How to Choose a Sandbox

April 24, 2017 | Leave a Comment

Grab a shovel and start digging through the details

By Mathias Wilder, Area Director and General Manager/EMEA Central, Zscaler

Businesses have become painfully aware that conventional approaches — virus signature scanning and URL filtering — are no longer sufficient in the fight against cyberthreats. This is in part because malware is constantly changing, generating new signatures with a frequency that far outpaces the updates of signature detection systems. In addition, malware today tends to be targeted to specific sectors, companies, or even individual members of a management team, and such targeted attacks are difficult to spot. It has become necessary to use state-of-the-art technology based on behavioral analysis, also known as the sandbox. This blog examines how a sandbox can increase security and it looks at what to consider when choosing a sandbox solution.

The sandbox as a playground against malware
Zero-day ransomware and new malware strains are spreading at a frightening pace. Due to the dynamic nature of the attacks, it is no longer possible to develop a signature for each new variant. In addition, signatures tend to be available only after malware has reached a critical mass — in other words, after an outbreak has occurred. As malware changes its face all the time, the code is likely to change before a new signature for any given type of malware can be developed, and the game starts from scratch. How can we protect ourselves against such polymorphous threats?

There is another trend that should influence your decision about the level of protection you need: malware targeted at individuals. It is designed to work covertly, making smart use of social engineering mechanisms that are difficult to identify as fake. It only take a moment for a targeted attack to drop the harmful payload — and the amount of time between system infection and access to information is getting shorter all the time.

What is needed is a quick remedy that does not rely on signatures alone. To detect today’s amorphous, malicious code, complex behavioural analysis is necessary, which in turn requires new security systems. The purpose of a sandbox is to analyse suspicious files in a protected environment before they can reach the user. The sandbox provides a safe space, where the code can be run without doing any harm to the user’s system.

The right choice to improve security
Today’s market appears crowded with providers offering various solutions. Some of them include virtualization technology (where an attack is triggered through what appears to be virtual system) or a simulated hardware solution (where the malware is offered a PC), through to solutions in which the entire network is mapped in the sandbox. However, malware developers have been hard at work, too, and a well-coded package can recognize whether a person is sitting in front of the PC, it can detect if it’s in a virtual environment in which case it can alter its behavior, and it can undermine the sandboxing measures by delaying activation of the malicious code after infection. So, what should companies look for when they want to enhance their security posture through behavioral analysis?

What to look for in a sandbox

  • The solution should cover all users and their devices, regardless of their location. Buyers should check whether mobile users are also covered by a solution.
  • The solution should work inline and not in a TAP mode. This is the only way one can identify threats and block them directly without having to create new rules through third-party devices such as firewalls.
  • First-file sandboxing is crucial to prevent an initial infection without an existing detection pattern.
  • It should include a patient-zero identification capability to detect an infection affecting a single user.
  • Smart malware often hides behind SSL traffic, so a sandbox solution should be able to examine SSL traffic. With this capability, it is also important to look at performance, because SSL scanning drains a system’s resources. With respect to traditional appliances, a multitude of new hardware is often required to enable SSL scanning — up to eight times more hardware, depending on the manufacturer.
  • In the case of a cloud sandbox, it should comply with relevant laws and regulations, such as the Federal Data Protection Act in Germany. It is important to ensure that the sandboxing is done within the EU, ideally in Germany. The strict German data protection regulations also benefit customers from other EU countries.
  • A sandbox is not a universal remedy, so it should, as an intelligent solution, be able to work with other security modules. For example, it is important to be able to stop the outbound traffic to a command-and-control (C&C) centre in the case of an infection. In turn, it should be possible to turn off the infected computer by tracing back the C&C communication.

Putting it all together
All these criteria can be covered by an efficient and highly integrated security platform, rather than individual hardware components (“point” appliances). One advantage of such a model is that you get almost instantly correlated logs from across the security modules on the platform without any manual interaction. If a sandbox is part of the platform, the interplay of various protection technologies through the automated correlation of data ensures faster and significantly higher protection. This is because it is no longer necessary to feed the SIEM system manually with logs from different manufacturers.

Platform models do not lose any information as they allow all security tools — such as proxy, URL filters, antivirus, APT protection, and other technologies — to communicate with one another. It eliminates the time-consuming evaluation of alerts, as the platform blocks unwanted data extraction automatically. A cloud-based sandbox together with a security platform is, therefore, an effective solution. It complements an existing security solution by adding behavioral analysis components to detect previously unknown malware and strengthens the overall security posture — without increasing operating costs.

