Cutting Out The Security Blind Spots

By Chris Hines, Product Marketing Manager, Bitglass

security_blind_spotsWhen Henry Ford’s Model T was introduced to the world in 1908, with a list price of $850, it revolutionized transportation for the masses at the time. What many folks don’t know is that it had absolutely no mirrors attached to it. Early drivers had no visibility into who or what was behind or beside them. In fact, the only way for drivers to see what was around them was to completely turn their head. It wasn’t until in 1920 when mirrors were available for an extra charge. I’m sure some of you are thinking “I still turn and look over my shoulder.”

Today, the newest generation of cars now has an indicator (red dot or car symbol) on their side mirrors that blinks when someone is in your blind spot. We have all seen the TV ads showcasing this. This blind spot awareness is crucial because changing lanes without any visibility into who is already in that lane places you and your passengers at risk of an accident.

The same concept applies to data security. Companies are changing lanes, moving to cloud applications and BYOD infrastructures. Because of this, there are blind spots that exist in security infrastructures that need to be filled. Some of these blind spots include: what sensitive data is travelling outside of the firewall, where data is travelling to, and who is accessing this data. Without this visibility companies are blind to all potentially risky applications and sources.

Historically, traditional security vendors and IT teams have focused the majority of their energy on the prevention of breaches, and because of this were not innovating in areas of post breach security. This is why many existing security solutions are no longer viable, because what happens when a breach does occur? If you really think about it, products like SIEM and MDM solutions are deployed today because they were the best technologies around when they were first created. They worked well for some time, and like all things have become outdated.

Companies must adapt to a very new cloud and mobile world. Which is by no means an easy feat. Instead of the traditional 80% of energy spent on the prevention of breaches, security teams must become more well-rounded. Prevention, dwell time reduction and advanced security are equally important today as breaches are now a fact of life. Visibility plays a massive role in achieving them.

Since data security is everyone’s job, it’s up to you, the employee to empower your company’s data security with visibility, so your company doesn’t have to be worried and unsure when changing lanes into cloud and BYOD.

To learn how to gain true visibility be sure to save your seat for our webinar on February 11th. We’ll discuss how to limit the damage of data breaches with our new product Breach Discovery.



Limit The Damage

By Chris Hines, Product Marketing Manager, Bitglass

the-boy-who-cried-wolf_blogDespite investments in security, breaches are still occurring at an alarming rate. Whether the result of the world’s nefarious cyber criminals sending phishing or malware attacks through company emails, or insiders simply misusing sensitive data. Given the speed of which cyber criminals are able to pivot and create new security threats, companies must change their approach to security. We now live in a world where the prevention of breaches has become too difficult. The proliferation of data outside the firewall via mobile devices i.e company laptops, personal smart phones has created an attack surface too large for company IT security teams to guard.

Criminals are no longer going for the quick win, they’re stealthily slipping through firewalls, nestling in deep within your infrastructure, and are slowly exfiltrating data through company firewalls into remote servers (they own). This often takes place for months until the criminals are finally ousted, or have gathered enough data to go off and sell in the black market, or ransom off to the victim.

Visibility into what data is being exfiltrated is crucial in limiting damage from breaches. Now, before you start thinking about your SIEM solution that sends you 17,000 alerts a week or the “visibility” company that only tells you what apps are currently running on your network (there are so many “Shadow IT” visibility companies out there but Shadow IT only represents 4% of breaches) I want to explain what I mean by visibility. Visibility is the awareness of what data is leaving your network, and tells you what the riskiest sources are, in a way that prioritizes alerts for you. It provides actionable intelligence so that you can quickly identify areas of risk, and at the end of it whether or not you are experiencing a breach.

Lessons from “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”

We all know the story of the boy who cried wolf. A small boy, who is tasked with protecting his family’s sheep, jokingly yells “wolf, wolf!” multiple times, causing the townspeople to come running with their pitchforks and torches to aid him in fighting off the wolf. When the wolf actually comes, and the boy yells “wolf wolf” again, no one comes. The boy is then eaten.

