5 Ways My Medical Background Makes Me a Better Intelligence Analyst

When I first started for MicroSolved, Inc.(MSI), I wasn’t sure what to think, but now that I have been here for nearly three months I feel I am starting to get the hang of  what it is to be an intelligence analyst. At least a little bit anyhow. Now mind you I am not your typical intelligence analyst, nor am I a new college graduate, but rather I am coming to MSI from the health care industry with over twenty years of work experience in that industry. This was a completely different mindset, with a whole host of new things for me to experience and learn. For me this was totally refreshing and exactly what I wanted and more importantly, needed! There are a few things that I have noticed in my short time here that could be considered pearls of wisdom rather than actual characteristics of a good employee that I feel make me a good intelligence analyst for MSI. Perhaps they are one and the same. At least that is my hope ;)

First, while I am not a seasoned IT professional like so many others that I work with, I am not naive to the fact that there are deadlines and expectations thrust upon all of us. This in my opinion is no different than in being in the hospital setting where people expect you to act quickly and in the best interests of your patient at all times. Couldn’t we say the same is true working for a company like MSI?  In that it is the expectation to be professional, performing your best at all times, and the like? I would like to think that is what I strive for.

After thinking a bit longer perhaps it is that we share a tenacity for getting to the bottom of whatever mystery that we are looking at. Whether it is a series of questions that we may be asking our patients in an effort to try to figure out what ailment they be suffering from. This is not unlike when we are looking for a key bit of code for an algorithm to help us do our work more efficiently. Regardless, it is this mentality of never giving up! To keep fighting, keep looking, to keep trying. Just keep chipping away at it. 

I think the next characteristic would have to be patience. Something that we all have often heard from our grandparents growing up as children. Something that in my mind and in my experience has played a provocative role in both my dealings with patients, their families and with challenging projects in the IT world. Now while as I previously stated in the above paragraph that tenacity plays a role, I also think having a measure of patience does too. There are times in the medical world where even the most experienced physician stands there for a moment and scratches his or her head and says “I don’t know”. Now to a patient that is the last thing that they want to here, but sometimes we truly have to “wait and see”. Sometimes grandma was right! There have been times while working on projects with MSI, where sitting back even if it’s just a few moments, allowed me to gain a better “bird’s eye view” of a given project and really helped me figure out what it was that I was looking for and ultimately aided the project.

Another area that I think gives me an edge would be that I am willing to go the extra mile and I am not afraid to work hard to attain my goals. It isn’t enough to just punch a clock or be mediocre! I have told this to my children, my patients and my friends. Never give up, always work your butt off for what you want in life! It may take time for what you want to come to fruition, but if you’re willing to put the time, energy and effort into it, then it will come!  It takes sacrifice to get to your goals. Others will recognize your efforts and aid you in your path. That’s what I feel MSI has done and is continuing to do for me!

Lastly, laugh! I have not laughed so hard in any of my previous work experiences as compared to working for MSI these past few months. Don’t get me wrong there were plenty of wonderful times, but here at MSI it is a whole new animal! Yes, we work hard, but I think having a healthy sense of humor and a desire to see others laugh is what really sets MSI apart. If you are down, they help pick you up! So often we spend our work lives with people that aren’t our family for hours on end. Shouldn’t we have some fun while we work? If you are lucky enough you do. Then, by choice those people that aren’t your family start to become them and find a place in your heart. Then, your work doesn’t seem like work anymore. 

Yes it’s true that I am new to the world of information technology as a career choice, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have some very real life experiences to draw upon. Remember, it is a combination of work ethic, tenacity, patience, a sense of humor and ultimately a willingness to never give up. These are the things that will make you successful, not only in your career path, but in life as well. These are my little pearls of wisdom, just a few tidbits of information to help you get to where you want to be in life. Who knows it might even be right here at MSI.

This post by Preston Kershner.

Daily Log Monitoring and Increased Third Party Security Responsibilities: Here They Come!

