linux networking cookbook

Today at the bookstore I ran out of magazines to browse over lunch, so I meandered to the book section and picked up Linux Cookbook by Carla Shroder. I really enjoyed the parts I skimmed through, both her style of presentation (excellent!) and the subject matter itself. Very good stuff! Unfortunately, the book is getting dated, and I just really can’t justify buying a dated book when many of the topics I could find updated through Google.

Still, I really do like to find recent material on authors whose style I really dig and really works for me. I saw she did some weblogging with O’Reilly, meandered over there, and I see she has a brand new book out, Linux Networking Cookbook. Oh my, right up my alley! If her style of writing has not changed, I will be picking this book up from BookPool once it is available. I may actually pre-order it now to get the current sale discount… I really like the “cookbook” style books from O’Reilly. I totally enjoy being able to put a book on my desk, and look up various things that I want to do or learn at various times; as opposed to reading a book cover to cover.

the application aware firewall

DarkReading has an article up about next generation firewalls including true IPS and application awareness. First, read the article.

Second, the inadequacy of firewalls that only go by ports has been known for what, a decade now? And the trend of applications moving over port 80 is about as old. I just don’t like reading “news” about such ideas. But that’s my only real complaint on this article.

This is all an interesting topic; getting firewalls more in touch with the applications, and as Hoff suggests, getting more in touch with the data. “Even so, giving the firewall an application protocol view still isn’t enough, security experts say. ‘The problem is that applications are merely conduits. Data is the real problem,’ Hoff says.”

Unfortunately, in 20 years from now, will we be saying this new next gen application firewall with its signatures and traffic inspection is yet another colander, where all applications not only tunnel through port 80, use the web browser, and also avoid known bad signatures? Will this be any better than blacklisting traffic/domains/ports and trying to keep up with them? Perhaps, perhaps not. But technology has moved more emphasis on applications (or even just one application: the browser), and thus firewalls (and security) need to keep up.

Regardless of the effectiveness or IPS-like ability of such firewalls, we still cannot begin to replace a human analyst looking at such gathered data. And we can’t begin to properly protect the networks without being able to inspect application traffic. We can’t stop what we don’t know is happening. If nothing else, I welcome the day when firewalls will be able to be their own IDS, with the ability and accuracy of a best-of-breed standalone IDS.

laptop users who replace their hard drives

Do your laptop users complain about lack of admin access when on the road and trying to install a new printer or some such device? Are you *sure* they’re not just buying their own laptop hard drive, replacing the corporate one with their own, and running anything they want?

Of course, should you care?

security requires imperfection

Yup, it’s still a thinking week! Rybolov has joined in posting about security vs a zero-defect perception.

Of course, what does this have to do with security? Well, in most companies and the government in particular, you’re trying to project a zero-defects image to your customers. That’s the way the business and marketing side works. Marketing and security don’t mix precisely for this reason: one is trying to project an image of perfection, the other needs understanding of flaws and risks in order to make informed decisions.

Yup! That’s why people get their faces all scrunched up when the security guys say, “well, we could still be penetrated by a really skilled hacker…” They want zero-defect perfection; a state where they can sit back and be ultimately secure, even if they realize technology changes they still want some state of secure for the now. We actually require the imperfection in order to evaluate and improve (and prove!).

passing back values to a calling powershell script

I’ve previously posted on how to call use a PowerShell script to call another PowerShell script, even with a variable passed! What about returning a value to the calling PowerShell script? This is actually pretty easy and intuitive for a single variable. In my case, I want to know if the called script failed or not.
This first script simply calls the second script, test2.ps1 and sets its result to $return. Then I echo back the $return value to make sure it stuck.

$return = & “c:\script2.ps1”

This second script simply prints text to prove it was called, then returns back $true.

Write-Host “Hello World!” -back yellow -fore green
return $true

And this is the result:

PS > ./test1.ps1
Hello World!
PS >

There are no doubt more sophisticated means to return multiple values and even objects back, which may or may not be the same thing as I’ve given above, but this sufficed to meet a need I had to just pass back a complete/fail variable.

sans top 20 has lost its flavor…

Yes, SANS has released their latest top 20 Internet Security Risks report. And Dark Reading points to it.

Tim Wilson at Dark Reading opens up: “There are two major problems with the security of computers: the people who use them and the people who write software for them.”. You don’t say?!? I think that covers everyone except my grandmother…

Ok, so Tim’s article gets better and I like his pointing out that home-grown apps are big threats, which will make people think a bit more about open source and other, well, home-grown apps. Paying for software every cycle sucks, but is the cost of the software worth the possibly improved security and support? Good question.

