Tag Archives: Data loss

Protecting your blackberry

Dealing with DLP and privacy

Dealing with DLP and privacy

It’s a long hot summer here in the Middle East and with 2/3 of  the office out on vacation, you have some time to reflect on data security. Or on the humidity.  Or on a cold beer.

Maybe you are working on building a business case for DLP technology like Websense or Symantec or Verdasys, or Mcafee or Fidelis in your organization.  Or maybe you  already purchased DLP technology and you’re embroiled in turf wars that have put your DLP implementation at a standstill as one of your colleagues is claiming that there are employee privacy issues with DLP and you’re trying to figure out how to get the project back on track after people get back from their work and play vacations in Estonia and brushing up on their hacking skills.

Unlike firewall/IPS, DLP is content-centric. It is technology that drives straight to the core of business asset protection and business process.  This frequently generates opposition from people who own business assets and manage business process. They may have legitimate concerns regarding the cost-effectiveness of DLP as a data security countermeasure.

But – people who oppose DLP on grounds of potential employee privacy violations might be selling sturm and drang to further a political agenda.   If you’re not sure about this – ask them what they’ve done recently to prevent cyber-stalking and sexual harassment in the workplace. 

For sure, there are countries such as France and Germany where any network or endpoint monitoring that touches employees is verboten or interdit as the case may be; but if you are in Israel, the US or the UK, you will want to read on.

What is DLP and what are the privacy concerns?

DLP (data loss prevention) is a solution for monitoring/preventing sensitive outbound content not activity at an endpoint. This is the primary mission. DLP is often a misnomer, as DLP is more often than not, DLD – data loss detection but whatever…Network DLP solutions intercept content from the network and endpoint DLP agents intercept content by hooking into Windows operating system events.  Most of the DLP vendors offer an integrated network DLP and endpoint DLP solution in order to control removable devices in addition to content leaving network egress points. A central command console analyzes the intercepted content and generates security events, visualizes them and stores forensics as part of generating actionable intelligence. Data that is not part of the DLP forensics package is discarded.

In other words, DLP is not about reading your employees email on their PC.  It’s about keeping the good stuff inside the company.    If you want to mount surveillance on your users, you have plenty of other (far cheaper) options like browser history capturer or key loggers. Your mileage will vary and this blog does not provide legal guidance but technically – it’s not a problem.

DLP rules and policies are content-centric not user-centric.

A DLP implementation will involve writing custom content signatures (for example to detect top-secret projects by keyword, IP or source code) or selecting canned content signatures from a library (for example credit cards). 

The signatures are then combined into a policy which maps to the company’s data governance policy – for example “Protect top-secret documents from leaking to the competition”. 

One often combines server endpoints and Web services to make a more specific policy like “Alert if top-secret documents from Sharepoint servers are not sent via encrypted channels to authorized server destinations“. 

In 13 DLP installations in 3 countries, I never saw a policy that targeted a specific user endpoint. The reason for this is that it is far easier using DLP content detection to pickup endpoint violations then to white list and black list endpoints which in a large organization with lots of wireless and mobile devices is an exercise in futility.  

We often hear privacy concerns from people who come from the traditional firewall/IPS world but the firewall/IPS paradigm breaks when you have a lot of rules and endpoint IP addresses and that is why none of the firewall vendors like Checkpoint ever succeeded in selling the internal firewall concept. 

Since DLP is part of the company data governance enforcement, it is commonly used as a tool to reinforce policy such as not posting company assets to Facebook. 

It is important to emphasize again, that DLP is an alert generation and management technology not a general purpose network traffic recording tool – which you can do for free using a Netoptics tap and  Wireshark.

 Any content interception technology can be abused when in the wrong hands or in the right hands and wrong mission.  Witness NSA. 

Making your data governance policy work for your employees

Many companies, (Israeli companies in particular) don’t have a data governance policy but if they do, it should cover the entire space of protecting employees in the workplace from cyber-threats.

An example of using DLP to protect employees are the threat scenarios of cyber-stalking, sexual harassment or drug trafficking in the workplace where DLP can be used to quickly (as in real-time) create very specific content rules and then refined to include specific endpoints to catch forensics and offenders in real-time. Just like inCSI New York New York.

