Tales From a Non-Security Professional, An End-User’s View

I’ve been working in the information security business for two years and have been amazed by what I’ve learned during this time. I remember when I thought, “Information security? Sure. A bunch of geeks patrolling their networks.” I had seen the movie Hackers, after all.

But I had no idea of the breadth and depth of information security. Basically, if you’re using technology, your data is at risk. Any piece of technology that you use that has sensitive data stored can be stolen. It is up to an individual to be proactive when it comes to information security instead of assuming “The IT Team” will take care of it.

Case in point: This morning I read an article from Dark Reading about Intel’s workers thwarting a malicious email virus. Pretty cool. Those workers took the initiative. They didn’t say to themselves, “Hmm. this email looks a little dicey, but I’m sure IT has it covered..”

Instead, each worker who recognized the malicious email immediately contacted the IT department. Because of such quick action, the IT department was able to contain the potential risk and take care of it. This type of response doesn’t happen overnight (And hopefully won’t take two years, either.) but was the result of consistent education.

For me, I’ve tightened up my own personal security posture as a result of hearing what happens when you don’t pay attention. Here are a few precautions I’ve taken:

1) Never leave a laptop in the front seat of your car.

      This may seem basic, but many workers who have a company-owned laptop will often put it on the passenger’s side of the car, or on the floor. It is easy to assume that when you stop to get gas and take a quick detour into the convenience store to grab a drink, that no one will bother your car. Don’t bet on it.

According to a CSI/FBI Computer Crime and Security Survey

      , data loss from laptop theft came in third and fourth behind virus attacks and unauthorized access. Make a habit of placing your laptop in your trunk, away from prying eyes. And if you really want to protect it, carry it around with you. I’ve been known to carry my laptop inside a CVS, and restaurants. I usually say to myself, “How inconvenient/annoying/scary would it be if this laptop was stolen?” Yep. It’s going with me.

2) Passwords, smashwords! We all belong to probably way too many websites that require a password to access it. That’s not even counting the passwords we need to remember for our work email, database, or access to the intranet. We’re also told by our friendly IT team that we need to change those passwords on a regular basis. If you have trouble remembering what you had to eat for breakfast yesterday, much less trying to remember a password you created three months ago, I have the solution: a password vault. I can’t tell you how much this has alleviated the stress of remembering and revising passwords. I use KeePassX, an open-source password vault application.

Whenever I change my password, I immediately open the app and update my entry. Whenever I join a new site that requires a password, I’ll add a new entry. It’s simple and quick, and will protect me from some joker trying to hack into my sites. Once you get into a habit of changing your passwords, it becomes easier. Believe me, this is a heckuva lot easier than scratching out various passwords and usernames on a scrap piece of paper, throwing it into your desk drawer and then trying to find it three months later.

3) Delete stupid emails. This goes back to the “Here You Have” virus that the Intel employees avoided opening. They immediately saw the risk and reported it. Don’t open emails from people or groups that you don’t recognize. In fact, I created a spam folder and just move those types of emails into it if the regular spam filter doesn’t catch them. I empty the folder on a regular basis. No matter how enticing an email header is, if you don’t recognize the sender, trash it. For those who are detail-oriented, you really don’t have to open every email you receive. Really. You probably didn’t win that lottery, anyway.

4) Be suspicious. This one is probably the most difficult for me. I’m a friendly person. I like people. I was raised by two very outgoing parents and hence, I have a soft spot for striking up conversations with perfect strangers. I find I’m a magnet for some of them, too. When you’re in your office, this can be used against you by a clever attacker. If you’re an IT staff person, you may get a call from someone who is in some type of a bad spot and needs access to “their” data at work and gosh, could we just skip the authentication process? Because most of us are wired to help others (thank you very much, customer service training), we obviously try to be of assistance. Meanwhile, the attacker is counting on this and will press an employee to give them information without checking their credentials. If anyone calls me and starts asking a bunch of nosy questions, I’ll start asking mine right back: “What company do you represent? What is your name? What is your phone number? Why do you need to know this information?”

Sometimes asking such questions may feel awkward, but remember, we’re protecting our company’s data. We’re on the front line and a little discomfort can go a long way in winning the battle of security.

These are a few things I’ve learned over time. Information security isn’t only the IT department’s job or the CISO/CTO/CIO’s. It’s a job that belongs to everyone. If I could sum it up, I’d say this: Be aware. Be aware of your surroundings, aware of your technology, aware of access points. Keeping your eyes and ears open will not only save you a bunch of headaches (and perhaps your job) but will save your company money. And in today’s economy, that is a very, very good thing.

SAMBA Vuln Could Be Dangerous

If you are not already looking at the newest SAMBA issue, you should be paying attention. It is a stack-based buffer overflow, exploitable remotely without credentials. The MetaSploit folks are already hard at work on an exploit and some versions are rumored to be floating about the underground.

The vulnerability exists in OS X, Linux and a variety of appliance platforms using the core SAMBA code. Updates are starting to roll into the primary distributions and OS images. Ubuntu, for example, already has a fixed version available.

You can read the SAMBA folks release here for more information.

Likely, wide scale exploitation is on the horizon and malware/worm development is also predicted for this particular issue.

In terms of actions, begin to understand where SAMBA is used in your environment, reduce your attack surfaces as much as possible, implement the patches where available and increase your vigilance on SAMBA utilizing systems/processes.

