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Archive for the ‘IP/Data Leakage’ Category

The Curious Case Of Continuous and Consistently Contiguous Crypto…

August 8th, 2013 9 comments

Here’s an interesting resurgence of a security architecture and an operational deployment model that is making a comeback:

Requiring VPN tunneled and MITM’d access to any resource, internal or external, from any source internal or external.

While mobile devices (laptops, phones and tablets) are often deployed with client or client-less VPN endpoint solutions that enable them to move outside the corporate boundary to access internal resources, there’s a marked uptake in the requirement to require that all traffic from all sources utilizing VPNs (SSL/TLS, IPsec or both) to terminate ALL sessions regardless of ownership or location of either the endpoint or the resource being accessed.

Put more simply: require VPN for (id)entity authentication, access control, and confidentiality and then MITM all the things to transparently or forcibly fork to security infrastructure.

Why?

The reasons are pretty easy to understand.  Here are just a few of them:

  1. The user experience shouldn’t change regardless of the access modality or location of the endpoint consumer; the notion of who, what, where, when, how, and why matter, but the user shouldn’t have to care
  2. Whether inside or outside, the notion of split tunneling on a per-service/per-application basis means that we need visibility to understand and correlate traffic patterns and usage
  3. Because the majority of traffic is encrypted (usually via SSL,) security infrastructure needs the capability to inspect traffic (selectively) using a coverage model that is practical and can give a first-step view of activity
  4. Information exfiltration (legitimate and otherwise) is a problem.

…so how are folks approaching this?

Easy.  They simply require that all sessions terminate on a set of  [read: clustered & scaleable] VPN gateways, selectively decrypt based on policy, forward (in serial or parallel) to any number of security apparatus, and in some/many cases, re-encrypt sessions and send them on their way.

We’ve been doing this “forever” with the “outside-in” model (remote access to internal resources,) but the notion that folks are starting to do this ubiquitously on internal networks is the nuance.  AVC (application visibility and control) is the inside-out component (usually using transparent forward proxies with trusted PAC files on endpoints) with remote access and/or reverse proxies like WAFs and/or ADCs as the outside-in use case.

These two ops models were generally viewed and managed as separate problems.  Now thanks to Cloud, Mobility, virtualization and BYOE (bring your own everything) as well as the more skilled and determined set of adversaries, we’re seeing a convergence of the two.  To make the “inside-out” and “outside-in” more interesting, what we’re really talking about here is extending the use case to include “inside-inside” if you catch my drift.

Merging the use case approach at a fundamental architecture level can be useful; this methodology works regardless of source or destination.  It does require all sorts of incidental changes to things like IdM, AAA, certificate management, etc. but it’s one way that folks are trying to centralize the distributed — if you get what I mean.

I may draw a picture to illustrate what I mean, but do let me know if either you’re doing this (many of the largest customers I know are) if it makes sense.

/Hoff

P.S. Remember back in the 80’s/90’s when 3Com bundled NIC cards with integrated IPSec VPN capability?  Yeah, that.

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Cloud Providers and Security “Edge” Services – Where’s The Beef?

September 30th, 2009 16 comments

usbhamburgerPreviously I wrote a post titled “Oh Great Security Spirit In the Cloud: Have You Seen My WAF, IPS, IDS, Firewall…” in which I described the challenges for enterprises moving applications and services to the Cloud while trying to ensure parity in compensating controls, some of which are either not available or suffer from the “virtual appliance” conundrum (see the Four Horsemen presentation on issues surrounding virtual appliances.)

Yesterday I had a lively discussion with Lori MacVittie about the notion of what she described as “edge” service placement of network-based WebApp firewalls in Cloud deployments.  I was curious about the notion of where the “edge” is in Cloud, but assuming it’s at the provider’s connection to the Internet as was suggested by Lori, this brought up the arguments in the post
above: how does one roll out compensating controls in Cloud?

The level of difficulty and need to integrate controls (or any “infrastructure” enhancement) definitely depends upon the Cloud delivery model (SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS) chosen and the business problem trying to be solved; SaaS offers the least amount of extensibility from the perspective of deploying controls (you don’t generally have any access to do so) whilst IaaS allows a lot of freedom at the guest level.  PaaS is somewhere in the middle.  None of the models are especially friendly to integrating network-based controls not otherwise supplied by the provider due to what should be pretty obvious reasons — the network is abstracted.

So here’s the rub, if MSSP’s/ISP’s/ASP’s-cum-Cloud operators want to woo mature enterprise customers to use their services, they are leaving money on the table and not fulfilling customer needs by failing to roll out complimentary security capabilities which lessen the compliance and security burdens of their prospective customers.

