Ask The Experts: Advice to New InfoSec Folks

This time our question came from a follow up on our last advice article to new infosec folks (here). Readers might also want to roll back the clock and check out our historic post “So You Wanna Be in InfoSec” from a few years ago. 

Question: “I really want to know what advice the Experts would give to someone looking to get into the information security business. What should they do to get up to speed and what should they do to participate in the infosec community?”

Adam Hostetler replied:

To get up to speed, I think you should start with a good foundation of knowledge. Already working in IT will help, you should then already have a good idea of networking knowledge, protocols, and architecture, as well as good OS administrative skills. Having this knowledge already helped me a lot at the beginning. Then I would move into the infosec world, read and listen to everything you can related to infosec.  There’s much much more security related knowledge online than ever before, so use it to your advantage. You also now have the opportunity to take info sec programs in colleges, which weren’t really available 10 years ago. Social Networking is very important too, and how you would likely land a job in infosec. Go to events, conferences or local infosec meetings. Some of the local infosec meetings here in Columbus are ISSA, OWASP, and Security MBA. Find some in your area, and attend something like Security B-Sides, if you can. Get to know people at these places, let them know you’re interested, and you might just end up with your dream job.

John Davis chimed in:

If you want to get into the risk management side of the information security business, first and above all I recommend that you read, read, read! Read the NIST 800 series,  ISO 27001 & 27002, the PCI DSS, CobiT, the CAG, information security books, magazine articles, and anything else you can find about information security. Risk assessment, ERM, business continuity planning, incident response and other risk management functions are the milieu of the generalist; the broader your knowledge base, the more effective you are going to be. To participate in the infosec community, there are several things you can do. Probably the best and quickest way to get started is to attend (and participate in) meetings of information security professional organizations such as ISSA, ISACA and OWASP. Talk to the attendees, ask questions, see if they know of any entry level positions or internships you might be able to get into. There are also infosec webinars, summits and conferences that you can participate in. Once you get your foot in the door someplace, stick with it! It takes time to get ahead in this business. For example, you need four years of professional infosec experience or three years experience and a pertinent college degree before you can even test for your CISSP certification.

As always, thanks for reading! Drop us line in the comments or tweet us (@lbhuston or @microsolved) with other questions for the Security Experts.

See YOU at Derbycon!

I will be presenting Friday night at 7pm Eastern at Derbycon. Come on out and see us discuss the history, models and cellular nature of cyber-crime. We also plan to cover where we think online crime is likely to go in the next couple of generations and discuss some ideas for what we need to consider to combat the issues.

Drop by or chat in the hallways and we look forward to seeing you. Myself (@lbhuston), Phil Grimes (@grap3_ap3) and Adam Hostetler (@adamhos) will be in attendance. Tweet us if you want to connect! 

Have a great weekend! 

Oracle CSO Online Interview

My interview with CSO Online became available over the weekend. It discusses vendor trust and information security implications of the issues with password security in the Oracle database. You can read more about it here. Thanks to CSO Online for thinking of us and including us in the article.

Three Ways to Engage with the InfoSec Community


Folks who are just coming into infosec often ask me for a few ways to engage with the infosec community and begin to build relationships. Here a few quick words of advice that I give them for making that happen.

1) Join Twitter and engage with people who are also interested in infosec. Talk directly to researchers, security visionaries and leadership. Engage with them personally and professionally to build relationships. Add value to the discussions by researching topics or presenting material that you are familiar with.

2) Join an open source software project. Even if you aren’t a coder, join the project and help with testing, documentation or reviews of some kind. Open source projects (they don’t have to be security projects) can benefit from the help, an extra set of eyes and the energy of new folks contributing to their work. You’ll learn new stuff and build great relationships in the development and likely infosec communities along the way. 

3) The way that most folks go about it works as well. Go to events. Network. Meet infosec people and engage them in discussions about technical and non-technical subjects. Groups like ISSA, ISACA, ISC2, OWASP and other regional security events are good places to meet people, learn stuff and develop relationships with folks working on hard problems. Cons can be good for this too, but often have less chances for building rapport due to the inherent sensory overload of most con environments. Cons are a good place to grow relationships, but may not be the best events for starting them.

That’s my advice. All 3 items are hard work. They offer a chance for you to learn and engage. BUT, you have to work to earn respect and rapport in this community. You have to contribute. You must add value. 

As always, thanks for reading and until next time, stay safe out there! 

Columbus OWASP Meeting Presentation

Last week, I presented at the Columbus OWASP meeting on defensive fuzzing, tampering with production web applications as a defensive tactic and some of the other odd stuff we have done in that arena. 