For years now we at MSI have extoled the security benefits of daily log monitoring and reciprocal security practices between primary and third party entities present on computer networks. It is constantly being proven true that security incidents could be prevented, or at least quickly detected, if system logs were properly monitored and interpreted. It is also true that many serious information security incidents are the result of cyber criminals compromising third party service provider systems to gain indirect access to private networks. 

I think that most large-network CISOs are well aware of these facts. So why aren’t these common security practices right now? The problem is that implementing effective log monitoring and third party security practices is plagued with difficulties. In fact, implementation has proven to be so difficult that organizations would rather suffer the security consequences than put these security controls in place. After all, it is cheaper and easier – usually – unless you are one of the companies that get pwned! Right now, organizations are gambling that they won’t be among the unfortunate – like Target. A fools’ paradise at best! 

But there are higher concerns in play here than mere money and efficiency. What really is at stake is the privacy and security of all the system users – which one way or another means each and every one of us. None of us likes to know our private financial or medical or personal information has been exposed to public scrutiny or compromise, not to mention identity theft and ruined credit ratings. And what about utilities and manufacturing concerns? Failure to implement the best security measures among power concerns, for example, can easily lead to real disasters and even loss of human life. Which all means that it behooves us to implement controls like effective monitoring and vendor security management. There is no doubt about it. Sooner or later we are going to have to bite the bullet. 

Unfortunately, private concerns are not going to change without prodding. That is where private and governmental regulatory bodies are going to come into play. They are going to have to force us to implement better information security. And it looks like one of the first steps in this process is being taken by the PCI Security Standards Council. Topics for their special interest group projects in 2015 are going to be daily log monitoring and shared security responsibilities for third party service providers.

That means that all those organizations out there that foster the use of or process credit cards are going to see new requirements in these fields in the next couple of years. Undoubtedly similar requirements for increased security measures will be seen in the governmental levels as well. So why wait until the last minute? If you start now implementing not only effective monitoring and 3rd party security, but other “best practices” security measures, it will be much less painful and more cost effective for you. You will also be helping us all by coming up with new ways to practically and effectively detect security incidents through system monitoring. How about increasing the use of low noise anomaly detectors such as honey pots? What about concentrating more on monitoring information leaving the network than what comes in? How about breaking massive networks into smaller parts that are easier monitor and secure? What ideas can you come up with to explore?

This post written by John Davis.

Tips for Writing Security Policy

Almost all organizations dread writing security policies. When I ask people why this process is so intimidating, the answer I get most often is that the task just seems overwhelming and they dont know where to start. But this chore does not have to be as onerous or difficult as most people think. The key is pre-planning and taking one step at a time.

First you should outline all the policies you are going to need for your particular organization. Now this step itself is what I think intimidates people most. How are they supposed to ensure that they have all the policies they should have without going overboard and burdening the organization with too many and too restrictive policies? There are a few steps you can take to answer these questions:

  • Examine existing information security policies used by other, similar organizations and open source information security policy templates such as those available at SANS. You can find these easily online. However, you should resist simply copying such policies and adopting them as your own. Just use them for ideas. Every organization is unique and security policies should always reflect the culture of the organization and be pertinent, usable and enforceable across the board.
  • In reality, you should have information security policies for all of the business processes, facilities and equipment used by the organization. A good way to find out what these are is to look at the organizations business impact analysis (BIA). This most valuable of risk management studies will include all essential business processes and equipment needed to maintain business continuity. If the organization does not have a current BIA, you may have to interview personnel from all of the different business departments to get this information.
  • If the organization is subject to information security or privacy regulation, such as financial institutions or health care concerns, you can easily download all of the information security policies mandated by these regulations and ensure that you include them in the organizations security policy.
  • You should also familiarize yourself with the available information security guidance such as ISO 27002, NIST 800-35, the Critical Security Controls for Effective Cyber Defense, etc. This guidance will give you a pool of available security controls that you can apply to fit your particular security needs and organizational culture.
 