While many provide commoditized solutions such as anti-spam and anti-virus capabilities, more complex (but profoundly important) security services such as DLP (data loss/leakage prevention,) WAF, Intrusion Detection and Prevention (IDP,) XML Security, Application Delivery Controllers, VPN’s, etc. should also be considered for roadmaps by these suppliers.

Think about it, if the chief concern in Cloud environments is security around multi-tenancy and isolation, giving customers more comfort besides “trust us” has to be a good thing.  If I knew where and by whom my data is being accessed or used, I would feel more comfortable.

Yes, it’s difficult to do properly and in many cases means the Cloud provider has to make a substantial investment in delivery platforms and management/support integration to get there.  This is why niche players who target specific verticals (especially those heavily regulated) will ultimately have the upper hand in some of these scenarios – it’s not socialist security where “good enough” is spread around evenly.  Services like these need to be configurable (SELF-SERVICE!) by the consumer.

An example? How about Google: where’s DLP integrated into the messaging/apps platforms?  Amazon AWS: where’s IDP integrated into the VMM for introspection?

I wrote a couple of interesting posts about this (that may show up in the automated related posts lists below):

My customers in the Fortune 500 complain constantly that the biggest providers they are being pressured to consider for Cloud services aren’t listening to these requests — or aren’t in a position to respond.

That’s bad for everyone.

So how about it? Are services like DLP, IDP, WAF integrated into your Cloud providers’ offerings something you’d like to see rather than having to add additional providers as brokers and add complexity and cost back into Cloud?

/Hoff

Endpoint Security vs. DLP? That’s Part Of the Problem…

March 31st, 2008 6 comments

Sandisk
Larry Walsh wrote something (Defining the Difference Between Endpoint Security and Data Loss Prevention) that sparked an interesting debate based upon a vendor presentation given to him on "endpoint security" by SanDisk.

SanDisk is bringing to market a set of high-capacity USB flash drives that feature built-in filesystem encryption as well as strong authentication and access control.  If the device gets lost with the data on it, it’s "safe and secure" because it’s encrypted.  They are positioning this as an "endpoint security" solution.

I’m not going to debate the merits/downsides of that approach because I haven’t seen their pitch, but suffice it to say, I think it’s missing a "couple" of pieces to solve anything other than a very specific set of business problems.

Larry’s dilemma stems from the fact that he maintains that this capability and functionality is really about data loss protection and doesn’t have much to do with "endpoint security" at all:

We debated that in my office for a few minutes. From my perspective, this solution seems more like a data loss prevention solution than endpoint security. Admittedly, there are many flavors of endpoint security. When I think of endpoint security, I think of network access control (NAC), configuration management, vulnerability management and security policy enforcement. While this solution is designed for the endpoint client, it doesn’t do any of the above tasks. Rather, it forces users to use one type of portable media and transparently applies security protection to the data. To me, that’s DLP.

In today’s market taxonomy, I would agree with Larry.  However, what Larry is struggling with is not really the current state of DLP versus "endpoint security," but rather the future state of converged information-centric governance.  He’s describing the problem that will drive the solution as well as the inevitable market consolidation to follow.

This is actually the whole reason Mogull and I are talking about the evolution of DLP as it exists today to a converged solution we call CMMP — Content Management, Monitoring and Protection. {Yes, I just added another M for Management in there…}

What CMMP represents is the evolved and converged end-state technology integration of solutions that today provide a point solution but "tomorrow" will be combined/converged into a larger suite of services.

Off the cuff, I’d expect that we will see at a minimum the following technologies being integrated to deliver CMMP as a pervasive function across the information lifecycle and across platforms in flight/motion and at rest:

  • Data leakage/loss protection (DLP)
  • Identity and access management (IAM)
  • Network Admission/Access Control (NAC)
  • Digital rights/Enterprise rights management (DRM/ERM)
  • Seamless encryption based upon "communities of interest"
  • Information classification and profiling
  • Metadata
  • Deep Packet Inspection (DPI)
  • Vulnerability Management
  • Configuration Management
  • Database Activity Monitoring (DAM)
  • Application and Database Monitoring and Protection (ADMP)
  • etc…

That’s not to say they’ll all end up as a single software install or network appliance, but rather a consolidated family of solutions from a few top-tier vendors who have coverage across the application, host and network space. 

If you were to look at any enterprise today struggling with this problem, they likely have or are planning to have most of the point solutions above anyway.  The difficulty is that they’re all from different vendors.  In the future, we’ll see larger suites from fewer vendors providing a more cohesive solution.

