Hack The Planet

Because if you don't, who will?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Another year, another RSA conference…

As another RSA conference comes to an end and we all cycle back into our lives, I am glad I was able to attend so that I could meet with old friends and walk the floor to see how large our industry has become.

It is incredible how many vendors there are, and how many of them claim to solve the same problem. With so many companies that offer Threat Intelligence and the ability to protect against Advanced threats, it is a wonder we haven’t solved this whole Information Security thing by now. The truth is though, most of these companies are just putting new branding around old technology and hoping no one notices.

One positive change I saw was the number of companies offering training services to help make more people proficient in the Cyber. There is a severe lack of talent in this space, and with the continuing growth and maturation of the cybercrime industry, we need all the help we can get.

One interesting note is the head of the NSA saying Data Distortion is one of the three things keeping him up at night. It is good that intentional data manipulation is getting the discussion it deserves. After the OPM (Office of Personnel Management) breach I had many conversations about the effects it would have, not just on the information that was stolen, but on what information could be trusted after that type of breach. With the rise of Cyber Espionage, data breaches may be less about what they take, and more about what they add or modify. I am guessing that Data Integrity products (read: Encryption) will be the next products to get a makeover and re-branding.

I guess we will see if I am right at RSA next year, or maybe even Black Hat this year.

posted by holliday at 10:50 am  

Monday, February 22, 2016

Basic Economics is why we fail at Security…

In the InfoSec community we often rail against people not doing enough to secure their data. If they had only installed this, or hadn’t installed that. Why can’t these people understand?

The issue we run into is not that they don’t want to secure their information, they just can’t afford to do it. This week we saw a hospital and a school pay criminals to get ransomeware removed from their networks. The amount they paid was $17,000 and $8,500 respectively.

The reason I point this out is that they probably won’t be fined and so all they are out is a few thousand dollars and a little bad press. These institutions won’t really lose that much face though. They will be pitied that they were attacked by Big Bad Hackers, and then people will forget it happened. If you look at Target and Home Depot, two of the bigger breaches in the US, the overall impact to the business was minimal.

In the end it is more expensive to try and protect information, than it is pay the fine for a breach, or pay the criminals that encrypt your data and hold it for ransom. When you think about how much it costs just to hire someone capable of knowing how to protect your data you are already in the six figures, with just one person. You have already paid more than four times the amount that this hospital and school paid to get their information back, combined. This is all before you buy any security tools, which are never cheap.

At the end of the day, we are losing this battle because the cost of failure is acceptable.

How can we change the cost of failure to be in our favor? Do we increase the fines for being breached? Since share holders care about the bottom line, companies are incentivized through the lack of large fines, to be less secure. It could be argued that increasing fines would drive companies to not report breaches. There are laws today that require companies to report if they have been breached, but does it cost that much more to be fined for not reporting? Companies gamble all of the time this way, I’m looking at you VW. Our criminal counterparts at the same time, thinking like Walmart, know they can just charge less and keep getting paid.

Sadly, I don’t think the change will happen until attacks like the Sony hack become more frequent, forcing companies to re-evalute the cost of failure.

posted by holliday at 10:09 am  

Monday, February 15, 2016

How the years change us…

It is interesting to go back and reflect on what we have written, what we have created, and think about who we were then. I know that for me it is a pretty stark change. I hope that the change is good, but as with anything, that is in the eye of the beholder.

I think that when we look at people, at companies and nations, we need to be more forgiving of their past and, while not completely ignoring it, listen to who they want to be today. Many times we find that nations change more than individuals.

Just looking at the United States, I see a stark divide between where we were 20 years ago and where we are today. Sadly, from my perspective it is not actually better. I had a lot of hope that we were in the middle of something amazing. That technology and the internet were going to change our lives forever. They have, just not in a way I and many others expected.

When I read The Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace I imagined another world. Today I just see another store front. But reading it again, 20 years later, I am filled with the same hope. We doers have the ability to make the Internet, the world wide webs, Cyberspace, whatever you want to call it, a place of Mind.

