Three Security People You Should Be Following on Twitter

Network 256

There are a lot of security people on Twitter. There are a lot of people people on Twitter. That said, finding great people to follow on Twitter is often a difficult task, especially around something as noisy as Information Security.

That said, I wanted to take a quick moment and post three people I think you should be following on Twitter in the Infosec space and might not be.

Here they are, in no particular order:

@sempf – A great person (and a personal friend), his posts rock the mic with content ranging from locksport (lock picking as a sport/hobby), deep coding tips, application security and even parenting advice. It’s fun! 

@abedra – Deep knowledge, deep code advice (ask him about Clojure…we’ll wait…). The inventor of RepSheet and whole bunch of other cool tools. His day gig is pretty fun and he is widely known for embracing the idea of tampering with attackers and their expectations. Check him out for a unique view. Do remind him to change hats occasionally, he often forgets… 🙂

@NocturnalCM – Hidden deep in the brain of the person behind this account is an incredible wealth of knowledge about cellular infrastructures, mobile code, security, devops and whole lot more. Don’t let the “Code Monkey” name fool you, there’s a LOT of grey matter behind the keyboard. If nothing else, the occasional humor, comic strips and geek culture references make them a worthwhile follow!

So, there you go. 3 amazing people to follow on Twitter. PS – they also know some stuff about infosec. Of course, you can always follow me (@lbhuston) and our team (@microsolved) on Twitter as well. As always, thanks for reading and get back to keeping the inter-tubes safe for all mankind!

Social Engineering Even Exists in the Animal World

OK, so we have all read about birds that social engineer other birds into raising their young, and maybe you’ve even seen the TV special about it. But, this picture brings to mind a lesson in social engineering, thanks to our friends in the animal world. It all comes down to confidence, doesn’t it? 🙂

I am pretty sure that one of these things is not like the other. Would your security team spot the difference? How about your users?

Credit: The first time I saw the pic, it was here, just in case you want to use it for awareness training. — Thanks to @robertjbennett for the pic!


Let’s Get Proactive with End User Security

Where do most of the threats to the security of our IT systems lurk? The Internet, of course! Powerful malicious software apps are all over the Net, like website land mines, just waiting to explode into your computer if you touch them. And how about accessing social networks from your company work station? Do you really think that content on these sites is secured and only available to those you chose to see it? If so, then Im sorry to disillusion you.

So why do most concerns still let their employees casually access and surf the Web from their business systems? Especially in the present when most everyone has a smart phone or pad with them at all times? Businesses should embrace this situation and use it to their advantage. Why not set up an employee wireless network with all the appropriate security measures in place just for Internet access? (This network should be totally separate from business networks and not accessible by business computers). Its not expensive or difficult to administer and maintain a network like this, and employees could access websites to their hearts content (on their off time of course). And for those employees that are without a smart phone (an ever dwindling few), you could stand up a few kiosk computers that they could access using their employee wireless network password.

As for employees that need Internet access to perform their work duties, you should lock their access down tight. The best thing to do is to add needed websites to a white list and only allow those employees with a business need to access only those websites that are necessary and no others. Black listing and web filtering are partially effective, but they dont really work well enough. I cant tell you how often we have seen such filters in place at businesses that we assess that prevent access to gaming and porn sites, but still allow access to traps like known malicious websites in foreign countries! Go figure.

And dont forget to properly segment your business networks. Users should only be allowed access to those network resources that they need for business purposes. Users in workstation space should never be allowed to seeinto server space. Preventing this will go a long way in curtailing attacks from the other big danger the malicious insider. 

Thanks to John Davis for writing this post.

On Complexity & Bureaucracy vs Security…

“Things have always been done this way.” —> Doesn’t mean they will be done that way in the future, or even that this is a good way.

“We know we need to change, but we can’t find the person who can authorize the changes we need.” —> Then who will punish you for the change? Even if punishment comes, you still win, as you’ll know who can authorize the change in the future.

“We don’t have enough time, money or skills to support those controls, even though we agree they are necessary.” —>Have you communicated this to upper management? If not, why not? How high have you gone? Go higher. Try harder.

“That’s too fast for our organization, we can’t adapt that quickly.” —>Welcome to the data age. Attackers are moving faster that ever before. You better adapt or your lack of speed WILL get exploited.