This really gives us the "cross domain information protection" that Rich talks about.

We may never achieve the end-state described above in its entirety, but it’s safe to say that the more we focus on the "endpoint" rather than the "information on the endpoint," the bigger the problem we will have.

/Hoff

The Walls Are Collapsing Around Information Centricity

March 10th, 2008 2 comments

Since Mogull and I collaborate quite a bit on projects and share many thoughts and beliefs, I wanted to make a couple of comments on his last post on Information Centricity and remind the audience at home of a couple of really important points.

Rich’s post was short and sweet regarding the need for Information-Centric solutions with some profound yet subtle guideposts:

For information-centric security to become a reality, in the long term it needs to follow the following principles:

  1. Information (data) must be self describing and defending.
  2. Policies and controls must account for business context.
  3. Information must be protected as it moves from structured to
    unstructured, in and out of applications, and changing business context.
  4. Policies must work consistently through the different defensive layers and technologies we implement.

I’m not convinced this is a complete list, but I’m trying to keep to
my new philosophy of shorter and simpler. A key point that might not be
obvious is that while we have self-defending data solutions, like DRM
and label security, for success they must grow to account for business
context. That’s when static data becomes usable information.

Mike Rothman gave an interesting review of Rich’s post:


The Mogull just laid out your work for the next 10 years. You just
probably don’t know it yet. Yes, it’s all about ensuring that the
fundamental elements of your data are protected, however and wherever
they are used. Rich has broken it up into 4 thoughts. The first one
made my head explode: "Information (data) must be self-describing and
defending."

Now I have to clean up the mess. Sure things like DRM are a
bad start, and have tarnished how we think about information-centric
security, but you do have to start somewhere. The reality is this is a
really long term vision of a problem where I’m not sure how you get
from Point A to Point B. We all talk about the lack of innovation in
security. And how the market just isn’t exciting anymore. What Rich
lays out here is exciting. It’s also a really really really big
problem. If you want a view of what the next big security company does,
it’s those 4 things. And believe me, if I knew how to do it, I’d be
doing it – not talking about the need to do it.

The comments I want to make are three-fold:

  1. Rich is re-stating and Mike’s head is exploding around the exact concepts that Information Survivability represents and the Jericho Forum trumpets in their Ten Commandments.  In fact, you can read all about that in a prior posts I made on the subjects of the Jericho Forum, re-perimeterization, information survivability and information centricity.  I like this post on a process I call ADAPT (Applied Data and Application Policy Tagging) a lot.

    For reference, here are the Jericho Forum’s Ten Commandments. Please see #9:

    Jericho_comm1Jericho_comm2

  2. As mike alluded, DRM/ERM has received a bad rap because of how it’s implemented — which has really left a sour taste in the mouths of the consumer consciousness.  As a business tool, it is the precursor of information centric policy and will become the lynchpin in how we will ultimately gain a foothold on solving the information resiliency/assurance/survivability problem.
  3. As to the innovation and dialog that Mike suggests is lacking in this space, I’d suggest he’s suffering from a bit of Shitake-ism (a-la mushroom-itis.)  The next generation of DLP solutions that are becoming CMP (Content Monitoring and Protection — a term I coined) are evolving to deal with just this very thing.  It’s happening.  Now.

    Further to that, I have been briefed by some very, very interesting companies that are in stealth mode who are looking to shake this space up as we speak.

So, prepare for Information Survivability, increased Information Resilience and assurance.  Coming to a solution near you…

/Hoff

Thin Clients: Does This Laptop Make My Ass(ets) Look Fat?

January 10th, 2008 11 comments

Phatburger_2
Juicy Fat Assets, Ripe For the Picking…

So here’s an interesting spin on de/re-perimeterization…if people think we cannot achieve and cannot afford to wait for secure operating systems, secure protocols and self-defending information-centric environments but need to "secure" their environments today, I have a simple question supported by a simple equation for illustration:

For the majority of mobile and internal users in a typical corporation who use the basic set of applications:

