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!

Video: Auditing Authentication Mechanisms

Here’s a quick video walkthrough of the presentation around auditing authentication mechanisms. 

We are getting some great feedback on this one, and people are rising to the challenge of doing audits for their organizations. Many folks are finding some quite unexpected results! 

Let me know on Twitter (@lbhuston) what you discover! 

 

As always, thanks for reading and watching! 

FAQ for the End of SMS Authentication

Q: What is the end of SMS authentication?

A: SMS authentication verifies user identity by sending a one-time code via text message to a user’s mobile phone number. With the rise of potential security risks, many financial websites, applications, and phone apps are phasing out SMS-based authentication and transitioning to authenticator apps that reside on user devices and smartphones.

Q: What are some of the potential security risks associated with SMS authentication?

A: Attackers have a variety of means of intercepting SMS text messages, thus defeating this type of authentication. This increases the risk of interception and misuse of the codes in question and decreases the security of the user’s account with the financial institution.

Q: What is an authenticator app?

A: An authenticator app is an application that resides in encrypted storage on the user’s device and, when prompted, provides a one-time password (“OTP”) just like the code sent in the text message. The difference is, through a variety of cryptographic techniques, once the application is set up and the settings configured, it doesn’t need to communicate with the financial platform and thus is significantly more difficult for attackers to compromise.

Q: What are the steps for organizations to switch from SMS authentication to authenticator apps?

A: Here is a quick overview of what is needed:

1. Research and decide on an authenticator app that meets your organization’s needs. Most of the time, users can select their own apps, and the firm selects the libraries needed to support them. Open source and commercial solutions abound in this space now.

2. Update user accounts in each application and authentication point with the new authentication protocol and provide instructions for downloading and setting up the authenticator app.

3. Educate users on using the authenticator app, including generating one-time passwords (OTPs), scanning QR codes, etc.

4. Monitor user feedback and usage data over time to ensure a successful switch from SMS authentication to an authenticator app.

 

PS – Need a process for cataloging all of your authentication points? Here you go.

Inventorying Organization Authentication Points

Are you looking for threat-proactive ways to secure your enterprise? One of the best ways to do this is by inventorying all of the points of authentication within your organization. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the steps you need to take to properly inventory and secure your Internet-facing authentication points. While you should have a complete and accurate inventory of these exposures, starting the process with a focus on critical systems is a common approach.

Inventory Process

1. Identify the different types of authentication used by the organization for remote access (e.g. passwords, two-factor authentication). If possible, use vendor data to include cloud-based critical services as well.

2. List all of the systems and applications that require remote access within the organization. External vulnerability scanning data and Shodan are both useful sources for this information.

3. For each system/application, document the type of authentication used and any additional security measures or policies related to remote access (e.g., password complexity requirements). Vendor management risk data can be useful here, if available.

4. Check with user groups to ensure that they use secure authentication methods and follow security policies when accessing systems/applications remotely.

5. Monitor access logs for signs of unauthorized access attempts or suspicious activity related to remote access authentication.

6. Regularly review and update existing remote access authentication processes as necessary to ensure the continued security of organizational resources over the Internet.

Why This Is Important – Credential Stuffing & Phishing

Inventorying all of the points of authentication within an enterprise is essential as protection against credential stuffing and phishing attacks. Credential stuffing is a type of attack where malicious actors use stolen credentials to gain access to different accounts, while phishing attacks are attempts to acquire confidential information through deceptive emails or websites. In both cases, it is important that organizations have proper authentication measures in place to prevent unauthorized access. Inventorying all of the points of authentication within an organization can ensure that the right security protocols are in place and that any suspicious activity related to authentication can be quickly identified and addressed.

In addition, having a detailed inventory of all points of authentication can help organizations identify any weak spots in their security measures. This allows them to take steps to strengthen those areas and further protect themselves from potential credential stuffing or phishing attacks. By regularly reviewing and updating their authentication processes, organizations can ensure that their resources remain secure and protected from any malicious actors.

Lastly, ensure that you feed this inventory and the knowledge gained into your enterprise risk assessment processes, incident response team, and other security control inventories. Make a note of any security gaps identified during the inventory process and ensure complete coverage of the logs and other intrusion detection systems at each potential point of authentication. By following these steps, you can ensure that your enterprise remains secure and protected from any potential threats associated with credential stuffing and credential theft associated with common phishing attacks.

 

What Is a Honeypot?

What is a Honeypot in Cyber Security?

A honeypot is a security system that creates a fake trap to attract attackers so that organizations can detect and protect against harmful digital activity.

How Does a Honeypot Work?

A honeypot acts as a decoy system or server that is deployed alongside production systems within a network. It is designed to look attractive to attackers by containing vulnerable data, luring them in, and then detecting their attempts, providing organizations with valuable insights into the threats they face.

What Are the Benefits of Using a Honeypot?

