Can Infosec get ahead of the Blackhats?

It is described at times as an arms race. Information Security always seems to be behind the bad guys. Can this ever change?

We all know the routine by now. New exploit, new signatures, new patches, new updates, new exploits. Rinse, lather, and repeat. We hear of the next big thing to be adaptive. Heuristic scanning, signature scanning, IDS, IPS, all to mitigate the threats. We are always fighting the good fight from behind. Unfortunately, this will always be the case. Yes, we get faster, not as far behind, and better. Yes, we have people on our side actively looking for the latest exploits. It is a neck and neck race in this day and age, but the fact remains, the bad guys will always find something we haven’t. We do our best to mitigate. We know that people are the weakest link. We try to educate, but even the best education, following the best practices will not stop exploitable scenarios, be they human or code. Why? Because we are human and are flawed.

Now don’t think that I am all doom and gloom. We have made great strides forward, and will continue to do so. Truth be told though, their are only a few ways to even have a chance of truly stopping the situation, and they are either super extreme or extremely improbable.

First idea I have is to have, as was a tag line from the movie Sneakers, “No More Secrets.” If everyone from corporations, to governments were wide open about everything, then what is there left to steal? Just money which brings me to the second thought. Go back to the bartering system. This gets rid of the money issue, and actually makes sense. Trading goods and services for other goods and services. Now you don’t need credit cards, Money, bank accounts, etc… The other big one that gets brought up in my mind is of course getting rid of technology all together.

None of these ideas are practical of course, so we are back to the original thought here. Can we ever get ahead. More thank likely not, but we keep getting closer to being even. So keep training, keep educating others, and keep your wits about you. We are in for a bumpy ride.

Security – Open Source vs. Closed: It’s a matter of eyes

For years there has been the whole what is more secure, Open or Closed source? Microsoft has and still takes a beating over this. Truth, though, is a different thing.

We all have heard of Heartbleed by now. The 2 year old security gap in OpenSSL has been all over the news. During all of this, a hole in the much loved Chrome browser that will allow websites to turn on your microphone and record what you are saying was announced. Another bug that had been around for a while (August 2013). Meanwhile, the hated entity known as Microsoft has been pretty much unaffected by these issues. Maybe it is time to remove our preconceived and ancient thought over security in the Open vs. Closed Source world.

The argument has been, from what I have heard and can tell, that Open Source is more secure because you have more eyes looking at it. The code is open and out there so people can find the issues faster and with the collaborative nature of Open Source, will be patched faster. Truth of the matter, as has been shown over the past week, is that it is not the case, and security holes can get past this set of checks and balances just as they can in any Closed Source system. The surprising thing is how long it has taken to find Heartbleed. One would think, with all those eyes looking at the code, that it would have been found much sooner. Of course this has led to the theories of the bug being an NSA backdoor. True or not, the code was still out there for everyone to see.

Chrome is a slightly different issue. Here is a bug that was found over 6 months ago, that still hasn’t been patched. It was brought to Google’s attention and they sat on it. Could this be another NSA (or insert your favorite Government agency here) backdoor? A way to spy on you without warrants? We will never know for sure, but it does show one major hole. Our thinking of Open Source and security is not completely correct. It is not the be all end all.

What has been lost in this is that Microsoft, and its Closed Source implementations of SSL have been free and clear of the Heartbleed problem. Microsoft at one time was awful with security. In this day and age though, it has gotten a lot better. It is responsive to holes, and the amount of out-of-band patches and workarounds for Zero Days is quite speedy. In fact the biggest security holes in Microsoft systems, is usually Java and/or Flash. Flash is still Closed Source, but Java was at one point more open. Java also is embedded in the web very deep. Try using NoScript at it’s tightest levels and see how much of websites get blocked, and how many websites complain about Java not being turned on. Yet through all of this, Microsoft is the one that still takes the blame, especially in the public’s eye. That is because we, the ones in the know, have done little to reeducate the public, and ourselves.

Do not get me wrong. I have nothing but love for the Open Source community. Collaborative efforts are awesome, and the community puts out some fantastic software, and alternatives to Closed Source (and overpriced) programs. It just has to be realized that it is no more secure than Closed Source. In the end it is all about the eyes on the code and the people looking for the holes. Remember Security is a process, not a destination.

Deck the Halls with Security advice

It is that time of year. Holiday shopping, Black Friday, Cyber Monday (that still sounds like a XXX movie), and the like. Special offers abound, and the bad guys are ready to get you. Some simple steps to stay safer during the holidays.

This is the time of year that the criminal digital underground loves. People rushing to get the best deals they can, be it online or offline. The odds of someone clicking on a malicious link, increases with desperation, and of course making the deals looks good. Nothing will 100% guarantee that your going to be free of malware, or that your identity will not be swiped, but there are some simple things to remember to keep the risks at more of a minimum.

1) If it looks to be too good of a deal, it probably is, especially online. Deals are the easiest thing to snag someone online with. Pair that with fake URLs that look legit, and you have a recipe for disaster. The trick here is to find out what the real URL is. In Outlook and most browsers out can hover over links to see what they are sending you to. Doing a right click and copy hyperlink then pasting into notepad is a good way to see the full link itself for a quick check. If it shows something that bothers you, don’t go to it, don’t click on it.

2) Keep up to date with your purchases. This is easy enough to do with online banking. Check at minimum once a week online with your bank and credit card companies. Look for anything out of the ordinary. the faster you see something that looks fraudulent the faster things can be taken care of, and the less hassle there is overall.

3) Single Click on the web! I see this all too often. We as a society have gotten so use to double clicking to open programs that we forget it is a single click on a link. This is important because that second click could hit a hijacked ad on the site you were going to and at that point it is game over. You are pwnd and let the malware flood gates open.

4) Backup Backup Backup. Get an external drive that you only connect to backup your files, Use Mozy or Carbonite, do something to backup your files. Especially with Cryptolocker out there, the clean backup is important so you don’t have to pay to recover your files and take the risk that the bad guys are not going to keep their end of the bargain.

5) If you do not have to enter your pin on a pad, DON’T! Most bank cards can be used as “Credit Cards” (They have the Mastercard or Visa logo on them) meaning you do not have to punch in your security pin. Who knows if that pin pad is secure. Yes it only stops the pin from being gotten but that can be enough to stop someone from emptying your account.

Yes, these are basics, and yes milli0ns of people each year tend to not think about them. They are simple and pretty effective, but remember not perfect. If someone hacks the store or bank, you have no control over that. If the credit card or ATM machine has been tampered with, you don’t have control over that. Just do what you can to keep a little safer, and have a great holiday season!

 

-Shecky