Self-Driving Information Security

April 21, 2017 | Leave a Comment

By Jim Reavis, Co-founder and CEO, Cloud Security Alliance

The prospects of autonomous self-driving vehicles becoming a pervasive presence on our roadways seems more likely everyday. From the big automakers to Tesla to Google to Uber, a wide range of companies are investing a tremendous amount of money to create a world without carbon-based drivers. The motivation for a big payday abounds, but the hope is that this will be a huge boon to vehicle safety, and I believe it ultimately will be. As we have learned at hacker conferences, there are a lot of security concerns about self-driving cars that we need to solve, but that is not what I want to talk about here.

What I would like to do here is steal the term from the automotive industry and apply “Self Driving” to Information Security. What is Self-Driving Information Security? For me, this is an initiative to apply the ever growing power of computing to solve complex and fast changing information security problems dynamically and without human intervention. Do I believe we can eliminate humans from the information security industry? No, I don’t believe that is possible or desirable, and it certainly would make BlackHat a lot less fun. However, I think we need to rapidly take steps to push the envelope on where we can take the person out of the loop, simply because we are not going to have enough humans to go around and insert into every potential security problem space. In a world where we will soon have thousands of Internet connected devices for every person on Earth, it’s highly unlikely we will have enough information security professionals to go around to solve all of the resultant problems.

Automation is a very old idea that is present in every industry. In information technology, we seek to automate every repetitive task we can. But like in other industries, the explosion in compute power is causing us to explore automating ever more sophisticated tasks. It is no longer just assembly line robots, but advances in computing are taking on white collar jobs and in many cases doing a great job. Computers are diagnosing diseases more accurately than doctors. Computers are doing journalism and even taking on the legal profession.

Are you a skeptic in regards to computer encroachment on sophisticated and complex professions? One of the most seminal moments in computing history that impacted me was the chess contest between Garry Kasparov and IBM Deep Blue. Personally, I was rooting for the human until the bitter end. When Deep Blue ultimately defeated the world’s greatest chessmaster, I was in mourning for days. That was 20 years ago.

To be clear, Self-Driving Information Security will not be bereft of humans. Humans are the biggest part of information security today by any measure – clearly by the budgetary metric. I think we will continue to grow the overall number of people employed in the profession for the foreseeable future. The unpredictability of information security and its adversarial, logic-defying nature will require humans. But Self-Driving Information Security will gobble up the jobs we are doing today, and I am not quite sure what jobs we will be doing in the future. What I do know is, if we do not implement Self-Driving Information Security, we are going to drown in information and incidents.

What are some of the building blocks of Self-Driving Information Security? It is actually many things we are working on today, they just need to gain maturity:

DevSecOps. This idea of merging DevOps with Security Operations, enabled by cloud, is gaining in popularity with very diverse security teams. The ability to tear down and instantiate new computing systems, using “serverless” capabilities and applying some imagination is leading to automation of security process that can seem like magic to an old security guy like me.

Autonomics. The ability for computers be self-managing, self-healing, self-optimizing – self-EVERYTHING is important. A big part of how the Internet works today is through some levels of hierarchy and “command and control” systems. Clearly this model is going to break. I think about the apartment of the future with thousands of computers. Then I think about the bad guy that attacks the upstream link or servers. Or perhaps malware is injected into one of the apartment’s devices. In both cases, the nodes must not only be resilient and independent, but may need to collaborate and attack the infected device.

Blockchain. The distributed, immutable ledger technology that underpins Bitcoin is a favorite of VCs and the finance industry. I believe we are going to find a lot of applications for Bitcoin in information security. An authoritative, tamper-proof log of transactions which can be either public or private has fascinating implications. We can record any change in a very granular manner. I think about IT audit and having a record of all security control implementations, it can really change how that job is done.

Analytics. Data Science. The answers are in the data. If the data sets are large enough, if the quality is good enough and if the algorithms are well designed and speedy, we will find the security answers we are looking for. I believe our massive and inexpensive compute infrastructure is going to excel in finding the right answer to a new security problem

Artificial Intelligence. AI is certainly controversial, even trying to define it can cause fights. Many are terrified by AI and its potential threat to mankind. Some security solutions claim to use AI, others say that the current products are really employing machine learning. Closely related to analytics, having access to quality data is going to enable AI to make security decisions and take action before a human can blink.