In summary:

There are 3 key use cases for DLP in the context of privacy:

  1. Privacy compliance (for example PCI, HIPAA, US State and EU privacy laws) can be a trigger for installing DLP. This requires appropriate content rules that key to identifying PHI or PII.
  2. Enforcement of your corporate  data governance and compliance policies where privacy is an ancillary concern.   This requires appropriate content rules for IP, suppliers and sensitive projects. So long as you do not target endpoints in your DLP rules, you will be generating security events and collecting forensics that do not infringe on employee privacy.   In some countries like France and Germany this may still be an issue.  Ask your lawyer.
  3. Employee workplace protection – DLP can be an outstanding tool for mitigating and investigating cyber threats in the workplace and at the very least a great tool for security awareness and education. Ask your lawyer.

If you liked this or better yet hated it,  contact  me.  I am a professional security analyst specializing in HIPAA compliance and medical device security and I’m based in Israel and always looking for interesting and challenging projects.

Idea for the post prompted by Ariel Evans.

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risk-driven medical device security

How to protect your personal information from medical data theft

Private, personal information can be bought and sold on the black market for as little as fifty cents to a dollar, according to a report from Fox Business. But personal medical information can go for much higher prices, creating a market for criminals looking to defraud insurance companies of exorbitant sums of money. Overall, about $40 billion in annual health care fraud can be attributed to medical identity theft. As a result, consumers need to take extra efforts to ensure their personal information is protected from medical identity theft. The best way to guard yourself is to understand the methods through which criminals try to acquire this sensitive information.

1. Don’t give information over the phone

The telephone is a prime channel for criminals attempting to defraud private individuals. They typically pose as insurance companies, medical clinics, doctors’ offices or other institutions to solicit your private information, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Be very hesitant when revealing this information over the phone. Ask for additional information to verify their identity, and if you can’t confirm the individual or the organization, explain that you simply aren’t comfortable giving that information over the phone. Most legitimate medical entities will understand this concern, while scam artists will be frustrated and thwarted.

2. Pay close attention to medical bills and statements

You should keep a close eye on the paper trail of your medical bills, services and statements. When criminals steal your medical identity, they can’t cover up all evidence of this fraud. Services billed to your insurance company, for example, will count toward your deductible and/or coverage limits and show up on statements. Bills from the doctor’s office should also be closely watched.

Once you’ve thoroughly reviewed this information, shred the documents before throwing them away. Billing statements and other documents can be a source of your private information for criminals who go dumpster diving in hopes of finding opportunities to defraud.

3. Enlist the help of identity protection and monitoring services

Pursuing protective and preventative services is one way to protect your identity before you suffer the ill effects of fraud. Companies like LifeLock specialize in monitoring your activity and protecting clients from being defrauded in the first place. If your personal information is stolen and used for these purposes, identity protection services can pick up on this criminal activity right away, putting an end to theft, thus minimizing its negative impact on your finances. These services should not stop consumers from shredding sensitive documents and employing safe habits, but they can be an excellent supplement offering protection where the typical person is exposed.

4. Investigate inaccuracies and strange listings on your medical record

Your medical record follows you wherever you go, and it lists all of the conditions, injuries and other medical activity you have experienced over the years. When someone uses your medical identity for their own purposes — such as gaining access to prescription drugs — this activity is recorded on your medical history. If you are suspicious of possible medical identity theft, inconsistencies and inaccuracies on your medical record could point to instances of fraud. You can always ask your doctor for your medical records, so if you’re ever in doubt, pull them out and take a close look.

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Out of control with BYOD in your hospital?

The number of bring your own device (BYOD) workplaces is increasing.

Hospitals are certainly no exception with nursing staff, doctors and contractors bringing their own mobile devices into the hospital – and in many cases, jacking into WiFi networks in the hospital premises.

With mobile access points via  your smart phone – you don’t even need the courtesy of a hospital-provided WiFi network – you can jack in via your phone.

This is a real threat to data security in a hospital.  So the question is – Can the IT department of your hospital rein in wide use of personal mobile devices?

