About Brent Huston

I am the CEO of MicroSolved, Inc. and a security evangelist. I have spent the last 20+ years working to make the Internet safer for everyone on a global scale. I believe the Internet has the capability to contribute to the next great leap for mankind, and I want to help make that happen!

3 Common Challenges Implementing Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication is becoming increasingly popular among businesses and consumers alike.

However, many organizations struggle to implement the technology successfully.

Here are three challenges organizations face when implementing multi-factor authentication.

1. Lack of Awareness

Many organizations don’t understand what multi-factor authentication is or why they should use it.

They think it’s too complicated, expensive, or unnecessary.

This misconception leads to a lack of awareness about the security risks posed by weak passwords and phishing attacks.

2. Security Concerns

Some organizations believe that multi-factor authentication adds complexity and cost to their IT infrastructure.

But, in reality, multi-factor authentication doesn’t add much overhead.

Instead, it provides additional layers of protection against cyberattacks.

3. Complexity

Organizations sometimes find it difficult to integrate multi-factor authentication into their existing systems.

For example, they might have to replace old software or change user interfaces.

Some Potential Solution Ideas

If you’re struggling to implement multi-factor authentication, here are some tips to help you overcome these challenges.

1. Educate Employees About Multi-Factor Authentication

Educating employees about multi-factor authentication helps them understand its importance.

Make sure employees know that using multi-factor authentication reduces the likelihood of fraud and improves overall security.

2. Use Technology That Works For You

Multi-factor authentication tools are becoming more popular by the day. Many low-cost, or even free, solutions exist from vendors like Microsoft, DUOand others.

Look for solutions that have easy integration with your existing business infrastructure and systems.

3. Work With A Partner

A partner who has experience implementing multi-factor authentication can be helpful.

An experienced partner can provide guidance and support throughout the implementation process.

4. Make Sure The Solution Is Right For You

Before choosing a solution, make sure it meets your organization’s needs.

As always, if we can be of assistance, drop us a line to info@microsolved.com. We’d be happy to help!

3 Essential Raspberry Pi Hardening Steps

Raspberry Pi hardening is essential for securing your device against attacks.

Here are three essential Raspberry Pi hardening steps:

1. Disable SSH If You Don’t Need It

Disable SSH access to your Raspberry Pi using the following command:

sudo raspi-config

Choose “Advanced Options” and then choose “No ssh”.

2. Change Your Password

Change your password to something secure. You can use the following command:

passwd

3. Update Raspbian

Update your Raspberry Pi’s operating system to the latest version available. This ensures that your device is up to date with security patches and bug fixes.

To update your Raspberry Pi, follow these instructions:

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get upgrade

In summary, hardening your device by following these steps will help you protect your Pi from attacks. Making these three basic steps a part of every Pi install you do will go a long way to giving you a safer, more dependable, and more private experience.

 

 

Why Emulate a PLC with a Raspberry Pi

One of the most powerful uses of emulating a PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) field device with a Raspberry Pi is that it provides an affordable and easily obtained platform for prototyping, performing ladder logic testing, and researching various industrial control systems and cybersecurity concepts.

Raspberry Pis are Affordable

Raspberry Pi models 3 and 4 are significantly more affordable than real PLCs. A typical PLC can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.

The Raspberry Pi costs around $35-50 depending on your model choice. This makes them very accessible to hobbyists, students, researchers, developers, and anyone else who wants to work with the basics of industrial control systems. The low cost makes them ideal candidates to emulate a PLC in many scenarios.

Raspberry Pis are Easily Obtainable

PLCs can be quite difficult to come by, especially if you want one without any pre-existing software installed. Many manufacturers will not sell their products to third parties unless they have some kind of existing relationship. If you don’t already know someone at the manufacturer then you may need to pay a hefty upcharge. Additionally, purchasing the addons for power supplies, specific programming software, and such can quickly turn into a slog of paperwork and supporting tasks. The lead time and delivery times can take weeks to months.

The Raspberry Pi, on the other hand, can be purchased at many big-box electronics or computer stores, directly from many providers, or even delivered to your door from Amazon and other online sources. It uses a common USB power supply and can be configured and programmed using open source tools available online. Lead time is a couple of days to a few hours, letting you stay focused on your work.

The OpenPLC Project

The OpenPLC Project is a stable, well-documented toolkit for emulating basic PLC operations on the Pi. It has been used successfully to simulate a variety of different types of PLCs and includes support for ladder logic and other common PLC functions. You can find the programming reference and review the available capabilities here.

You can get OpenPLC up and running on a Pi in less than 30 minutes. In our testing, we were able to begin using the emulated PLC in our lab within an hour!

