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See You At Black Hat 2010 & Defcon 18?

July 25th, 2010 2 comments


This year looks to be another swell get-together in Vegas.  I had to miss last year (first time in…forever) so I’m looking forward to 112 degrees, recirculated air, and stumble-drunk hax0rs jackpotting ATMs and commandeering elevators.

I’ll be getting in on the 27th. I have a keynote at the Cloud Security Alliance Summit on the 28th (co-located within Black Hat,) a talk on the 29th at Black Hat (Cloudinomicon) from 10am-11am and I’ll be on another FAIL panel at Defcon with the boys.  I’ve got a bunch of (gasp!) customer meetings and (gasp! x2) work stuff to do, but plenty of time for the usual.

I’m going to try to hit Cobra Kai, Xtreme Couture or the Tapout facilities whilst there for some no-gi grappling or even BJJ if I can find a class.  Either way, there are some hard core P90X’ers that I’m sure I can con into working out in 90 degree, 6am weather.

Rumors of mojitos and cigars at Casa Fuente are completely unfounded.  Completely.

Oh, parties? They have parties? ;)

See y’all there!

/Hoff

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Reflections on SANS ’99 New Orleans: Where It All Started

July 25th, 2010 1 comment

A few weeks ago I saw some RT’s/@’s on Twitter referencing John Flowers and that name brought back some memories.

Today I sent a tweet to John asking him if I remembered correctly that he was at SANS in New Orleans in 1999 when he was still at Hiverworld.

He responded back confirming he was, indeed, at SANS ’99.  I remarked that this was where I first met many of today’s big names in security: Ed Skoudis, Ron Gula, Marty Roesch, Stephen Northcutt, Chris Klaus, JD Glaser, Greg Hoglund, and Bruce Schneier.

John responded back:

I couldn’t agree more.  That was an absolutely amazing time. I was on my second security startup (NodeWarrior Networks,) times were booming and this generation of the security industry as we know it was being given birth to.

I remember many awesome things from that week:

  • Sitting in “Intrusion Detection Shadow Style” with Stephen Northcut and Judy Novak for something like 8 hours going cross-eyed reading tcpdump packet traces and getting every question Stephen asked wrong. Well, some of them, anyway ;)
  • Asking Ron Gula’s wife something about Dragon and her looking back at me like I was a total n00b
  • Asking Ron Gula the same question and having him confirm that I was, in fact, a complete tool
  • Staying up all night drinking, writing code in Perl and doing dangerous things on other people’s networks
  • Participating in my first CTF
  • Almost getting arrested for B&E as I tried to rig the CTF contest by attempting to steal/clone/pwn/replace the HDD in the target machine. The funniest part of that was almost pulling it off (stealing the removable drive) but electrocuting myself in the process — which is what alerted my presence to the security guard.
  • Interrupting Lance Spitzner’s talk by stringing a poster behind him that said “www.lancespitznerismyhero.com” (a domain I registered during the event.)
  • Watching Bruce Schneier scream at the book store guy because they, incredulously, did not stock “Practical Cryptography
  • Sitting down with Ed Skoudis (who was with SAIC at the time, I believe,) looking at one another and wondering just what the hell we were going to do with our careers in security
  • Spending $14,000 (I shit you not, it was the Internet BOOM time, remember) by hitting 6 of the best restaurants in New Orleans with a party of hax0rs and working the charge department at American Express into a frenzy (not to mention actually using the line from Pretty Woman: “we’re going to spend obscene amounts of money here” in order to get in…)
  • Burning the roof of my mouth by not heeding the warnings of the waitress at Cafe Dumonde, biting into a beignet which cauterized my mouth as I simultaneously tried to extinguish the pain with scalding hot Chicory coffee.

I came back from that week knowing with every molecule in my body that even though I’d been “doing” security for 5 years already, it was exactly what I wanted to for the rest of my life.

I have Stephen Northcut to thank for that.  I haven’t been to a SANS since 1999 (don’t ask me why) but I am so excited about going back in August in DC (SANS What Works In Virtualization and Cloud Computing Summit) and giving a keynote at the event.

