Putting Vulnerabilities And Threats Into Context
Advanced security research should play a role in your security program and be ready when science projects become weaponized attacks
Since I'm the new blogger in Dark Reading's Vulnerabilities & Threats Tech Center, it probably makes sense to explain a bit about my views on the role of advanced security research in your general security program. Security research is a critical aspect of your ability to defend yourself. To get a feel for why, go no further than the Great One's quote on a great hockey player:
"A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be." -- Wayne Gretzky
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Research and understanding emerging attack vectors help you understand where attackers are going to be. Breach reports and quarterly threat summaries only tell you where attackers have been. If you are trying to stay ahead of the game, then you should not be focusing the short amount of time during the day fighting fires, waging political battles, beating back auditors, and hanging up on vendor sales droids. That's right: Think about where things are going, not where they've been.
To be clear, my perspectives only apply if you do a decent job on blocking and tackling. The fact that a smart researcher will show how you can own an iPhone via the charger matters only if your security program and control set is sufficiently mature. If not, you've got some work to do. But since this is a forward-looking column in a forward-looking Tech Center, I'm not going to tell you what that work is. You can mine the rest of Dark Reading or the Securosis research library for lots of good guidance on security fundamentals.
But if you are ready to systematically factor advanced security research into your program, then I suggest you set up a firm monthly lunch meeting with the security team, ensuring you have something scheduled. You know how it goes with ad hoc meetings, which are always canceled in the wake of some emergency.
In the time between the meetings, use a collaboration tool like Instapaper, Evernote, or (shudder) SharePoint to aggregate interesting links and news items discussing cool, new exploits and/or research findings. It's easy to stay on top of this information because the media loves new attacks; there will be plenty of coverage for anything that's interesting -- and plenty for the stuff that's not.
Once you have your list of things to discuss, ask the team two questions: The first is whether you are exposed to this new attack? Do you have the devices shown to be exploitable by the research? Do you use the applications or technologies in question? If the answer to that question is yes, then ask yourself, what would we do differently to close this exploit? Pretty simple, eh?
You may need to do more research into the attack to understand what's really involved in stopping it. Once you know what's required to address the issue, you can put it on your list of things to address. Understand there may not be a great urgency to fix the issue immediately since a lot of advanced security research is not weaponized yet. But you know what you need to do when the time comes.
And amazingly enough, you'll be where the puck is, and the rest of the industry will be cleaning up the mess. The Great One will be proud.
Mike Rothman is President of Securosis and author of The Pragmatic CSO