This is the problem today. Companies are relying too much on their SIEM solutions. These solutions create WAY too many meaningless alerts per day. No IT team can manage 17,000 alerts per week, and definitely doesn’t want to. SIEM solutions cry “wolf wolf” so often that IT teams no longer view them as a real threat. This is actually what happened in the Target breach. Alerts were recieved, but were not treated as true breach threats.

IT security must be able to limit the damage caused by breaches. In order to do so they need a solution that can provide them with actionable intelligence. They need to be able to identify the risky sources within their infrastructure so they can protect their data from the wolves trying to gobble up their sensitive data.

To gain true visibility and shorten breach dwell time learn about a new service called Breach Discovery. Here’s a data sheet for you.

The Truth About Encryption

By Christopher Hines, Product Marketing Manager,  Bitglass

Cloud_Encryption“Encryption is the conversion of electronic data into another form, called ciphertext, which cannot be easily understood by anyone except authorized parties.” – TechTarget

Encryption has gotten some much-needed attention over the past few weeks. With the release of a secret US security report unveiling the importance of encryption and how in 2009 private computers were vulnerable to attacks from cyber criminal gangs operating in Russia and China, plus David Cameron’s anti-encryption angle that he hopes to use to influence Obama, the topic is certainly worthy of discussion.

I know some of you may be looking at “2009” and thinking “Chris, it’s 2015 get with it” but the fact is, encryption is even more valuable and necessary than ever. Since 2009, cloud app usage (think Salesforce) and BYOD has expanded significantly. 60% of organizations now utilize cloud apps. Since data now resides outside of corporate firewalls, companies need ways of encrypting their data, making sure that the growing number of cyber-criminal gangs in Russia and China don’t get their hands on it. But what’s the truth about encryption? And how do you know if it truly is as strong as you might think?

The Truth

Encryption has two main components. The first part is the Cipher. This is the piece that transforms human readable text to something unreadable (ciphertext). It’s the piece you probably think of the most i.e turning “Chris” into “WxoPNHz.” The second piece (the piece often overlooked) is called the Initialization Vector. This piece is an unpredictable random number that ensures that encrypting the same message repeatedly will yield different ciphertexts each time. To ensure sufficient randomness, the length of the Initialization Vector should be the same number of bits as the cipher.

To clarify, a lot of vendors promote AES-256 bit encryption, I am sure a lot of you are reading this now and saying “yes, this is exactly what my vendor says they provide” (think of the biggest vendors in the encryption space, I promise that by the end of this blog you’ll have some questions for them). For the less encryption inclined, AES-256 bit encryption is the de facto standard for strong encryption in the enterprise. It implies that there are billions of combinations that can be made for each piece of plain text (regular name, credit card number, SSN etc.) and that the chance of cyber criminals breaking the encryption is close to impossible. Which would be true, if it were actually what some of the world’s biggest encryption vendors provided. But, unfortunately, there’s a good chance that your cloud encryption vendor has you duped.

Remember how I mentioned before that the initialization vectors were crucial? In order to make data searchable once encrypted and placed in the cloud (think Salesforce encryption), vendors have actually begun cutting down on the number of initialization vectors used in their products. This means that instead of the billions of combinations companies think they are purchasing, they are actually only getting 1 million in some cases. This is a HUGE difference! 1 million combinations is insanely less secure than multiple billions of combinations. Put differently, that 256 bit encryption turns into 20 bits. And at 20 bits, you might as well keep your money in your pocket because it’s just as useful as having no encryption at all.

So that’s the truth. Don’t be fooled by vendors claiming to have true AES-256 bit encryption. Yes their cipher will be on point, but it’s the initialization vectors that are also crucial. Limiting the number of these vectors to preserve cloud app operations like search changes your 256 bit super encryption, into a puny 20 bit encryption. Reach out to your encryption vendor now and ask them about their vectors, and don’t be surprised if you hear something you don’t like.