In addition to all of these areas of focus, it is safe to assume that computing is going to get faster, cheaper and bigger at an ever-increasing pace. Quantum computing may be years away, but there are already serious efforts in government and industry to make a massive leap in computational speed. It’s also safe to assume that the bad guys will want to harness or exploit all of these trends for themselves.

The building blocks above will soon be assembled together into Self-Driving Information Security. It will be quite necessary for this to happen to manage our rapidly increasing compute universe. The jobs we know today will go away. I am convinced new jobs will replace them in greater numbers, but it may be messy. The paradox of automation is that humans will operate in a world with more layers of complex technical abstraction. We aren’t as intimately involved, but when we are needed, it is for more critical reasons.

At Cloud Security Alliance, we think it is important to be considering these trends now to be true to our mantra of “solving tomorrow’s problems today”. That’s why we have research in all of these areas happening in 2017. As always, our research is your research and we encourage you to join us.


There May Be a Shark Circling Your Data

April 17, 2017 | Leave a Comment

By Jacob Serpa, Product Marketing Manager, Bitglass

In today’s business environment, cybersecurity remains a topic of great importance. As more companies migrate to the cloud, security concerns continue to evolve. While BYOD (bring your own device) affords employees more flexibility as they work from a multitude of devices, it also exposes data to nefarious parties in new ways. In the face of increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks, companies must learn and adapt or suffer the consequences.

In its latest cybersecurity report, “Threats Below the Surface,” Bitglass discusses the results of its survey of over 3,000 IT professionals. With the help of the CyberEdge Group and the Information Security Community, Bitglass was able to uncover the threats, priorities, and capabilities seen as most relevant by these professionals. The fact that the last year has seen 87% of organizations become victims of cyber attacks (and that a third of those organizations were hacked over five times) lends credence to cybersecurity concerns.

Despite the importance of maintaining visibility into data usage, relatively few firms are doing it well. While over 60% of companies monitor their desktops, laptops, and networks for security threats, the percentage drops to 36% for mobile devices and 24% for SaaS and IaaS applications. As organizations (inevitably) adopt BYOD and public cloud apps for increased productivity, they should proactively monitor for the corresponding security risks. However, when the survey respondents were asked about their firms’ current security postures, they indicated that they were primarily concerned about vulnerability with respect to mobile devices. Other prominent concerns included malware, privacy, and data leakage.

While most companies plan to increase their security budgets for next year, they should already be taking steps to ensure cybersecurity systems that consider contemporary tools like the cloud and BYOD. In particular, firms should be utilizing end-to-end solutions that secure data on devices, in transit, and at-rest in the cloud, while addressing concerns about topics like privacy.

More and more, conscientious companies are turning to CASBs (Cloud Access Security Brokers) and UEBA (user and entity behavior analytics) for modern-day cybersecurity. CASBs allow for discovering shadow IT apps, ensuring regulatory compliance in the cloud, preventing unwanted data disclosures, and more. With UEBA, a core component of CASBs, enterprises can detect account hijacking, data exfiltration, and other threats. CASBs and UEBA give companies a great deal of visibility and control over their data – a huge help in keeping an eye on the threats below the surface.

The Cure for Infectious Malware

April 10, 2017 | Leave a Comment

By Chantelle Patel, Marketing Manager, Bitglass

Organizations have seen rapid growth in cloud adoption over the last few years which in turn have introduced new threats and increased the risk of data leakage. Among the most prominent threats are malware and ransomware – long a problem on endpoints. With the advent of public cloud apps, interconnected and widely used, malware and ransomware have the potential to touch more data than ever before.

Unfortunately, despite the risk to data in the cloud, few providers offer any malware protection whatsoever. Those that do offer limited signature-based threat protection, based on solutions from IPS/IDS vendors, can only identify known threats. The most dangerous threats are not these known pieces of malware, but the unknown, zero-day threats that can go undetected, resulting in weeks or months of data exfiltration unbeknownst to IT.