In many of my clients, complexity and bureaucracy have become self re-enforcing regimes. They lean on them as a way of life. They build even more complexity around them and then prop that up with layers and layers of bureaucracy. Every change, every control, every security enhancement or even changes to make existing tools rational and effective, is met with an intense mechanism of paperwork, meetings, “socialization” and bureaucratic approvals.

While many organizations decry “change management” and “security maturity” as being at the core of these processes, the truth is, more often than not, complexity for the sake of bureaucracy. Here’s the sad part, attackers don’t face these issues. They have a direct value proposition: steal more, get better at stealing and make more money. The loop is fast and tight. It is self correcting, rapid and efficient.

So, go ahead and hold that meeting. Fill out that paperwork. Force your technical security people into more and more bureaucracy. Build on complexity. Feed the beast.

Just know, that out there in the world, the bad guys don’t have the same constraints.

I’m not against change controls, responsibility or accountability, at all. However, what I see more and more of today, are those principals gone wild. Feedback loops to the extreme. Layers and layers of mechanisms for “no”. All of that complexity and bureaucracy comes at a cost. I fear, that in the future, even more so than today, that cost will be even more damage to our data-centric systems and processes. The bad guys know how to be agile. They WILL use that agility to their advantage. Mark my words…  

Twitter Stream About Online Card Fraud & Crypto Currency

The other day, I was discussing the idea that as the world moves more strongly toward chip and pin credit cards, that the levels of online credit card fraud were likely to skyrocket. Joel, the @SCADAHacker took me to task, and I thought I would share with you our conversation (with his permission, of course.) Here it is:

@lbhuston: Time to Get Moving on Chip and PIN? <There are downsides to this too. It will help physical, but up online fraud.

@scadahacker: @lbhuston Please explain your reasoning on this and why it would be any different than current mag-based cards for online purchases. [sic]

@lbhuston: @SCADAhacker The threat won’t be different, but the criminals that now work physical card fraud will migrate their value stream to online.

@lbhuston: @SCADAhacker In other words, the crime rings powered by card fraud will simply compensate for the controls by switching fraud vector.

@lbhuston: @SCADAhacker This has been historically valid, & I think applies here. Most of those rings already have online fraud skills, they extend.

@lbhuston: @SCADAhacker Make sense? Sorry, hard in 120 char bursts. Sorry for the multiples. 🙂

@lbhuston: @SCADAhacker The really sad thing is that it is the best path forward. Chip cards work, for now. Also look for forgery to accelerate. 🙁

@scadahacker: @lbhuston Agree.  Good point my friend!

From there, I went on to discuss another concern that I am focusing on at the moment, crypto currency.

@lbhuston: @SCADAhacker Sadly, another thing I am watching closely is the impacts of crypto currencies on old school political corruption. Few controls

@lbhuston: @SCADAhacker Many law enforcement & govt watchdog groups don’t have digital chops to even understand something like bitcoin. 🙁

@lbhuston: @SCADAhacker Here’s my derby talk from 2 years ago. <The innovate crime 4 profit is why I follow a lot of this.

@scadahacker: @lbhuston Thanks bro!

As always, Joel and all of my readers are welcome. Thanks for reading what I have to say and for allowing me to voice my thoughts and concerns. If you don’t already follow Joel, you should, he is world class and in addition to being brilliant, is a heck of a nice guy, too. Reach out and Twitter and let me know what you think. Do you think card fraud is about to turn a corner? How will crypto currency influence the future political process? Am I just being paranoid? Give me a shout at @lbhuston and let me know what is on your mind.

PS – It looks like some of these ideas are being thought about around the world. Here are some other folks thinking along the same lines. Click here, here, here or here.

Digital Images and Recordings: How Can We Deal with the Loss of Trust?

For many decades now the human race has benefitted from the evidentiary value of surveillance videos and audio recordings. Human beings cannot be relied on to give accurate accounts of events that they have witnessed. It is a frustrating fact that eye witness testimony is highly inaccurate. More often than not, people are mistaken in their recollections or they simply fail to tell the truth. But, with some reservations, we have learned to trust our surveillance recordings. Sure, analog videos and audio recordings can be tampered with. But almost universally, analysis of such tampered material exposes the fraud. Not so anymore!