Once you have the outline of your security needs in front of you it is time to start writing. You should begin with broad brush stroke, high level policies first and then add detail as you go along. Remember information security policyreally includes policies, standards, guidelines and procedures. Ive found it a very good idea to write policyin just that order.

Remember to constantly refer back to your outline and to consult with the business departments and users as you go along. It will take some adjustments and rewrites to make your policy complete and useable. Once you reach that stage, however, it is just a matter of keeping your policy current. Review and amend your security policy regularly to ensure it remains useable and enforceable. That way you wont have to go through the whole process again! 

This post by John Davis.

My Time as a HoneyPoint Client

Prior to joining MicroSolved as an Intelligence Engineer, I was the Information Security Officer and Infrastructure Manager for a medical management company.  My company provided medical care and disease management services to over 2 million individuals.  Throughout my tenure at the medical management organization, I kept a piece of paper on my bulletin board that said “$100,000,000”.

 

Why “$100,000,000”?  At the time, several studies demonstrated that the average “street value” of a stolen medical identity was $50.  If each record was worth $50, that meant I was responsible for protecting $100,000,000 worth of information from attackers.  Clearly, this wasn’t a task I could accomplish alone.

 

Enter: MicroSolved & HoneyPoint

 

Through my membership with the Central Ohio Information Systems Security Association, I met several members of the MicroSolved team.  I engaged them to see if they could help me protect my organization from the aforementioned attackers.  They guided me through HIPPA/HITECH laws and helped me gain a further understanding of how I could protect our customers.  We worked together to come up with innovative solutions that helped my team mitigate a lot of the risks associated with handling/processing 2 million health care records.

 

A core part of our solution was to leverage the use of HoneyPoint Security Server.  By using HoneyPoint, I was able to quickly gain visibility into areas of our network that I was often logically and physically separated from.  I couldn’t possibly defend our company against every 0-day attack.  However, with HoneyPoint, I knew I could quickly identify any attackers that had penetrated our network.

 

Working for a SMB, I wore many hats.  This meant that I didn’t have time to manage another appliance that required signature updates.  I quickly found out that HoneyPoint didn’t require much upkeep at all.  A majority of my administrative tasks surrounding HoneyPoint were completed when I deployed agents throughout our LAN segments that mimicked existing applications and services.  I quickly gained the real-time threat analysis that I was looking for.

 

If you need any assistance securing your environment or if you have any questions about HoneyPoint Security Server, feel free to contact us by sending an email to: info@microsolved.com.

 

This post contributed by Adam Luck.

Here’s Why You Don’t Want RDP on the Internet

For those of you that are unfamiliar with the HITME project, it is a set of deployed HoneyPoints that gather real-world, real-time attacker data from around the world. The sensors gather attack sources, frequency, targeting information, vulnerability patterns, exploits, malware and other crucial event data for the technical team at MSI to analyze. We frequently feed these attack signatures into our vulnerability management service to ensure that our customers are tested against the most current forms of attacks being used on the Internet.

It’s also important that we take a step back and look at our HITME data from a bird’s-eye view to find common attack patterns. This allows us to give our customers a preemptive warning in the event that we identify a significant increase in a specific threat activity. We recently analyzed  some of the data that we collected during the month of November. We found that over 47% of the observed attacks in the public data set were against the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)(often also known as Microsoft Terminal Services). This was more than attacks against web servers, telnet servers and FTP servers combined!

Be sure that all recommended security measures are applied to RDP systems. This should include requiring the use of RDP clients that leverage high levels of encryption. If you need any assistance verifying that you are protected against attacks against your terminal servers, feel free to contact us by sending an email to info(at)microsolved(dot)com.

This post by Adam Luck.

Hacktivism on the Rise

With all of the attention to the Ferguson case and the new issues around the public response to the New York Police Department Grand Jury verdict, your organization should expect to be extra vigilant if you have any connection to these events. This could include supply chain/vendor relationships, locations or even staff members speaking out publicly about the issues. 

Pay careful attention to remote access logs, egress traffic and malware detections during the ongoing social focus on these issues and press coverage.