It’s been a long time.  Too long.

/Hoff

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On Amrit Williams’ (BigFix) Beyond The Perimeter Podcast

July 18th, 2010 No comments

My good friend Amrit Williams (@amrittsering) from BigFix (congrats on the IBM acquisition!) has an awesome Podcast titled “Beyond the Perimeter.”

He was nice enough to invite me to record episode 93 titled “Is Trust the Real Barrier To Cloud Computing?” (ultimately points you to an iTunes subscription.)

We spoke for almost an hour on all sorts of great discussion points related to Cloud Computing, specifically focusing on Trust (which I define in context as Security, Compliance, Control, Reliability and Privacy.)

We also spoke about the Cloud Security Alliance, CloudAudit and the HacKid conference — three things I am very passionate about.

Thanks Amrit, great conversation as usual.

/Hoff

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Incomplete Thought: Why We Need Open Source Security Solutions More Than Ever…

July 17th, 2010 1 comment
Illustrates a rightward shift in the demand curve.
Image via Wikipedia

I don’t have time to write a big blog post and quite frankly, I don’t need to. Not on this topic.

I do, however, feel that it’s important to bring back into consciousness how very important open source security solutions are to us — at least those of us who actually expect to make an impact in our organizations and work toward making a dent in our security problem pile.

Why do open source solutions matter so much in our approach to dealing with securing the things that matter most to us?

It comes down to things we already know but are often paralyzed to do anything about:

  1. The threat curve and innovation of attacker outpaces that of the defender by orders of magnitudes (duh)
  2. Disruptive technology and innovation dramatically impacts the operational, threat and risk modeling we have to deal with (duh duh)
  3. The security industry is not in the business of solving security problems that don’t have a profit motive/margin attached to it (ugh)

We can’t do much about #1 and #2 except be early adopters, by agile/dynamic and plan for change. I’ve written about this many times and built and entire series of talks presentations (Security and Disruptive Innovation) that Rich Mogull and I have taken to updating over the last few years.

We can do something about #3 and we can do it by continuing to invest in the development, deployment, support, and perhaps even the eventual commercialization of open source security solutions.

To be clear, it’s not that commercialization is required for success, but often it just indicates it’s become mainstream and valued and money *can* be made.)

When you look at the motivation most open source project creators bring a solution to market, it’s because the solution generally is not commercially available, it solves an immediate need and it’s contributed to by a community. These are all fantastic reasons to use, support, extend and contribute back to the open source movement — even if you don’t code, you can help by improving the roadmaps of these projects by making suggestions and promoting their use.

Open source security solutions deliver and they deliver quickly because the roadmaps and feature integration occur in an agile, meritocratic and vetted manner than often times lacks polish but delivers immediate value — especially given their cost.

We’re stuck in a loop (or a Hamster Sine Wave of Pain) because the problems we really need to solve are not developed by the companies that are in the best position to develop them in a timely manner. Why? Because when these emerging solutions are evaluated, they live or die by one thing: TAM (total addressable market.)

If there’s no big $$$ attached and someone can’t make the case within an organization that this is a strategic (read: revenue generating) big bet, the big companies wait for a small innovative startup to develop technology (or an open source tool,) see if it lives long enough for the market demand to drive revenues and then buy them…or sometimes develop a competitive solution.

Classical crossing the chasm/Moore stuff.

The problem here is that this cycle is broken horribly and we see perfectly awesome solutions die on the vine. Sometimes they come back to life years later cyclically when the pain gets big enough (and there’s money to be made) or the “market” of products and companies consolidate, commoditize and ultimately becomes a feature.

I’ve got hundreds of examples I can give of this phenomenon — and I bet you do, too.

That’s not to say we don’t have open-source-derived success stories (Snort, Metasploit, ClamAV, Nessus, OSSec, etc.) but we just don’t have enough of them. Further, there are disruptions such as virtualization and cloud computing that fundamentally change the game that we can harness in conjunction with open source solutions that can accelerate the delivery and velocity of solutions because of how impacting the platform shift can be.