  1. Assume a company that:
    …fits within the 90% of those who still have data centers, isn’t completely outsourced/off-shored for IT and supports a remote workforce that uses Microsoft OS and the usual suspect applications and doesn’t plan on utilizing distributed grid computing and widespread third-party SaaS
  2. Take the following:
    Data Breaches.  Lost Laptops.  Non-sanitized corporate hard drives on eBay.  Malware.  Non-compliant asset configurations.  Patching woes.  Hardware failures.  Device Failure.  Remote Backup issues.  Endpoint Security Software Sprawl.  Skyrocketing security/compliance costs.  Lost Customer Confidence.  Fines.  Lost Revenue.  Reduced budget.
  3. Combine With:
    Cheap Bandwidth.  Lots of types of bandwidth/access modalities.  Centralized Applications and Data. Any Web-enabled Computing Platform.  SSL VPN.  Virtualization.  Centralized Encryption at Rest.  IAM.  DLP/CMP.  Lots of choices to provide thin-client/streaming desktop capability.  Offline-capable Web Apps.
  4. Shake Well, Re-allocate Funding, Streamline Operations and "Security"…
  5. You Get:
    Less Risk.  Less Cost.  Better Control Over Data.  More "Secure" Operations.  Better Resilience.  Assurance of Information.  Simplified Operations. Easier Backup.  One Version of the Truth (data.)

I really just don’t get why we continue to deploy and are forced to support remote platforms we can’t protect, allow our data to inhabit islands we can’t control and at the same time admit the inevitability of disaster while continuing to spend our money on solutions that can’t possibly solve the problems.

If we’re going to be information centric, we should take the first rational and reasonable steps toward doing so. Until the operating systems are more secure, the data can self-describe and cause the compute and network stacks to "self-defend," why do we continue to focus on the endpoint which is a waste of time.

If we can isolate and reduce the number of avenues of access to data and leverage dumb presentation platforms to do it, why aren’t we?

…I mean besides the fact that an entire industry has been leeching off this mess for decades…


I’ll Gladly Pay You Tuesday For A Secure Solution Today…

The technology exists TODAY to centralize the bulk of our most important assets and allow our workforce to accomplish their goals and the business to function just as well (perhaps better) without the need for data to actually "leave" the data centers in whose security we have already invested so much money.

Many people are doing that with the servers already with the adoption of virtualization.  Now they need to do with their clients.

The only reason we’re now going absolutely stupid and spending money on securing endpoints in their current state is because we’re CAUSING (not just allowing) data to leave our enclaves.  In fact with all this blabla2.0 hype, we’ve convinced ourselves we must.

Hogwash.  I’ve posted on the consumerization of IT where companies are allowing their employees to use their own compute platforms.  How do you think many of them do this?

Relax, Dude…Keep Your Firewalls…

In the case of centralized computing and streamed desktops to dumb/thin clients, the "perimeter" still includes our data centers and security castles/moats, but also encapsulates a streamed, virtualized, encrypted, and authenticated thin-client session bubble.  Instead of worrying about the endpoint, it’s nothing more than a flickering display with a keyboard/mouse.

Let your kid use Limewire.  Let Uncle Bob surf pr0n.  Let wifey download spyware.  If my data and applications don’t live on the machine and all the clicks/mouseys are just screen updates, what do I care?

Yup, you can still use a screen scraper or a camera phone to use data inappropriately, but this is where balancing risk comes into play.  Let’s keep the discussion within the 80% of reasonable factored arguments.  We’ll never eliminate 100% and we don’t have to in order to be successful.

Sure, there are exceptions and corner cases where data *does* need to leave our embrace, but we can eliminate an entire class of problem if we take advantage of what we have today and stop this endpoint madness.

This goes for internal corporate users who are chained to their desks and not just mobile users.

What’s preventing you from doing this today?

/Hoff

Follow-up to Amazon MP3 Watermarking

October 3rd, 2007 1 comment

AmazonbustAs a follow-up to my blog entry here regarding Amazon.com and MP3 Watermarking…

Alex Halderman over at the Freedom To Tinker blog yesterday posted an entry that seems to confirm the theory that Amazon.com is not individually tagging each MP3 file purchased and that any file downloaded with the same title is identical to that downloaded by another user:

Last week Amazon.com launched a DRM-free music store.
It sells tracks from two major labels and many independents in the
unprotected MP3 file format. In addition to being DRM-free, Amazon’s
songs are not individually watermarked. This is an important step
forward for the music industry.

Some content companies see individualized watermarks as a
consumer-friendly alternative to DRM. Instead of locking down files
with restrictive technology, individualized watermarking places
information in them that identifies the purchasers, who could
conceivably face legal action if the files were publicly shared. Apple
individually watermarks DRM-free tracks sold on iTunes, but every
customer who purchases a particular track from Amazon receives the
exact same file.

