Target Breach: Vendors, You're Not Wrestlers, And This Isn't The WWE

Rick Holland

Yesterday, Bloomberg Businessweek ran a story providing some alarming details on the Target breach.  The article, “Missed Alarms and 40 Million Stolen Credit Card Numbers: How Target Blew It,” didn’t paint a pretty picture of Target’s response. 

Some of the highlights in case you haven't read it yet: 

  • Six months before the incident, Target invested $1.6 million in FireEye technology.
  • Target had a team of security specialists in Bangalore monitoring the environment.
  • On Saturday November 30, FireEye identified and alerted on the exfiltration malware. By all accounts this wasn't sophisticated malware; the article states that even Symantec Endpoint Protection detected it. 
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Actionable Intelligence, Meet Terry Tate, Office Linebacker

Rick Holland
sdfasdfaasdfThe #Forrester Security & Risk team is hiring. We are looking for consultants to join our team bit.ly/M9gWS5 #infosecasdfasdasdfasdddsadfas

We are now less than two weeks away from our annual sojourn to the RSA security conference. RSAC is a great time for learning, meeting and making friends. (Please hold cynical remarks; RSAC is what you make of it.)  As the date grows near and my excitement grows, I am preparing my mind and patience for the ubiquitous silver bullet marketing that is predestined to appear.  

One of these silver bullets will be the term "actionable intelligence." You will be surrounded by actionable intelligence. You will bask in the glory of actionable intelligence. In fact, the Moscone expo floor will have so much actionable intelligence per capita you will leave the conference feeling like the threat landscape challenge has been solved. Achievement unlocked, check that off the list. Woot!

Well not so fast. I frequently talk to vendors that espouse the greatness of their actionable intelligence. Whenever I hear the term actionable intelligence I want to introduce them to Terry Tate, Office Linebacker.  Terry Tate first appeared in a 2003 Reebok Super Bowl commercial. 

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Kicking Off Forrester's "Targeted Attack Hierarchy Of Needs" Research

Rick Holland

I am about to kick off my next Forrester research on targeted attacks.  Here is the short abstract: "The threat landscape has evolved but organizations haven't. Leveraging concepts of Zero Trust, this report will detail strategies for protecting against targeted attacks against your organization. We will focus on the pros and cons of various strategies and provide suggestions for maximizing your investments." If you'd like a preview to the tone of this research please see one of my previous blogs: "Kim Kardashian and APTs."

  • Vendors:  The focus of this research is on overall strategy and NOT on specific vendor capabilities. We look forward to detailed vendor conversations when we do follow on Waves or Market Overviews in the future. 
  • Enterprises:  If you would like to provide us feedback on your experience with defending against targeted attacks, we would love to hear from you.  If you purchased a magic anti-APT box and it is/isn't living up to your expectations, let us know.  We are currently scheduling research interviews.  Research interviews are open to more than just Forrester clients.  If you aren't a client and would like to participate, we will provide you a complimentary copy of the final research upon completion. 
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Point Solutions Must Die

Rick Holland

Last year I wrote a blog post titled, “Incident Response Isn’t About Point Solutions; It Is About An Ecosystem."  This concept naturally extends beyond incident response to broader enterprise defense.  An ecosystem approach provides us an alternative to the cobbling together of the Frankenstein’esque security infrastructure that is so ubiquitous today. 

Many of us in the information security space have a proud legacy of only purchasing best in breed point solutions. In my early days as an information security practitioner, I only wanted to deploy these types of standalone solutions. One of the problems with this approach is that it results in a bloated security portfolio with little integration between security controls. This bloat adds unneeded friction to the infosec team’s operational responsibilities.  We talk about adding friction to make the attacker’s job more difficult, what about this self-imposed friction?  S&R pros jobs are hard enough. I’m not suggesting that you eliminate best in breed solutions from consideration, I’m suggesting that any “point solution” that functions in isolation and adds unneeded operational friction shouldn’t be considered. 

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Startups That Were At BlackHat 2013

Heidi Shey

What happens in Vegas shouldn’t stay in Vegas. I was out at BlackHat with other members of the Forrester team over a week ago (seems like yesterday!). It was two jam packed days of popping into briefings, guzzling copious amounts of green tea, and meeting new people and learning new things. In general, I like to keep an eye and ear out for startups to see what’s bubbling up, and came across a few at BlackHat:

  • Co3 Systems. Co3 Systems* help to automate the four pillars of incident response (prepare, assess, manage, and report) and break down responsibilities and response to ensure best practices are followed along with compliance with regulatory requirements. They just updated their security module to include threat intelligence feeds from  iSIGHT PartnersAlienVault, Abuse.ch and SANS, and recently rolled out an EU data privacy and breach notification update to the product. I’m a numbers nerd, so when they let me play with the solution, I immediately started running simulations that estimated the cost of a breach.
  • FileTrek. FileTrek provides visibility and transparency into where data resides, how it’s being accessed, moved, used, changed, and shared between people, devices, and files. No, it’s not DLP. It’s more like the mother of all audit trails that takes context and sequence of events into account. That way, if someone who is supposed to have access to data starts to do things with it beyond what they normally do, FileTrek will flag it as suspicious activity.
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Counter-Strike?