Some solutions offer threat protection that is reactive rather than proactive, and what little proactive protection they provide is ineffective when end-users need instant access to data in the cloud or expect instant upload of a file. This gets at a critical difference between traditional signature-based malware and next-generation AI-based malware. Traditional tools rely on dynamic analysis, executing a file in a sandbox before taking action. Next-generation tools from companies like Cylance leverage static analysis, basing a risk decision on hundreds of characteristics associated with a file.

Once malware makes its way into a cloud app, there’s little an organization can do to stop its spread. These malicious files are often downloaded to endpoints, make their way to connected apps, and are shared across the organization. The only way to protect against these threats is to prevent their spread.

With Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), a core component of any complete Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) solution, organizations can protect the cloud from malware before it hits the app, assess the risk of any one file, and stop malicious attacks in their tracks.

Why You Need a CASB for GDPR Compliance

April 4, 2017 | Leave a Comment

By Rich Campagna, Senior Vice President/Products & Marketing, Bitglass

With enforcement of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is just over a year away in May, 2018, your planning efforts should already be well underway. Adoption of cloud applications across the EU continues at a rapid clip, and the global nature of leading cloud applications means that protecting personal data and achieving data residency can be difficult to achieve.

With mandatory breach notifications and very steep fines (4% of annual revenues), the cost of non-compliance is high. On the other hand, it’s nearly impossible to stop the move to cloud in most organizations, so that’s not an option either. Fortunately, you still have time to arm your organization with the key to combining cloud adoption and GDPR compliance: cloud access security broker (CASB). Let’s take a look at some of the areas where a CASB can help:

  • Identifying personal data – the EU GDPR is primarily concerned with the protection of any data that can be used to identify a person (name, address, email, driver’s license number, and much, much more). The first thing that you need to do in order to protect that data is to identify where it is. CASBs can scan across both data-in-transit and data-at-rest for a wide range of cloud-delivered apps (SaaS, IaaS, and custom applications). Any CASB you choose should have a library of pre-built identifiers that can be used to scan for names, phone numbers, addresses, national identity and driver’s license numbers, health record information, bank account numbers, and more.
  • Controlling the flow of personal data – Once you’ve identified where sensitive data resides, you want to control where it can go. CASBs include a range of policy options that allow you to do things like geofence personal information, control access from unmanaged/unprotected devices, control external sharing, and encrypt data upon download. All of these options can help mitigate the risk of non-compliance.
  • Maintaining data residency and sovereignty – Major cloud applications often have global architectures which makes it difficult, it not impossible, to keep data within a given country or region. Fortunately, the GDPR allows for the use of encryption to meet GDPR requirements, if the cloud provider transfers data outside of the EU. Seek out a CASB that offers the killer app for GDPR – full-strength cloud encryption – across both unstructured (file) and structured (field) data.
    • Word of caution: some cloud application vendors offer their own “built-in” or “platform” encryption. With these schemes, the cloud provider has access to the keys and, therefore, the data as well. This is a GDPR gray area and may leave you, the data controller, on the hook for those hefty fines and mandatory notifications.
  • Monitor Risky Activity – A CASB can give you visibility into everything that’s happening with your users and your data across protected cloud applications. User Behavior Analytics and alerting capabilities let you know when risky activity is happening. This might mean reporting on indicators of breach, credential compromise, personal data access from outside the EU, or more. This critical visibility will allow you to identify and stop activities that might otherwise leave you staring down a fine of 4% of revenues (and a corresponding loss of your job).
  • Identify Shadow IT – simply put, GDPR and Shadow IT are a volatile and risky mix. There’s simply no feasible way to get the controls and visibility needed over applications that your organization has no ability to control. A CASB can give you much needed visibility into Shadow IT applications, and their corresponding risk, but your only option when faced with GDPR is get out of the shadows – either sanction and protect shadow IT through a CASB, or block unsanctioned apps altogether.

These CASB controls can really jumpstart a successful GDPR program across your organization, leaving you free to consider some of the many other GDPR-related controls and policies you’ll need to put in place over the next 12 months, including appointing a Data Protection Officer, figuring out how to implement “right to be forgotten,” and reevaluating licensing terms and data ownership across your many cloud application vendors.

CASB Is Eating the IDaaS Market

March 31, 2017 | Leave a Comment

By Rich Campagna, Senior Vice President/Products & Marketing, Bitglass

In the past 6-9 months, I’ve noticed a trend amongst Bitglass customers where more and more of them are opting to use the identity capabilities built into our  Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) in lieu of a dedicated Identity as a Service (IDaaS) product. As CASB identity functionality has evolved, there is less need for a separate, standalone product in this space and we are seeing the beginnings of CASBs eating the IDaaS market.

