On the Structured Interdependence of Policy

Corporate documentation is a multifaceted pyramid structure.  It begins with the business plan and statement of purpose.  The departments are chartered to spell out purpose, responsibilities, and control.  The charters are supported in policy.  Policy is frequently interdepartmental in reach.  Nothing is done in a vacuum.  The policies are detailed in procedures, standards, and other documents.

Everything fits into the structure, which makes it strong.  Errors in the documentation expose a company to risk from a variety of sources.  Every action taken by the company should be traceable back to one of the documents.  The documentation exists to protect and guide the actions of the employees.

It shouldn’t just be a bunch of paper in a binder that gets reprinted once a year for auditors.  It shouldn’t be a stick used only to discipline.

If policies aren’t the inspiration for action, they’re in need of overhaul.  You can tell the vitality of a company by its policy manual.  Is yours a lighthouse in the storm, or a pair of handcuffs?

Canary in a Coalmine

As of January 1, 2018 Liticode has never received a National Security Letter, an order under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or any other classified request for user information.

Proof of Proper Electronic Evidence Collection

One of the nice things about electronic evidence is that it is relatively trivial to create a “provable” methodology to refute any complaints regarding evidence veracity.

For example, assuming you collect widely and preserve broadly, when it comes time to cull and produce materials for review, this should be done using scripts (small computer programs rapidly written by professional resources) which remain with the culled materials for later review, should there be any doubts.

Provided with both the original sources and the cull scripts, the production materials should always be the same. Providing the opposition approves of the scripts written, there can be no doubt about the veracity of the materials produced.

While scripts remain largely unchanged between cases, a general search for strings is simple enough, narrowing the cull intelligently requires more skill, and true targeted refinement requires pattern manipulation skills not commonly found amongst technicians. Yet these culling scripts can drastically reduce the size of the evidence for consideration, and simplify case dynamics.

GIven the sizes of preservation sets, the key to a quality case, is the speed with which it proceeds and the quality of the interaction. Good culling improves the legal experience and is best done using a combination of standard process and expert eye, depending on the complexity. Spending money on expert assistance such as that provided by Digital Trust® results in saved money over the life of the case, frequently drastic savings.

Using and providing scripts for review ensures the materials produced are incontestable.

Truecrypt Kerfluffle

In late May of 2014 the developers of Truecrypt posted version 7.2 with some issues that caused a flurry of concern and activity ultimately resulting in the developers attempting to shut down the product.  It appears as of now that there may be some shenanigans going on in the code, but nobody knows for sure at this point.  All we know is that 7.2 was compromised and should be avoided.

However, if you are considering abandoning TC altogether, you might want to delay a bit until more is known.  First off, the program has not been abandoned by the community and is hastily reforming in what is hoped will ultimately be a clean version thoroughly examined by the open source community.  Second, many clients have a tremendous investment in the program, and change will be expensive.  Third, it still works as far as anyone knows.  There has been no “skeleton key” disclosure, and as of now it seems at worst that a large government agency can read the files, but they are not a threat to most people’s use.

Digital Trust’s guidance on the software at this time is: if you are traveling with highly sensitive material and relying on Truecrypt to avoid compromise by another agency, (you’re a fool and) change those travelling devices to another form of encryption.  If however, you are in a relatively safe security environment and relying on Truecrypt to protect basic privacy and legal confidence, take no action at this time, unless you are using version 7.2, in which case we advise immediate downgrading and cleanup.

The cost of converting existing business assets to a new program should be weighed against the likelihood that all of this ends benignly.  For the majority of our clients we are advising you to remain with Truecrypt and simply not upgrade to 7.2.  Should the situation change, we will recommend further action at that time, but for now, just keep working with what you have.

To be as clear as possible: those clients currently relying on 7.1a or lower should continue to do so and not upgrade past 7.1a.

“Keep calm and don’t upgrade.”

Information Systems Purchasing

Core business management is not an IT function.  Even if you’re a “systems” shop, like Cisco, the people responsible for uniting your business personnel in cyberspace aren’t the ones directing business operations.  They do not get to steer the ship, and if they do, you can be sure it will be a rough crossing.  IT can no more make core business purchasing decisions than HR can.  These are support functions in an organization, but sometimes that gets forgotten.

The problem being that IT doesn’t know the business.  No matter how hard they try they can not share the exact same viewpoint nor face the same risks as a core business unit, and any direction comes from self-interest.  This is normal, natural, and nothing to be upset about.  It is upsetting when reality is ignored, and systems are purchased by people who aren’t the responsible business unit.

We’re not saying that IT shouldn’t make IT purchasing decisions, because that’s the exact opposite problem.  But they need to simply be advisory when it comes to core business systems and the business unit responsible needs to be the one making the ultimate decision, even if it goes against IT advisement.

The rub being that this only works if the business unit is in capable hands and held responsible for any mistakes in decision making.  In many cases it isn’t, and this leads to a clash of wills when there’s a senior IT person that really does genuinely know better and advise against it.  Of course, such a senior mind should be capable of persuading any recalcitrant business unit, but sometimes things don’t work out, and the business pays the price.

At any rate, as much as reasonably possible, the business needs to decide what to buy and IT’s role is to support it and advise during purchasing.  This has a beneficial effect for IT by removing them from the decision, almost entirely, and leaving the responsibility with the business where it belongs.

What’s important from the 20,000 foot view is that no sabotage come into play.  If IT implements something the business didn’t want, they need to support it and not undermine the effort.  The reasons for implementing it were solid or it wouldn’t have happened, and if that’s not the case, there’s bigger problems than the failed system.  The opposite also holds: IT must support the business purchases wholeheartedly.  Any whiff of antagonism must be rooted out and squashed or the blight may persist and grow.

Business cannot ignore IT input.  If IT makes a case for cost effectiveness over form, then it’s real and it goes into the profitability model.  It cannot be disregarded or IT ends up covering hidden costs that undermine success.

So purchasing delineation needs to be clear.  Business systems are the responsibility of the business heads and IT is the responsibility of IT, and business cannot make decisions without IT.  IT can make decisions on IT purchases without the business, unless it impacts them.

Keeping the purchasing in line and distinctly defining responsibility is critical to accountability and success, and muddying the waters by having different business areas intermingle purchasing decisions with IT is a guaranteed path to failure.

What’s this got to do with security or forensics?  Well, there’s the policies that get generated which end up being reivewed as part of the audit process, but more importantly, inefficiency and waste in a business, as characterized by poor purchasing habits, leads to system duplication and financial difficulties.  More systems equals more attack surfaces and more potential forensic sources.  Financial difficulties means security needs get cut (second only to training).  So in a roundabout way, purchasing has a real, discernable impact on security and forensics.

So don’t neglect those purchasing policies during your next non-financial regulatory inspection.  They’re important.