“There will never be “silence” in the information security world.”
As the world at large reluctantly accepts digital data flows are fast becoming as important as air (ok, that’s stretching the concept slightly but it’s not completely outlandish), protection of those data flows becomes as important as protecting any other key to life. But every day new threats appear, new security challenges become apparent and our attempts to keep them at bay continue to look futile.
Today news of a Stuxnet clone has surfaced that seems to expose links to the now infamous malware that affected SCADA industrial control systems – how long it has existed or evidence of compromise is unknown. IBM researchers have discovered increased coverage of the mobile banking malware Marcher, thus increasing the target landscape of unsuspecting mobile users who may succumb to fictitious notification of funds availability. And the ever present curse of zero day, is again top of mind with Trustwave researchers highlighting as many as 1.5 billion unpatched devices may be vulnerable to a recently discovered Microsoft exploit.
I have highlighted just a few of the ongoing public announcements of security threat and compromise, a full chronicle would be never ending as new information appears in real time minute by minute. Emotionally, some may deem defence against attack a battle that cannot be won with strong evidence to support the point but that is potentially an over simplification. Fundamental security principles and good practice, no different from those applied in non-information technology arenas will help thwart attacks, increase awareness and visibility of an attack in process and accelerate remediation after attack (plus signpost future steps to realise better defence).
I started this outline with a view there will never be “silence” in the security world and for me long may that continue. Both users and organisations should adopt a state of ongoing vigilance, zero complacency and never believe the security problem is solved or the battle won. By getting the basics right, improving understanding of known good states, increasing visibility and measurement of the changes of state from known states (or the highlight of unknown or inconsistent states) and a pragmatic approach to defence based on prioritisation of the “noise” beyond the silence will help to drive positive security solutions rather than signify problems.
Want to know more, keen to rethink security – visit the Computacenter team at Infosec Europe at Olympia London from Tuesday 7th June to Thursday 9th June, stand #E295. We look forward to hosting you and will have a team of business and technology aware security specialists available to discuss security impacts – your way. I hope to see you there.
Until Infosec at Olympia
Chief Technologist: Networking, Security and Collaboration
Linear Scalability would have made some retailers a lot more money on Black Friday and left them better prepared for the peak in internet traffic. Why might you ask is this possible? Anybody watching the news, surfing the web or actually leaving the comfort of their armchairs to visit a shop in person this weekend can’t have missed the phenomenon called “Black Friday” arriving in the UK.
Now I’m not one to dismiss new trends and indeed I would consider myself an “early adopter” on the axis of the maturity curve; however Black Friday bought two big issues out in to the open for retailers. The first and not my interest today, was the requirement for many of the UK Police forces to deploy teams of police in riot gear to manage the hysteria as waves of people flocked to the stores to pick up a bargain. The second was the legitimate Volumetric Denial of Service (DoS) attack that retailers invited to their sites on the back of the torrent of advertising emails that were sent out in the run up to the event.
For those of you who don’t understand what Volumetric a Denial of Service attack is, Arbor Networks classifies it as an “attempt to consume the bandwidth either within the target network/service , or between the target network/service and the rest of the Internet. These attacks are simply about causing congestion.” And that’s exactly what happened on many commercial websites with the number of visits and site requests swamping them and causing so much congestion that people couldn’t get on them to find a bargain let alone buy one!
Now we’ve all seen this kind of issue with ticket sites – you want to buy tickets for the latest band and spend hours waiting to get in to a queue to buy them. But retailers were caught out and several implemented queuing systems through the course of the day which I’m sure infuriated many people as they had to wait up to an hour to get access to the site. Some might say that this isn’t an issue as it’s a British tradition to queue patiently for things – however the internet isn’t British and in this “always on, always connected world” we are moving towards, a queuing system quite frankly doesn’t cut it with today’s “always on, always connected” internet consumers.
The dilemma facing retailers is that to implement infrastructure that supports that amount of availability when it isn’t used for much of the year isn’t cost effective. Which is why many have resorted to a queuing system that throttles traffic to the back end systems and ensures that the website stays up and running and delivering acceptable performance and reaction times to those accessing it. In doing so however a large proportion of the potential spending population will go elsewhere and therefore whilst no doubt profitable, many retailers failed to maximise the potential of Black Friday.