A few years back, Bitglass’ initial identity capabilities consisted solely of our SAML proxy, which ensures that even if a user goes direct to a cloud application from an unmanaged device and on a public network, they are transparently redirected into Bitglass’ proxies – without agents!

From there, customer demand lead us to build Active Directory synchronization capability for group and user management, authentication directly against AD, and native multifactor authentication. Next came SCIM support and the ability to provide SSO not only for sanctioned/protected cloud applications, but any application.

So what’s left? If you look at Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Identity and Access Management as a Service, Worldwide*, Greg Kreizmann and Neil Wynne break IDaaS capabilities into three categories:

  • Identity Governance and Administration – “At a minimum, the vendor’s service is able to automate synchronization (adds, changes and deletions) of identities held by the service or obtained from customers’ identity repositories to target applications and other repositories. The vendor also must provide a way for customers’ administrators to manage identities directly through an IDaaS administrative interface, and allow users to reset their passwords. In addition, vendors may offer deeper functionality, such as supporting identity life cycle processes, automated provisioning of accounts among heterogeneous systems, access requests (including self-service), and governance over user access to critical systems via workflows for policy enforcement, as well as for access certification processes. Additional capabilities may include role management and access certification.”
  • Access – “Access includes user authentication, single sign-on (SSO) and authorization enforcement. At a minimum, the vendor provides authentication and SSO to target applications using web proxies and federation standards. Vendors also may offer ways to vault and replay passwords to get to SSO when federation standards are not supported by the applications. Most vendors offer additional authentication methods — their own or through integration with third-party authentication products.”
  • Identity log monitoring and reporting – “The vendor logs IGA and access events, makes the log data available to customers for their own analysis, and provides customers with a reporting capability to answer the questions, ‘Who has been granted access to which target systems and when?’ and ‘Who has accessed those target systems and when?’”

Check, check, and check! Not only do leading CASBs offer these capabilities as part of their cloud data protection suites, in some cases, they go quite a bit farther. Take logging and reporting for example. An IDaaS product sees login and logout events, but nothing that happens during the session. CASBs can log and report on every single transaction – login, logout and everything in between.

Another example is multifactor authentication. Whereas an IDaaS can trigger MFA at the beginning of a session due to a suspicious context, a CASB can trigger MFA at any time – such as mid-session if a user starts to exhibit risk behaviors.

Since these capabilities have evolved as part of CASBs, which offer comprehensive data protection capabilities for cloud applications, I expect that 2017 will be a year with a lot more enterprises considering CASB platforms for both cloud identity and cloud data protection.

*Magic Quadrant for Identity and Access Management as a Service, Worldwide, Greg Kreizmann and Neil Wynne, 06 June 2016

Brexit or Bust: What Does It Mean for Data?

March 23, 2017 | Leave a Comment

By Nic Scott, Managing Director/UK, Code 42

What’s the latest on Brexit? When the UK government triggers Article 50, it will signal the start of the official two-year countdown until the UK leaves the European Union. According to UK Prime Minister Theresa May, this is still on track to happen at some point in March.

While there are still many unknowns in regards to geopolitical policies and legislation that will be created, annulled, or abolished post-Brexit, the UK government has given away one handy hint when it comes to the now-infamous General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Post-Brexit, the UK will be mirroring data protection regulations to that which exists in Europe.

This means that from May 2018, when the UK is still an EU member, the GDPR will be applicable to UK businesses. And, even when the UK exits the EU in 2019, an identical version of the GDPR will also be enforced.

Needless to say, this isn’t good news for UK organizations that have been burying their heads in the sand, hoping that this pesky EU legislation will just go away post-Brexit. Unfortunately, these rules aren’t going anywhere. It’s time for companies to wake up to the consequence of data negligence regarding the GDPR. This isn’t just infosecurity providers scaremongering for sales, and it’s not a ‘potential’ occurrence like the Y2K bug, this is actually happening.

Get your ducks in a row, or get fined
Should a sensitive data breach occur under the GDPR, the European Data Protection Board (or likely the Information Commissioner’s Office, post-Brexit) will evaluate whether the affected company has been negligent in its data protection operations and the level of compensation a company must pay affected parties—which can reach €20m or a fine of up to four percent of its global turnover. Not a pretty thought for the C-suite, which by nature is tasked with mitigating risk.