Honeypots can provide an organization with real-time information about the threats they face, including the techniques used by attackers and the types of attacks they are targeting. Additionally, honeypots can act as an early warning system by alerting an organization when an attack is detected.

What Are Some Examples of Different Types of Honeypots?

There are different types of honeypots available, such as low-interaction honeypots, which simulate vulnerable services but are not actually connected to networks; high-interaction honeypots, which contain full operating systems; and virtual honeypots, which use virtual machines to simulate the behavior of real systems.

Does MSI Make a Honeypot Product?

We sure do! We have a unique, patented platform for creating, managing, and monitoring distributed honeypots across your environment or in the cloud. You can learn more about it here. To schedule a discussion about the platform and its capabilities, drop us an email or give us a call.

Seek Out and Remove End-Of-Life Components

Just a quick reminder, at some point during each quarter, it is a good idea to enact a process to seek out and remove any end-of-life products in your environment. This is not only a best practice but a significant risk reduction measure as well. Make it an ongoing periodic process, and you’ve got a powerful weapon against threats and emerging issues stemming from end-of-life hardware, firmware, and software in your networks.

How to Search for End-Of-Life Products In Your Environment

The first step is to identify the devices, applications, and firmware that are no longer supported by their vendors. You can do this manually or with a tool. The next step is to determine which of those devices have been deployed in your network. Once you know where they are, you need to find them. There are several ways to search for these devices:

Use Network Inventory Tools

Network inventory tools such as Nmap and Nessus will allow you to scan your entire network to locate all of the devices on your network. These tools will also tell you what operating systems and versions of software/firmware are running on the device. If you’re using a vendor-specific tool, you’ll be able to see if there are any known vulnerabilities associated with the product in many cases.

Talk to Device and Application Owners

If you don’t already have a relationship with the owners of the devices and applications, then you should start building one now. It’s important to get to know the people who own the devices and applications so that you can ask questions about how they use the devices and applications. You may even want to consider getting an end-of-life security policy together for the organization so that you can make sure everyone understands the risks of end-of-life components.

Once you have discussed the issues with the owner, remove the component if possible. Otherwise, add it to a list of components to look for workarounds or replacements. Many organizations that can’t manage to replace an end-of-life component either place it in a low trust network zone, front-end it with firewalls or ACLs, and increase monitoring and detection of the assets involved. Of course, the component should be reviewed quarterly until it can be removed from service.

Doing this process every quarter will increase your networks’ overall stability and trust worthiness, plus reduce risk and management headaches. It’s well worth your time and an effective part of an overall risk management strategy.

Workstation Logging Best Practices

Why Workstation Logging Matters

Workstations are important components of any IT infrastructure, and they’re also one of the most overlooked. Often seen as expendable, many organizations fail to see the value of workstation logs, and how they can add to the visibility and detection capabilities of the security team. Workstations are quite likely to be early indicators of attack and malware infections. They are also often super useful in identifying manual attacker behaviors and performing adequate forensics.

Organizations that don’t maintain and organize workstation logs are usually missing out on some essential data and falling short of having across-the-enterprise visibility. This is especially true if you have a decentralized work environment. Simply enabling, configuring, and properly aggregating workstation logs can give you a huge forensic advantage. Adding real-time or near real-time log parsing and event alerting makes that advantage a superpower.

What to Log

The security events an organization captures on their workstations depend largely on industry-specific needs and relevant legal requirements. However, best practices call for several events that must be recorded and logged to ensure user accountability and to help organizations detect, understand, and recover from malicious events. These events include:

  • Authentication successes and failures for all users and services
  • Access control successes and failures for all users and services
  • Session activity, including files and applications used, especially system utilities and Powershell, if applicable
  • Changes in user access rights or privileges

The Bottom Line

Get busy logging on workstations. Make sure the logs are properly configured, aggregated, and processed as a part of your detection capabilities. Don’t view workstation logs as throw-aways. Instead, see them as a powerful lens for early detection, forensics, and attack recovery.

Update:

Thanks to @TheTokenFemale for pointing out that the logs should be sent somewhere off the system. I meant that by aggregation, but to clarify, the logs should be sent, processed, and archived using a log aggregation system or toolset that includes proper chain of evidence handling, alerting, and heuristics. It should also store and archive the relevant logs according to best practices and legal and regulatory guidance. 

Enabling ESP32 Secure Boot

What is Secure Boot?

ESP32 has a secure boot feature that allows you to configure the device to only accept signed firmware images from trusted sources. This can be used to prevent unauthorized modifications of your code and data on the ESP32, or to protect against malicious software (malware) attacks.

Why should it be used?

The ESP32 is an open-source hardware platform, which means anyone can modify its design. However, this also makes it vulnerable to malware attacks. If the attacker gains access to the device’s flash memory, they could replace the original firmware with their own version. In addition, if the attacker manages to gain root access, they could install any software on the device without user consent.

Secure boot prevents these types of attacks by requiring all firmware images to be digitally signed before being loaded into the device. Only those images that are signed by a trusted certificate authority will be accepted.

