Understanding the Core Tenets of Zero-Trust Network Access

 

Zero-Trust Network Access: Strengthening Your Cybersecurity

In an era where cyber threats loom at every corner, “never trust, always verify” has become the mantra. The concept of Zero-Trust Network Access (ZTNA) challenges conventional cybersecurity models that relied on too much optimism. Originating from the notion that internal networks can be just as vulnerable as external ones, ZTNA reshapes our approach to digital protection.

Initially a niche idea, ZTNA quickly became a core strategy against data breaches and compromised credentials. It’s a philosophy advocating continuous verification of all entities—both users and devices—regardless of their location relative to the network perimeter. The substantial reduction in security incidents demonstrates its value on the cyber frontlines.

What is Zero-Trust Network Access?

Zero-Trust Network Access (ZTNA) serves as the foundation of a robust and comprehensive security strategy known as Zero Trust architecture. This modern security model operates on a principle of skepticism, withholding implicit trust from any individual or device seeking to interact with a network. Key principles include:

  • Explicit Verification: Every entity is authenticated before accessing network resources, regardless of location.
  • Microsegmentation: Access is granted based on one-to-one connections, reducing lateral movement risks.
  • Least Privilege Access: Permissions are limited to only what’s necessary.

By upholding these principles, ZTNA shifts the security paradigm from an assumed trust model to an explicit trust architecture.

Benefits of Zero-Trust Network Access

Transitioning to Zero-Trust Network Access offers several key benefits:

  • Reduced Unauthorized Access: Comprehensive verification significantly diminishes the likelihood of data breaches and unauthorized disclosures.
  • Mitigated Lateral Movement: One-to-one secure connections minimize the risk of attackers moving laterally within the network.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Streamlined compliance with regulations like PCI DSS and NIST 800-207, simplifying audits and adherence to mandates.
  • Enhanced Oversight and Control: Microsegmentation offers unparalleled governance, allowing tailored controls around high-value datasets.
  • Improved Security Posture: Overall, ZTNA leads to better data protection, reduced risk and detection time for breaches, and stronger command over both cloud and on-premises environments.

Conclusion

ZTNA transforms network security from a traditional trust-centric model to one that presumes risk, advocates continuous verification, and restricts access. This shift aligns with the need for proactive defense mechanisms amid an ever-expanding attack surface, where potential threats can arise from virtually any vector. Security teams are empowered with the tools and protocols to uphold a high-security posture, strengthening their overall strategy against unauthorized access.

Ready to enhance your cybersecurity with Zero-Trust Network Access?

Contact MicroSolved today and let our experts help you implement a comprehensive Zero Trust architecture to protect your organization’s most valuable assets.

Visit MicroSolved’s Contact Page or call us at (614) 351-1237 to get started on fortifying your security posture with cutting-edge ZTNA solutions.

* AI tools were used as a research assistant for this content.

 

3 Daily Habits for Information Security Practitioners to Stay Updated

  1. Stay Informed with Industry News:
    • Why? The cybersecurity landscape is ever-evolving. New threats, vulnerabilities, and attack vectors emerge daily.
    • How?
      • Subscribe to cybersecurity news websites and blogs like KrebsOnSecurity, The Hacker News, or Dark Reading.
      • Join forums and online communities like Reddit’s r/netsec or Stack Exchange’s Information Security.
      • Set up Google Alerts for specific cybersecurity keywords to get real-time updates.
  2. Engage in Continuous Learning:
    • Why? Technologies and tools in the cybersecurity domain are constantly advancing. To remain effective, professionals must keep up with the latest techniques and methodologies.
    • How?
      • Dedicate time each day to learn something new, whether it’s a new programming language, a cybersecurity tool, or a security protocol.
      • Enroll in online courses or webinars. Platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and Cybrary offer many courses tailored for cybersecurity professionals.
      • Participate in Capture The Flag (CTF) challenges or cybersecurity simulations to hone your skills in a practical environment.
  3. Network with Peers:
    • Why? Networking helps share knowledge, learn about real-world challenges, and understand best practices from experienced professionals.
    • How?
      • Attend local or virtual cybersecurity meetups, conferences, and seminars.
      • Join professional organizations such as (ISC)², ISACA, or the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA).
      • Engage in discussions on LinkedIn groups or Twitter threads related to cybersecurity.

Remember, the field of information security is vast and dynamic. By integrating these habits into your daily routine, you’ll be better equipped to stay ahead of the curve and safeguard your organization’s digital assets.

 

* Just to let you know, we used some AI tools to gather the information for this article, and we polished it up with Grammarly to make sure it reads just right!

 

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.

 

 

Where Does Trouble Come From?

One of the most common questions I get is, “Where does attack traffic come from?”. I want to present a quick and dirty answer, just to show you how diverse illicit traffic sources are. 