Concerningly, according to Code42’s 2016 Datastrophe Study, in which over 400 UK IT decision makers (ITDMs) were surveyed, 50 percent of them acknowledged that the security measures they have in place currently will not be enough to meet GDPR standards.

How to become compliant
The first step is for an organization to know what kind of data falls under GDPR protection, where it is stored, and for how long it should be kept. Moreover, what is the best way to secure it, to what extent that data should be backed up, and how to prevent any leaks from the inside of the company. Simple, right?

The implementation of the right endpoint security stack is vital—one that takes into consideration first-line defense, such as intrusion detection systems and antivirus solutions, right down to last line defense, to easily remediate and recover should a breach occur. The right solution is an important advantage given the number of people and devices accessing potentially sensitive corporate information.

Also, enterprises should create internal policies that promote accessibility and flexibility with approved solutions, without locking the enterprise down to the point of stifling productivity. Employees play a big role regarding the sanctity of corporate information. That is why it is vital to train and educate your staff about possible intrusions, how they can secure data themselves, and how to avoid being tricked into leaking sensitive information.

Taking these precautions will allow an organization to gain control of its own information and ensure that the CIO’s overall focus is on increasing profit and expanding technological reach, rather than worrying about the safety of the zeroes and ones.

Odds Are in Quantum Encryption’s Favor

March 22, 2017 | Leave a Comment

By Jane Melia, Vice President of Strategic Business Development , QuintessenceLabs and Co-chair, CSA Quantum-safe Security Working Group

Image credit: Jeff Kubina

No kinds of organizations have tighter security than the average casino. After all, the house always wins, and it wants to keep those winnings. A recent Wired article, however, explains how a team of Russian hackers managed to beat a lot of casinos worldwide. They did so by exploiting inherent flaws in the pseudo-random number generators (PRNG) that are integral parts of randomizing every spin of a slot machine. Even if you don’t care about wealthy casino bosses losing money, you still need to be concerned about the drawbacks to using PRNGs because slots aren’t the only things that are vulnerable. Most of the world’s encryption is also based on pseudo-random numbers.

What’s in a Name?
Before going into detail about how the heists were carried out, let’s talk about PRNGs and why pseudo should be a no-no for slot machines and, more importantly, cybersecurity. As the prefix “pseudo” indicates, the numbers generated are not truly random. PRNGs are programs that start with a base number known as a seed. The seed gets tumbled together with other inputs such as another algorithm and a random-ish physical component such as the timing of the strokes on a user’s keyboard. Both humans and computers are really bad at random so if someone is able to measure the pattern of your keystrokes and/or break one of the algorithms used, they can reverse engineer the other inputs and predict the next numbers in the “random” sequence. Find the pattern, break the code and the jackpot (or encrypted data) is yours.

One- and Two-Armed Bandits
In the case of the Russian casino swindlers, they were given a head start by Vladamir Putin who had gambling outlawed in 2009. This meant a lot of slot machines were available on the cheap. Take apart a few machines, figure out how the PRNGs work and you’re nearly there. Since the inputs for slot machine PRNGs change based on the time of day, the hackers, in this case, had to do more work on-site at the casinos. The leg man would set himself up in front of a machine and video a dozen or more spins using his smartphone. The video would be streamed live to his compatriots in St. Petersburg who would analyze the video and use what they knew about the machine’s innards to predict its pattern. Then they would send a list of timing markers that caused the phone to vibrate a split-second before a winning combination comes up, signaling casino guy to hit the spin button. It didn’t work every time but it was a whole lot more effective than chance – somewhere around $250K per week more effective.

To make things worse, not only did the engineered cheat allow a shadowy St. Petersburg group to snatch millions of dollars, the problem they exploited is a fundamental part of PRNGs so casinos are still vulnerable to this kind of fraud. That brings us back to cybersecurity issues. As shown in the casino example, it takes a lot of work to figure out the patterns produced by a PRNG. Most hackers don’t have two dozen guys with a supercomputer in St. Petersburg to help. Soon, however, they will all have something better – at least if your goal is to defeat the PRNGs and break an encryption.