The company has stated as much, and colleagues and I
confirmed this by buying a small number of files with different Amazon
accounts and verifying that they were bit-for-bit identical. (As Wired reports,
some files on Amazon’s store have been watermarked by the record
labels, but each copy sold contains the same mark. The labels could use
these marks to determine that a pirated track originated from Amazon,
but they can’t trace a file to a particular user.)

This is good news and I thank Alex and his friends for doing the dirty work and actually confirming these statements instead of just parroting them back and taking Amazon’s word for it.  The rest of Alex’s blog entry provides good insight as to the risks — legal, security and otherwise — that swirl around the contentious topic of DRM.  Please read the article in its entirety.

/Hoff

Categories: IP/Data Leakage Tags:

I Know It’s Been 4 Months Since I Said it, but “NO! DLP is (Still) NOT the Next Big Thing In Security!”

August 24th, 2007 5 comments

Evolution3
Nope.  Haven’t changed my mind.  Sorry.  Harrington stirred it up and Chuvakin reminded me of it.

OK, so way back in April, on the cusp of one of my normal rages against the (security) machine, I blogged how Data Leakage Protection (DLP) is doomed to be a feature and not a market

I said the same thing about NAC, too.  Makin’ friends and influencin’ people.  That’s me!

Oh my how the emails flew from the VP’s of Marketing & Sales from the various "Flying V’s" (see below)  Good times, good times.

Here’s snippets of what I said:


Besides having the single largest collection of vendors that begin with
the letter ‘V" in one segment of the security space (Vontu, Vericept,
Verdasys, Vormetric…what the hell!?) it’s interesting to see how
quickly content monitoring and protection functionality is approaching
the inflection point of market versus feature definition.

The "evolution" of the security market marches on.

Known by many names, what I describe as content monitoring and
protection (CMP) is also known as extrusion prevention, data leakage or
intellectual property management toolsets.  I think for most, the
anchor concept of digital rights management (DRM) within the Enterprise
becomes glue that makes CMP attractive and compelling; knowing what and
where your data is and how its distribution needs to be controlled is
critical.

The difficulty with this technology is the just like any other
feature, it needs a delivery mechanism.  Usually this means yet another
appliance; one that’s positioned either as close to the data as
possible or right back at the perimeter in order to profile and control
data based upon policy before it leaves the "inside" and goes "outside."

I made the point previously that I see this capability becoming a
feature in a greater amalgam of functionality;  I see it becoming table
stakes included in application delivery controllers, FW/IDP systems and
the inevitable smoosh of WAF/XML/Database security gateways (which I
think will also further combine with ADC’s.)

I see CMP becoming part of UTM suites.  Soon.

That being said, the deeper we go to inspect content in order to
make decisions in context, the more demanding the requirements for the
applications and "appliances" that perform this functionality become.
Making line speed decisions on content, in context, is going to be
difficult to solve. 

CMP vendors are making a push seeing this writing on the wall, but
it’s sort of like IPS or FW or URL Filtering…it’s going to smoosh.

Websense acquired PortAuthority.  McAfee acquired Onigma.  Cisco will buy…

I Never Metadata I Didn’t Like…

I didn’t even bother to go into the difficulty and differences in classifying, administering, controlling and auditing structured versus unstructured data, nor did I highlight the differences between those solutions on the market who seek to protect and manage information from leaking "out" (the classic perimeter model) versus management of all content ubiquitously regardless of source or destination.  Oh, then there’s the whole encryption in motion, flight and rest thing…and metadata, can’t forget that…

Yet I digress…let’s get back to industry dynamics.  It seems that Uncle Art is bound and determined to make good on his statement that in three years there will be no stand-alone security companies left.  At this rate, he’s going to buy them all himself!

As we no doubt already know, EMC acquired Tablus. Forrester seems to think this is the beginning of the end of DLP as we know it.  I’m not sure I’d attach *that* much gloom and doom to this specific singular transaction, but it certainly makes my point:

  August 20, 2007

Raschke_2EMC/RSA Drafts Tablus For Deeper Data-Centric Security
The Beginning Of The End Of The Standalone ILP Market

by
Thomas Raschke

with
Jonathan Penn, Bill Nagel, Caroline Hoekendijk

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

EMC expects Tablus to play a key role in
its information-centric security and storage lineup. Tablus’ balanced
information leak prevention (ILP) offering will benefit both sides of
the EMC/RSA house, boosting the latter’s run at the title of
information and risk market leader. Tablus’ data classification
capabilities will broaden EMC’s Infoscape beyond understanding
unstructured data at rest; its structured approach to data detection
and protection will provide a data-centric framework that will benefit
RSA’s security offerings like encryption and key management. While
holding a lot of potential, this latest acquisition by one of the
industry’s heavyweights will require comprehensive integration efforts
at both the technology and strategic level. It will also increase the
pressure on other large security and systems management vendors to
address their organization’s information risk management pain points.
More importantly, it will be remembered as the turning point that led
to the demise of the standalone ILP market as we know it today.

