CyberSecurity Awareness Month: CyberSecurity Tips for Road Warriors

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Security Tips for Road Warriors

A couple months ago one of our product evangelists reached out to me and asked how to better protect himself and his personal information in his travels.  As he settled into a hotel and a day later saw it in a headline as one of the latest exposed to credit card theft he felt a bit exposed.  I would have loved to tell him some magical tips that would 100% safeguard him from that day forward, but in short, you cannot prevent it.  There is no way to know who the next breach target it or when the breach could have been occurring.  The only guarantee you have is that another breach will occur and odds you will have used your card there at some point.  You can, however, reduce the impact when any of your information does get nabbed.  Now, you can go to extremes.  Cancel all credit cards, just use cash, close all of your social media and online accounts of all kinds, but nobody wants to live that way either.  The key is balancing the risks.  I talked to many road warriors within our own company and we have some tips and tricks that can help you out.  Our road warriors range from my light 16-20 weeks or so of travel per year to Simon, Doug and Rob who spend more than 50% of their year on the road and take us to all parts of the globe.  Here are some of the tricks we use to safeguard ourselves and to mitigate the impact if our information becomes exposed.

Phil Richards, Chief Security Officer:

I recommend reporting your credit card as stolen/lost/missing to the credit card issuing company at least annually.  This allows you to receive a new credit card number, and invalidates the old one. Many hotel chains and retailers that have had credit card info breaches. For the road warrior, it is highly likely that your card is among them.  By changing the CC number, the stolen information is useless and cannot harm you.

Rob Juncker, VP of Engineering:  

I never go anywhere without my HooToo.  It’s a wall charger with 2 USB ports, an Ethernet port, a fully portable charger (so it’s like a power brick) and embedded router.  The best part about this device is it has full router capabilities.  I have it setup so my computer always connects to it, and then I bridge the hotel Wifi to my personally secure wifi, or use the Ethernet port to plug into the hotel jack.  – I have it set by default to disable all inbound and just allow outbound.

Doug Knight, VP of Systems Management:

For the record, I told Rob about the HooToo, but since he beat me to it here is a tip for additional layers of security and anonymity if your travels take you to countries where you need some extra protection and ability to bypass some levels of content filtering. I subscribe to a VPN service called Private Internet Access.  I setup a L2TP and then run their default client on top of that.  The IPSEC client gives me encryption and some anonymizing and the L2 VPN even allows me to get thru (pretty reliably) the “Great Firewall of China” to reach content that may otherwise be blocked. For the server setting in the L2TP VPN, it’s best to enter the IP address for the server locale you wish to access instead of the DNS name. To obtain an IP address for this purpose, you can ping it or you can go to http://www.ping.eu/ping and enter the server name to be able to get IPs for the server you would like. Do this before you leave the country.

Simon Townsend, Chief Technologist:

I don’t just evangelize about the great security solutions we have at AppSense.  I use them regularly.  I run as a standard user on my Windows machine and have a local admin account that is used only for installation and initial setup.  I run AppSense Application Manager on my system and by default cannot install or run anything that I download under the context of my own LANDESK account.  If I need to install something locally I use RunAs or AppSense self-elevation to give myself temporary permission to perform those actions.  If I need to do something that is only going to be temporary I will bring up a VM snapshot that is NAT’d.  This provides a Deep Freeze style solution that I can revert easily and separates the task I am performing from local data as it would not be exposed to the VM.

Chris Goettl, Senior Product Manager:

You never know what is observing traffic on public wifi or if the connection you are on has been compromised.  Early in my career I connected to a hotel wifi and their router had been compromised.  My Gmail session was hijacked by a man in the middle attack and within a few hours suspicious email began flooding forth from my account.  Needless to say I changed my password, enabled two factor authentication (also highly recommended) and became infinitely more paranoid during my travels.  Now wherever I go, after connecting to the hotel wifi I immediately connect to the corporate VPN before connecting to email or opening my browser.  The VPN tunnel provides an additional layer of encrypted protection from prying eyes.  I have also just ordered a HooToo and will be adding that to my travel defenses.

 

The CSO Perspective: On the Upcoming Microsoft Service Model Change

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The CSO Perspective: What Does the Microsoft Servicing Change Mean?

