CSOonline: The top 5 email encryption tools: More capable, better integrated

I have updated my review of top email encryption tools for CSOonline/Network World this week. Most of the vendors have broadened the scope of their products to include anti-phishing, anti-spam and DLP. I last looked at these tools a few years ago, and have seen them evolve:

  • HPE/Voltage SecureMail is now part of Micro Focus, part of an acquisition of other HPE software products
  • Virtru Pro has extended its product with new features and integrations
  • Inky no longer focuses on an endpoint encryption client and has instead moved into anti-phishing
  • Zix Gateway rebranded and widened its offerings
  • Symantec Email Security.cloud has added integrations

In my post today, I talk about recent trends in encryption and more details about each of these five products.


RSA blog: The Digital Risk Challenges of a Smart City

One of the things that I like about our hyper-connected world is how easy it is to virtually attend just about any tech conference. Alongside most major conferences you can also find a number of interesting ancillary events. Some of these, much like the official conference sessions, are recorded for viewing later. Today’s post is about one such ancillary event, hosted by RSA – the company, not the conference. Before I talk about some of the challenges about running smart city infrastructures, let me discuss why I think Singapore is so important for IT security professionals.

You can find this post on RSA’s blog.

Channel Futures webinar: Should you sell SOC-as-a-Service?

For MSSPs, offering security operations centers as a services can be a very profitable proposition — enough to offset the high cost of staffing and software. Given that a recent ESG survey showed 53% of enterprise IT pros have “a problematic shortage” of cybersecurity skills at their organizations, demand for SOC expertise is strong.
In this webinar, I will explain how MSPs and MSSPs can approach this opportunity from a variety of directions, such as combining managed security event, threat detection and endpoint security. I’ll look at what services are required and how they can be packaged, what the existing marketplace looks like, and the best vendors to partner with. (reg. req.)

During the webinar, I also mention a Ponemon study that has some additional data about SOC usage and the problems with retaining trained staffers, one of the many reasons why companies are looking to outsource their SOCs.


Beware of algorithms

You probably won’t expect a series on appropriate use of technology to appear on the English Al Jazeera channel, but that is what I am going to tell you about in today’s post. I have been watching a lot more of their news coverage, looking for a place to obtain some “other” news than the continuing political fascination that our American stations offer up these days. So check out the series, entitled All Hail The Algorithm, where you can find links to the five episodes here.

The series is the work of Ali Rae, a British producer for the channel. She travels the world in search of algorithms that have gotten out of hand. While some episodes are a bit uneven, she does a great job of interviewing primary sources including  researchers, tech vendor representatives, and rights and privacy advocates to present a very interesting hour or so of TV.

The first episode is all about trusting the decisions encoded in algorithms. Rae highlights the Australian welfare system and how its algorithm disputed payments made over many years. Computers automatically sent dunning letters to thousands of citizens, called robo-debt.

The second episode, which focuses on Facebook’s abuses, is the weakest, and most of you have probably already read enough about troll farms which have harvested likes and retweets.

The third episode covers the abuse of social media bot networks and how bad actors, under the pay of various political parties, are flooding these networks with incendiary posts that literally enflame passions and have caused all sorts of trouble around the world. This one struck home for me: we have seen (to coin a phrase) the growth of intolerance of people on both sides – both liberals and conservatives – to try to block freedom of expression. Many of the resulting demonstrations and protests are generated by social media ads and misrepresentative posts.

The fourth episode is about the potential abuse of biometrics. The vast majority of British schoolchildren now have their biometric data recorded for easier access to their lunches and libraries. And the UN is using biometrics to make it easier for refugees to access food and money supplies in the camps. The issue here is that once you give up your biometric data, you have no control over how it is used, and more importantly, abused. While the UN representative interviewed in this episode says they are trying hard to prevent security breaches, it is only a matter of time. Actually, last week’s Biostar 2 breach is a good example of how this could go horribly wrong. Millions of users of their “smart locks” now have their biometric data leaked online, something they can’t easily change unlike a password or a PIN. As Rae points out, the biometrics tech is being developed faster than any regulatory efforts, and the lack of transparency by the biometric vendors is alarming.

The last episode is about UI designers, privacy policies, tracking cookies and informed consent. Again, for many of you, this has been covered extensively but Rae interviews a couple of sources that have a few new things to say.

Overall, I learned a few new things from the series and think it is worth your time to watch all of them. Take a gander at what Rae has put together and feel free to share your comments here.


RSA blog: How many C-level execs own your security infrastructure?

Security expert Lesley Carhart tweeted last month, “If you’re a CEO, CFO, or CIO, you’re directly responsible for the caliber of cybersecurity at your company.” During the recent RSA conference in Singapore, RSA’s CTO, Dr. Zulfikar Ramzan, described several different C-level executives who could have direct responsibility for some portion of your security infrastructure: CEO, CIO, CSO (or CISO), CTO, and the Chief Data Officer (CDO). If three is a crowd, then this is a herd. Or maybe a pod, I never really learned those plural descriptors. And that is just the top management layer: for a large corporation, there could be dozens of middle managers that handle the various security components.

From the IT folks I have interviewed over the years, this seems sadly all too typical. And that is a major problem, because it is easy to pass the buck (or the token or packet) from one department to the next.

You can read my blog post for RSA here about how to try to collaborate and jointly own your security apparatus.

Password spraying attacks means you need a better password strategy now

Those of you in tech have probably used or heard of Citrix. The company has been around for decades and sells a variety of products, including remote desktops and network security. It is ironic that they experienced a security breach across their internal corporate network: the breach began last October and was only discovered in March. A series of internal business documents were stolen as a result of this breach. Think about that for a moment: if a network security company can’t detect hackers living inside their network for months, how can mere mortals do it?