To give you a glimpse into that, here is a list of the top 20 ISPs, based on the number of unique malicious source IP addresses who touched one of my HoneyPoint deployments in a single 24 hour period.

The list:

9 korea telecom
7 hinet
6 dynamic distribution ip’s for broadband services ojsc rosteleom, regional branch “urals”
5 sl-reverse
5 sfr
5 rr
5 chinanet jiangsu province network china telecom no.31,jingrong street beijing 100032
5 china mobile communications corporation mobile communications network operator in china internet service provider in china
4 turknet-dsl
4 superonline
4 sbcglobal
4 chinanet jiangsu province network china telecom 260 zhongyang road,nanjing 210037
3 zenlayer inc
3 virginm
3 verizon
3 totbb
3 jsc rostelecom regional branch “siberia”
3 intercable
3 comcastbusiness
3 comcast
3 charter
3 broadband multiplay project, o/o dgm bb, noc bsnl bangalore
3 as13285

As you can see by the above, the list is pretty diverse. It covers sources in many countries and across both domestic and foreign ISPs. In my experience, the list is also pretty dynamic, at least in terms of the top 10-20 ISPs. They tend to spike and fall like waves throughout different time periods. One of these days, maybe I will get around to visualizing some of that data to get a better view of the entropy around it. But, for now, I hope this gives you an idea of the diversity in sources of attacks.

The diversity also makes it very difficult to baseline log activity and such. As such, there may be some effective risk reduction in blocking ISPs by netblock, if your organization can tolerate the risk associated with doing so. But, more on that in another post. Hit me up on Twitter (@lbhuston) and let me know what your firm’s experience with that type blocking has been; if you’ve tried it or are doing it today. I’d love to hear if it reduced log noise, made traffic modeling easier or led to any specific risk reductions.

Thanks for reading! 

State Of Security Podcast Episode 13 Is Out

Hey there! I hope your week is off to a great start.

Here is Episode 13 of the State of Security Podcast. This new “tidbit” format comes in under 35 minutes and features some pointers on unusual security questions you should be asking cloud service providers. 

I also provide a spring update about my research, where it is going and what I have been up to over the winter.

Check it out and let me know what you think via Twitter.

3 Reasons You Need Customized Threat Intelligence

Many clients have been asking us about our customized threat intelligence services and how to best use the data that we can provide.

1. Using HoneyPoint™, we can deploy fake systems and applications, both internally and in key external situations that allow you to generate real-time, specific to your organization, indicators of compromise (IoC) data – including a wide variety of threat source information for blacklisting, baseline metrics to make it easy to measure changes in the levels of threat actions against your organization up to the moment, and a wide variety of scenarios for application and attack surface hardening.

2. Our SilentTiger™ passive assessments, can help you provide a wider lens for vulnerability assessment visibility than your perimeter, specifically. It can be used to assess, either single instance or ongoing, the security posture of locations where your brand is extended to business partners, cloud providers, supply chain vendors, critical dependency API and data flows and other systems well beyond your perimeter. Since the testing is passive, you don’t need permission, contract language or control of the systems being assessed. You can get the data in a stable, familiar format – very similar to vulnerability scanning reports or via customized data feeds into your SEIM/GRC/Ticketing tools or the like. This means you can be more vigilant against more attack surfaces without more effort and more resources.

3. Our customized TigerTrax™ Targeted Threat Intelligence (TTI) offerings can be used for brand specific monitoring around the world, answering specific research questions based on industry / geographic / demographic / psychographic profiles or even products / patents or economic threat research. If you want to know how your brand is being perceived, discussed or threatened around the world, this service can provide that either as a one-time deliverable, or as an ongoing periodic service. If you want our intelligence analysts to look at industry trends, fraud, underground economics, changing activist or attacker tactics and the way they collide with your industry or organization – this is the service that can provide that data to you in a clear and concise manner that lets you take real-world actions.

We have been offering many of these services to select clients for the last several years. Only recently have we decided to offer them to our wider client and reader base. If you’d like to learn how others are using the data or how they are actively hardening their environments and operations based on real-world data and trends, let us know. We’d love to discuss it with you! 

Sometimes, It Happens…

Sometimes things fail in interesting ways. Sometimes they fail in dangerous ways. Occasionally, things fail in ways that you simply can’t predict and that are astounding.

In a recent assessment of a consumer device in our lab, we found the usual host of vulnerabilities that we have come to expect in Internet of Things (IoT) devices. But, while testing this particular device, which is also tied to a cloud offering for backup and centralization of data – I never would have predicted that a local device would have a full bi-directional trust with a virtual instance in the cloud.

Popping the local device was easy. It had an easy to compromise “hidden” TCP port for telnet. It took my brute force tool only moments to find a default login and password credential set. That’s pretty usual with IoT devices.