Nearly one third of CIOs surveyed said they support employees accessing the company network with their personal devices, writes IT World. But many IT departments remain resistant to such policies. BYOD has been around for awhile in one way or another. Now IT can get it under control, and here are a few reasons why it’s good for them.

BYOD is an Old Problem

People have been bringing their own tech gadgets to work for years, notes the Digital Workplace Forum. External hard drives, thumb drives, DVD burners, music players and personal laptops have shown up in employee offices for a long time. It has always been a headache of IT departments to maintain security in environments where people bring their personal digital tools.

To alleviate this, some places put tight controls in place that limit an employee’s access to the company’s computer resources. The result is frustrated employees, lower productivity, and a problem that still exists. One solution is to establish policies and controls that allow IT to manage all of the devices that employees use to access the system.

More Controls Allow Greater Flexibility

The development of mobile device management (MDM) systems allows IT to support a workplace with multiple, different devices. Employees are no longer satisfied with just their company desktop computer to do their jobs. Forrester Research cites that 74 percent of employees use two or more devices to complete their tasks and 52 percent use three or more.

MDMs allow employees to bring their own devices to work, connect them to the network, and maintain the integrity and security of the company’s resources. Solutions such as the BlackBerry MDM let various types and brands of devices to be registered and recognized by the system. Once a device is registered, IT can track the device’s activity and amount of use. This is more visibility than IT has typically had of employee devices.

Security is the First Priority

The Wall Street Journal reports that more than 80 percent of the younger employees polled said they brought in to work and used their own devices regardless of the company policy. More than 60 percent of the older employees replied the same way. Getting more controls in place is a way IT departments can finally keep their systems secure.

MDMs give visibility to the devices using the system. They can track the applications used so that unauthorized apps can be limited or restricted entirely. In the event that an employee reports a lost device, or when employees leave the company, the device can be wiped of any company apps and data. The tablet stolen from a hotel room during a conference is no longer a threat to the company’s security.

By controlling the apps available to the employee, IT can ensure that malware is not introduced to the system by people downloading apps from unauthorized sites. A central repository of custom in-house apps, commercial off the shelf (COTS) programs and app store products gives employees a selection of tools without risking the system security.

Creating virtual work spaces when people log into the system isolates their activity to a small portion of the system. Cloud services such as Dropbox and Skydrive help by creating collaborative workspaces outside of the company’s resources. The more that IT can move unpredictable activities to separate work areas, the more secure they can keep their company resources.

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The dangers of default passwords – 37% of Data Breaches Found to be Malicious Attacks

A malicious attack by malware or spear phishing on valuable data assets like PHI (protected health information) exploits known vulnerabilities  and one of the most common vulnerabilities in medical devices and healthcare IT systems is default passwords.

“Researchers Billy Rios and Terry McCorkle of Cylance have reported a hard-coded password vulnerability affecting a wide variety of medical devices. According to the report, the vulnerability could be exploited to potentially change critical settings and/or modify device firmware. ICS-CERT has been working closely with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on these issues. ICS-CERT and the FDA have notified the affected vendors of the report and have asked the vendors to confirm the vulnerability and identify specific mitigations.” See http://ics-cert.us-cert.gov/alerts/ICS-ALERT-13-164-01

And nothing beats hard coded / default passwords in medical devices as a vulnerability for PHI data leakage exploits, whether its an attack by malware, attack by retrieving sensitive data from stolen devices or a software defect that enables an attacker to obtain unauthorized access and transfer sensitive data from the internal network.

Data Breach Infographic

The World’s Leaking Data Infographic created by LifeLock.com

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hipaa cloud security

Is your HIPAA security like a washing machine?

Is your HIPAA security management like a washing machine?

Most security appliance vendors use fluffy charts with a 4 step “information risk management” cycle.

It’s always a 4 step cycle, like “Discover, Monitor, Protect and Manage” and it’s usually on a circular chart but sometimes in a Gartner-style magic quadrant or on a line.

It’s a washing machine cycle that never stops.

