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.

News & Commentary

3/8/2018
02:00 PM
Terry Ray
Terry Ray
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail vvv
100%
0%

Putting the S in SDLC: Do You Know Where Your Data Is?

Data represents the ultimate attack surface. Avoid major data breaches (and splashy headlines) by keeping track of where your data is.

Companies don't often wind up in the headlines for having their networks or endpoints stolen. Those things get infected or broken into, but they don't get stolen. Headlines are made — and reputations are destroyed — for stolen data.

You don't want that to happen to you. So, to protect your business and help it thrive, you must be able to see, track, and analyze every query, modification, deletion, or other data transaction.

That's not hard, but it may be painful. To achieve this, holistically, you have to understand the organization's secure development life cycle (SDLC) — at which point, you may find out that the "secure" part is just wishful thinking.

Top-Down Data Hygiene
To find out one way or the other, you start with the organization's most mission-critical app or apps. (If you're dealing with a Fortune 500 company with tens of thousands of databases, this may not be entirely practical, but you could at least consider an appropriate sampling.) From there, it's about understanding how your organization deals with data from beginning to end: starting at the development process and development servers, and proceeding to the test servers, to the quality assurance servers, to production — and so forth from there, presumably all the way back around to the beginning. What data do you have at each stage?

Now take all of that data and categorize it by risk and type, to rate the priority, severity, and criticality of each data point. And then ask whether the data changes as it moves from stage to stage, from server to server.

And what you should almost never find, but you may well find, is that production data — the most critical data you have at your company — goes unchanged. That's a big red flag. Next, you need to talk to stakeholders about why production data is being exposed outside of production — and they better have a darned good reason. Developers don't need to know Customer A's phone number. The business analytics team probably doesn't need Customer B's credit card number. And all a business-to-consumer marketing team probably cares about is how many 18- to 25-year-old males in Houston or how many 35- to 44-year-old females in New York City are buying the company's product. Occasionally, someone will need genuine production data, but you are usually better served by masking it.

Data Masking to Avoid Disaster
Data masking is a process by which copies of data are obfuscated (usually irreversibly) such that they still look realistic enough to remain workable and useful for whoever needs to play with them. "Sally Smith" becomes "Jessica Jones." Credit card number "4444-3333-2222-1111" becomes "4321-5555-6666-7777." And so forth. Data masking is essential to not just security, but its inherent pseudonymization is helpful for compliance with data-protection rubrics like the EU's General Data Protection Regulation.

If your most mission-critical apps are needlessly exposing your production data, you can stop right there because it's a given that the problem is systemic and that the rest of your apps are also a data liability. There is no "S" in your "SDLC." Time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

If your mission-critical apps get a pass, however, then you may want to examine some of the so-called "lesser" apps that still have private data — and see if they are following the same processes. Sometimes, companies will appropriately prioritize around their perceived mission-critical apps by buying technology and implementing it around those apps and their data — but around nothing else. This creates a situation where the front door is bolted shut, but the back door is wide open; just think about how the data used by your "lesser" apps ends up getting copied dozens or hundreds of times across other apps. This is what happened in the Adobe mega-breach of 2013, in which attackers compromised more than 130 million customer accounts by gaining access to a poorly protected, set-to-be-decommissioned backup authentication system.

More recently, Uber confessed to covering up a 2016 breach affecting more than 57 million users. The breach happened after hackers compromised the GitHub credentials of a developer or two — indicating that Uber's attack surface was needlessly broad; the company allowed its developers to access and copy sensitive data that they likely didn't need.

Had Uber instead masked its production data accordingly, the hack could have potentially turned into a PR win — wherein the company announces that it had been hacked, but because of the safeguards they place on user data, they were able to prevent exposure while working with authorities to catch the bad guys.

That's the ride-hailing app I'd rather do business with. Even if they charge a bit more money, at least I would know that they treat my data like their crown jewels. Because that's what data is.

Related Content:

Terry Ray has global responsibility for Imperva's technology strategy. He was the first US-based Imperva employee, and has been with the company for 14 years. He works with organizations around the world to help them discover and protect sensitive data, minimize risk for ... View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
NSA Appoints Rob Joyce as Cyber Director
Dark Reading Staff 1/15/2021
Vulnerability Management Has a Data Problem
Tal Morgenstern, Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer, Vulcan Cyber,  1/14/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This is not what I meant by "I would like to share some desk space"
Current Issue
2020: The Year in Security
Download this Tech Digest for a look at the biggest security stories that - so far - have shaped a very strange and stressful year.
Flash Poll
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Today's Enterprises
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Today's Enterprises
COVID-19 has created a new IT paradigm in the enterprise -- and a new level of cybersecurity risk. This report offers a look at how enterprises are assessing and managing cyber-risk under the new normal.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-26252
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-20
OpenMage is a community-driven alternative to Magento CE. In OpenMage before versions 19.4.10 and 20.0.6, there is a vulnerability which enables remote code execution. In affected versions an administrator with permission to update product data to be able to store an executable file on the server ...
CVE-2020-26278
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-20
Weave Net is open source software which creates a virtual network that connects Docker containers across multiple hosts and enables their automatic discovery. Weave Net before version 2.8.0 has a vulnerability in which can allow an attacker to take over any host in the cluster. Weave Net is suppli...
CVE-2021-1235
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-20
A vulnerability in the CLI of Cisco SD-WAN vManage Software could allow an authenticated, local attacker to read sensitive database files on an affected system. The vulnerability is due to insufficient user authorization. An attacker could exploit this vulnerability by accessing the vshell of an af...
CVE-2021-1241
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-20
Multiple vulnerabilities in Cisco SD-WAN products could allow an unauthenticated, remote attacker to execute denial of service (DoS) attacks against an affected device. For more information about these vulnerabilities, see the Details section of this advisory.
CVE-2021-1247
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-20
Multiple vulnerabilities in certain REST API endpoints of Cisco Data Center Network Manager (DCNM) could allow an authenticated, remote attacker to execute arbitrary SQL commands on an affected device. For more information about these vulnerabilities, see the Details section of this advisory.