Or it can continue to be the Walmart of the future…

posted by holliday at 7:07 pm  

Monday, August 3, 2015

Off we go to camp!

Another summer is starting to come to a close and that means the largest gathering of hackers on the planet is about to go down. With three conferences all going on this week it won’t matter if you are at BSidesLV, BlackHat or Defcon, you are going to see something cool. With presentations on hacking cars, hacking guns, and hacking anything that isn’t tied down (and some things that are), there is always something new to learn.

My advice for the first timers, enjoy it. Don’t worry about seeing everything because there is just not enough time. Mostly, just have a good time and meet new people.

And remember, Hack the Planet!

posted by holliday at 9:45 pm  

Friday, June 19, 2015

OPM or Other People’s Mess

I have been reading a lot of the posts that have been written about the OPM (Office of Personnel Management) breach and watched the hearing, and think that we are getting stuck on whichever flavor of security we lean towards. “Well, if they had encryption, this wouldn’t have happened.” “Well encryption wouldn’t have helped in this case.” “If only they used Linux then they would be fine.” If only X, Y, Z. The issue is we (I say we, but if there are any non-US citizens reading this, I mean the US) have adversaries that don’t care what security tools we use, they will find a way in. Maybe even through non-technical means, like human agents. Discussing the OPM breach like it was just another company being breached is a mistake. The adversaries they are facing are very smart, and very persistent. Now, saying that, there were a bunch of big screw ups that left them wide open to the breach.

I was reading a post about the OPM hack on Bromium’s site and I found a statement at the end interesting. “If a security vendor tells you that you will be breached, what are they even selling you?” They are trying to sell you awareness that a persistent, and aggressive adversary will find a way into your environment, and that you should make it as difficult as possible for them and shorten the time to detection. Telling someone that they will always be protected from a breach as long as they use a specific solution is silly. I do like that the author mentions breaking through the status quo, but I think that is what admitting you have a serious adversary and the likelihood of them getting past whatever security you put in place is doing. Through that awareness you can start focusing on making it more difficult, so that your adversary has to spend more resources to gain entry, and focusing on detection, so that your adversary is in your environment for as little time as possible.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles” – Sun Tzu

“Know your enemy!” – Rage against the Machine

posted by holliday at 4:42 pm  

Monday, August 25, 2014

Does a “Cybersecurity Czar” need to be coder?

This was the question introduced last week when Michael Daniel, the White House Cybersecurity Czar, made comments that his lack of technical skills was an asset to his job. This, of course, caused a lot of debate about whether Mr. Daniel needed to be a “coder” to be effective at his job.

Here is my take. A CC (Cybersecurity Czar), CISO, CIO, etc., does not have to be a coder or developer to be able to function efficiently in their jobs. They do, however, have to have an understanding of how the technology that they are managing, purchasing, or building national policy around, works. If a CC does not have a proper (read: real world, not read from a book) understanding of how a firewall works, how can we expect them to make good strategic policy around how we should use them? One of the points Caitlyn Hayden, National Security Counsel spokesperson, makes is that from the POTUS on down, they rely on Mr. Daniel’s “expertise”. How can Mr. Daniel have any expertise in a field he doesn’t understand?

If you have not done heart surgery, you can’t claim to be a heart surgeon. The same holds true for technology. If you have not been in a “cyber” role before, how can we believe that you have any understanding of the risks involved in different cyber scenarios? If you are building policy around DDoS attacks and you don’t understand how they work, or what tools you would use to counter them, then what good is your policy?

One of the truly frightening things is any policy that is created that allows for a kinetic response to a cyber attack. Our ability to properly attribute attacks to countries or groups is pretty poor at this point. We can make assumptions but they are just that, assumptions. If Mr. Daniel does not understand how the technology works, we can get policy built that is based on false assumptions that could lead to escalations and violence in the real world.

I, for one, prefer my strategies and policies based on actual expertise, not the assumptions of an amateur.

posted by holliday at 9:34 pm  

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Week in Review 06/20/2014

It is never dull in The Industry. Here are some of the more interesting stories/happenings from this week.