My biggest complaint about the SANS Top 20 list these days? It’s too nebulous. Let’s see…web browser, email clients, media players, and office software. Did they leave anything out?!?! Yes, IM services…oh wait, they got that too.

Windows, *nix, and Mac. Uhh..again, did they leave anything out? Well, yes, they may have missed something, but the catch-all Zero-Days kinda covers the ass end of the list.

Yeah, thanks for this wonderfully nebulous list that really is far less actionable than it used to be. Sure, it illustrates our security risk landscape fairly well, but it is definitely targeting managers and less involved/informed people these days.Rather than being the top 20 risks, it is basically an all-encompassing “here’s all the risks you need to worry about,” list for CSOs and journalists to care about.

Fine, there is at least one thing missing. Wireless issues, both with regards to 802.11 devices and Bluetooth. Sure, they mention it twice, once in Unauthorized Devices and again in Instant Messaging, but that’s just lame and really does downplay the issues. Sure, you can’t have someone in Russia sit down and pwn every Starbucks wireless user in 60 seconds, but the problem still exists on a microscopic level. Want to fly under the radar or target an exec because you’re being paid by competition to do so… Hell, it would have been trendy to include this with the simple mention of the alleged intrusion vector for the TJX breach.

Alas, I still like the list because it gives us something to point to when management thinks the world is peachy-keen and full of rainbows in our office. Still, I’d rather this list were still interesting and relevent to me, rather than trying to be a “list” that tries to capture everything. Maybe it’s just a sign of a maturing industry and a much wider interested audience that needs to be included…

deep thoughts by jack infosec

It’s that time of year. We can sit back on cold near-winter nights in front of a fire with a pipe in hand, rocking back in a comfy chair and muse. Yup, it’s a time this week for discussions in information security!

Hoff has been talking about valuing information security, always a passionate subject for everyone, and one without a clear (or even muddy!) answer. He’s also talking about security and disruptive innovation. Good stuff to read! Oh, and while you read what he has to say, try to convince him to change back to “Rational Security.” I tried to register but wasn’t willing to pay the initial fee…doh! There isn’t even a category on his site for surviability! Fad! Fad! I predict he’ll quietly revert back after the start of the year. 😉

It really felt like Bejtlich was gearing up for some revelatory posts, and he pushed one out in talking about how controls are not the solution. Instead, look at the outputs.

And Mogull had a nice comment in a recent post of his, “While the encryption market isn’t nearly as big as most of the world wants you to believe…”. I agree. I think many are waiting for this “market” to turn into the inevitable fea…no, it won’t be a “feature,” it’ll eventually be standard and just accepted. For now, HDE/FDE is still difficult to manage across an enterprise, wrought with frustrations, and managers would rather see less mobile devices anyway. Why protect the laptops we really dislike deploying? Just deploy less! And so on…

morrill’s top ten things in info security to do now

Dan Morrill posted the “top ten information security issues to tackle now” which I find extremely cool. I’ve jotted some reactions below.

Get an Evangelist– I just wanted to highlight this option as an alternative to the misguided efforts to “make IT more business savvy” and the vice-versa option. A liaison is truly what is needed. You don’t tell Accountants to be able to throw down a sales pitch to a client, nor ask Sales to troubleshoot their own PCs (oh christ do they try though!). You get people to interface across the boundaries, not try to get everyone able to do everything. Sure, IT people do need to come out of their shells a bit and yes, be a bit more business savvy, but lets not turn that into the savior of “IT vs business side” heartaches like I’ve seen attempted.

Train IT– YES! And remember that training can also include self-training. Give us some time during our days to properly self-train on new technology. This can save a new hire or formal (spendy) training. Most of us are in IT for various reasons, the most common I bet would be our joy at solving problems and puzzles. Yes, we also do get depressed when we can’t tackle the new VOIP system properly because we just don’t have the free time in our schedules…

Develop a defense in depth program for the company…Listen to your IT department; they know where the bodies are buried.– Amen! Talk to IT, and have them list their pet projects or things that just have never gotten done but they’d like to get done. I bet a lot of those projects are solid projects that would fit into a defense in depth strategy. Keep that master list and start ranking and evaluating the options. Then start knocking some of them away! Sure, the list may be a depressing list at times, but we all need roadmaps and IT workers have their fingers down on the pulse of the company’s technology and information.

more reasons why businesses are insecure

Anton Chuvakin linked me over to an article about 7 reasons businesses are insecure. Check the reasons, as they are good ones.

I wanted to add a couple more, however.

