Drafting Policies for Fun

Not many people think writing policy is fun. Or procedures. Or standards. Or any documentation, really. But policy and documentation can be fun, and more importantly, if done well, contributes directly to the security and safety of the organization, so it’s worth spending time on.

OK, but how can it possibly be fun? Because when you understand what you’re building, how it is like a set of block like toys that click together to create a structure capable of supporting an entire company, then it’s more like a puzzle. And if you don’t like puzzles, anything around the legal industry is probably not for you, and you should get someone else to do it for you. Like Liticode *cough*.

Policy, and all documentation, really, is a support structure. And just like any support structure, requires engineering. Wordsmithing, not metalsmithing, but still, craft that requires study. If you throw something together without adequate understanding and skill, you end up with more problems than before you made the policy. Like a bad bridge, it will collapse at the worst possible time, probably taking careers with it.

A more visually correct representation is a house of cards, because we’re dealing with documents, and most of them are flimsy things that collapse under the faintest pressure.  But we’re going to fix that problem by building using better cards.  Cards made of reinforced concrete and steel, architected not cobbled together.

Policy is the roof. Why not the foundation? Because policy is the first line of defense. It’s what takes the first hits when you’re under attack by hostile lawyers or other nefarious entities, including your own personnel who just want to do things differently. Policy is the shield from stuff falling on the business.

The walls are the procedures and standards that support the policy. Can’t have a policy without process and standards, or it’s a useless policy. For example, if you have a policy that says no personal use of company assets, but you don’t have a process to detect it, or a standard of configuration for the business computers being used, your policy is going to be impossible to support.

So what’s the foundation? That is your charters, bylaws, explanatory documentation, authorities, and anything else that doesn’t count as part of the super structure.  A simplistic example is the criminal laws against theft.  They aren’t part of your policy or your procedures, but they provide the cause that your HR termination policy uses to support a dismissal.  You rely on them, just like you rely on manufacturer’s documentation, government standards, industry standards, and job descriptions, to direct the business.

So, just like building a complex house of cards, your policy in one area might be the foundation in another layer. The procedures of one layer are the foundation of another. The point to internalize being that all these documents are a) tangible, meaning they exist and you can put your hands on them to produce in court, and b) fit together like a puzzle, reinforcing and supporting each other, so that removing one piece in the bottom layer doesn’t cause the entire thing to collapse.  That last part is important.  They interlock and reinforce each other.

Which brings up the other fun part of the policy game. Who has ever performed a red team analysis of policy? Nobody, other than Liticode. We’re the only company that will look at your documentation and game it with our legal teams and provide you a risk analysis of your policy structure and documentation. And that’s just as important as your penetration testing of your network. The evil hackers might get your database, but the lawsuits that come after are what’s going to destroy the company and careers. We help you prepare with our policy analysis, but we want you first and foremost to have people that grasp the concept of the policy structure and how it is critical to your corporate defense.  Defense in depth includes the legal activities side.  Most (all?) risk assessments simplistically check off boxes indicating policy is present, but don’t evaluate the content.  That will get you blindsided, and we can help avoid that.

So enjoy building policy. Call us if you’re short handed or want an additional set of eyes. Call us later if you want to test it and see if you have any unexplored risks in your structure. Our staff has the skill and experience to turn your house of cards into a fortress.

Oh, You Noticed, Did You?

Recently we received a notice from our one ISP that one of our machines might be infected, and please clean it up or we’d be shut down. Well, we explained the situation to them, and it’s good to know someone’s watching our traffic (It’s 1984?), but we’ve been doing this for nearly six years from this location. And they only just now noticed? We’ve run huge attacks against large customers, it’s our business after all, for six years, and they only just now noticed we “might” have an infected computer? Sort of makes you wonder. What about all the other domains we traverse, like Sprint and AT&T? Are they going to start sending us hate mail? What happens if they start dumping the packets? We’ll have to find another ISP, I suppose, but eventually, if things went that way, the core would be filtering as well, and nothing would work. We’d practically be out of business. Ironically, the bad guys wouldn’t. Because the bad guys would just invent new ways to circumvent the security. Which would let us stay in business as well; we’d just need a new toolset. So if nothing’s going to really change, can we establish right now that filtering anything is a really bad idea, except during attacks? Because all it’s going to do is raise the price tags on security. You have to pay for the filters, you have to pay for the new security to counter the new threats. While standing still doesn’t prevent new threats from becoming a reality, it does allow us lots of ways of tracking people. They may have a new attack, but they probed on high ports first, which might let us locate them. Or at least shut them off from here. But don’t restrict traffic in the middle. It’s like putting a stop sign in the middle of the Atlantic. All you do is make shipping more expensive and annoy some little fish. So keep it open. Please.