The Future is Yesterday
Any data that needs to be kept secret and safe over time is already at risk of being breached. Quantum computers exponentially more powerful than those we use today are already being developed. Current predictions are that quantum computers will be fully realized in the next five to ten years, but it could be even less than that. No PRNG will be able to stand up to the brute force of quantum computers. All too soon, only a true random number generator (RNG) will do.

The only way to generate true random numbers is by using the natural world (i.e. something not made by humans). Quantum encryption, for instance, uses the fully entropic (or completely random) nature of the quantum world to generate true random numbers that are the basis for the strongest possible encryption keys. Quantum key generation is designed to take on the coming quantum computing storm and keep medical records, tax returns, classified government documents, corporate secrets (and anything else that needs to stay under wraps after 2020 safe). Bet on it.

Observations on CSA Summit at RSA – Part 1

March 15, 2017 | Leave a Comment

By Katie Lewin, Federal Director, Cloud Security Alliance

CSA Summit at RSA was a day-long session on Securing the Converged Cloud organized around presentations and panels from leading vendors such as Centrify, Veracode, Microsoft, and Netskope, as well as a talk on “Effective Cybersecurity” by Ret. Gen. Keith Alexander and a fireside chat with Robert Herjavec of “Shark Tank” fame. (Session recordings from the CSA Summit are now available.)

Several themes emerged over the course of the day of presentations, panels and fireside chats:

  • The cloud is still the most secure environment for data and acceptance of cloud as a secure environment for data storage is at the tipping point of acceptance by most IT users. In one survey cited, half of the respondents said that the cloud was more secure than on-premises.
  • Identity continues to be important – the message of many of the speakers is that there are too many passwords and too many special privileges.
  • Emphasis should be placed on data protection rather than device protection. Security is moving to Modern Data Controls – from device and identity security to data protection and controls. Rights management and data classification are the key indicators in data control.
  • Security must move to a process that authenticates first and then connects as opposed to the current emphasis on connect and then authenticate.

Presentation slides will be available on the CSA web site.

Many speakers asserted that today’s security is not secure. Evidence of this includes breaches at Yahoo, USG Office of Personnel Management, 2016 Presidential election. Network perimeters are fading with cloud use, mobile devices, IoT devices and the mobile work force. Therefore, security in the age of access must focus on passwords.

Too many passwords and privileged users require a paradigm shift to identity management.

There is evidence that focusing on identity reduces the number of beaches. Businesses must take steps to implement identity management, including:

  • Establish Identity assurance across the IT environment;
  • Consolidate identities through single sign-on and then layer on multi-factor identification;
  • Limit lateral movement – move to automated provisioning – identify who is still on staff and what they can access;
  • Move to approval workflow for access requests; and
  • Audit privilege access.

Speakers emphasized that transition to the cloud can be revolutionary rather than evolutionary. There were several real-life examples of a revolutionary transition. One large company wanted to eliminate its Intranet and rely solely on the Internet. The benefits of this approach included single sign-on, reduced complexity, establishment of standards, improved security and cost efficiency. In addition, the company did not have to secure and maintain network devices on its premises. In order to effect this transition, the company determined that they needed to concentrate on securing their data assets and not their appliances. The approach they took was to establish a strict policy-based access structure combined with micro-segmentation. This approach was successful. The Internet gives users access similar to private transactions; eliminates choke points of routing all transaction to a single data center. They were also able to optimize data center traffic using a hybrid cloud approach.

One of the highlights of the day was a speech from Ret. Gen. Keith Alexander on “Strategy of Effective Cybersecurity.” He began by outlining some of the current trends in cyber world:

  • Technology is rapidly changing, and data available is increasing exponentially; but this information becomes outdated in 2 -3 year horizon.
  • Advanced technology is playing a more important role in our lives – for example IBM’s Watson is now working on formulating chemo for brain cancer patients.
  • Moving to the cloud is good – resulting in better security and cost savings especially for small and mid-size businesses.

However, there are threats that must be addressed in this environment. Cyber skills are now part of a nation’s power in the world. There are many examples of this, including cyber attacks from nation states aimed at other states. These attacks are evolving from disruptive to destructive.

What is the path forward to meet these threats? Entities must share meta data on attacks and intrusion attempts to have the information to formulate defensive strategies. There should also be Software as Service defensive tools on the cloud available for entities to share. These tools and strategies can be developed and implemented while also protecting civil liberties and privacy.