Keep your eyes on this one. With this also being a fairly heavy/serious Microsoft patch day, your security team and admins might be focused on other things. You don’t want this one to slip through the cracks.

HoneyPoint Wasp is Almost Ready to Leave the Nest

As many of you may know, the MSI team has been hard at work the last several months finishing the beta of our new compromised workstation detection product, HoneyPoint Wasp. It is a fully integrated component of HoneyPoint Security Server, capable of executing distributed detection and threat monitoring on Windows workstations across enterprises. The initial feedback by the beta group have been absolutely amazing. We are finding bots, malware and compromised hosts in a variety of locations, once thought to be “clean” and “safe”.

Wasp accomplishes this mission by being deployed as a service on workstations and by monitoring for the most common signs of compromise. It can watch for changes in the users, admins, port postures and such. It does white list detection of the running processes and it is even capable of detecting DNS tampering and changes to selected files on the operating system.

Even better, it does this work without the need for workstation event logs, signature updates or tuning. It “learns” about the workstation on which it is deployed and adapts its detection techniques to focus on important changes over the long run.

We designed Wasp to be easy to install, easy to manage and to be transparent to the end – user. As such, it is deployed as a 0-interface piece of software. There are no pop-ups, no GUI and no interaction at all with the user. All alerts are routed to the HoneyPoint console and the security team, eliminating any chance of increased help desk calls, user push back and confusion.

In the next couple of weeks, we will be making some announcements about the general availability of the Wasp product. I hope you will join me in my excitement when we announce this launch. In the meantime, think about what you are doing today to protect against initial stage compromises and congratulate the MSI development team and our beta testers on a job well done. I think you are going to be amazed at how easy, capable and advanced Wasp is, when it is released. I know I continue to be amazed at what it is detecting and how much stuff has evaded current detection techniques.

In the meantime, while we await the full release, check out this PDF for some more information about where we are going with Wasp and our HoneyPoint product line. I think you are going to like the diagrams and the explanations. If you would like to book a special sneak preview of Wasp and the rest of HoneyPoint, give your account executive a call. We will be happy to sit down and discuss it with you. As always, thanks for reading!

Excellent Source for Metrics on PHP RFI

My friend Eric has put up some excellent statistics and metrics on PHP RFI attacks against his honeynet. This is some excellent data. If you have read other stuff we have pointed to from Eric, then you know what to expect. But, if you are interested in a real world look at trends and metrics around PHP exposures, give this a few moments of your time.

You can find the interface and metrics set here.

Check it out, I think you’ll be impressed. Thanks, as always, to Eric and other folks in the honeypot community for all of their hard work, time and attention.

If you have some honeypot metrics to share, drop a comment below! As always, thanks for reading!

Stories of Hacking the Human #security

He stood before the receptionist, patiently waiting until she was finished with the phone call. He fiddled around with his fake badge while glancing at the security door that led into the main office area, waiting to see if someone would exit or enter soon.

Finally, two employees engaged in conversation exited the door while a small group headed toward it. He darted to join the group while the receptionist continued to look down at her list of R.S.V.P.’s, searching for the business’ name.

As the group entering the office area quickly glanced his way, he shot them an easy grin. “Phone lines,” he quipped as he showed them the badge. “Just upgraded on our end and we want to make sure you don’t miss your phone calls!”

As the group laughed and joked about not really missing calls if they had the opportunity, he scanned the cubicle areas to make a note of which ones were empty. In a few minutes, he’d double-back , slip into one, hack into the network and start snooping around.

In larger corporations, that is how social engineering can happen. Employees are trusting and often distracted by their own sense of security. They see the same people in the office but realize every once in awhile, there is “the new girl” or “new guy.” They trust this person has gone through the proper channels that authorized their presence. And that’s their mistake. Very few ask questions.

Many times, employees find that their desire to be helpful is exploited. What is usually portrayed as good customer service (“Is there anything else you need?”), can be cleverly manipulated by attackers. Often a hacker will appear to be IT staff who needs to verify an employee’s password. When the unsuspecting victim is presented with a plausible reason for taking shortcuts (“I’m so sorry, but it could really help me if you just gave me the password instead of having to bother my supervisor…”), they often comply.

How can employers prevent social engineering attacks? The quick answer is, they can’t. Hackers are becoming more resourceful as organizations initiate more complex security measures. But employers can still take precautions that will help employees recognize that a potential threat exists. Here are some tips:

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Know who is in charge of vetting outside service people so when a strange face appears, they know who to call. Tell employees that entering a secured area means using their badges to gain entry and to make sure everyone follows procedure.

  • Be suspicious. When callers ask for personal information, ask if there is a number you could return their call and then verify their credentials with an internal source.
  • Pay attention to the URL of a website. The page may look the same but the URL will expose it as a fake. Contact the company when in doubt.
  • Using these tips will help your organization avoid becoming a victim. Be alert and you’ll keep your data safe!

    Looking For More Info on SEIM Best Practices?

    I know we get a lot of questions on SEIM tools, their use and the best practices around their deployment and I have talked heavily to some of the folks involved in this SANS webcast tomorrow. If you have an interest in SEIM, I urge you to tune in.

    You can find the details here.

    They got some excellent folks to participate and the content should be quite strong. As always, if you have questions on SEIM deployments, products or use, drop me a line. Always happy to give my 2 cents.

    PS – Special thanks to Scott Gordon for putting this together. I am sorry I could’t personally participate, but it is a very cool thing to bring to the community!