I’ve also got dozens of awesome ideas that could/would fundamentally solve many attendant issues we have in security — but the timing, economics, culture, politics and readiness/appetite for adoption aren’t there commercially…but they can be via open source.

I’m going to start a series which identifies and highlights solutions that are either available as kernel-nugget technology or past-life approaches that I think can and should be taken on as open source projects that could fundamentally help our cause as a community.

Maybe someone can code/create open source solutions out of them that can help us all.  We should encourage this behavior.

We need it more than ever now.

/Hoff

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CLOUDINOMICON: Idempotent Infrastructure, Survivable Systems & Bringing Sexy Back to Information Centricity

July 7th, 2010 1 comment

I’m hurrying to polish up the next in my series of virtualization and cloud computing security presentations which I’m going to give at this year’s Black Hat conference in Las Vegas on July 29th.  I’m speaking from 10-11am on day two up next to folks like Jeremiah Grossman, Moxie Marlinspike, Ivan Ristic, Haroon Meer…quite the “power hour” as someone said on the Twitter.

At any rate, I started the series a couple of years ago with the following progression:

  1. The Four Horsemen of the Virtualization Security Apocalypse
  2. The Frogs Who Desired a King: A Virtualization & Cloud Computing Fable Set To Interpretative Dance
  3. Cloudifornication: Indiscriminate Information Intercourse Involving Internet Infrastructure

I proudly present numero quatro:

CLOUDINOMICON: Idempotent Infrastructure, Survivable Systems & Bringing Sexy Back to Information Centricity

Mass-market, low-cost, commodity infrastructure-as-a-Service Cloud Computing providers abstract away compute, network and storage and deliver hyper-scaleable capabilities.

This “abstraction distraction” has brought us to the point where the sanctity and security of the applications and information transiting them are dependent upon security models and expertise rooted in survivable distributed systems, at layers where many security professionals have no visibility.

The fundamental re-architecture of the infostructure, metastructure and infrastructure constructs in this new world forces us back to the design elements of building survivable systems focusing on information centricity — protecting the stuff that matters most in the first place.

The problem is that we’re unprepared for what this means and most practitioners and vendors focused on the walled garden, perimeterized models of typical DMZ architecture are at a loss as to how to apply security in a disintermediated and distributed sets of automated, loosely-coupled resources.

We’re going to cover the most salient points relating to how IaaS Cloud architecture shifts how, where and who architects, deploys and manages security in this “new world order” and what your options are in making sustainable security design decisions.

It’s progressing nicely.  Hope to see you there (and at Defcon)

The Security Hamster Sine Wave Of Pain: Public Cloud & The Return To Host-Based Protection…

July 7th, 2010 7 comments
Snort Intrusion Detection System Logo
Image via Wikipedia

This is a revisitation of a blog I wrote last year: Incomplete Thought: Cloud Security IS Host-Based…At The Moment

I use my ‘Security Hamster Sine Wave of Pain” to illustrate the cyclical nature of security investment and deployment models over time and how disruptive innovation and technology impacts the flip-flop across the horizon of choice.

To wit: most mass-market Public Cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services rely on highly-abstracted and limited exposure of networking capabilities.  This means that most traditional network-based security solutions are impractical or non-deployable in these environments.

Network-based virtual appliances which expect generally to be deployed in-line with the assets they protect are at a disadvantage given their topological dependency.

So what we see are security solution providers simply re-marketing their network-based solutions as host-based solutions instead…or confusing things with Barney announcements.

Take a press release today from SourceFire:

Snort and Sourcefire Vulnerability Research Team(TM) (VRT) rules are now available through the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) in the form of an Amazon Machine Image (AMI), enabling customers to proactively monitor network activity for malicious behavior and provide automated responses.

Leveraging Snort installed on the AMI, customers of Amazon Web Services can further secure their most critical cloud-based applications with Sourcefire’s leading protection. Snort and Sourcefire(R) VRT rules are also listed in the Amazon Web Services Solution Partner Directory, so that users can easily ensure that their AMI includes the latest updates.