October is CyberSecurity Awareness month. It’s also the month that Microsoft will implement the new servicing model to pre-Windows 10 systems. Yes, that’s correct. Windows 7, 8.1, Server 2008 R2, 2012, and 2012 R2 will all be moving to an update servicing model similar to Windows 10. Microsoft first announced this change in June and described it as follows:

  • Internet Explorer and Operating System updates will be packaged in two ways.
    • Security Bundle—All OS and IE (Security only) updates for the month will be bundled in a single update. This is not cumulative: the November Security bundle would not include the October Security updates.
    • Cumulative Update—All OS and IE updates for the month for both security and non-security are included in a cumulative rollup each month. The November rollup would include the updates from the October cumulative update.
  • .NET Framework will be a separate Cumulative Rollup. This update will be a single package no matter how many .NET versions are currently installed on a system. The installer will detect and update the installed versions. It will NOT install net new versions.
  • Adobe Flash for IE will be a separate update.
  • Office, SharePoint, Exchange, SQL, and other products will still be separate updates each month.

I’ve had questions from customers, prospects, writers, vendors, and partners about the real impact of this. I’ve posted my thoughts, but today I thought we would catch up with LANDESK CSO Phil Richards and get his.

Chris: Phil, thanks for taking the time to talk about how you see this change and the improvements and challenges we’ll face in the future.

Phil: Thanks, Chris. This is an interesting development from Microsoft that has potential security improvements, and potential issues, depending on how we, the consumers, respond.

Chris: Phil, Microsoft’s change was prefaced with a message of “You asked for it, we delivered.” They didn’t really say what we “Microsoft customers” asked for. So, based on the changes, what was it you think we asked for?

Phil: Enterprise-level patching is far more complex than patching your personal computer at home. There are three main improvements customers are looking for over today’s patching processes: simplification, quality, and security. I think a good portion of the consumers are looking for a simplified patching experience. The complexity of patching—understanding precedence requirements, identifying installed components that require patching, and anticipating future patch needs—makes the patching experience somewhat painful, error prone, and manually intensive for IT professionals. Unfortunately, this is a double-edged sword: when Microsoft bundles the patches, making the customer interface more simplistic, they increase internal complexity of the patch package. he bundled patches must respond correctly to more configuration permutations. While many customers don’t like the complexity associated with multiple patches, I believe they will be unable to support patch bundles across the entire set of systems that require patching. When an IT department has a particular server that needs special handling because of software that will not work with a specific patch, it’s faced with the very real challenge of not applying the entire patch bundle on that system. Over time, we will see many systems that are not able to take patches at all, lowering the security readiness of the enterprise.

Customers are also asking that Microsoft improve the quality of the patches. But increasing the complexity of the patch package by bundling patches raises quality of the Microsoft package at the cost of adversely impacting other sensitive applications on the system.
Finally, customers also need improved security from their patches. With this new patching delivery method, updates are more frequent and potentially more comprehensive. Unfortunately, security updates often create new security vulnerabilities as quickly as they patch old ones. They are, after all, software. While this happens much more frequently with other providers, it has occurred with Microsoft patches. Another security issue has to do with the volume of patches and the possibility of missing one or more them in your environment. By bundling the patches and providing a cumulative update, IT professionals have the ability to make sure their servers are up to date. Again, the downside is that if I am unable to patch a particular server because of one component, the server remains vulnerable to all threats in the whole patch package.

Chris: Seems like, even with Microsoft’s good intentions, there could be challenges. Digging deeper into some of your points, let me throw a hypothetical situation at you and see how you’d handle it. Let’s say you have a legacy application in your environment that’s critical to your business and very sensitive to patching. You know that each month the security updates need to be tested and often result in one or two OS updates you have to mark as exceptions because they conflict with this application.

If we look at September’s updates and apply the details Microsoft described, the 14 bulletins become 4. The largest is for IE and OS updates. It rolls 10 bulletins and 31 vulnerabilities into a single bulletin. There is another for Office, one for .NET, and one for Flash Player for IE. One of those OS bulletins for September is for the Windows Graphic Components. Under the old model it’s bulletin MS16-106, which resolved 5 vulnerabilities. In this case it will be in the bulletin that includes 31 vulnerabilities, including a Zero Day that was resolved in IE. This GDI change breaks the legacy application and will cause a major disruption to the business. You have to choose to make an exception or break the application and wait for the vendor to fix it. What would you choose to do?

Phil: If I choose to run the critical business application and keep my business afloat, I have to choose not to install multiple patches, which poses a very real threat to my business. If I choose to patch, I have to stop running the application, which poses a very real threat to my business. To address this issue, I’d try to get the vendor of the application to make modifications to support the Microsoft patch. I’d also look at other technologies that will allow me to further isolate the offending application, so I can patch the operating system, or apply network configuration changes to decrease the attack surface of the server. Major technologies in this space include containerization to isolate the application or web application firewalls to decrease the attack surface. While there are workarounds to patching issues, these require heavy lifting by an already overburdened IT organization. These workarounds aren’t efficient and will increase complexity of the environment overall—which is exactly what Microsoft is trying to avoid in the first place.

