Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

3/15/2012
06:14 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Security's New Reality: Assume The Worst

A more fatalistic view that attackers have already infiltrated the organization presents a different way of looking at -- and marketing -- security

First installment in an occasional series.

Tucked away on the sprawling show floor at the recent RSA Conference was a newly commercialized appliance that sits inside the network and spies on attacks already in progress. Its mission isn't to stop the attacker from getting in, but instead to stealthily observe the attacker's moves while gathering intelligence and ultimately containing any damage.

Assuming the attacker is already inside, or soon will be, is a gradual but significant mindset shift under way in the security industry, which has been built on a defensive strategy of firewalls, antivirus, and other tools. There's now a growing sense of fatalism: It's no longer if or when you get hacked, but the assumption that you've already been hacked, with a focus on minimizing the damage. The new appliance demonstrated at RSA was an example of approaching security from the view of being resigned that the bad guys are getting in, even with your defenses in place, security experts say.

Read the other articles in this series on security's new reality:

>> Part 1: Security's New Reality: Assume The Worst

>> Part 2: Damage Mitigation As The New Defense
>> Part 3: Advanced Attacks Call For New Defenses

"The dirty little secret in our industry is that everyone has been compromised," says Darin Anderson, U.S. country manager for Norman Data Defense Systems.

Kevin Mandia, founder and CEO of Mandiant, echoed the same sentiment at the recent B-Sides Conference in San Francisco. "I believe security breaches are inevitable," he said. "We're always trying to dumb down security, but we need to scale our experts, and we need software that scales" with experts and is more than just blinking red or green lights, he says. Visibility into what's going on in your network is key, he said.

This philosophical shift toward most everyone -- not just high-profile government agencies or corporations -- accepting breaches as a fact of life is a result of the increase in successful and hard-to-kill advanced targeted attacks, most of which come from nation-state adversaries hungry for intellectual property and other competitive intelligence. These attacks, which were once the bane of mostly just the military and defense industrial base, are now spreading to all corners of the commercial world, even hitting smaller but just as lucrative targets, such as law firms.

Preventing these attacks -- which typically originate from a phishing attack on a user who falls for a lure -- is difficult. And the high-profile hacktivist-driven attacks from Anonymous demonstrated that when a determined attacker wants to get in, DDoS you, or "dox" you for hacktivist purposes, he will likely find a way to shame your organization.

These attacks, as well as increasingly sophisticated ones aimed at financial gain, have in some cases led to the perspective among many security experts, vendors, and enterprises frustrated with existing security technology and poor security practices within organizations -- think weak and reused passwords and other glaring missteps -- that there's little you can do to stop the bad guys from hacking you.

"They will get in and they are there," says Neal Creighton, chief executive officer at CounterTack, the vendor that showed off its KVM RedHat-based appliance commercially at RSA for the first time after working under the radar mostly with federal agencies facing advanced persistent threat (APT) attackers. "Everyone is getting hit. We are afraid of what we don't know."

Some 70 to 80 percent of organizations surveyed by The Ponemon Institute say they have experienced one or more data breach in the past 20 months. "That's large, but it could be that only a couple of records [were compromised in some cases]. But most [organizations] are recognizing the fact that they are not clean," says Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of Ponemon Institute. "The key is if you prioritize your data protection activities, focus on the information that leaks can really harm you and protect that."

[Financially driven cybercriminals are also using advanced persistent threat (APT) methods for longer staying power in order to increase their spoils. See APT-Type Attack A Moving Target. ]

It's not that defensive postures are no longer relevant. It's just that defense alone is no longer the answer, experts say. Organizations need to beef up their detection and intelligence-gathering, they say.

"I've said for awhile if someone wants to infiltrate [your organization] and they have the resources and time, they will probably be successful," says Wade Baker, director of risk intelligence for Verizon. "We should be preventative. But that's temporary, and one of the reasons that's temporary is that you can't stop everything and you need to know when something occurred. Security is about prevention and detection."

It's also about looking at security differently and finding a new way to market security, according to Marc Maiffret, CTO and co-founder of eEye Digital Security.

"The current message of 'assume compromise' is both a different way of looking at security and a different way of marketing security," Maiffret says. "You can still stop the vast majority of attacks today through proper network architecture, system configuration, and timely patch remediation. That has not changed, but that is not a sexy thing to market," either, he explains.

"[But] one thing I have said for a long time is that anyone in security telling you their product or service will make you 100 percent secure is lying or ignorant," he adds.

The aim now is to try to detect an attack as early in its life cycle as possible in order to lessen the impact of an attack.

It's akin to traditional military strategy, says Dmitri Alperovitch, a member of the board of directors at CounterTack and a co-founder of CrowdStrike. "Assume they have gotten through your defenses," he says.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
kjhiggins
50%
50%
kjhiggins,
User Rank: Strategist
3/20/2012 | 9:03:09 PM
re: Security's New Reality: Assume The Worst
I'd love to hear if anyone disagrees with this mindset shift in security.
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 8/10/2020
Pen Testers Who Got Arrested Doing Their Jobs Tell All
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  8/5/2020
Researcher Finds New Office Macro Attacks for MacOS
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  8/7/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
This special report takes a look at how enterprises are using threat intelligence, as well as emerging best practices for integrating threat intel into security operations and incident response. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-13295
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-10
For GitLab Runner before 13.0.12, 13.1.6, 13.2.3, by replacing dockerd with a malicious server, the Shared Runner is susceptible to SSRF.
CVE-2020-6070
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-10
An exploitable code execution vulnerability exists in the file system checking functionality of fsck.f2fs 1.12.0. A specially crafted f2fs file can cause a logic flaw and out-of-bounds heap operations, resulting in code execution. An attacker can provide a malicious file to trigger this vulnerabilit...
CVE-2020-6145
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-10
An SQL injection vulnerability exists in the frappe.desk.reportview.get functionality of ERPNext 11.1.38. A specially crafted HTTP request can cause an SQL injection. An attacker can make an authenticated HTTP request to trigger this vulnerability.
CVE-2020-8224
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-10
A code injection in Nextcloud Desktop Client 2.6.4 allowed to load arbitrary code when placing a malicious OpenSSL config into a fixed directory.
CVE-2020-8229
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-10
A memory leak in the OCUtil.dll library used by Nextcloud Desktop Client 2.6.4 can lead to a DoS against the host system.