How does it work?

The ESP32 uses a Trusted Platform Module (TPM), which is a special-purpose chip designed for cryptographic operations. It provides a tamper-resistant environment where sensitive information such as passwords, keys, and certificates can be stored securely.

When the ESP32 boots up, it reads the TPM’s public key and checks whether the image file is signed using the private key associated with the public key. If so, the image is loaded into the device. Otherwise, the system displays an error message and refuses to load the image.

How do I enable it?

Secure Boot is enabled by default in the latest version of Espressif’s SDK for ESP32 development. But, on older versions of the SDK, you need to set the “secure_boot” option when initializing the board:

esp_init(0, 0x000002ff); // Initialize ESP32 module at address 0x00000200

esp_set_secure_mode(1); // Set secure boot mode

 

Why You Should Support CS2AI

What is Control Systems Cyber Security Association International (CS2AI.org)?

The mission of the Control Systems Cyber Security Association, Inc. (CS2AI) is to promote and advance cyber security education, research, and practice to protect critical infrastructure and ensure the safety and reliability of our nation’s control systems.

What does that mean? It means we are here to help you understand how to keep your control system safe from hackers, malware, and other threats. We want to ensure you know what to look for in a good cybersecurity program and how to find it.

We also want to ensure you have access to the best resources available to help you stay up-to-date on current trends and technologies.

Why does MSI support it?

Because we believe in its mission. We believe in making sure everyone has access to the information they need to make informed decisions about their own cybersecurity programs, especially when it comes to ICS.

We believe in helping people learn more about cybersecurity so they can take steps toward protecting themselves and their organizations.

We believe in supporting those who share our passion for improving the world through technology. CS2AI supports the core mission of MSI – making the online world a safer place for all of us.

How do I get involved?

It’s simple – click here to learn more about joining and the benefits of supporting the ongoing efforts to improve global cyber security.

Supply Chain Security Insights

Supply chain attacks are one of the most common cyber threats faced by organizations. They are costly and disruptive, often resulting in lost revenue and customer trust.

In this article, we’ll discuss five insights about supply chain attacks that all supply chain management and information security teams should be aware of.

#1. Supply Chains Can Be Vulnerable

Supply chains are complex networks of companies, suppliers, customers, and partners that provide goods and services to each other.

They include manufacturers, distributors, retailers, service providers, logistics providers, and others.

These entities may interact directly or indirectly via intermediaries such as banks, insurance companies, payment processors, freight forwarders, customs brokers, etc.

Supply chains are vulnerable to attack because they involve multiple parties and interactions between them. Each organization in the chain will have its own risk profile, security posture, and business model. This creates a complex environment for security risks. Attackers can target any part of the supply chain, and often focus on the weakest link, including manufacturing facilities, distribution centers, warehouses, transportation hubs, retail stores, etc.

Attackers can disrupt operations, steal intellectual property, damage reputation, and cause losses in revenue and profits.

#2. Supply Chain Security Must Include All Stakeholders

Supply chain security involves protecting against threats across the entire value stream. This means securing data, processes, systems, physical assets, personnel, and technology.

It also requires integrating security practices and technologies across the entire organization.

This includes ensuring that information sharing occurs among stakeholders, that employees understand their roles and responsibilities, and that policies and procedures are followed.

Security professionals should collaborate closely with executives, managers, and staff members to ensure that everyone understands the importance of security and has ownership over its implementation.

#3. Supply Chain Security Requires Ongoing Monitoring and Maintenance

Supply chain security requires ongoing monitoring and maintenance.

An effective approach is to continuously monitor the status of key indicators, assess risks, identify vulnerabilities, and implement countermeasures.

For example, an attacker could attempt to compromise sensitive data stored in databases, websites, mobile apps, and other locations.

To prevent these incidents, security teams should regularly review logs, audit reports, and other intelligence sources to detect suspicious activity.

They should also perform penetration tests, vulnerability scans, and other assessments to uncover potential weaknesses.

#4. Supply Chain Security Requires Collaboration Across Organizations

A single department cannot manage supply chain security within an organization.

Instead, it requires collaboration across departments and functional areas, including IT, finance, procurement, human resources, legal, marketing, sales, and others.

Each stakeholder must be responsible for maintaining security, understanding what constitutes acceptable behavior, and implementing appropriate controls.

Collaborating across organizational boundaries helps avoid silos of knowledge and expertise that can lead to gaps in security awareness and training.

#5. Supply Chain Security Is Critical to Organizational Success

Organizations that fail to protect their supply chains face significant financial penalties.

A recent study found that supply chain breaches cost United States businesses $6 trillion annually.

That’s equivalent to nearly 10% of the annual global GDP.

Supply chain attacks can result in lost revenues, damaged reputations, and increased costs.

Companies that invest in supply chain security can significantly improve operational efficiency, productivity, profitability, and brand image.