighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace forces.” We discussed a variety of open source topics, including electromagnetic pulse weapons, cyberweapons, Stuxnet, unmanned aerial vehicles, USAF renewable energy initiatives, as well as national policy.
Yesterday, WikiLeaksreleased emails taken in the highly-publicized Stratfordata breach. While many of the emails are innocuous, such as accusations regarding a stolen lunch from the company refrigerator; others are potentially highly embarrassing to both Stratfor and their corporate clients. The emails reveal some messy corporate spycraft that is usually seen in the movies and rarely is illumined in real life. For example, one email suggests that Stratfor is working on behalf of Coca-Cola to uncover information to determine if PETA was planning on disrupting the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.
Last week I read an article on wired.com’s Danger Room blog about the elite US military Special Forces command, JSOC. The units within the Joint Special Operations Command (Delta Force and Seal Team 6) are responsible for the most clandestine and sensitive US military operations, including the Bin Laden raid into Pakistan last year. JSOC is very similar to elite Special Forces (SF) units across the globe including: the Russian Spetnaz, British SAS, French Naval Commandos, and the Israeli Shayetet 13. These SF units are capable of addressing asymmetric threats that traditional military units aren’t prepared to handle.
In the article, Spencer Ackerman interviews Marc Ambinder, one of the authors of The Commandabout JSOC. The article piqued my interest and I just finished reading the eBook. Like almost everything I do, I considered the information security implications as I read it. Today’s infosec threat landscape is dominated by unconventional threats that are difficult to address. How can we leverage the techniques utilized by SF to deal with the cyber threats we face today? I realize that we have an international audience, and my point isn’t to focus on US policy, but rather to take a deeper look at the unique capabilities of SF units and what lessons we can apply in our roles as S&R professionals.
By now, you've all heard about Epsilon's April 1 data breach — an unauthorized party accessed a subset of Epsilon's email clients' data. My colleague Dave Frankland outlines the circumstances of the incident and its implications on Customer Intelligence and data security in his blog post immediately following the incident.
I attended Epsilon's Customer Symposium in Naples, Fla., last week, and I wanted to pipe in with some commentary based on what was addressed directly by Epsilon at the event.
Marketers: The way I would look at this is "if a data breach can happen to Epsilon — a firm which specializes in data and data management — it can definitely happen to me." We learned from Bryan Sartin, director of investigative services, Verizon Business Security Solutions, and Mick Walsh, supervisor, Miami Electronic Crime Task Force, US Secret Service, that electronic crime is a huge and growing business, due in part to the ease of access to consumer information online and the ease of access to the data black market through online search engines. Three-quarters of cases of electronic crimes executed through malware come from data disclosed through Facebook.
In the past few days, almost every conversation I have had with a CISO has somehow stumbled onto the topic of the data breach at the US Department of Defense (DoD) and subsequent release of that information through WikiLeaks. Many CISOs have told us that their executives are asking for reassurances that this type of large-scale data disclosure is not possible in their organization. Some executives have even asked the security team to provide presentations to management educating them on their existing security controls against similar attacks. Responding to these questions is tricky: “It’s like treading on a thin ice,” commented one CISO. If you tell them everything is under control you may create a false sense of security. If you tell them that it is very likely that such an incident can happen within their organization – it may be a career limiting move.
I would recommend giving the executives a dose of reality. I do many security assessments for our clients and often find that many organizations are solely relying too much on technology and infrastructure protections they have. Today’s reality is very different. We often operate in a global context with large and complex IT environments making it hard to monitor and track data and we are sharing a tremendous amount of sensitive information with business partners and third parties. All of these realities were faced by the US government as well and probably all contributed to the circumstances that led to the disclosure of data.
As many of you try to extract the lessons learned from this episode, here is my take on it – It is a failure of not a single security control but a set of multiple preventative and detective lapses.
Failure of preventative controls: Governance, Oversight and Access Control