As far as I can tell, this means you can install a ‘virtual appliance’ of Snort/Sourcefire as a standalone AMI, but there’s no real description on how one might actually implement it in an environment that isn’t topologically-friendly to this sort of network-based implementation constraint.*

Since you can’t easily “steer traffic” through an IPS in the model of AWS, can’t leverage promiscuous mode or taps, what does this packaging implementation actually mean?  Also, if  one has a few hundred AMI’s which contain applications spread out across multiple availability zones/regions, how does a solution like this scale (from both a performance or management perspective?)

I’ve spoken/written about this many times:

Where Are the Network Virtual Appliances? Hobbled By the Virtual Network, That’s Where… and

Dear Public Cloud Providers: Please Make Your Networking Capabilities Suck Less. Kthxbye

Ultimately, expect that Public Cloud will force the return to host-based HIDS/HIPS deployments — the return to agent-based security models.  This poses just as many operational challenges as those I allude to above.  We *must* have better ways of tying together network and host-based security solutions in these Public Cloud environments that make sense from an operational, cost, and security perspective.

/Hoff

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* I “spoke” with Marty Roesch on the Twitter and he filled in the gaps associated with how this version of Snort works – there’s a host-based packet capture element with a “network” redirect to a stand-alone AMI:

@Beaker AWS->Snort implementation is IDS-only at the moment, uses software packet tap off customer app instance, not topology-dependent

and…

they install our soft-tap on their AMI and send the traffic to our AMI for inspection/detection/reporting.

It will be interesting to see how performance nets out using this redirect model.

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The Classical DMZ Design Pattern: How To Kill Security In the Cloud

July 7th, 2010 6 comments

Every day I get asked to discuss how Cloud Computing impacts security architecture and what enterprise security teams should do when considering “Cloud.”

These discussions generally lend themselves to a bifurcated set of perspectives depending upon whether we’re discussing Public or Private Cloud Computing.

This is unfortunate.

From a security perspective, focusing the discussion primarily on the deployment model instead of thinking holistically about the “how, why, where, and who” of Cloud, often means that we’re tethered to outdated methodologies because it’s where our comfort zones are.

When we’re discussing Public Cloud, the security teams are starting to understand that the choice of compensating controls and how they deploy and manage them require operational, economic and architectural changes.  They are also coming to terms with the changes to application architectures as it relates to distributed computing and SOA-like implementation.  It’s uncomfortable and it’s a slow-slog forward (for lots of good reasons,) but good questions are asked when considering the security, privacy and compliance impacts of Public Cloud and what can/should be done about them and how things need to change.

When discussing Private Cloud, however, even when a “clean slate design” is proposed, the same teams tend to try to fall back to what they know and preserve the classical n-tier application architecture separated by physical or virtual compensating controls — the classical split-subnet DMZ or perimeterized model of “inside” vs “outside.” They can do this given the direct operational control exposed by highly-virtualized infrastructure.  Sometimes they’re also forced into this given compliance and audit requirements. The issue here is that this discussion centers around molding cloud into the shape of the existing enterprise models and design patterns.

This is an issue; trying to simultaneously secure these diametrically-opposed architectural implementations yields cost inefficiencies, security disparity, policy violations, introduces operational risk and generally means that  the ball doesn’t get moved forward in protecting the things that matter most.

Public Cloud Computing is a good thing for the security machine; it forces us to (again) come face-to-face with the ugliness of the problems of securing the things that matter most — our information. Private Cloud Computing — when improperly viewed from the perspective of simply preserving the status quo — can often cause stagnation and introduce roadblocks.  We’ve got to move beyond this.

Public Cloud speaks to the needs (and delivers on) agility, flexibility, mobility and efficiency. These are things that traditional enterprise security are often not well aligned with.  Trying to fit “Cloud” into neat and tidy DMZ “boxes” doesn’t work.  Cloud requires revisiting our choices for security. We should take advantage of it, not try and squash it.

/Hoff

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