Going The Extra Mile With SCADABR

SCADABR is an open-source supervisory control and data acquisition software package designed to allow you to create interactive screens or human-machine interfaces (HMI) for your automation projects. It provides tools for creating graphical user interface widgets, event handlers, timers, and dialogs. With its ability to communicate with multiple controllers (including OpenPLC), ScadaBR is an ideal companion for the OpenPLC Runtime and Editor.

Using a Pi, OpenPLC, and SCADABR together, can get you a very powerful and useful PLC platform up and running for under $100 and in less than a few hours. Once implemented, you can use the platform to learn about industrial controls systems, ladder logic, PLC programming, and operations. You can also do basic ladder logic research and testing, and even prototyping for future real-world PLC deployments. Cybersecurity folks also have a very capable platform for learning about industrial control security requirements, performing vulnerability research, reverse engineering, or practicing their assessment skills in a safe environment.

While you might not get the full power of a true PLC (there are some limitations to Pi’s capabilities), you will likely get more than you expect. If you have an interest in or a need for some basic industrial control systems capabilities, this is a great place to start.

 

 

What Is The Danger of Leaked Source Code?

Source code leaks are one of the biggest risks facing software developers today. It exposes sensitive business secrets, intellectual property, and trade secrets. It also puts the source code itself at risk of being used maliciously.

When source code leaks, it can lead to a number of issues. For instance, it could allow hackers to steal valuable IP. It could expose sensitive customer information. It could put employees at risk of having their identities stolen. And it could cause legal problems for companies.

In fact, according to a recent study conducted by KPMG, nearly half of respondents said that they had experienced a leak of confidential or proprietary information. Of those, almost two-thirds said that the leak was due to a developer leaving the company.

To learn more about our solution to helping customers detect and respond to source code leaks (along with other forms of critical data), check out our ClawBack™ product. The page contains several videos, pricing, and use cases. Give us a call at 1-614-351-1237 or drop us a line at info@microsolved.com to learn more or discuss how ClawBack can go to work for you!

The Biggest Challenges to Firms using Cyber Threat Intelligence

Cyber threat intelligence is one of the hottest topics in cybersecurity today. Many firms are investing heavily in developing and deploying solutions to identify and respond to cyber threats. But despite the hype surrounding cyber threat intelligence, many firms still struggle to make sense of the data they collect.

Why are firms struggling to make sense of their data, and how they can overcome this challenge? We asked around. It looks like three key challenges emerged, and here they are:

1. Data quality – How do we know if our data is accurate?

2. Data volume – How much data do we need to store?

3. Data integration – How do we combine multiple sources of data?

We’re working on ideas around these 3 most common problems. We’re working with firms of all sizes to help solve them. When we get to firm, across-the-board answers, we’ll post them. In the meantime, knowing the most common issues firms are facing in the threat intelligence arena gives us all a good place to start.

Got workarounds or solutions to these issues? Drop me a line on Twitter (@lbhuston) and let me know how you’re doing it. We’ll share the great ideas as they are proven out.

How Does an IT Audit Differ from a Security Assessment?

One of the most common questions that I get asked is about the differences between an IT Audit and a Security Assessment. Hopefully, this quick overview helps to remove some of the confusion around these terms, which should not be used interchangeably.

What Is A Security Assessment?

A Security Assessment is a focused, proactive evaluation of an organization’s cybersecurity landscape that identifies potential risks and opportunities for improvement. The objective of conducting a Security Assessment is to provide an overview of an organization’s current state in terms of its cybersecurity posture. To do this, the currently implemented controls and systems are tested for resilience against common vulnerabilities and forms of attack.

Security assessments may, or may not, include penetration tests. However, they should always check for potential vulnerabilities. These reviews are best conducted by an independent third party.

What Is an IT Audit?

An IT Audit is a comprehensive review of your organization’s information technology (IT) infrastructure. It provides a detailed analysis of how well you are managing your IT resources, including hardware, software, networks, applications, policies, procedures, and controls.

It compares your current state of operations against a prescribed set of standards, controls, or requirements. These types of reviews are often conducted by an internal audit or an internal team, though many smaller firms use external consultants to complete them, as well.

What’s the Difference?

The difference between an IT Audit and a Security Assessment is one of scope. An IT Audit will typically focus on a single area or set of areas while a Security Assessment may cover multiple areas. For example, an IT Audit may include an examination of the organization’s capabilities to comply with a specific standard, for example, HIPAA, while a security assessment would test the cyber-security controls’ around your HIPAA data for effectiveness against common forms of attack.