3G Wireless Security Failure

A wireless vendor (who shall remain nameless) is selling its 3G cards to corporate networks as a secure means of remote communication. There’s only one problem with it; anyone that picks up one of these cards, pre-configured for accessing the corporate network by the vendor, can just plug it in and reach out and touch the corporate network. Not to mention being able to browse the Internet and use DNS and other things; more later.

We do need to download the software first, and it does ask for a phone number to do so. Fortunately, any phone number will work, and if they fix it so only their numbers work (impossible given number portability) then you would just need a network phone number. “Hey, Fred, you use vendor for your cell service?” Boom!

Once the software is downloaded and installed, it asks for the device phone number. Which it auto-populates for you by pulling the number off the device. Brilliant. We don’t even have to query the card to obtain the phone number.

Linking to the net is accomplished with the press of a button. Now here, the vendor has limited what protocols and destinations are acceptable, so when we fire up a browser, it fails everywhere you look. Or does it. What actually happens is it hangs. It doesn’t time out, and a look at netstat reveals that we are getting DNS information, and we are initiating connections. Checking DNS directly clearly indicates not everything is locked down tight, if at all. The vendor has put us in a tunnel of some type, so some stuff works, some stuff doesn’t. https also fails. A quick trip to Google revealed an http site on non-standard port 81, which worked fine, so we know we can pass http, just not on 80. The only thing we know for sure is that port 80/443 is not getting us where we want to go, but it seems everything else is.

A quick peek with Nessus (if they’d been using Counteract, that would have failed) reveals Microsoft destinations. From there, its a matter of using hydra and getting onto an M$ resource, at which point the network is an open book.

All from a single lost vendor 3g card.

Several layered security mechanisms would have prevented this, not the least is some form of authentication at the vendor border. From there, we could have been stopped with a certificate check, a Forescout detection and prevention, and worst of all, no free passing of any protocols without authentication to a valid VPN. Boom!

To be perfectly frank, if the vendor or the corporation is alerted quickly to the loss of a card, this is a very low probability attack. But if a corporation is targeted, its much more likely to succeed. Your risk may vary. If alerting is a non-priority, as it is in many places, this is a serious problem. Once inside, hostile forces will plant the seeds that give them continuous access without the 3g card.

Play it safe, make sure your 3g cards are secure. Use layers to compensate for any single security failure. And most important, validate your assumptions when told something is “secure”.

Digital Trust
www.digitaltrustllc.com

This blog and it’s contents copyright 2009 Digital Trust, LLC. Republication of this post is permitted provided it is strictly on internal corporate messaging systems. Any republication or reuse is forbidden if the Digital Trust name is removed.

ING Sharebuilder Goes to Weaker Password Policy

ING Sharebuilder has elected to not allow customers to create passwords with special characters. Formerly, it was possible to use special characters, and if your password had special characters before they changed the policy, it would still work with the existing policy, but no new passwords are allowed to have special characters.

Curious, that a financial company that is exclusively web based would choose a standard lower than a previous choice. It’s not as if they ever required customers to use special characters, but they had the option. Now they don’t.

ING, step up to the security plate and bring back special characters. It just doesn’t feel as safe as it did before.

Update 8/4: A response to this question from ING simply spun the request back on its head, saying “We know our new password requirements may be an inconvenience, but we believe your personal data is safer as a result.” Well, it’s not safer, it’s less safe. Further, they pushed a software package called Trusteer, free, as an additional way of securing transactions. You can find out more about Trusteer here.

Brian@DT

Introduction

Digital Trust, LLC is an information security consulting and activities resource. We can assist with any facet of your security program. From corporate guidance and compliance efforts to system implementation and penetration testing. We can help make your security better.

Contact us at sales@digitaltrustllc.com