Rick Holland

On Monday the Wall Street Journal ran a story on hacking back titled, “Support Grows to Let Cybertheft Victims Hack Back.”  The article describes a growing desire to permit the private sector to retaliate against attackers. Being proactive is one thing, but the notion of enterprises retaliating against attackers is ludicrous. I honestly cannot understand why this topic is still in the public discourse. I thought debating this was so 2012.  Legality is an issue, but so is the ability of companies to successfully conduct these types of operations without blowback. 

The article explains, “… companies that experience cybertheft ought to be able to retrieve their electronic files or prevent the exploitation of their stolen information." I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but for most organizations, once the data has left your environment the chances of you retrieving it are very slim. Your data has left the building and it isn’t going to “re-spawn.”  If you couldn’t prevent exfiltration of this data in the first place, what would make you think that you could prevent the subsequent exploitation of it?  

As I said back in January in my “Five Steps To Build An Effective Threat Intelligence Capability” report, “If you have a mature security program, you can consider counterintelligence operations, but leave the hacking back to governments and militaries.” 

There are many suggested strategies for dealing with the threat landscape. Hacking back should not be one. 

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Observations on the 2013 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report

Rick Holland

I was very excited to finally get a copy of the much-anticipated 2013 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR.)  I have found the report to be valuable year after year.  This is the 6th iteration and this year’s report includes 621 confirmed data breaches, as well as over 47,000 reported security incidents.  18 organizations from across the globe contributed to the report this year.  The full report is 63 pages, and I have to say that Wade Baker and company did a great job making it an enjoyable read. I enjoyed the tone, and I found myself laughing several times as I read through it (Laughing and infosec aren't commonly said in the same breath.)  There are tons of great references as well, ranging from NASCAR, to Biggie Smalls, the Violent Femmes and more.  The mantra of this year’s report is “Understand Your Adversary’ is Critical to Effective Defense and Response.”   Here are a few observations: 

The focus on the adversary answers customer questions.  Who is the adversary? This is a frequent question from Forrester clients.  The Mandiant APT1 report stirred up much debate on state sponsored actors and Verizon's data and analysis gives us more perspective on this class of threat actor. The first table in the report profiles the threat actors that are targeting organizations.  It provides a high level view that I suggest you include in any type of executive engagement activity you participate in.  This 3rd party snapshot of the threat actors should resonate with a wide degree of audiences.

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Avoid The Information Security Squirrel

Rick Holland

"My master made me this collar. He is a good and smart master and he made me this collar so that I may speak. Squirrel!"  

In the Pixar film Up, squirrels frequently distract Dug the talking dog. In our space, we are frequently distracted by technology. "I am a good and smart security professional; I must protect my enterprise so that we are secure. APT defense in a box!"  

The expo floors at industry events such as the RSA Conference and Blackhat contribute to this. Signage touts the next great piece of technology that will solve all of our security problems. We allow Big Data, security analytics, threat intelligence, and APT defense in a box to distract us.  It is easy to do; there is no shortage of challenges for today’s security and risk professional. The threat landscape is overwhelming. We have problems recruiting and retaining the right staff.  Day-to-day operational duties take up too much time. Our environments are complex, and we struggle to get the appropriate budget.

These “security technology du jour” solutions are very appetizing.  They compel us much like IDS, IPS, and SIM did in the past. We want and need the “easy” button.  Sadly, there is no “easy” button and we must understand that threat protection doesn't equal a product or service; there is no single solution. Technology alone isn't the answer we are looking for. 

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Introducing Forrester's Cyber Threat Intelligence Research

Rick Holland

We have started a new report series on Cyber Threat Intelligence.  The first report, "Five Steps To Build An Effective Threat Intelligence Capability," is designed to help organizations understand what threat intelligence is and how to establish a program. If you're not a Forrester client and would like the report, Proofpoint is providing a complementary copy. On Thursday March 28th, I will be conducting a Forrester webinar on the report.  Please join me if you'd like to get a deeper perspective on it.  In the future, we will expand on sections of this intial report with additional research including:

  • A collaborative report with Ed Ferrara looking at the cyber threat intelligence vendor landscape
  • An in depth report on "Step No. 5: Derive Intel" 
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Bit9’s Operational Oversight Is Probably Your Operational Reality

Rick Holland

You are now no doubt aware that Boston-based security firm Bit9 suffered an alarming compromise, which resulted in attackers gaining access to code-signing certificates that were then used to sign malicious software. See Brian Kreb’s article for more details. (Symantec breathes a quiet sigh of relief to see a different security vendor in the headlines.)

The embarrassing breach comes at a time when the company has been seen as one of the security vendor landscape’s rising stars. Bit9 has actually been around for more than a decade, but the rise of targeted attacks and advanced malware has resulted in significant interest in Bit9’s technology. In late July, Bit9 secured $34.5 million in funding from Sequoia Capital. Bit9’s future was bright. 

On Friday afternoon, Bit9 CEO Patrick Morley published a blog providing some initial details on the breach. A few of his comments stood out:  “Due to an operational oversight within Bit9, we failed to install our own product on a handful of computers within our network … We simply did not follow the best practices we recommend to our customers by making certain our product was on all physical and virtual machines within Bit9."

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