8. Economics. Let’s face it. Security costs money and time for a company, and unless there is regulatory or economic reasons (or surplus budget!), a company really won’t spend more money on the security. Companies are economics entities and as such work to maximize their profits. Some people don’t like to talk about that, but that’s reality. And this works not just on a macroscopic level with budgets, but also on a microscopic level: do your IT techs prioritize security projects behind business-facing projects and fires? Yes, they do. Doh!

9. Technical gulf from the trenches to the upper offices. When a CISO proclaims his company secure, most of us snicker a bit and throw back another shot of JD. When a CISO proclaims his company is in compliance and has a strong security process, do you really think he knows what the hell he is talking about? Or is he just playing salesman-lipservice and really has no clue if the company geeks really are making things secure? Often I wonder about that gulf between the techs and the upper offices and which reality each is living in day to day. Some CISOs Get It and know their environment, but I think those with a Clue are still in a huge minority (not necessarily because they’re not technically proficient, but simply because sometimes they are just too removed from the day-to-day).

9.5 Likewise, does your audit/security team have the skills necessary to tell the difference between secure and insecure, or are they just going over a checklist and then going to lunch? Technical expertise in regards to security is spotty in the technical ranks, especially on a broad level. I believe that more efforts in user education should be pointed towards technical staff (security and general IT) and not towards general employees.

on the art of balancing awareness and technological security

I like Kurt Wismer’s post, “the user is part of the system.” This is true.

I’m often misunderstood when I take a stance against user awareness types; often I’m taken as being totally against user education, when in fact I am just against over-emphasizing user education as the way to achieve security. I don’t agree with that, and I think user education is like compliance, it educates the lowest denominators in a corporation, but it won’t stop malicious activity or mistakes. It helps eliminate naive or ignorant mistakes. (Ok, I’ll give that some people will greatly benefit and listen to awareness, but that simply cannot be all people.) A blend of awareness and technology is what I feel is the key, although I’ll put just a bit more weight on the objectivity of technology… I mean, there is a reason social engineering always works, even with obscene amounts of user education.

I’m a firm believer in technological controls to mitigate the stupid choices that users can make, or simply limit what they can do. Taking this to an extreme is just as bad as taking user education to an extreme: we can create a nice, tidy, restrictive, safe cage for users to sit in and do their work. But is that cage going to make that user happy and productive, or docile and uncreative? This can lead to a discussion on where security should lie: the system, or the network. Some may say the system is already lost because we can’t make it a stifling cage…not without affecting our users greatly.

It seems that having freedom of choice is a fundamental part of the human condition, even to the point that we all bend or outright break rules every day, such as traffic rules. If people bend or break those rules when it has very real, obvious consequences, how do we really think users will act regarding our own company policies that are much more arcane and the threats far removed? Are your users ultimately more happy having admin rights on a system or having a set cache of programs they can use and nothing more?

Is this maybe one reason the web has become so enabled in the last few years? We try to control what they can do, so they use port 80 and a web browser…is the desire for choice and freedom always going to trump our smaller, user-impacting security approaches?

That’s really part of the art of corporate security; finding that balance that works. It is also the unfortunate part of our industry: no one standard is going to work. One person’s approach won’t work in every situation or every corporation. More so than the thousands of solutions each company can have to solve various needs and problems, the users are even more varied and unique. Ok, fine, very general rules will work, like “patch your systems.” But let’s face it; that shit is the easy part, the part any arm-chair analyst can recite.

Nonetheless, I love such discussions, even if there is not ultimate agreement. At least we’re talking about it and being open to creative solutions. I’d almost rather talk to open-minded people who don’t have an answer to these problems than those who think they know some Merlin-esque answer to solve all our problems everywhere…

dlp and database activity monitoring info from mogull

Someday I will likely need to sound smurt about DLP, even though I think it will be a feature and not a market given a couple years. And then, of course, it will just get watered down and slowly forgotten over the next 5 years. But, still, it’s a buzzword with mgmt.

So for my own future edification, this post is a pointer over to Rich Mogull’s 7+1 part series on DLP. Part 7 includes links to the other 6, and the +1 is an overview of the recent trend of DLP acquisitions.

And just because I don’t want another post, Mogull also has information in a 2 part series about database activity monitoring products. Part 1 and Part 2.

ebb and flow

“Sun and moon travel through the sky, they set and rise again. The four seasons succeed one another, flourishing and then fading again. This is a metaphor for the interchange of surprise unorthodox movements and orthodox direct confrontation, mixing together into a whole ending and beginning infinitely.” -The Book of War, Chapter 5: Strategic Advance.