In the end, an IT Audit is useful for getting a high-level overview of the gap between a required set of controls or standards, while a Security Assessment provides specific insights into how well the controls you have in place are protecting you and your assets.

What to Do with the Data

Once you have the insights provided by these engagements, you can easily use the data to update your security policies, implement additional internal controls to create an acceptable level of risks, revise your standard operating procedures or increase your network security and application-level protection.

Often, how the results of these engagements are used can be a major difference between the maturity level of your cybersecurity program. These processes should be used on at least a yearly basis for small firms, and on an ongoing basis for larger, more mature firms. Doing so will greatly improve your organizational security posture over time.

For more information on these types of engagements, or to discuss either an IT Audit or a Security Assessment, please get in touch with MicroSolved (info@microsolved.com or 614-351-1237). We would love to put our nearly 30 years of experience to work for you!

 

 

How To Handle Leaked Credentials

OK, so you used ClawBack™ or some other tool and found leaked credentials linked to one of your employees on the web. Now, what do you do?

First, don’t panic. Leaked credentials happen all of the time. On average, it was discovered that employee email credentials from 10% of all Fortune 500 companies have been leaked in some form of data breach. (blog.finjan.com)  Another report published recently suggests that the web currently hosts leaked credentials of employees for 97% of the top 1,000 global companies – many stemming from third-party data breaches. (blog.finjan.com)

Once you come to terms with your find, it’s time to get down to business researching the issue. The first step is to determine what kind of data you have identified. Usually, leaked credentials come with a user ID like an email, system login name, or the like. Presumably, this is how you found the credentials in the first place. Next, determine if you have a password and/or hash for that user that was contained in the leak. If you found only a list of emails or names, there is not much actionable intelligence there, beyond maybe letting those users know that they are at increased risk for phishing and reminding them to be vigilant.

If, however, you have a password or hash tied to one of your user names in the leak, a few more steps are involved. If you have a password, the first step is to determine if that password meets whatever password policies you have defined across the organization. This is a key leverage point for identifying potential leaks – many, if not most, leaked passwords come from third-party systems and websites that are compromised by attackers but are only used by the firm’s employees. It’s pervasive for industry sites, or shopping sites to be linked to your employee’s identity – it could be as simple as your employee signed up for the site with their work email, and that site got breached. If that is the case, then as long as your employee doesn’t use that password at work (or similar passwords: eg: Summer12 and Summer13, etc.) there is little risk to the firm. If the password would not meet your password policy for your domain, webmail, and other applications, then this is likely the case. If that happens, simply contact the employee, advise them of the leaked credential, and make sure that they understand to change their passwords anywhere they used that password in their online life.

But, what if the password could be one of your domain or webmail accounts? If the password would meet your policies, then immediately force a password change on all systems for that user. If possible, you should also terminate any open sessions and force the user to change their credentials. While a determined attacker may exploit this process to reset the password themselves if they have the ability, it prevents any non-resourced attackers from exploiting the credentials. The worst case is that an employee loses a current session and has to reset their passwords to continue working.

However, don’t stop there – contact the user and advise them of the leaked credential. Ask them if it was used on any work-related systems or applications, and if so, immediately begin an investigation on those systems looking for signs of illicit access. This should be performed using intensive log reviews and should go back to the date of the user’s previous password change whenever possible. Do not depend on the leak date, if shown, as the boundary for the incident. Attackers may have had knowledge and access prior to making the leak public. Often, attackers use compromised accounts for some time, getting what they want from the victim, and then release the stolen credentials to other attackers via a sale, or to the public, in the hopes that the additional attacker traffic will hide the original compromise.

Lastly, if you only have a hash of a potential password, I would still follow the process above. Most hashes can be broken given enough resources. Thus, it is erring on the side of caution to follow the above process, and accept the hash as a credential that could be in use in your environment.

Got other workarounds for leaked credentials? I’d love to hear them. Drop me a line on Twitter, and let me know (@lbhuston). I’ll share any insights in future posts.

If you’d like to learn more about ClawBack – check out our solution for hunting down leaked credentials, source code, and configuration data. Get in touch with us for a discussion, or check out the videos on our website for a walkthrough.

 

 

 

Basic Logging Advice

Logging and monitoring are two important aspects of any security program. Without logging, we cannot understand how our systems operate, and without monitoring, we cannot detect anomalies and issues before they become problems.

There are many different types of logs available to us today. Some are generated automatically, while others require manual intervention. For instance, network traffic is usually logged automatically. However, application logs are not. We may need to manually create these logs.

Application logs provide valuable information about what happened during the execution of an application. They can show us which parts of the application were executed, what resources were used, and what was returned. Application logs are often stored in databases, allowing us to query them later.

