Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Perfect Security?

Many years ago, I was privileged to hear Marcus Ranum speak at a conference for our regional NSFNet member network. At the time, I was of the mindset that it was possible to have perfect security for the computer systems and networks I managed, and I was not willing to compromise security for any purpose.

For example, when my employer at the time wanted to build a way to accept credit cards via the web, I proposed an isolated database server behind multiple firewalls -- mind you, this was long before PCI-DSS! Instead of taking the perfect solution, they probably just accepted credit card numbers via email...

Anyway, I understood Marcus to say that business needs had priority, and in particular, sometimes the business (and its software and systems) has to be built in advance of the security. This did not mean that we needed to ignore or discard security, but to be cognizant of the business needs -- if there's no business, there's no need for security.

So, we need to manage risks and prepare to respond to problems rather than wait to enable business operations until known risks are eliminated.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Verizon Data Breach Report 2012

The Verizon Data Breach Report 2012 (pdf) has been released. The information security industry owes Verizon gratitude for the amount of data Verizon has been able to assemble and analyze, and for making the results publicly available.

Unsurprisingly, the total number of records breached in 2011 was quite large. The majority of the breaches were motivated by "hacktivism" rather than illicit financial gains, but Verizon points out that serious criminals are still actively stealing data.

Regardless of the motivations by attackers, 2011 was a terrible year for the number of breaches and the amount of data lost.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

RSA Conference 2012 Post-mortem

This year, my schedule at the RSA Conference 2012 was much different than previous conferences. As a speaker, I spent quite a bit of time preparing and rehearsing my presentation, as well as talking with other presenters. Of course, audiences get a lot out of the presentations and meeting the presenters afterwards, but it's a step up to be able to meet and talk with presenters informally about the industry, security issues and solutions for customers, and the direction of technologies.

Looking back at the past year and the significant number of huge data loss events, I thought I saw that people were looking to step up their game against breaches. I liked what I heard from industry industry leaders - concepts with the potential to improve data security: 1) better communication and interaction between software development and operations, such as Josh Corman and Gene Kim's Rugged DevOps talk, 2) improving security functionality for cloud - Chris Hoff and Rich Mogul's Grilling Cloudicorns talk, and 3) improving mobile device security.

I'm looking forward to digging into these ideas further in the coming year.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

RSA Conference 2012 - Data Breaches and Web Servers: The Giant Sucking Sound

I'm scheduled to present "Data Breaches and Web Servers: The Giant Sucking Sound" at RSA Conference 2012 - session DAS-204 on Wednesday, February 29.
From the abstract:
An analysis of recent data breach events shows a large number of events occur via web servers. Barracuda, Epsilon, Citigroup, eHarmony, Sony and the State of Texas are just a few of the names in the news as a result of web data exposures. Web servers in the cloud only complicate the situation. This presentation will examine technologies and practices you can apply to help keep your name off this list.
Since I submitted the abstract several months ago, there have been several additional major breaches of web servers including StratforZappos and Care2, so the giant sucking continues.

Hope to meet you at the RSA Conference!


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cloud Security - Hardware Support for Isolation?

Recently, Joanna Rutkowska wrote that IaaS cloud services are insecure without hardware support for separation between tenants, citing Bruce Schneier's recent article on cloud insecurity.

However, successful IaaS cloud services like Amazon Web Services are enabled by commodity hardware (using the Intel x86 instruction set), free operating systems (Linux), and the ubiquitous TCP/IP and SSL protocols. Today's IaaS providers already have massive investments in commodity hardware, and hardware support for tenant isolation would seem to be a ways off, both in hardware development and adoption by providers.

I am more concerned about SaaS services and isolation of clients. How I can be sure my Office365, SalesForce, or other SaaS service can successfully and permanently isolate and protect my company's data? I don't see how hardware support for isolation can be extended into the realm of SaaS services unless it is in terms of per-customer encryption of data.

Your thoughts?