Virtually every camera, video recorder and audio recorder on the planet is now digital. And it is theoretically possible to manipulate or totally forge digital recordings perfectly. Every year now, computer generated images and sounds used in movies are becoming more seamless and convincing. I see no reason at all why we couldn’t make totally realistic-appearing movies that contain not a single human actor or location shot. Just think of it: Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne, in their primes, with their own voices, starring in a brand new western of epic proportions! Awesome! And if Hollywood can do it, you can bet that a lot of other less reputable individuals can do it as well.

So what are we going to do about surveillance recordings (everything from ATMs and convenience store videos to recordings made by the FBI)? We won’t be able to trust that they are real or accurate anymore. Are we going to return to the old days of relying on eye witness testimony and the perceptiveness of juries? Are we going to let even more lying, larcenous and violent offenders off scot free than we are today? I don’t think we as a society will be able to tolerate that. After all, many crimes don’t produce any significant forensic evidence such as finger prints and DNA. Often, video and audio recordings are our only means of identifying the bad guys and what they do.

This means that we are going to have to find ways and means to certify that the digital recordings we make remain unaltered. (Do you see a new service industry in the offing)? The only thing I can think of to solve the problem is a service similar in many ways to the certificate authorities and token providers we use today. Trusted third parties that employ cryptographic techniques and other means to ensure that their equipment and recordings remain pristine.

But that still leaves the problem of the recordings of events that individuals make with their smart phones and camcorders. Can we in all good faith trust that these recordings are any more real than the surveillance recordings we are making today? These, too, are digital recordings and can theoretically be perfectly manipulated. But I can’t see the average Joe going through the hassle and spending the money necessary to certify their private recordings. I can’t see a way out of this part of the problem. Perhaps you can come up with some ideas that would work?

Thanks to John Davis for writing this post.

3 Reasons I Believe in #CMHSecLunch

Around a year ago, (I know, it is hard to believe it has been a year), I started a quick and informal meet up group in Columbus, called #CMHSecLunch. The idea was simple:

  • Re-Create the “Hallway Con” effect on a monthly basis.

In this scenario, the Hallway Con is the best part of security events. It’s the one where you see old friends, make new ones and have great, warm and personal connections with them. I believe this is the core of why security events and conferences are so valuable. Beyond the skills training, marketing hype and presentations ~ the value of friendship, camaraderie and personal relationships remain.

Thus, I thought, what better way to encourage that part, than organizing events that focus on those goals. And thus, #CMHSecLunch was born. We have been meeting on the second Monday of each month at a rotating mall food court around the city. Response has been great! Sometimes there are a few of us (4 has been the smallest) and sometimes many of us (around 20 have been the largest meetings). But, people have gotten new jobs, found solutions to difficult security problems, met some new friends and saw people they missed.

Overall, it has been fun, entertaining and worthwhile.

We will be continuing the process into 2014 and here are at least three reasons I believe this approach and the #CMHSecLunch events are worth doing:

  1. I have gotten to see people connect, smile and re-unite for a quick bite of food, some laughs and great conversation. Since I am often referred to as the “Hippy Hacker”, you have to know that this alone makes me happy and makes me believe that the events are worthwhile. Whenever we connect with another and share with the community, good things happen! 
  2. New threats have been discussed that brought to light attacker motives, techniques and the width of their activity. If we don’t have lunch and discuss what we are seeing, then the bad guys win. They win even less, if we also have coffee and dessert afterwards. Nuff said! 🙂
  3. New projects have originated from the #CMHSecLunch discussions. In fact, several new projects. People have aligned, worked out some of their ideas and started working together to build talks, mathematical models, risk documents and various other useful tools. When a bunch of smart people eat and play together, often the outcome is stuff that helps all of us. So, being the origin of projects and stuff that helps the community is a fantastic thing. 

Why haven’t you attended (again)? 🙂

If I still haven’t persuaded you to check out the next #CMHSecLunch, (which you can find by clicking here), how about these quotes from people who have attended the event?

@TSGouge: Interaction with real live human beings, no screens involved! Food, jokes (that only another geek would get), getting my butt out of the office chair, and dialogue more rich than any conference or lecture…these are people who will now reach out and collaborate on problems or projects. To sum it all up: connections with people who get it.