Chris: Let’s take this scenario one step further. The legacy application is from a vendor that’s no longer in business, so there’s no fix forthcoming. This leaves you with a known exploit for IE exposed in your environment, which is unacceptable. What steps would you take to protect the systems that require this application?

Phil: At this point, the best that can be done is application isolation through containerization and network isolation through a combination of segmentation, firewalls, and web application firewalls. The amount of work involved in this one-off solution is significant, and it’s brittle. I believe this scenario will happen multiple times for customers that have special apps not supported by vendors that are running significant portions of the business. Once the workaround solutions are in place, there is no incentive to fix the underlying problem. It just becomes more walled off, creates higher technical debt, and because of the brittleness of the solution, remains a high risk area of the infrastructure. The problem also compounds. Since the patches need to be cumulative in nature, there is the possibility that by skipping the patch bundle for October, you might not be able to take patches in the future, which increases the network configuration pressure, increases the brittleness of your workaround, and makes it all the more difficult to extricate your business app from the vicious cycle.

Chris: Great feedback, Phil. Thanks again for your time and recommendations. It appears that we should all expect some changes in the near future and some hard questions may come up, but I think you have provided some great takeaways from this discussion.

  • Microsoft’s change, while well intentioned, will impact many companies and could lead to some hard decisions.
  • Application compatibility is going to be the most significant of these changes. Most companies know what products are sensitive to updates already, so it may not be a bad idea to reach out to those vendors in advance and start asking if they understand the changes coming and potential ramifications.
  • While there may be some hard decisions in the future, with planning and other security measures the problems can be overcome.

As always the team here will be keeping a close eye on the situation. As we near October Patch Tuesday we will have more details to share. Make sure to sign up for the October Patch Tuesday Webinar; we plan to cover the new servicing model changes in detail once we see the first month of the new model in operation. www.shavlik.com/Patch-Tuesday

Shavlik Security Advisory: Insufficient Patch Management Could Lead to Attacks From More Than Just Hackers

Two months ago, Shavlik released a security advisory alerting our customer community to the availability of off-the-shelf, exploit kits that enable less sophisticated hackers to mimic a Target-like attack.

In that advisory, Rob Juncker, Vice President of R&D for Shavlik, accurately predicted the availability of these exploit kits would lead to the following.

  • More companies will be coming forward to report breaches.
  • The scope of these breaches will go beyond retailers to impact all types of business that have valuable and private information.

Earlier this month, the game changed again, but this time the threat doesn’t come from hackers alone; it’s coming from the court room, the halls of government, and maybe even from your own employees. For the first time we are seeing companies being held legally and financially responsible for security breaches that occurred due to insufficient and/or negligent security practices.

Today, Shavlik is issuing another security advisory to draw your attention to three landmark cases that made headlines earlier this month.

 

$150K HIPAA Fine for Unpatched Software  

Anchorage Community Health Services was fined $150,000 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights (OCR) for “failure to apply software patches [that] contributed to a 2012 malware-related breach affecting more than 2,700 individuals,” according to GovInfoSecurity.

This incident is the first where a company has been held liable by OCR for failing to patch software, and now a precedent has been set, making disciplined patch management a critical part of HIPAA compliance.

“Successful HIPAA compliance requires a common sense approach to assessing and addressing the risks to ePHI on a regular basis. This includes reviewing systems for unpatched vulnerabilities,” OCR Director Jocelyn Samuels said to GovInfoSecurity.

 

Target Ruling Raises Stakes for Cybersecurity Vigilance 

U.S. District Court in Minnesota denied Target Corporation’s motion to have litigation dismissed that has been filed by financial institutions who suffered losses as a result of Target’s 2013 data breach.

According to Reuters, Judge Paul Magnuson found “…banks were foreseeable victims of Target’s allegedly negligent conduct.”The report went on to say, “Importantly, Judge Magnuson said that imposing a duty of care on Target ‘will aid Minnesota’s policy of punishing companies that do not secure consumers’ credit- and debit-card information.’”

This case may set a precedent for companies to be financially liable to both consumers and financial institutions for breaches that compromise customer data.

 

Employee Data Breach the Worst Part of Sony Hack

Two employees filed a class action lawsuit against Sony for allegedly not taking adequate precautions to secure employee data.