As always, if MSI can be of assistance to you in any security incident, please don’t hesitate to let us know! 

Remember, Log Analysis is Important, Especially Now

Remember, during the holiday season, attacks tend to increase and so do compromises. With vacations and staff parties, monitoring the logs and investigating anomalies can quickly get forgotten. Please make sure you remain vigilant during this time and pay close attention to logs during and just after holiday breaks.

As always, thanks for reading and we wish you a safe and happy holiday season!

Using TigerTrax to Analyze Device Configurations & Discover Networks

One of the biggest challenges that our M&A clients face is discovering what networks look like, how they are interconnected and what assets are priorities in their newly acquired environments. Sure, you bought the company and the ink is drying on the contracts — but now you have to fold their network into yours, make sure they meet your security standards and double check to make sure you know what’s out there.

That’s where the trouble begins. Because, in many cases, the result is “ask the IT folks”. You know, the already overworked, newly acquired, untrusted and now very nervous IT staff of the company you just bought. Even if they are honest and expedient, they often forget some parts of the environment or don’t know themselves that parts exist…

Thus, we get brought in, as a part of our Information Security Mergers & Acquisitions practice. Our job is usually to discover assets, map the networks and perform security assessments to identify gaps that don’t meet the acquiring company’s policies. Given that we have had to do this so often, we have designed a great new technique for performing these type of mapping and asset identification engagements. For us, instead of asking the humans, we simply ask the machines. We accumulate the router, switch, firewall and other device configurations and then leverage TigerTrax’s unique analytics capabilities to quickly establish network instances, interconnections, prioritized network hosts & segments, common configuration mistakes, etc. “en masse”. TigerTrax  then outputs that data for the MSI analysts, who can quickly perform their assessments, device reviews and inventories — armed with real-world data about the environment!

This approach has been winning us client kudos again and again!

Want to discuss our M&A practice and the unique ways that TigerTrax and MSI can help you before, during and after a merger or acquisition? Give us a call at (614) 351-1237 or drop us a line at info (at) microsolved /dot/ com. We’d be happy to schedule a FREE, no commitment & no pressure call with our Customer Champions & our security engineers.

Centralization: The Hidden Trap

Everything is about efficiency and economies of scale now days. Thats all we seem to care about. We build vast power generation plants and happily pay the electrical resistance price to push energy across great distances. We establish large central natural gas pipelines that carry most of the gas that is eventually distributed to our homes and factories. And we establish giant data centers that hold and process enormous amounts of our private and business information; information that if lost or altered could produce immediate adverse impacts on our everyday lives.

Centralization like this has obvious benefits. It allows us to provide more products and services while employing less people. It allows us to build and maintain less facilities and infrastructure while keeping our service levels high. It is simply more efficient and cost effective. But the costthat is more effectivehere is purely rated in dollars. How about the hidden costin these systems that nobody seems to talk about?

What I am referring to here is the vulnerability centralization brings to any system. It is great to pay less for electricity and to avoid some of the local blackouts we used to experience, but how many power plants and transmission towers would an enemy have to take out to cripple the whole grid? How many pipeline segments and pumping stations would an enemy have to destroy to widely interrupt gas delivery? And how many data centers would an enemy need to compromise to gain access to the bulk of our important records? The answer to these questions is: not as many as yesterday, and the number becomes smaller every year.

However, I am not advocating eschewing efficiency and economies of scale; they make life in this overcrowded world better for everyone. What I am saying is that we need to realize the dangers we are putting ourselves in and make plans and infrastructure alterations to cope with attacks and disasters when they come. These kinds of systems need to have built-in redundancies and effective disaster recovery plans if we are to avoid crisis.

Common wisdom tells us that you shouldnt put all your eggs in one basket, and Murphys Law tells us that anything that can go wrong eventually will go wrong. Lets remember these gems of wisdom. That way our progeny cannot say of us: those that ignore history are doomed to repeat it

Thanks to John Davis for this post.