When you are shopping online it is always a good idea to keep your wits about you. If a deal seems to good to be true, it most likely is. Brian Krebs wrote this week about a scheme that sells name brand products at 30% off, only, they don’t. Sure, they take your credit card information and charge you, but if you receive anything at all, it is a cheap knock off.

In other news, AT&T has confirmed that they were the victim of malicious insiders during a two week period in April. AT&T has stated that three employees of one of their service providers were accessing customer information without permission, including Social Security numbers and DOBs. The perpetrators were apparently trying to obtain unlock codes to remove devices from AT&T’s network.

It is interesting the number of breaches that are coming from vendors/service providers. The Target breach last December, and now AT&T. Enterprises may want to start really vetting who is allowed to connect to their networks because it is an obvious route for compromise.

Surprising no one in The Industry, an Android phone has been shipped that contains malware by default. The malware, disguised as the Google Play Store, gives the criminals full access to the phone and all of the personal information on it. The malware cannot be removed as it is integrated into the devices firmware.

Where does the purloined data go you ask? Why, to an anonymous server in China of course. The only surprise in this story is that it took this long to happen and that the devices are still for sale at large online retailers.

All of you world cup fans need to make sure you are being very careful, whether you are there in person or you are trying to stream the games. From fake wifi hotspots, malicious downloads, or compromised ATMs, criminals are as excited for the games as you are.

For those in Brazil, there are protests going on throughout the country in both the physical and digital world. Keep your wits about you and stay safe.

The FBI has arrested a 20 year old man, Timothy Justin French, also known as Orbit or crisis, for his alleged hacking attacks as part of the NullCrew team. Timothy was tracked down using the same technique the FBI has used to capture other hackers, a snitch. If we have learned anything from the case. It is that snitches don’t get stitches. They get time served.

Some of the other members of the NullCrew team are not sympathetic to Timothy’s arrest. Calling out his poor Opsec and inability to shed old identities. The saying goes, there is no honor among thieves, and apparently that is true for hackers as well.

Illegal Bitcoin mining is becoming more profitable. One enterprising hacker has earned a cool $620,000 by compromising Synology machines. This is not the first time a non-standard system had been used to mine digital currency and it won’t be the last. Remember to look for updates for your systems, even the ones that “just sit there”.

Code Spaces was forced to close their doors after a hacker gained access to their Amazon EC2 control panel. The hacker, in a growing trend of extortion, left Code Spaces a message asking for a large sum of money to fix the issue. When Code Spaces tried to regain access the hacker started deleting data, backups and offsite backups. The cost, both financial and to reputation, is more than Code Spaces could recover from, making them another small business taken out by hackers.

These are just a few of the hacks, breaches and attacks that caught my eye this week.

posted by holliday at 9:30 am  

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

An aging Internet…

In an interesting post from Ars, we read about the dangers of an aging Internet. With over 640,000,000 websites on the internet it is not a great leap to think that many of these sites are running on older, vulnerable software with little chance of being upgraded. I would even guess that many of these sites aren’t even managed anymore, so that if they were compromised there would be no one to notice the intrusion. It’s a good thing our ATMs aren’t running old software or operating systems that can be easily compromised. Then we might really be in trouble.

posted by holliday at 9:41 pm  

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

You are being watched…

Those words are from a “fictional” television show (Person of Interest) but they are so accurate. We are being watched. If we aren’t careful, we will fall even closer to the dystopian future Orwell wrote about…or are we already there…

“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to.”

George Orwell in “1984”

posted by holliday at 10:59 pm  

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sykipot trojan steals US Military ID card data

A bit of old news, the Sykipot trojan has been modified by Chinese hackers to steal sensitive information off DoD networks by stealing the authentication information from DoD smart cards. The cards are commonly used to allow access to DoD networks using certificates and PIN’s for a more secure authentication. This Sykipot variant has been upgraded with a keylogger to steal the PIN’s, then use the certificate associated with the card to access protected networks. The hackers used a spearphishing campaign to deliver the trojan.

posted by holliday at 5:40 pm  
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