According to an article posted on TechCrunch, “The complaint references a tech blog reporting to note that Sony was aware of the insecurity on its network and took the risk.”

It has been confirmed that employee emails, website viewing activities, credit card website credentials, and social security numbers were among the data made public as a result of the Sony breach, and now after having already lost an estimated $100 million, Sony could be in for more expense at the hands of its own employees.

 

In a month where the security stakes have never been higher for corporations, CIO Magazine reported that Most Companies Fail at Keeping Track of Patches, Sensitive Data. According to its report,

  • 12% of companies have no patch management process at all
  • 58% of companies have a patch management process that is not fully mature (e.g. may patch the OS but not third-party applications)
  • 19% of companies have no control or tracking of sensitive data at all

If you see your organization in any of these statistics, now is the time to act. Your response will not only help keep your company out of the headlines but also out of the court room.

A day in the life of a Shavlik Administrator

We recently caught up with Randy Bowman to learn more about how Shavlik helps him in his role as network engineer for the Presbyterian Church of the USA in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Details:

The System: The Presbyterian Church of USA licenses Shavlik for 50 servers with 450 endpoints disbursed in Louisville and Stone Point, New York.

The Team:  Consists of a two member networking team that takes care of the servers and server patching on a monthly basis as well as a team member that administers desktop support.  The desktop team member also takes care of patching the individual computers, which frees up network staff.

Q: Shavlik: What motivated you to look for a security solution?

A: Randy Bowman: About 8 years ago I came on board after some significant staffing changes.  For practical reasons we did not have very much available in the way of documentation.   We had to make up for lost time in our patching and we ended up getting a virus.  The result was that we were down for three days.

Q: Shavlik: How did you come to use Shavlik?

A: Randy Bowman: One thing I took on as legacy software was UpdateEXPERT (Shavlik acquired UpdateEXPERT in 2007). From there it was an easy transition to Shavlik Protect.  We find it makes things a lot simpler for us.  It allows us to patch several servers at one time and patch them in the evening when they are free of traffic.  We have the flexibility to reboot the servers or do them manually. If the server is open we can throw on the patching right then and there and have it reboot.

Q: Shavlik: What made Shavlik so appealing?

A: Randy Bowman: Time savings. Being able to quickly implement the patches and download them when they come on Patch Tuesday is a huge benefit. We usually wait until Friday or wait for a notification from Shavlik saying it’s okay for the patches to be installed. Here we’ve got 50 plus servers.   I can patch half one night and half the next night, and that would be the first patch. Even if it takes two passes to go through and get a server completely patched, it still saves us time. We are patched in less than a week, where before we would have to do some even manually. Patching is a piece of cake really. In comparison to what we’ve had before, it saves us so much time. Another thing is, if there’s an agent that needs to be on the server like if you brought a new server out, even if it’s just a test server, you can open Shavlik and tell it to push the new agent and BOOM it’s done. 

Q: Shavlik: Once you chose to use Shavlik, how long did it take you to get up and running?

A: Randy Bowman: In 2 days we had it going. It actually would have taken 1 day but we were having some separate technical issues with the servers that caused delays.

Q: Shavlik: For this installation, did you have people helping you or was it just plug-and-play?

A: Randy Bowman: It was plug-and-play, more or less. A fellow network engineer did the last upgrade to 9.0. He was on the phone with support and got it done in an hour.

Q: Shavlik: What is your favorite Shavlik feature?

A: Randy Bowman: I like how you can go through and scan the machines in a machine group and it will tell you how many patches are missing. You can run the report and in 5 minutes you’ve got results emailed to you about what patches are missing. When it comes to critical security patches, we sat down years ago and decided this is what we need. It’s easy for Shavlik to go through and look for these and let us know what’s patched and what’s not, and if it’s critical or not.

Protect wins the Information Security™ Magazine and SearchSecurity.com's 2013 Readers’ Choice Award for Vulnerability Management

Thank you Shavlik users for making Shavlik Protect the Information Security ™ Magazine and SearchSecurity.com  2013 Readers’ Choice Award winner. Shavlik Protect received gold in the vulnerability management category and was among the highest scorers this year in any category.

“Shavlik is honored to receive Gold in the 2013 Readers’ Choice Awards,” said Steve Morton, Chief Marketing Officer for Shavlik. “This award not only validates the hard work of our employees but also reinforces and shows the high level of trust our clients place in us and their positive experience with Shavlik Protect.”

From all of us, thank you for this honor and more importantly, your continued confidence in and support of the Shavlik family of products.