The problem with the washing machine model is that it tackles the easy part of information security (running the appliance, discovering vulnerabilities, fixing things and producing reports) and ignores the hard stuff; quantification and prioritization of your actions based on financial value of assets and measurement of threat impact.

Modern security tools are good at discovering exploitable vulnerabilities in the network, Web servers and applications. However – since these tools have no notion of your business context and how much you value your information assets, it is likely that your security spending is misdirected.

With reported data breaches and medical devices and information system that doubled last year, and security budgets that are shrinking as the US economy stutters – you need to measure how well the product reduces Value at Risk in dollars (or in Euro) and how well it will do 3 years after you buy the technology.

In order to help make that happen – all you need to do is contact us via the site contact form or pick up a phone and give me a ring at +972-54-447.1114.

This is what we do – help you and your team take a leadership role in the board room and secure your medical devices instead of waiting for vendor proposals in your office.

Through specific Business Threat Modeling(TM) tactical methods we teach you how to quantify threats, valuate your risk and choose the most cost-effective security technologies to protect your data.

Data security is a war – when the attackers win, you lose. We will help you win more.

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Bridging the security IT gap with BI

How to use BI to improve healthcare IT security


Information technology
management is about executing predictable business processes.

Information Security Management is about reducing the impact of unpredictable attacks to  your  healthcare provider organization.

Once we put it this way – it’s clear that IT and security and compliance professionals, as dedicated as they are to their particular missions – do not have common business objectives and key results. This is why we have so many software security issues – we have software that is developed and implemented with disregard to best practice security.

In order to bridge the gap – healthcare provider IT and security professionals need to adopt a common goal and a common language – a language  of customer-centric threat modelling

Typically, when a healthcare provider ( whether a hospital, HMO or primary care provider) needs  software application,  an IT consultant will do a system analysis starting with business requirements and then proceed to propose a solution to buy or build an application and deploy it.

Similarly, when the information security group needs an anti-virus or firewall, security consultants  make requirements based on the current risk profile of the healthcare provider, test products, and proceed to buy and deploy or subscribe and deploy the new anti-virus or firewall solution.

The problem is that the two activities never work together – as result, we get islands of software applications that are not integrated with the company information security and compliance portfolio and we get information security technologies that are unaware of the applications and in a worst case scenario – get in the way of business productivity.

Michael Koploy of Software Advice explains well on how BI (business intelligence, once the domain of IT expert consultants) is now highly accessible technology in his article 4 Steps to Creating Effective BI Teams.

Business intelligence–the use of sophisticated software to analyze complex data–is no longer the domain of a centralized group of IT staff or advanced data analysts. Today, powerful and Web-based BI tools are accessible to a wide range of business users.

BI is everywhere, and it’s everyone’s job. But with this proliferation comes new challenges. Teams of BI users today often lack the structure, guidance and leadership to effectively mine data. In this article, I’ll share four steps to establish guidelines, organize teams, delegate data management and allow the success of the BI team to permeate and drive innovation throughout the business.

I agree with Michael.

By using BI – we can explore vulnerabilities in business processes and bring the information back to healthcare IT and security management in a constructive way and start building that common language between healthcare IT  and healthcare security management that is so essential to protecting patient health records.

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Why data leaks

The 6 key business requirements for protecting patient data in networked medical devices and EHR systems:

  1. Prevent data leakage directly of ePHI (electronic protected health information) from  the device itself, the management information system and or the hospital information system interface. Data loss can be protected directly using network DLP technology from companies like Websense of Fidelis Security
  2. Ensure availability of the medical device or EHR application.  When the application goes offline, it becomes easier to attack via maintenance interfaces, technician and super-user passwords and copy data from backup devices or access databases directly while the device is in maintenance mode.
  3. Ensure integrity of the  data stored in the networked medical device or EHR system. This is really ABC of information security but if you do not have a way to detect missing or manipulated records in your database, you should see this as a wake-up call because if you do get hacked, you will  not know about it.
  4. Ensure that a networked or mobile medical device cannot by exploited by malicious attackers to cause damage to the patient
  5. Ensure that a networked or mobile medical device cannot by exploited by malicious attackers to cause damage to the hospital enterprise network
  6. Ensure that data loss cannot be exploited by business partners for financial gain.   The best defense against data loss is DLP – data loss prevention since it does not rely on access control management.