The company recently concluded its investigation and to its credit has been very transparent about its process. They hired FireEye to analyze its logs and have since updated their endpoint protection with its product. This post describes what Citrix is doing to tighten its security, and how it has put together a committee to help govern security going forward. That is great. The post concludes by saying, “we live in a dynamic threat environment that requires a culture of continuous improvement.” Very true.

But what I want to call your attention to is how this breach initially happened, and that is through an attack called password spraying. This is a very simple attack: you start with a list of login IDs and pair them with a series of common passwords until you find a pair that works. The link above has suggestions of how to use common tools to help determine your own exposure, and if you are new to this term you should spend some time learning more about it.

But even if you aren’t part of a corporate IT department, it is high time for you to change your own personal password policy. It is likely that you are using a common password somewhere across your many logins. This isn’t the first time I have made this recommendation. But if a IT vendor that sells security products can get attacked, it means that anyone is vulnerable. And if your password can be easily found (such as in Troy Hunt’s HIBP database), then you need to be concerned. And you need to start by using a password manager and change your passwords to something complex and unique enough. Now. Today.

CSOonline: Best tools for single sign-on

I have been reviewing single sign-on (SSO) tools for nearly seven years, and in my latest review for CSOonline, I identify some key trends and take a look at the progress of products from Cisco/Duo, Idaptive, ManageEngine, MicroFocus/NetIQ, Okta, OneLogin, PerfectCloud, Ping Identity and RSA. You can see the product summary chart here.

If you have yet to implement any SSO or identity management tool, or are looking to upgrade, this roundup of SSO tools will serve as a primer on where you want to take things. Given today’s threat landscape, you need to up your password game by trying to rid your users of the nasty habit of reusing their old standby passwords.

I also look at five different IT strategies to improve your password and login security, the role of smartphone authentication apps, and what is happening with FIDO.


Do you really know where your XP lurks?

I was visiting an industrial firm this week and had a chance to walk around their shop floor to see their equipment. It was a mix of high and low tech, machines that cost several thousands of dollars sitting alongside some very primitive pieces of hardware. Unfortunately, these primitive things were PCs running Windows XP.

Now, I have a fond spot in my being for XP. Just playing that startup sound sends chills up my spine (well, almost). I spent a lot of time running it for various tests that I got paid to do back in the day when IT pubs paid for that sort of thing. I had a stack of VMs running various situations, along with a couple of real PCs that had different versions of XP that I maintained for years. It was only with some reluctance that I eventually gave them up. Since then I have rarely run any XP on anything, because it has been superseded by several newer (and supported) versions of Windows. It appears I am not alone: XP is still around: according to this report, it can be found on 3% of total PCs on consumer desktops, and I am sure that number doesn’t include those in industrial and embedded environments such as I witnessed this week. BTW, Microsoft ended support for XP five years ago, although earlier this year it did create a patch to fix the Bluekeep flaw for XP.

The XP PCs that I saw were used by the firm to control some of their pricey industrial machines. I have no idea the network infrastructure at this shop, nor how much protection was put in place to continue to use XP in their environment. But it almost doesn’t matter: if you have XP, you are basically hanging a sign outside your virtual door that says, “come on in and hack me.” It is just a matter of time before some bad actor finds and exploits these PCs. It is like leaving a jar of honey out. This post written to help consumers use XP more safely recommends, “stop using IE or go offline.” That is harder to do than you might think.

Most likely, replacing this equipment with a more modern version of Windows isn’t all that simple. The machinery has to be tested, and probably has code that needs to be rewritten to work on the newer Windows. And you will say, that is the entire point, and you would be right. But the firm isn’t going to stop using XP, because then they would be out of business. So they are in between a rock and a hard place, to be sure.

So here is a simple security test that you can try out in your business. How many endpoints do you have that are still running XP? Just take a census, using whatever automated tool you might have. Now walk around and see if you can find a few others that are hidden inside industrial equipment, or a printer server, or some other likely location. Do you have the right network isolation and protections in place? Can you do without an internet connection to these PCs? Why did your automated scanners fail to identify these devices? Can you get rid of them completely, or is the vendor still insisting on using XP for their equipment? I think you will be surprised, and not in a good way, what the answers are.

And for those of you that are running XP at home, do yourself a favor and take a trip this weekend to MicroCenter (or whatever is your local computer store) and buy yourself a new computer, and dispose of your old one (after first removing your hard drive). And if needed, conduct an appropriate memorial service to bid this OS a fond farewell.


RSA blog: Taking hybrid cloud security to the next level

RSA recently published this eBook on three tips to secure your cloud. I like the direction the authors took but want to take things a few steps further.  Before you can protect anything, you first need to know what infrastructure you actually have running in the cloud. This means doing a cloud census. Yes, you probably know about most of your AWS and Azure instances, but probably not all of them. There are various ways to do this – for example, Google has its Cloud Deployment Manager and Azure has an instance metadata service to track your running virtual machines. Or you can employ a third-party orchestration service to manage instances across different cloud platforms.

Here are my suggestions for improving your cloud security posture.

CSOonline: Evaluating DNS providers: 4 key considerations

The Domain Name System (DNS) is showing signs of strain. Attacks leveraging DNS protocols used to be fairly predictable and limited to the occasional DDoS floods. Now attackers use more than a dozen different ways to leverage DNS, including cache poisoning, tunneling and domain hijacking. DNS pioneer Paul Vixie has bemoaned the state of DNS and says that these attacks are just the tip of the iceberg. This is why you need to get more serious about protecting your DNS infrastructure and various vendors have products and services to help. You have four key options; here’s how to sort them out in a piece that I wrote for CSOonline..