But, once I started poking around inside the device, it quickly became apparent that the device configuration was such that it tried to stay continually connected to a VM instance in the “cloud storage and synchronization” environment associated with the device and vendor. How strong was the trust? The local device had mount points on the remote machine and both systems had full trust to each other via a telnet connection. From the local machine, simply telnet to the remote machine on the right port, and without credential check, you have a shell inside the cloud. Not good…

But, as clear of a failure as the scenario above was, the rabbit hole went deeper. From the cloud VM, you could see thousands of other VMs in the hosted cloud environment. Connect from the VM to another, and you need the default credentials again, but, no sweat, they work and work and work…

So, from brute force compromise of a local piece of consumer hardware to a compromise of thousands of cloud instance VMs in less than 30 minutes. Ugh… 

Oh yeah, remember that storage centralization thing? Yep, default credentials will easily let you look through the centralized files on all those cloud VMs. Double ugh…

Remember, I said bi-directional? Yes, indeed, a connection from a VM to an end-point IoT device also works with assumed trust, and you get a shell on a device with local network visibility. Now is the time you kinda get sick to your stomach…

These kinds of scenarios are becoming more common as new IoT devices get introduced into our lives. Yes, the manufacturer has been advised, but, closing the holes will take a complete redesign of the product. The moral of this story is to pay careful attention to IoT devices. Ask questions. Audit. Assess. Test. There are a lot of bad security decisions being made out there in the IoT marketplace, especially around consumer products. Buyer beware!

Hosting Providers Matter as Business Partners

Hosting providers seem to be an often overlooked exposure area for many small and mid-size organizations. In the last several weeks, as we have been growing the use of our passive assessment platform for supply chain assessments, we have identified several instances where the web site hosting company (or design/development company) is among the weakest links. Likely, this is due to the idea that these services are commodities and they are among the first areas where organizations look to lower costs.

The fall out of that issue, though, can be problematic. In some cases, organizations are finding themselves doing business with hosting providers who reduce their operational costs by failing to invest in information security.* Here are just a few of the most significant issues that we have seen in this space:
  • “PCI accredited” checkout pages hosted on the same server as other sites that are clearly under the control of an attacker
  • Exposed applications and services with default credentials on the same systems used to host web sites belonging to critical infrastructure organizations
  • Dangerous service exposures on hosted systems
  • Malware infested hosting provider ad pages, linked to hundreds or thousands of their client sites hosted with them
  • Poorly managed encryption that impacts hundreds or thousands of their hosted customer sites
  • An interesting correlation of blacklisted host density to geographic location and the targeted verticals that some hosting providers sell to
  • Pornography being distributed from the same physical and logical servers as traditional businesses and critical infrastructure organizations
  • A clear lack of DoS protection or monitoring
  • A clear lack of detection, investigation, incident response and recovery maturity on the part of many of the vendors 
It is very important that organizations realize that today, much of your risk extends well beyond the network and architectures under your direct control. Partners, and especially hosting companies and cloud providers, are part of your data footprint. They can represent significant portions of your risk, and yet, are areas where you may have very limited control. 
 
If you would like to learn more about using our passive assessment platform and our vendor supply chain security services to help you identify, manage and reduce your risk – please give us a call (614-351-1237) or drop us a line (info /at/ MicroSolved /dot/ com). We’d love to walk you through some of the findings we have identified and share some of the insights we have gleaned from our analysis.
 
Until next time, thanks for reading and stay safe out there!
 
*Caveat: This should not be taken that information security is correlated with cost. We have seen plenty of “high end”, high cost hosting companies with very poor security practices. The inverse is also true. Validation is the key…

Interesting Talk on Post Quantum Computing Impacts on Crypto

If you want to really get some great understanding of how the future of crypto is impacted by quantum computing, there is a fantastic talk embedded in this link
 
The talk really turns the high level math and theory of most of these discussions into knowledge you can parse and use. Take an hour and listen to it. I think you will find it most rewarding.
 
If you want to talk about your thoughts on the matter, hit us up on Twitter. (@microsolved)

Clients Finding New Ways to Leverage MSI Testing Labs

Just a reminder that MSI testing labs are seeing a LOT more usage lately. If you haven’t heard about some of the work we do in the labs, check it out here.

One of the ways that new clients are leveraging the labs is to have us mock up changes to their environments or new applications in HoneyPoint and publish them out to the web. We then monitor those fake implementations and measure the ways that attackers, malware and Internet background radiation interacts with them.

The clients use these insights to identify areas to focus on in their security testing, risk management and monitoring. A few clients have even done A/B testing using this approach, looking for the differences in risk and threat exposures via different options for deployment or development.

Let us know if you would like to discuss such an approach. The labs are a quickly growing and very powerful part of the many services and capabilities that we offer our clients around the world!