Why does data leak?

Just like theft, data is leaked or stolen because it has value, otherwise the employee or contractor would not bother.  There is no impact from leakage of trivial or universally available information.  Sending a  weather report by mistake to a competitor obviously will not make a difference.

The financial impact of a data breach is directly proportional to the value of the asset. Imagine an insurance company obtaining PHI under false pretenses, discovering that the patient had been mistreated, and suppressing the information.  The legal exposure could be in the millions.  Now consider a data leakage event of patient names without any clinical data – the impact is low, simply because names of people are public domain and without the clinical data, there is no added value to the information.

Why people steal data

The key attack vector for a data loss event is people  – often business partners working with inside employees. People handle electronic data and make mistakes or do not follow policies. People are increasing conscious that information has value – All information has some value to someone and that someone may be willing to pay or return a favor. This is an ethical issue which is best addressed by direct managers leading from the front and by example with examples of ethical behavior.

People are tempted or actively encouraged to expose leaked/lost data – consider Wikileaks and data leakage for political reasons as we recently witnessed in Israel in the Anat Kamm affair.

People maintain information systems and make mistakes, leave privileged user names on a system or temporary files with ePHI on a publicly available Windows share.

APT (Advanced Persistent Threat Attacks)

People design business processes and make mistakes – creating a business process for customer service where any customer service representative can see any customer record creates a vulnerability that can be exploited by malicious insiders or attackers using APT (Advanced Persistent Threat Attacks) that target a particular individual in a particular business unit – as seen in the recent successful APT attack on RSA, that targeted an HR employee with an Excel worksheet containing malware that enabled the attackers to steal SecurID token data,  and then use the stolen tokens to hack Lockheed Martin.

According to Wikipedia, APT attacks utilize traditional attack vectors such as malware and social engineering, but also extend to advanced attacks such as satellite imaging. It’s a low-and-slow attack, designed to go undetected.  There is always a specific objective behind it, rather than the chaotic and organized attacks of script kiddies.

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Beyond the firewall

Beyond the firewall – data loss prevention

What a simple idea. It doesn’t matter how they break into your network or servers – if attackers can’t take out your data, then you’ve mitigated the threat.

Data loss prevention is a category of information security products that has matured from Web / email content filtering products into technologies that can detect unauthorized network transfer of valuable digital assets such as credit cards. This paper reviews the motivation for and the taxonomies of advanced content flow monitoring technologies that are being used to audit network activity and protect data inside the network.

Motivation – why prevent data loss?

The majority of hacker attacks and data loss events are not on the IT infrastructure but on the data itself.  If you have valuable data (credit cards, customer lists, ePHI) then you have to protect it.

Content monitoring has traditionally meant monitoring of employee or student surfing and filtering out objective content such as violence, pornography and drugs. This sort of Web content filtering became “mainstream” with wide-scale deployments in schools and larger businesses by commercial closed source companies such as McAfee and Bluecoat and Open Source products such as Censor Net and Spam Assassin. Similar signature-based technologies are also used to perform intrusion detection and prevention.

However, starting in 2003, a new class of content monitoring products started emerging that is aimed squarely at protecting firms from unauthorized “information leakage”, “data theft” or “data loss” no matter what kind of attack was mounted. Whether the data was stolen by hackers, leaked by malicious insiders or disclosed via a Web application vulnerability, the data is flowing out of the organization. The attack vector in a data loss event is immaterial if we focus on preventing the data loss itself.

The motivation for using data loss prevention products is economic not behavioral; transfer of digital assets  such as credit cards and PHI by trusted insiders or trusted systems can cause much more economic damage than viruses to a business.

Unlike viruses, once a competitor steals data you cannot reformat the hard disk and restore from backup.

Companies often hesitate from publicly reporting data loss events because it damages their corporate brand, gives competitors an advantage and undermines customer trust no matter how much economic damage was actually done.

Who buys DLP (data loss prevention)?