The presentation was called “Hey, You Broke My Web Thingee :: Adventures in Tampering with Production” and I had a lot of fun giving the talk. The crowd interaction was excellent and a lot of folks have asked for the slide deck from the talk, so I wanted to post it here

If you missed the talk in person, feel free to reach out on Twitter (@lbhuston) and engage with me about the topics. I’d love to discuss them some more. Please support OWASP by joining it as a member. These folks do a lot of great work for the community and the local chapter is quite active these days! 

Ask The Experts: Online Banking

This time we asked the experts one of the most common questions we get when we are out speaking at consumer events:

Q: Hey Security Experts, do you do your banking online? If so, what do you do to make it safe for your family? If not, why not?

John Davis explained:

I’ve been banking online for many years now and have always loved the convenience and ability it gives you to monitor your accounts anywhere and any time. There are a few simple things I do to keep myself secure. I do all the usual stuff like keeping a well configured fire wall and anti-virus software package always running. I also ensure that my wireless network is as secure as possible. I make sure the signal is tuned so as to not leak much from the house, I use a long and strong password and ensure I’m using the strongest encryption protocol available. I also monitor my accounts often and take advantage of my banks free identity theft service. One final tip; instead of using your actual name as your login, why not use something different that is hard to guess and doesn’t reveal anything about your identity? It always pays to make it as tough on the cyber-criminals as possible!

Phil Grimes chimed in with:

I do almost all my banking online. This, however, can be a scary task to undertake and should always be done with caution on the forefront! In order to bank safely on line, the first thing I do is to have one machine that was built in my house for strictly that purpose. My wife doesn’t play facebook games on it. My kids don’t even touch it or know it exists. This machine comes online only to get updated and to handle the “sensitive” family business functions like bill payment or banking.  The next thing I’ve done to protect this surface was to use a strong password. I used a password generator and created a super long password with every combination of alpha, numeric, and special characters included to reduce the risk of a successful brute force attack. This password is set to expire every 30 days and I change it religiously! Then finally, using Firefox, I install the NoScript plugin to help defend against client side attacks.

Adam Hostetler added:

Yes, I do my banking online. I also pay all of my bills online and shop online. I think the biggest thing that you can do for safety is just to be aware of things like phishing emails, and other methods that fraudsters use to try to compromise your credentials. I also always use dual factor authentication when possible, or out of band authentication, most banks and credit unions support one of these methods these days. Checking all of my accounts for suspicious activity is also a regular occurrence. 

There are also the malware threats. These are mostly mitigated by having up to date software (all software, not just the OS), up to date anti-virus software, and treating social networking sites like a dark alley. Be wary of clicking on any links on social networks, especially ones that are apps that claim they will do something fun for you. Social networks are probably the largest growing vector of malware currently, and a lot of times people install it willingly!

If you’re really paranoid, just have a dedicated PC or virtual machine for online banking.

Got a question for the Experts? Send it to us in the comments, or drop us a line on Twitter (@microsolved or @lbhuston). Thanks for reading! 

Ask The Experts: Favorite Tools

This question came in via Twitter:
“Hey Security Experts, what are your favorite 3 information security tools?” –@614techteam

John Davis responds:

I’m in the risk management area of information security; I don’t know enough about technical information security tools to give an informed opinion about them. However, my favorite information security ‘tool’ is the Consensus Audit Group’s Twenty Critical Security Controls for Effective Cyber Defense (which is very similar to MicroSolved’s own 80/20 Rule of Information Security). The ‘CAG’ as I call it gives me as a risk manager clearer, more proactive, and detailed information security guidance than any of the other standards such as the ISO or NIST. If you’re not familiar with it, you can find it on the SANS website. I highly recommend it, even (and especially) to technical IT personnel. It’s not terribly long and you’ll be surprised how much you get out of it.

Adam Hostetler adds:

I’ll do some that aren’t focused on “hacking”

OSSEC – Monitor all the logs. Use it as a SIEM, or use it as an IPS (or
any other number of ways). Easy to write rules for, very scalable and
it’s free.
Truecrypt – Encrypt your entire hard drive, partition, or just make an
encrypted “container” to hold files. Again, it’s free, but don’t be
afraid to donate.
OCLhashcat-plus – Chews through password hashes, cracking with GPU
accelerated speed. Dictionary based attacks, and also has a powerful
rule set to go after non-dictionary based passwords.

And Phil Grimes wrote:

NMap is probably one of my favorite tools of all time. It’s veristile and very good at what it does. Using some of the available scripts have also proven to be more than useful in the field.

NetCat – This tool is extremely well rounded. Some of my favorite features include tunneling mode which allows also special tunneling such as UDP to TCP, with the possibility of specifying all network parameters (source port/interface, listening port/interface, and the remote host allowed to connect to the tunnel. While NMap is my go to port scanner, there is built-in port-scanning capabilities, with randomizer, and dvanced usage options, such as buffered send-mode (one line every N seconds), and hexdump (to stderr or to a specified file) of trasmitted and received data. 