For more information on Salesforce encryption, view this presentation on slideshare


CSA Survey: Security of Cloud Data Now a Board-Level Concern

Security and Skills Gap Hold Back Cloud Projects While Shadow IT Grows

By Cameron Coles, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, Skyhigh

slide gauge on workbench close upA recent Cloud Security Alliance & Skyhigh survey shows that while security and skills gaps remain significant barriers to corporate-sanctioned cloud projects, end users are pushing IT departments to provide more cloud applications, faster than ever. The survey of 212 IT and security professionals looked at the state of cloud adoption – both sanctioned and shadow IT – and asked respondents how their organizations approach security, spending on cloud versus on-premise technology, and governance of data. The results show that while 33% of companies have a “full steam ahead” attitude toward cloud adoption, security concerns continue to hold back formal cloud projects. And, the concern about security has reached well beyond IT to the executive suite and boardroom.

blog - csa1 600The top barrier to cloud projects continues to be the security of data, with 73% of respondents indicating it was holding back cloud projects. Another significant barrier is a lack of knowledge and experience on the part of IT and business managers. This cloud skills gap held back cloud projects for 37% of companies in Europe and 29% of companies in the Americas. One explanation is that IT personnel are also focused on maintaining legacy on-premise infrastructure, and don’t have room to invest in the skills and resources needed for the cloud era.

blog - csa2 600Of course, employees are adopting cloud services unknown to IT and are not necessarily worried about the security of company data. Skyhigh’s Cloud Adoption and Risk Report shows that the scope of shadow IT can be 10 times greater than what IT is aware of. For most companies today, shadow IT is unknown and unmanaged. The overwhelming majority of respondents – 72 percent – said they did not know the scope of shadow IT at their companies but wanted to know. At companies with more than 5,000 employees the number grows to 80 percent. That makes free offerings like Skyhigh’s Cloud Audit that discover all cloud apps in use across an organization and provide a risk assessment of these apps so valuable.

Perhaps due to the flood of recent high-profile data breaches, including the attack on Target that led to a 46 percent drop in the company’s quarterly profit and the resignation of it CIO and CEO, the security of company data has spread far beyond the IT department. Cloud security is now an executive-level and board-level concern for 61% of companies. That interest is driving increased oversight over how companies govern their data that will ultimately benefit everyone, although in the short term it means IT teams are looking for help with presenting their company’s security posture in terms that make sense to non-technical board members.

blog - csa3 600Despite, or perhaps because of, barriers to cloud projects, rank and file employees are taking an active role advocating for the cloud apps and devices they’ve come to expect in their personal lives. Among IT professionals, 79% receive requests for new cloud apps each month from end users. Highlighting the disconnect between sober IT departments and eager employees, 49% of IT professionals said they had felt pressured to approve an app they felt did not meet the company’s security requirements. The most requested categories of services include File Sharing and Collaboration (e.g. Box, Dropbox, Google Docs, OneDrive) followed by Communication (e.g. HipChat, Skype, WebEx, Yammer), and Social Media (e.g. Facebook LinkedIn, Twitter).

One of the most surprising findings is that companies that are best positioned to adopt the cloud securely – because they have more mature governance programs – are, somewhat paradoxically, slower to adopt the cloud. Companies with more than 5,000 employees are more likely to have a cloud governance committee (34.8% versus 12.0%), have a policy on acceptable cloud usage (60.9% versus 44.8%), and have a security awareness training program (26.1% versus 20.3%) compared to companies with fewer than 5,000 employees. However, only 36.2% of them spend more than 20% of the IT budget on cloud services, compared with 49.0% of companies with fewer than 5,000 employees.

blog - csa4 600[1]When it comes to enforcing these cloud policies, such as which employees are allowed to access what cloud services and where sensitive data can be uploaded, companies across the board prefer to use their firewall and proxy infrastructure versus rolling out device agents to employee devices. For all companies, 65% prefer to use their firewalls and 63% prefer to use their proxy. For companies with more than 5,000 employees, a whopping 95% of companies prefer to use their firewall or proxy versus leveraging device agents.

To read all of the findings in the CSA Cloud Adoption Practices & Priorities survey, download the full report.