This is an interesting question. On one hand, we understand that protecting intellectual property, commercial assets and compliance-regulated data like ePHI and credit cards is  essentially an issue of  business risk management. On the other hand, companies like Symantec and McAfee and IBM sell security products to IT and information security managers.

IT managers focus on maintaining predictable execution of business processes not dealing with unpredictable, rare, high-impact events like data loss.  Information security managers find DLP technology interesting (and even titillating – since it detects details of employee behavior, good and bad) but an  information security manager who buys Data loss prevention (DLP) technology is essentially admitting that his perimeter security (firewall, IPS) and policies and procedures are inadequate.

While data loss prevention may be a problematic sale for IT and information security staffers, it plays well into the overall risk analysis,  risk management and compliance processes of the business unit.

Data loss prevention for senior executives

There seem to be three schools of thought on this with senior executives:

  1. One common approach is to ignore the problem and brush it under the compliance carpet using a line of reasoning that says “If I’m PCI DSS/HIPAA compliant, then I’ve done what needs to be done, and there is no point spending more money on fancy security technologies that will expose even more vulnerabilities”.
  2. A second approach is to perform passive data loss detection and monitor flow of data(like email and file transfers) without notifying employees or the whole world. Anomalous detection events can then be used to improve business processes and mitigate system vulnerabilities. The advantage of passive monitoring is that neither employees nor hackers can detect a Layer 2 sniffer device and a sniffer is immune to configuration and operational problems in the network. If it can’t be detected on the network. then this school of thought has plausible deniability.
  3. A third approach takes data loss prevention a step beyond security and turns it into a competitive advantage. A smart CEO can use data loss prevention system as a deterrent and as a way of enhancing the brand (“your credit cards are safer with us because even if the Saudi hacker gets past our firewall and into the network, he won’t be able to take the data out”).

A firewall is not enough

Many firms now realize that a firewall is not enough to protect digital assets inside the network and look towards incoming/outgoing content monitoring. This is because: 

  1. The firewall might not be properly configured to stop all the suspicious traffic.

  2. The firewall doesn’t have the capability to detect all types of content, especially embedded content in tunneled protocols.

  3. The major of hacker attacks and data loss events are not on the IT infrastructure but on the data itself.

  4. Most hackers do not expect creative defenses so they assume that once they are in, nobody is watching their nasty activities.

  5. The firewall itself can be compromised. As we have more and more Day-0 attacks and trusted insider threats, so it is good practice to add additional independent controls.

Detection

Sophisticated incoming and outgoing (data loss prevention or DLP) content monitoring technologies basically use three paradigms for detecting security events

  1. AD- Anomaly Detection – describes normal network behavior and flags everything else
  2. MD- Misuse Detection – describes attacks and flags them directly
  3. BA – Burglar alarm – describes abnormal network behavior (“detection by exception”)

In anomaly detection, new traffic that doesn’t match the model is labeled as suspicious or bad and an alert is generated. The main limitation of anomaly detection is that if it is too conservative, then it will generate too many false positives (a false alarm) and over time the analyst will ignore it. On the other hand, if a tool rapidly adapts the model to evolving traffic change, then too little alerts will be generated and the analyst will again ignore it.

Misuse detection describes attacks and flags them directly, using a database of known attack signatures and constantly tries to match the actual traffic against the database. If there is a match, an alert is generated. The database typically contains rules for:

  1. Protocol Stack Verification – RFC’s, ping of death, stealth scanning etc.
  2. Application Protocol Verification – WinNuke , invalid packets that cause DNS cache corruption etc.
  3. Application Misuse – misuse that causes applications to crash or enables a user to gain super user privileges; typically due to buffer overflows or due to implementation bugs.
  4. Intruder detection. Known attacks can be recognized by the effects caused by the attack itself. For example, Back Orifice 2000 sends traffic on default port is 31337
  5. Data loss detection – for example by file types, compound regular expressions, linguistic and/or statistical content profiling. Data loss prevention or detection needs to work at a much higher level than intrusion detection – since it needs to understand file formats and analyze the actual content such as Microsoft Office attachments in a Web mail session as opposed to doing simple pattern matching of an http request string.