So Mogull will probably (still) disagree, as will the VP’s of Marketing/Sales working for the Flying-V’s who will no doubt barrage me with email again, but it’s inevitable.  Besides, when an analyst firm agrees with you, you can’t be wrong, right Rich!?

/Hoff

 

I see your “More on Data Centralization” & Raise You One “Need to Conduct Business…”

June 19th, 2007 1 comment

Pokerhand
Bejtlich continues to make excellent points regarding his view on centralizing data within an enterprise.  He cites the increase in litigation regarding inadequate eDiscovery investment and the increasing pressures amassed from compliance.

All good points, but I’d like to bring the discussion back to the point I was trying to make initially and here’s the perfect perch from which to do it.  Richard wrote:

Christopher Christofer Hoff used the term "agile" several times in his good blog post. I think "agile" is going to be thrown out the window when corporate management is staring at $50,000 per day fines for not being able to produce relevant documents during ediscovery. When a company loses a multi-million dollar lawsuits because the judge issued an adverse inference jury instruction, I guarantee data will be centralized from then forward. "

…how about when a company loses the ability to efficiently and effectively conduct business because they spend so much money and time on "insurance policies" against which a balanced view of risk has not been applied?  Oh, wait.  That’s called "information security." ;)

Fear.  Uncertainty.  Doubt.  Compliance.  Ugh.  Rinse, later, repeat.

I’m not taking what you’re proposing lightly, Richard, but the notion of agility, time to market, cost transformation and enhancing customer experience are being tossed out with the bathwater here. 

Believe it or not, we have to actually have a sustainable business in order to "secure" it. 

It’s fine to be advocating Google Gears and all these other Web 2.0
applications and systems. There’s one force in the universe that can
slap all that down, and that’s corporate lawyers. If you disagree, whom
do you think has a greater influence on the CEO: the CTO or the
corporate lawyer? When the lawyer is backed by stories of lost cases,
fines, and maybe jail time, what hope does a CTO with plans for
"agility" have?

But going back to one of your own mantras, if you bake security into your processes and SDLC in the first place, then the CEO/CTO/CIO and legal counsel will already have assessed the position the company has and balance the risk scorecard to ensure that they have exercised the appropriate due care in the first place. 

The uncertainty and horrors associated with the threat of punitive legal impacts have, are, and will always be there…and they will continue to be exploited by those in the security industry to buy more stuff and justify a paycheck.

Given the business we’re in, it’s not a surprise that the perspective presented is very, very siloed and focused on the potential "security" outcomes of what happens if we don’t start centralizing data now; everything looks like a nail when you’re a hammer.

However, you still didn’t address the other two critical points I made previously:

  1. The underlying technology associated with decentralization of data and applications is at complete odds with the "curl up in a fetal position and wait for the sky to fall" approach
  2. The only reason we have security in the first place is to ensure survivability and availability of service — and make sure that we stay in business.  That isn’t really a technical issue at all, it’s a business one.  I find it interesting that you referenced this issue as the CTO’s problem and not the CIO.

As to your last point, I’m convinced that GE — with the resources, money and time it has to bear on a problem — can centralize its data and resources…they can probably get cold fusion out of a tuna fish can and a blow pop, but for the rest of us on planet Earth, we’re going to have to struggle along trying to cram all the ‘agility’ and enablement we’ve just spent the last 10 years giving to users back into the compliance bottle.

/Hoff

Does Centralized Data Governance Equal Centralized Data?

June 17th, 2007 4 comments

Cube
I’ve been trying to construct a palette of blog entries over the last few months which communicates the need for a holistic network, host and data-centric approach to information security and information survivability architectures. 

I’ve been paying close attention to the dynamics of the DLP/CMF market/feature positioning as well as what’s going on in enterprise information architecture with the continued emergence of WebX.0 and SOA.

That’s why I found this Computerworld article written by Jay Cline very interesting as it focused on the need for a centralized data governance function within an organization in order to manage risk associated with coping with the information management lifecycle (which includes security and survivability.)  The article went on to also discuss how the roles within the organization, namely the CIO/CTO, will also evolve in parallel.

The three primary indicators for this evolution were summarized as:

1. Convergence of information risk functions
2. Escalating risk of information compliance
3. Fundamental role of information.