@Cahnee: CMHSecLunch is a great way to get away from the craziness of work and spend time with infosec peers to talk about whats on everyones mind. We talk about current events and what each of us see as challenges facing us both professionally and personaly from an infosec perspectice.  Talk about encryption, mobile devices, NSA, DOD, etc.

@gisobiz: CMHSecLunch is a great thing! You meet with the like-minded people, or like-minded people wannabes and enjoy the food (great or not), but most importantly, the awesome conversation. You will get to know better people you already know, or make new friends.  Talking in an informal friendly environment takes the pressure off “being right” or “saying the right thing” which one encounters in a professional environment. Nobody will laugh at you or criticize you; in fact everyone is interested in your fresh (or stale) perspective on InfoSec or current events related to cyber security or anything else you care to share. And the really best thing is you get to learn from your colleagues, something you may not have an opportunity to learn otherwise.  It is like a miniature “geek” party in the best sense of the word. Or if you like – a mini-Black Hat conference. With food.

So, come on out next month and support the community. Have fun, grab a bite and engage with us, we are waiting for the view and insight that ONLY YOU can provide. Join us! 

Infosec, The World & YOU Episode 3 is Out!

Our newest episode is out, and this time we are joined by a very special guest, @TSGouge who discuss social engineering for companies and on the nation state scale. Victoria reveals her new plans to take over the world and Brent tries to keep up with these gals, who are straight up geniuses. We also pontificate on Syria and the potential for cyber-fallout from the action going on over there.

Check it out here

Have a global real world/cyber issue you want us to tackle? Observed an odd event that ties to a real world cause in the Internets? Drop us a line ~ we’d love to hear about it or get you on the show! 

You can find Brent on Twitter at @lbhuston and Victoria stars as @gisoboz. Get in touch! 

Yo, MSI Raps Podcast Episode 1

This is the latest version of Yo, MSI Raps. We have decided to make these episodes open to public finally, so we will start with this one.

This is an open round table discussion between members of the MSI Technical Team. It is candid, friendly and, we hope, interesting. 🙂

This time around, the team talks about privacy, the news around the NSA collection of data and impacts of surveillance on liberty. 

You can check out the podcast here!

Look for these sessions to be released more frequently and on topics that are in the news. We hope you enjoy them, and feel free to give us feedback via Twitter (@lbhuston or @microsolved) and/or via the comments section.

Thanks for listening!

Always Remember the Business, InfoSec Folks

I just got out of yet another meeting with a big company partner for whom we act as an information security and threat advisor. In that meeting, I listened to a keyed-up,  hypercaffinated group of good guy security geeks tell their senior executives about the latest set of DLP controls they were putting in place. They spent 45 minutes describing packet-level checking, data flows, architecture diagrams and the technology of their solution set in painful (even for me) detail. Many of the executives were dosing lightly, while the geeks spun their techno-web. That’s when things took a turn for the worse…

The COO asked them one single question, interrupting a slide about email data flows ~ “How will this impact the business of ‘Dan’s’ group and the ‘Singularity’ project we have been working on since 2011? Doesn’t it depend on some of that data?” (**Names changed to protect the innocent and the guilty…)

Then, NOTHING HAPPENED. You could have heard a pin drop. Dead silence for close to two minutes. Finally, the COO repeated the question. Still nothing. He asked the lead geek if he knew who Dan was, and the geek said yes. He asked if Dan had been interviewed by the geeks prior to this. They said, no. The COO erupted in a rage, railing about how Singularity was the largest new line of business launch in the history of the company and how the projected income from the business would change the landscape of the firm. There were a LOT of apologies and some amount of notes taken to immediately consult with Dan. Much geek cred was lost. It will be a while before they get to present to the executives again like that. 

I tell you this story simply to remind all infosec folks about something I see all too often. It’s about the business. We are about the business. We are there to secure the business, nurture it, protect it, empower it to succeed. If that’s not where you or your team are, then you are doing it wrong. Get it right. Talk to the business. Speak their language. Give up on the “beauty of the baud” approach. Your packets and technology stack may be gorgeous to you, but if they don’t align with the business, then they won’t do anyone, including you, any good at all. Keep that in mind at all times. Also, remember to always talk to Dan ~ he’s a nice guy and he appreciates it. He can give you the answers you need and usually, he desperately wants to understand what you can do to make his project a success. Get to know all the Dan’s in your organization. They drive the world, you support them, together you build business and all of you will succeed!