Using a burglar alarm model, the analyst needs deep understanding of the network and what should not happen with it. He builds rules that model how the monitored network should conceptually work, in order to generate alerts when suspicious traffic is detected. The richer the rules database, the more effective the tool. The advantage of the burglar alarm model is that a good network administrator can leverage his knowledge of servers, segments and clients (for example a Siebel CRM server which is a client to a Oracle database server) in order to focus-in and manage-by-exception.

What about prevention?

Anomaly detection is an excellent way of identifying network vulnerabilities but a customer cannot prevent extrusion events based on general network anomalies such as usage of anonymous ftp. In comparison there is a conceptual problem with misuse detection. If misuse is detected then unless the event can be prevented (either internally with a TCP reset, by notifying the router or firewall) – then the usefulness of the devices is limited to forensics collection.

What about security management?

SIM – or security information management consolidates reporting, analysis, event management and log analysis. There are a number of tools in this category – Netforensics is one. SIM systems do not perform detection or prevention functions – they manage and receive reports from other systems. Checkpoint for example is a vendor that provides this functionality with partnerships.

Summary

There are many novel DLP/data loss prevention products, most provide capabilities far ahead of both business and IT infrastructure management that are only now beginning to look towards content monitoring behind the firewall.

DLP (Data loss prevention) solutions join an array of content and application-security products around the traditional firewall. Customers are already implementing a multitude of network security products for Inbound Web filtering, Anti-virus, Inbound mail filtering and Instant Messaging enforcement along with products for SIM and integrated log analysis.

The industry has reached the point where the need to simplify and reduce IT security implementation and operational costs becomes a major purchasing driver, perhaps more dominant than any single best-of-breed product.

Perhaps data loss prevention needs to become a network security function that is part of the network switching fabric; providing unified network channel and content security.

Software Associates helps healthcare customers design and implement such a unified network channel and enterprise content security solution today enabling customers to easily define policies such as “No Instant Messaging on our network” or “Prevent patient data leaving the company over any channel that is not an authorized SSH client/server”.

For more information contact us.


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The connection between porn, fraud and data breaches

Are organizations with higher exposure to online porn and gambling more likely to have a higher incidence of data breach incidents?

On the heels of recent Israeli credit card breach incidents, the reports of suspected fraud and money laundering at ICC CAL are bad timing at the very least for Israeli security and compliance.

Last week the Israeli business daily Globes reported that Boaz Chechik, former CEO of ICC (Israel Credit Cards Corp. – a major Visa issuer and acquirer in Israel) was held for questioning by The Israel Police National Fraud Squad on suspicions of fraud and money laundering.

The Israel Police National Fraud Squad today questioned Boaz Chechik, the former CEO of Israel Credit Cards-Cal Ltd. (ICC-Cal) (Visa) and chairman of ICC-Cal International Ltd. on suspicion of filing false corporate documents, violating the Prevention of Money Laundering Law (5760-2000), fraudulent receiving, breach of trust, and violating Bank of Israel procedures and international credit card regulations in 2006-09.

The investigation was opened after the discovery of false corporate documents of ICC subsidiary ICC International. The documents concealed the character of foreign gambling and pornography companies, whose charges may not be cleared under ICC regulations. The investigation raised suspicion that ICC International made hundreds of millions of shekels in profits from the forbidden operations.

Is there a  correlation between fraud, porn and data breaches?

As Rich Mogull noted on his Securosis blog back in 2008 Breach notification statistics don’t tell us anything, at all, about fraud or the real state of data breaches.

The statistics we’re all using are culled from breach notifications- the public declarations made by organizations (or the press) after an incident occurs. All a notification says is that information was lost, stolen, or simply misplaced. Notifications are a tool to warn individuals that their information was exposed, and perhaps they should take some extra precautions to protect themselves. At least that’s what the regulations say, but the truth is they are mostly a tool to shame companies into following better security practices, while giving exposed customers an excuse to sue them.

But notifications don’t tell us a damn thing about how much fraud is out there, and which exposures result in losses.

