Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sometimes you're already in the cloud

Federal Trade Commission links wide data breach to file sharing

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said Monday that it has uncovered widespread data breaches at companies, schools and local governments whose employees are swapping music, software and movie files over the Internet.

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file sharing was perhaps the second killer app for the Internet (after Mosaic) because of its ease of use and utility for sharing free music and porn.

P2P is very easy to use, after installing the application select the files you want to share, then start browsing and downloading files from other users. P2P networks are comprised of millions
and often tens of millions of users -- making these applications the largest compute and storage networks in the world.

There are two big risks with P2P:
  1. Oversharing -- incorrectly configuring the P2P application to share all of your files
  2. Compromise -- P2P is often leveraged to download malware to unsuspecting users
The FTC warning described in the Post article arises from the problem of oversharing. For business, the problem arises because the more P2P users you have, the more likely that one or more of them are sharing confidential information -- without realizing it.

Assuring the secure configuration of P2P file sharing across more than a handful of users is very, very difficult. For a large enterprise infeasible. In an enterprise of any size, security depends on the detection of P2P and either on blocking all use or limiting use to selected systems that are subject to stringent access and configuration controls.

Don't be fooled into thinking that your firewalls protect you from this threat. Most P2P applications have been designed to bypass firewalls. P2P detection and control requires the deployment of effective Intrusion Detection (IDS) or Intrusion Protection (IPS) systems.

IPS systems will give you the capability of discriminating between types of P2P applications, selecting a response, and protecting your data.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

You Should Use Profiling

Thanks to Headline T-shirts for this amusing image.

Torn from the headline, "Chinese school linked to Google
attacks also linked to ‘01 attacks on White House site.
" Comes the thought that only idiots fail to profile threats.

For network security this is a simple matter:
  1. Know your services and
  2. Know your users

The first item requires that you self-check with port scans, vulnerability scans, and traffic analysis to understand your networked application and your potential vulnerabilities. You should always plan that there will be defects you do not know about -- these are called zero-day attacks. Always patch everything you can and what you can't patch will require even more protection. Between zero-day worries and the things you can't patch, you'll need intrusion detection and prevention.

The second item should be incorporated in your site user statistics and operation's processes. This means understanding on a statistical and individual basis who, where, and how your users access your network applications. Once you have a grasp of these behaviors it becomes very simple to develop two key profiles: one that describes how authorized users behave, and second, the converse -- how unauthorized users behave. For example, an Austin Texas based music store will typically have many local customers and a few other customers from around Texas or perhaps more remote places like Nashville, New York, or Los Angeles. Once you have the geographic profile of your customers it becomes very useful to think about places you don't have customers. Places like South Korea, China, Eastern Europe, and Brazil; by extension everywhere except North America. Obviously, the same store in Shanghai will have a different customer profile.

Now comes the important part.


If folks from Lilliput never visit your site, treat their traffic with care, blocking it is best, but if you can't bring yourself to block them then at least redirect Lilliputian visitors to an "interest" form, gather some marketing information and put them on a white list. Now, that's for people from Lilliput visiting you, even less likely is authorized traffic from your network going to Lilliput (and really Lilliput is just a place holder for real threat countries: China for example.) IDS and IPS exist for a reason, so do firewalls, make sure you are filtering, blocking, or at least detecting traffic to specific countries and regions of the world you are not doing business with.