Nothing terribly earth-shattering here, but the exclamation point of this article to enable a
centralized data governance  organization is a (gasp!) tricky combination of people, process
and technology:

"How does this all add up? Let me connect the dots: Data must soon become centralized,
its use must be strictly controlled within legal parameters, and information must drive the
business model. Companies that don’t put a single, C-level person in charge of making
this happen will face two brutal realities: lawsuits driving up costs and eroding trust in the
company, and competitive upstarts stealing revenues through more nimble use of centralized
information."

Let’s deconstruct this a little because I totally get the essence of what is proposed, but
there’s the insertion of some realities that must be discussed.  Working backwards:

  • I agree that data and it’s use must be strictly controlled within legal parameters.
  • I agree that a single, C-level person needs to be accountable for the data lifecycle
  • However, I think that whilst I don’t disagree that it would be fantastic to centralize data,
    I think it’s a nice theory but the wrong universe. 

Interesting, Richard Bejtlich focused his response to the article on this very notion, but I can’t get past a couple of issues, some of them technical and some of them business-related.

There’s a confusing mish-mash alluded to in Richard’s blog of "second home" data repositories that maintain copies of data that somehow also magically enforce data control and protection schemes outside of this repository while simultaneously allowing the flexibility of data creation "locally."  The competing themes for me is that centralization of data is really irrelevant — it’s convenient — but what you really need is the (and you’ll excuse the lazy use of a politically-charged term) "DRM" functionality to work irrespective of where it’s created, stored, or used.

Centralized storage is good (and selfishly so for someone like Richard) for performing forensics and auditing, but it’s not necessarily technically or fiscally efficient and doesn’t necessarily align to an agile business model.

The timeframe for the evolution of this data centralization was not really established,
but we don’t have the most difficult part licked yet — the application of either the accompanying
metadata describing the information assets we wish to protect OR the ability to uniformly classify and
enforce it’s creation, distribution, utilization and destruction.

Now we’re supposed to also be able to magically centralize all our data, too?  I know that large organizations have embraced the notion of data warehousing, but it’s not the underlying data stores I’m truly worried about, it’s the combination of data from multiple silos within the data warehouses that concerns me and its distribution to multi-dimensional analytic consumers. 

You may be able to protect a DB’s table, row, column or a file, but how do you apply a policy to a distributed ETL function across multiple datasets and paths?

ATAMO?  (And Then A Miracle Occurs) 

What I find intriguing about this article is that this so-described pendulum effect of data centralization (data warehousing, BI/DI) and resource centralization (data center virtualization, WAN optimization/caching, thin client computing) seem to be on a direct  collision course with the way in which applications and data are being distributed with  Web2.0/Service Oriented architectures and delivery underpinnings such as rich(er) client side technologies such as mash-ups and AJAX…

So what I don’t get is how one balances centralizing data when today’s emerging infrastructure
and information architectures are constructed to do just the opposite; distribute data, processing
and data re-use/transformation across the Enterprise?  We’ve already let the data genie out of the bottle and now we’re trying to cram it back in? 
(*please see below for a perfect illustration)

I ask this again within the scope of deploying a centralized data governance organization and its associated technology and processes within an agile business environment. 

/Hoff

P.S. I expect that a certain analyst friend of mine will be emailing me in T-Minus 10, 9…

*Here’s a perfect illustration of the futility of centrally storing "data."  Click on the image and notice the second bullet item…:

Googlegears

Really, There’s More to Security than Admission/Access Control…

June 16th, 2007 2 comments

Wired_science_religion
Dr. Joseph Tardo over at the Nevis Networks Illuminations blog composed a reasonably well-balanced commentary regarding one or more of my posts in which I was waxing on philosophically about about my beliefs regarding keeping the network plumbing dumb and overlaying security as a flexible, agile, open and extensible services layer.

It’s clear he doesn’t think this way, but I welcome the discourse.  So let me make something clear:

Realistically, and especially in non-segmented flat networks, I think there are certain low-level security functions that will do well by being served up by switching infrastructure as security functionality commoditizes, but I’m not quite sure for the most part how or where yet I draw the line between utility and intelligence.  I do, however, think that NAC is one of those utility services.

I’m also unconvinced that access-grade, wiring closet switches are architected to scale in either functionality, efficacy or performance to provide any more value or differentiation other than port density than the normal bolt-on appliances which continue to cause massive operational and capital expenditure due to continued forklifts over time.  Companies like Nevis and Consentry quietly admit this too, which is why they have both "secure switches" AND appliances that sit on top of the network…

Joseph suggested he was entering into a religious battle in which he summarized many of the approaches to security that I have blogged about previously and I pointed out to him on his blog that this is exactly why I practice polytheism ;) :

In case you aren’t following the
religious wars going on in the security blogs and elsewhere, let me bring you
up to date.