The IT Law Wiki reports that according to a June 2007 GAO report, there is no clear correlation between data security breaches and identity theft:

The extent to which data breaches have resulted in identity theft is not well known, largely because of the difficulty of determining the source of the data used to commit identity theft. However, available data and interviews with researchers, law enforcement officials, and industry representatives indicated that most breaches have not resulted in detected incidents of identity theft, particularly the unauthorized creation of new accounts.

So there is no data. What are you going to do now?

Not having data, I do what any sensible physicist does given a limited amount of time and resources and lack of hard data: build a hand-waving argument based on a simple-minded 3 parameter model.

My hand-waving argument shows that there is a correlation between fraud, porn and data breach; i.e. an organization that has one type of violation will be likely to have other types of violations on satisfying 3 conditions:

  1. High porousness of the enterprise network:   A porous corporate network simply invites attackers in and trusted insiders to take good stuff out.
  2. Low level of ethics of top executives: Executives should be taking leadership positions in security and compliance as an example to the rest of the employees and as proof that they believe that good security is key to protecting customers. When a top executive doesn’t let internal risk management guidelines get in the way of his personal goals, it sets the stage for additional fraud at lower echelons and fosters an environment where it’s OK to take company documents, just as long as you don’t get caught.
  3. Minimal network monitoring:  Organizations with minimal network monitoring are living a life of ignorance that is bliss. If there is a porous network and lack of security and compliance leadership, then even if there is a fraud event, violation of company policy in regards to fraud, online gambling or sexual harassment in the workplace; it will not be detected.   Security and fraud violations that are not detected cannot be used for corrective action and future deterrence.

So – if your organization has 2 out of 3 of the above, you stand a higher likelihood of fraud and data loss.

Conversely, if you have a tightly managed network, management leadership and strong network monitoring including monitoring for outbound data loss events, you will probably not run into any executive colleagues at the offices of  the National Fraud Squad.

 

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Why less log data is better

Been a couple weeks since I blogged – have my head down on a few medical device projects and a big PCI DSS audit where I’m helping the client improve his IT infrastructure and balance the demands of the PCI auditors.

Last year I gave a talk on quantitative methods for estimating operational risk of information systems in the annual European GRC meeting in Lisbon – you can see the presentation below.

As a I noted in my talk, one of the crucial phases in estimating operational risk is data collection: understanding what threats, vulnerabilities you have and understanding not only what assets you have (digital, human, physical, reputational) but also how much they’re worth in dollars.

Many technology people interpret data collection as some automatic process that reads/scans/sniffs/profiles/processes/analyzes/compresses log files, learning and analyzing the data using automated  algorithms like ANN (adaptive neural networks).

The automated log profiling tool will then automagically tell you where you have vulnerabilities and using “an industry best practice database of security countermeasures”,  build you a risk mediation plan. Just throw in a dash of pie charts and you’re good to go with the CFO.

This was in fashion about 10 years ago (Google automated audit log analysis and you’ll see what I mean) for example this reference on automated audit trail analysis,  Automated tools are good for getting a quick indication of trends, and  tend to suffer from poor precision and recall that  improve rapidly when combined with human eyeballs.

The PCI DSS council in Europe (private communication) says that over 80% of the merchants/payment processors with data breaches  discovered their data breach  3 months or more after the event. Yikes.

So why does maintaining 3 years of log files make sense – quoted from PCI DSS 2.0

10.7 Retain audit trail history for at least
one year, with a minimum of three
months immediately available for
analysis (for example, online, archived,
or restorable from back-up).
10.7.a Obtain and examine security policies and procedures and
verify that they include audit log retention policies and require
audit log retention for at least one year.
10.7.b Verify that audit logs are available for at least one year and
processes are in place to immediately restore at least the last
three months’ logs for analysis

Wouldn’t it be a lot smarter to say –

10.1 Maintain a 4 week revolving log with real-time exception reports as measured by no more than 5 exceptional events/day.

10.2 Estimate the financial damage of the 5 exceptional events in a weekly 1/2 meeting between the IT manager, finance manager and security officer.

10.3 Mitigate the most severe threat as measured by implementing 1 new security countermeasure/month (including the DLP and SIEM systems you bought last year but haven’t implemented yet)


I’m a great fan of technology, but the human eye and brain does it best.

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