So what are the alternatives? Linear Scalability is one solution to this problem – the ability to deliver continuous throughput through the provision of on the fly additional infrastructure. This where cloud services can provide the answer and Computacenter can assist. Cloud adoption has been slow in the main as a result of security concerns – why would you trust your crown jewels and intellection property (IP) to a cloud provider when it’s a challenge to protect it within your own datacenters? And this is where we are missing a trick… Most organisations if they looked at the bottlenecks in their systems on Friday would have quickly realised that the issue lay in the web delivery capability which wasn’t able to meet the number of requests being made and not the application or database servers sitting at the back end. By moving or complementing the delivery engine in the cloud, many retailers would be able to maintain performance and the IP would have stayed in the corporate datacenter but the content delivery would have expanded exponentially to cope with demand.
In a “Pay Per CPU Per Hour” cloud model Computacenter can help you implement the necessary architecture to provision and decommission infrastructure on the fly thus allowing you to maximise the money making potential of events such as Black Friday and other peaks in sales throughout the year. Taking the analogy further, if you were able to provision such infrastructure on the fly then why have a DR datacenter sitting idle for much of the year and why not do this to mitigate nefarious Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks? Equally why tie yourself to one cloud provider when you can go where the most cost effective solution is on a month to month basis?
Computacenter is one of the few organisations that can help you with the end to end delivery of such solutions and won F5’s 2014 “Rising Star” award this year in recognition of our innovation and integration of the F5 portfolio in to our solutions. To implement linear scalability you need a raft of vendors – from load balancing and provisioning to networking and datacenter; we have one of the most comprehensive capabilities in Europe and can build and demonstrate this to you in our Customer Solutions Centre in Hatfield.
In an always on, always connected world where website usability and reaction times are proportional to the profitability, why wouldn’t you come and talk to us?
The front page of Today’s Metro highlighted something that the security industry has been calling out for a while – what was once complicated technology is now commonplace in our homes – in our computers, tablets, routers, digital televisions and even domestic appliances such as smart fridges and unfortunately much of it is vulnerable to compromise.
Researchers at Proofpoint and Lancope have identified compromised household appliances being used to send Spam. Should we be worried? Personally I think we should heed this warning – many of these devices are running old operating systems that are open to compromise; something driven by the ongoing drive for value and cost effective computing. This is in all likelihood the tip of the iceberg – Manufacturers need to accept responsibility and more importantly start to develop self healing operating systems that update on demand from trusted sources – let’s hope the industry takes heed and consumers accept what will be more expensive systems in the future.
In a similar vein for a while now I’ve been concerned about the amount of power in our mobile devices. Whilst the UK bucks the trend with a penchant for the seemingly secure Apple operating system, much of Europe favours the Android operating system which has been targeted by criminals for some time. Couple this to the uncapped “all you can eat” internet packages and we have an attack vector much larger than many botnets – I only hope that the mobile network operators are well prepared.
It’s a moot point when you consider that increasingly users trust their phones more than their computers that we suddenly find ourselves in a situation where those devices we trust the most potentially present the biggest threat to our security. This is even more prevalent when we consider the amount of data now traversing business devices – the endpoint is mobilising and organisations are increasingly looking to securely enable and empower employees. In this rapidly changing landscape it’s critical that the right security strategy is deployed.
Computacenter delivers differentiated security solutions – from email and web gateway security solutions to advanced persistent threat mitigation and from desktop to datacenter and network to cloud we have end to end solutions that help maintain the security posture of your organisation.
I wonder how many of you saw Apple’s remarkable results last week? If you didn’t, they nearly doubled their quarterly profits and amongst all of the other superlatives in the commentary they added over $40 billion to their market cap! In fact the iPad maker has the biggest weighting of any company in the S&P 500, accounting for 4.5pc of the overall index – it has been quite a while since
so much tech sentiment revolves around just one stock.
One of the other data points I picked up on was that they have now sold over 60 million iPads worldwide since their inception in 2010 and has hence created a category all of their own. Whether it be their financial might or technology innovation – you certainly can’t ignore them.
Apart from the fantastic opportunity this presents business in changing they way they can enable and support their workforce, it has created a lot of headaches too!
To this end, we’ve been busy working with Apple to ensure we have developed our portfolio in line with their with technology to help our clients and provide the type of service that most Enterprise workers have become accustomed to. We’ve even put a little ‘chalk n talk’ video together to outline what we have done. You can check it out here. I hope you like it?