It goes like this. If you are in
the client software
business, then security has to be done in the endpoints and the network is just
dumb “plumbing,” or rather, it might as well be because you can’t assume
anything about it. If you sell appliances
that sit here and there in the network, the network sprouts two layers, with
the “plumbing” part separated from the “intelligence.” Makes sense, I guess. But
if you sell switches and routers then the intelligence must be integrated in with
the infrastructure. Now I get it. Or maybe I’m missing the point, what if you
sell both appliances
and infrastructure
?

I believe that we’re currently forced to deploy in defense in depth due to the shortcomings of solutions today.  I believe the "network" will not and cannot deliver all the security required.  I believe we’re going to have to invest more in secure operating systems and protocols.  I further believe that we need to be data-centric in our application of security.  I do not believe in single-point product "appliances" that are fundamentally functionally handicapped.  As a delivery mechanism to deliver security that matters across network I believe in this.

Again, the most important difference between what I believe and what Joseph points out above is that the normal class of "appliances" he’s trying to suggest I advocate simply aren’t what I advocate at all.  In fact, one might surprisingly confuse the solutions I do support as "infrastructure" — they look like high-powered switches with a virtualized blade architecture integrated into the solution.

It’s not an access switch, it’s not a single function appliance and it’s not a blade server and it doesn’t suffer from the closed proprietary single vendor’s version of the truth.  To answer the question, if you sell and expect to produce both secure appliances and infrastructure, one of them will come up short.   There are alternatives, however.

So why leave your endpoints,
the ones that have all those vulnerabilities that created the security industry
in the first place, to be hit on by bots, “guests,” and anyone else that wants
to? I don’t know about you, but I would want both something on the endpoint,
knowing it won’t be 100% but better than nothing, and also something in the
network to stop the nasty stuff, preferably before it even got in.

I have nothing to disagree with in the paragraph above — short of the example of mixing active network defense with admission/access control in the same sentence; I think that’s confusing two points.   Back to the religious debate as Joseph drops back to the "Nevis is going to replace all switches in the wiring closet" approach to security via network admission/access control:

Now, let’s talk about getting on
the network. If the switches are just dumb plumbing they will blindly let
anyone on, friend or foe, so you at least need to beef up the dumb plumbing
with admission enforcement points. And you want to put malware sensors where
they can be effective, ideally close to entry points, to minimize the risk of having
the network infrastructure taken down. So, where do you want to put the
intelligence, close to the entry enforcement points or someplace further in the
bowels of the network where the dumb plumbing might have plugged-and-played a
path around your expensive intelligent appliance?

That really depends upon what you’re trying to protect; the end point, the network or the resources connected to it.  Also, I won’t/can’t argue about wanting to apply access/filtering (sounds like IPS in the above example) controls closest to the client at the network layer.  Good design philosophy.   However, depending upon how segmented your network is, the types, value and criticality of the hosts in these virtual/physical domains, one may choose to isolate by zone or VLAN and not invest in yet another switch replacement at the access layer.

If the appliance is to be
effective, it has to sit at a choke point and really be and enforcement point.
And it has to have some smarts of its own. Like the secure switch that we make.

Again, that depends upon your definition of enforcement and applicability.  I’d agree that in flat networks, you’d like to do it at the port/host level, though replacing access switches to do so is usually not feasible in large networks given investments in switching architectures.  Typical fixed configuration appliances overlaid don’t scale, either.

Furthermore, depending upon your definition of what an enforcement zone and it’s corresponding diameter is (port, VLAN, IP Subnet) you may not care.  So putting that "appliance" in place may not be as foreboding as you wager, especially if it overlays across these boundaries satisfactorily.

We will see how long before these new-fangled switch vendors that used to be SSL VPN’s, that then became IPS appliances that have now "evolved" into NAC solutions, will become whatever the next buzzword/technology of tomorrow represents…especially now with Cisco’s revitalized technology refresh for "secure" access switches in the wiring closets.  Caymas, Array, and Vernier (amongst many) are perfect examples.

When it comes down to it, in the markets Crossbeam serves — and especially the largest enterprises — they are happy with their switches, they just want the best security choice on top of it provided in a consolidated, agile and scalable architecture to support it.

Amen.

/Hoff