Wireshark – Sharking the wires is one of my favorite things to do. It allows you to examine data from a live network or from a capture file on disk. You can interactively browse the capture data, delving down into just the level of packet detail you need.

What’s your favorite tool? Let us know in the comments or via Twitter (@lbhuston). Thanks for reading! 

OWASP Talk Scheduled for Sept 13 in Columbus

I have finally announced my Columbus OWASP topic for the 13th of September (Thursday). I hope it turns out to be one of the most fun talks I have given in a long while. I am really excited about the chance to discuss some of this in public. Here’s the abstract:

Hey, You Broke My Web Thingee! :: Adventures in Tampering with Production

The speaker will tell a few real world stories about practical uses of his defensive fuzzing techniques in production web applications. Examples of fighting with things that go bump in the web to lower deployment costs, unexpected application errors and illicit behavior will be explained in some detail. Not for the “play by the book” web team, these techniques touch on unconventional approaches to defending web applications against common (and not so common) forms of waste, fraud and abuse. If the “new Web” is a thinking admin’s game, unconventional wisdom from the trenches might just be the game changer you need.

You can find out more about attending here. Hope to see you in the crowd!

PS – I’ll be sharing the stage with Jim Manico from White Hat Security, who is always completely awesome. So, come out and engage with us!

See you at the Central Ohio BBB Torch Awards

Today, our team will be pleased to accept the BBB Center for Character Ethics’ Torch Award! We first announced our selection by the committee back in June, and today we are thrilled to spend an afternoon with the fellow winners, our customers, our families and the Central Ohio Community. We are greatly humbled and excited by our selection for the award and we look forward to continuing to live by the same organizational ethics and dedication to customer service in the coming years.

Special thanks today to our families and mentors who taught us to “do the right thing, even when no one is looking” and to all of the customers and clients that have placed their faith in us over the last (soon to be) 20 years. Without all of you, none of this would be possible.

If you can join us for the luncheon today, we look forward to seeing you. If you can’t, we understand, and we’ll be back to work later today, once again laser focused on protecting you and our critical infrastructure. (We’re still leaving the ISOC in capable hands while we gather for the ceremony… :))

As always, thanks so much for reading and for supporting MicroSolved. We love helping you keep your business, your business… 🙂

[UPDATE] – Much love and thanks to those who attended. What a great event! The best part was meeting the young students who wrote essays about ethics, leadership and engagement. Congrats to all of the winners!



Quick & Dirty Plan for Critical Infrastructure Security Improvement


I was recently engaged with some critical infrastructure experts on Twitter. We were discussing a quick and dirty set of basic tasks that could be used an approach methodology for helping better secure the power grid and other utilities.

There was a significant discussion and many views were exchanged. A lot of good points were made over the course of the next day or so.

Later, I was asked by a couple of folks in the power industry to share my top 10 list in a more concise and easy to use manner. So, per their request, here it is:

@LBHuston’s Top 10 Project List to Help Increase Critical Infrastructure “Cyber” Security

1. Identify the assets that critical infrastructure organizations have in play and map them for architecture, data flow and attack surfaces

2. Undertake an initiative to eliminate “low hanging fruit” vulnerabilities in these assets (fix out of date software/firmware, default configurations, default credentials, turn on crypto if available, etc.)

3. Identify attack surfaces that require more than basic hardening to minimize or mitigate vulnerabilities

4. Undertake a deeper hardening initiative against these surfaces where feasible

5. Catalog the surfaces that can’t be hardened effectively and perform fail state analysis and threat modeling for those surfaces

6. Implement detective controls to identify fail state conditions and threat actor campaigns against those surfaces

7. Train an incident investigation and response team to act when anomalous behaviors are detected

8. Socialize the changes in your organization and into the industry (including regulators)

9. Implement an ongoing lessons learned feedback loop that includes peer and regulator knowledge sharing

10. Improve entire process organically through iteration

The outcome would be a significant organic improvement of the safety, security and trust of our critical infrastructures. I know some of the steps are hard. I know some of them are expensive. I know we need to work on them, and we better do it SOON. You know all of that too. The question is – when will WE (as in society) demand that it be done? That’s the 7 billion people question, isn’t it?

Got additional items? Wanna discuss some of the projects? Drop me a line in the comments, give me a call at (614) 351-1237 or tweet with me (@lbhuston). Thanks for reading and until next time, stay safe out there!

PS – Special thanks to @chrisjager for supporting me in the discussion and for helping me get to a coherent top 10 list. Follow him on Twitter, because he rocks!