Network logs are also useful. They allow us to see what packets were sent and received, and what responses were made. 

System logs are another type of log that we should consider. System logs record events such as system startup, shutdown, reboots, etc. They are generally stored in files, but can also be recorded in databases.

While logs are very helpful, they do have their limitations:

  • First, logs are only as good as the people who generate them. If  something doesn’t save a log, then we likely don’t know what happened. We might be able to get that from some other log, but having multiple layers of logs around an event is often useful.
  • Second, logs are static. Once created, they should remain unchanged. Hashing logs, storing them on read only file systems and other forms of log controls are highly suggested.
  • Third, logs are not always accurate. Sometimes, logs contain false positives, meaning that something appears to be happening when actually nothing is. False negatives are also possible, meaning we don’t alert on something we should have. Logs are a part of detection solution, not the sole basis of one.
  • Fourth, logs are not always actionable. That means that we can’t easily tell from a log whether something bad has occurred or if it is just noise. This is where log familiarity and anomaly detection comes in. Sometimes reviewing logs in aggregate and looking for trends is more helpful than individual line by line analysis. The answer may be in looking for haystacks instead of needles…
  • Finally, logs are not always timely. They might be created after the fact, and therefore won’t help us identify a problem until much later. While good log analysis can help create proactive security through threat intelligence, they are more powerful when analyzing events that have happened or as sources for forensic data.

Keep all of these things in mind when considering logging tools, designing monitoring techniques or building logs for your systems and applications.

How often should security logs be reviewed?

Security logs are one of the most important components of any security program. They provide insight into how well your security program is working, and they serve as a valuable source of intelligence for incident response. However, they are not perfect; they can contain false positives and false negatives. As a result, they need to be reviewed regularly to ensure they are providing accurate information.

There are two main reasons why security log reviews are necessary. First, they allow you to identify problems before they become serious incidents. Second, they allow you to determine whether your current security measures are effective.

When reviewing logs, look for three things:

1. Incidents – These are events that indicate something has gone wrong. For example, a firewall blocking access to a website, or a virus scanning software alerting you to a malware infection.

2. False Positives – These are alerts that don’t represent anything actually happening. For example, a virus scanner warning you about a file that was downloaded from the Internet without any infection identified.

3. False Negatives – These are alerts that do represent something actually happening, but were missed because of a flaw in the system. For example, a server being accessed remotely, but no alarms raised.

Reviewing logs every day is recommended. If you review logs daily, you will catch issues sooner and prevent them from becoming major incidents. This should be done on a rotating basis by the security team to prevent fatigue from diminishing the quality of the work, or via automated methods to reduce fatigue.

Peer reviewing logs weekly is also recommended. It allows you to spot trends and anomalies that might otherwise go unnoticed by a single reviewer. It also gives a second set of eyes on the logs, and helps guard against fatigue or bias-based errors.

Finally, aggregated trend-based monthly reviews are recommended. This gives you a chance to look back and see if there have been any changes to your environment that could affect your security posture or represent anomalies. This is a good place to review items like logged events per day, per system, trends on specific log events and the like. Anomalies should be investigated. Often times, this level of log review is great for spotting changes to the environment or threat intelligence.

If you want to learn more about how to conduct log reviews effectively, reach out to us at info@microsolved.com. We’re happy to help!

How long should security logs be kept?

Security logs are a great source of information for incident response, forensics, and compliance purposes. However, log retention policies vary widely among organizations. Some keep logs indefinitely; others only retain them for a certain period of time. Logging practices can impact how much useful information is available after a compromise has occurred.

In general, the longer logs are retained, the better. But, there are several factors to consider when determining how long to keep logs. These include:

• What type of system is being monitored?

• Is the system mission-critical?

• Are there any legal requirements regarding retention of logs?

• Does the company have a policy regarding retention of logs? If so, does it match industry standards?

• How often do incidents occur?

• How many employees are affected by each incident?

• How many incidents are reported?

• How many hours per day are logs collected?

• How many days per week are logs collected?

It is important to understand the business needs before deciding on a retention policy. For example, if a company has a policy of retaining logs for 90 days, then it is reasonable to assume that 90 days is sufficient for the majority of situations. However, if a company has no retention policy, then it is possible that the logs could be lost forever.

Logs are one of the most valuable sources of information during an investigation. It is important to ensure that the right people have access to the logs and that they are stored securely. In addition, it is important to know how long logs need to be kept.

MicroSolved provides a number of services related to logging and monitoring. We can help you create logging policies and practices, as well as design log monitoring solutions. Drop us a line at info@microsolved.com if you’d like to discuss logging and logging solutions.