Product Announcement from AWS – Regulatory Product Mapping Tool
This tool maps security control frameworks to reveal overlap and gaps between various security methodologies. Currently, the product includes FedRAMP controls and the AWS set of controls. Other control sets will be added. This product could be useful in determining how long and how much it could cost a system to obtain an Authority to Operate from a Federal agency. Click for more information on this tool.



Preparing for the Quantum Future: Setting Global Security Standards to Make Us Quantum-Safe

March 13, 2017 | Leave a Comment

By Frank Guanco, Quantum-Safe Security Working Group, Cloud Security Alliance

Recently there has been an increase in the perceived threat of the quantum computer to modern cryptographic standards in widespread use. During the last year, security agencies such as the United States Government National Security Agency (NSA) and the United Kingdom’s Communications Electronics Security Group (CESG) have called for a move to a set of quantum-safe cryptographic standards. The consensus is that today’s cyber security solutions needs to be retooled sooner rather than later, and the transition to quantum-safe security must begin now. The arrival date for a practical quantum computer is still up for debate, however, most experts believe we will see a quantum computer capable of breaking current public key cryptosystems within five to 15 years.

Recently the Quantum-Safe Security Working Group from the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA), released its ‘Applied Quantum-Safe Security’ paper, designed to provide individuals in the security industry and related fields with applicable knowledge regarding the quantum computer and its influence on cyber security. The white paper discusses how cryptographic tools must be adapted to fit specific types of data and serves as a call-to-arms for the available protection options for when the quantum computer arrives.

Digital and physical security
Computer security has primarily focused on digital security methods, however, physical security of data is also critical. Algorithms provide authentication and encryption for online communications and security of a cryptographic scheme is based on mathematics and resilience against large computing power to ensure digital security. Consider this physical security example – security breaches impacting governments and large organizations are often linked to insiders, capable of physical access not afforded the outside world. This breach occurs despite the fact that digital avenues may have been closed and intensive security protocols employed. Cryptographic keys are not only abstract random strings, but also real physical objects that should be stored in secured physical appliances. To be more quantum-safe, new tools must include all physical and mathematical security systems, each with its own practical application domain.

Impact of Cloud Computing
The ongoing move toward the cloud for all our IT needs greatly increases the reliance on data networks. Data is stored in huge data centers, and transferred between them at ever-increasing rates. The cloud model—with its associated storage and network requirements—enables a stronger and more reliable IT infrastructure. This heavily networked model also opens some serious new post-quantum threat vectors, with the most serious being a “data-vaulting” or harvesting attack where an attacker stores communications between the client and the cloud so that data can be decrypted in the future when general purpose quantum computers are available.  What we need to keep top of mind is that data stored today may already be compromised by future quantum computers, especially if the data is being monitored and stored.

Data “at rest” in enormous cloud data centers is also at risk since quantum computers will effectively reduce the keys protecting that data to half of their original strength. Additionally, post-quantum attack vectors will compromise the key management systems that generate, distribute and protect the keys needed to secure that data. Any connections and links between these large data centers must have the highest levels of protection possible. The need for quantum-safe cybersecurity is greatly compounded in a cloud-based IT environment.

As we move towards a world of quantum computers, organizations need to take the knowledge outlined in the ‘Applied Quantum-Safe Security’ paper and assess their own quantum-safe needs. Not every organization will require the same security measures and it takes time to change an infrastructure. The best way to prepare is to follow what is going on with the development of the quantum computer and its security solutions.

Since the cloud relies heavily on secure communications, quantum safety is a critical issue for the CSA. Enterprises will only use cloud services if they believe that their data is safe, both in the cloud provider servers and in transit. Quantum-safe security is a true requirement for further expansion of the cloud. The CSA encourages industry leaders to start thinking and talking about quantum safety. Quantum-related technology is evolving very quickly every day, both on the attack side and the defend side. Organizations should think about adopting some low-risk solutions now to improve infrastructure.

Cyber security technology never has and never will be a ‘one size fits all’.  There is no one universal solution that would provide the perfect security against all possible threats. What we have learned, however, is that we must prepare ourselves for emerging technology, especially when we know it’s coming. The key to quantum computer protection is the use of adaptable cryptographic tools. These tools must be tailored to fit specific types of data and specific applications. To download a copy of the full white paper, please visit here.