Compromised Credentials: A Risk for Your Business-Critical Cloud Apps

By Krishna Narayanaswamy, Chief Scientist, Netskope

8-percent-dlp-violationWe are excited to announce the release of the January Netskope Cloud Report  today. In it, we have our standard stuff – the latest cloud adoption numbers (this quarter, we report an average of 613 cloud apps per enterprise), as well as observed aggregate activities in our Active Platform, including which activities (such as “edit,” “share,” and “download”) constitute the highest number of policy violations and across what app categories.

Every quarter we focus more deploy on an area of cloud security, and this quarter we reveal early findings from research we have been conducting around compromised account credentials. We have noticed that a growing number of enterprise cloud users are logging into their cloud apps using login names and passwords that have been stolen as part of a data hack or exposure. Based on our research, we estimate that 15 percent of users have had their account credentials compromised.

Given that many people (as many as half, or even more in some reports) reuse their passwords for multiple accounts, and a high number of your enterprise users log into your popular cloud-based apps like Salesforce, Box, Dropbox, Concur, and WebEx, chances are your most business-critical apps are being accessed with compromised credentials. Even if you’re diligent about protecting those apps, you may not be able to detect the access.

There’s another related risk: While conscientious IT professionals have taken steps to protect their sanctioned corporate apps, many haven’t done anything to protect unsanctioned, departmental apps, some of which are highly used and important to the business. Based on our aggregated, anonymized data, we estimate that at least 13.5 percent of organizations’ apps are at the intersection of unsanctioned and business-critical. Those apps are usually not protected by single sign-on, nor is multi-factor authentication enforced in them, and they are at risk of being accessed by users with compromised credentials.

Read more about this risk in the Netskope Cloud Report, and learn what actions you can take to protect your apps on our blog.

10 Must-Haves from “Cloud Security for Dummies”

By Krishna Narayanaswamy, Chief Scientist, Netskope

Screen-Shot-2015-01-05-at-3.52.08-PM-e1420502308550We are excited to announce the availability of “Cloud Security for Dummies,” a book that my co-founders and fellow chief architects and I collaborated on based on our interactions with the most forward-thinking CIOs, CISOs, and cloud architects from around the globe and virtually every industry. In the book, we compile the best recommendations and advice from this group of experts.

The book is full of advice ranging from how to think about cloud compliance to implementing a cloud policy to getting users on board with cloud security. Below is a summary of our must-haves for ensuring a safe transition to the cloud.

  1. Discover apps. Discover the apps in your environment and assess their risk — both inherent and in the context of how they’re used.
  2. Segment apps. Segment your apps by whether they’re sanctioned (managed by IT) or unsanctioned (brought in by departments or by individual users).
  3. Secure access. Secure access to your sanctioned and ideally unsanctioned business apps, with single sign-on (SSO).
  4. Audit activities. Understand user activity and its context. Who’s downloading from HR apps? Who’s sharing content outside the company, and with whom?
  5. Understand content. Understand and classify sensitive content residing in, or traveling to or from, your cloud apps.
  6. Detect anomalies. Monitor cloud apps for anomalous activity that could signal compromised credentials, security threats, noncompliant behavior, data theft or exposure, and even malware.
  7. Enforce granular policies. Define granular policies that are enforceable in real-time, across both sanctioned and unsanctioned apps, regardless of whether users are on-network or remote, and whether in a web-based or native cloud app.
  8. Protect data in context. Have a data protection strategy. For highly sensitive content that can’t be in the cloud at all, define policies that prevent it from being uploaded to any cloud app. For the next tier of content that can reside in the cloud, apply the appropriate level of security policy. This may include encrypting data before it reaches the cloud and/or limiting sharing options based on device, instance, or location.
  9. Ensure compliance. Ensure regulatory compliance with continuous cloud monitoring, maintenance and review of cloud audit trails, remediation, and reporting.
  10. Coach users. Coach users both through conversations and in an automated way. Let them know when they’ve done something that’s out of compliance (ideally in real-time, as the action is occurring), whether you block them, let them report a false positive, or let them bypass the policy with a justification.

You can get your complimentary copy of the book here. We hope you find it useful as you consider your safe cloud enablement strategy.