Perimeter
1/28/2013
03:04 PM
Tom Parker
Tom Parker
Commentary
50%
50%

Combatting Advanced Threats In 2013 Through Basics

Focus on fixing the problems of a past generation before focusing on the next

As most on the pointy end of investigating and cleaning up compromises have known for some time, despite all of the hype over next-generation this and big-data that, 2012 was another great year for cyberespionage and state-sponsored adversaries.

As with past years, many of the most egregious compromises in 2012 occurred in organizations with some of the biggest security budgets and the best toys, fresh off of the show floor of your favorite security product conference. It remains, as has always been the case, that money buys good security -- but that money has to be well-spent.

It’s no secret that security has very much become a marketing term -- and that’s fine; we all have bills to pay. However, the increasing culture of silver-bullet solutions has seemingly distracted many a CISO from the fundamentals of running a secure enterprise, something that the pointy-hat brigade (amongst others) are lapping up. I’m talking about principles of least-privilege, asset management, service account management, shared accounts, network segmentation, basic logging functions, and OS hardening.

We continue to fall short on these fundamental principles, yet we would far rather spend our money on the latest, shiny “next-generation” security appliance than fixing them. If there is one think I would do in every IT-enabled corporation in 2013, it would be to take a long, hard look at fixing the problems associated with past generations of shoddy practices before worrying about defending our network against the next-generation-nuke-launching-state-sponsored-teleporting-sophisticated-web2.0-blah threat.

While there’s absolutely a time and a place for technology-based solutions, another increasing trend in 2012 seemed to be organizations' procurement of potentially useful technologies without correct forethought as to how they might be fully leveraged to best serve the unique needs of the enterprise. In many cases, technologies may as well be gathering dust in storage than the manner in which they are currently being used. In other cases, they really are gathering dust in their boxes due to insufficient resource to deploy them correctly.

The bottom line here is that while you may have just bought the best and most expensive product in a given solution space, in the present environment, your organization is unlikely to use it to the fullest extent of its capabilities. And so you may as well have purchased that half-as-expensive competitor's version and spent the remaining cash on hiring an FTE or two to ensure it’s being used correctly and to take care of the fact that you still use the same local admin password on everything and that anyone on your network can STILL RDP to your domain controllers, which you have no logs of.

As someone who lives largely in the offensive side of the industry (that is, if not breaking into clients' networks, its offending shoddy security product vendors), I can tell you that some of the most secure organizations my team and I frustratingly encounter are customers who don’t necessarily have the largest security budgets, but are smart with their available resources and focus on the basics first. This creates a good culture, not just in security teams (which may be small), but most importantly throughout IT departments, and has the added benefit of shedding new light on which technology-based solutions can actually help enhance their security postures and how they may be best integrated into the existing environment.

When having a dialogue on this with large organizations, you will often run into a question of scalability and cost based on environment size. While this argument may have held water in the past, it is now largely invalid due to the large amount of solutions in the (IT, not security) marketplace, which, while may not stop that highly sophisticated, nuke launching 0day-donning malware, will solve many of the fundamental issues that remained the real cause of many a red-faced corporation last year.

Tom Parker is CTO of FusionX LLC

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Mark532010
50%
50%
Mark532010,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/29/2013 | 5:38:57 PM
re: Combatting Advanced Threats In 2013 Through Basics
This really resonates with me. So many companies purchase big time apps and hire "world class" experts who spend their time trying to keep up with zero-day threats, yet look-áat some of the biggest breakins and always you find a-ádepressing repeated pattern of unpatched servers, default passwords, plain-text passwords, etc.

More attention to the basics, like knowing who is in the administrators group on EVERY server - not just the easy to find ones, would help most companies far more than exotic software.
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest, Dec. 19, 2014
Software-defined networking can be a net plus for security. The key: Work with the network team to implement gradually, test as you go, and take the opportunity to overhaul your security strategy.
Flash Poll
Title Partner’s Role in Perimeter Security
Title Partner’s Role in Perimeter Security
Considering how prevalent third-party attacks are, we need to ask hard questions about how partners and suppliers are safeguarding systems and data.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-8142
Published: 2014-12-20
Use-after-free vulnerability in the process_nested_data function in ext/standard/var_unserializer.re in PHP before 5.4.36, 5.5.x before 5.5.20, and 5.6.x before 5.6.4 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via a crafted unserialize call that leverages improper handling of duplicate keys w...

CVE-2013-4440
Published: 2014-12-19
Password Generator (aka Pwgen) before 2.07 generates weak non-tty passwords, which makes it easier for context-dependent attackers to guess the password via a brute-force attack.

CVE-2013-4442
Published: 2014-12-19
Password Generator (aka Pwgen) before 2.07 uses weak pseudo generated numbers when /dev/urandom is unavailable, which makes it easier for context-dependent attackers to guess the numbers.

CVE-2013-7401
Published: 2014-12-19
The parse_request function in request.c in c-icap 0.2.x allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (crash) via a URI without a " " or "?" character in an ICAP request, as demonstrated by use of the OPTIONS method.

CVE-2014-2026
Published: 2014-12-19
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the search functionality in United Planet Intrexx Professional before 5.2 Online Update 0905 and 6.x before 6.0 Online Update 10 allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the request parameter.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join us Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to hear what employers are really looking for in a chief information security officer -- it may not be what you think.