As discussed in this week’s Cyber Risk Report, Blizzard Entertainment, developers of the popular Warcraft, StarCraft, and World of Warcraft video game franchises, proposed a potential plan for certain areas on their Battle.Net bulletin board forums. The plan stated that user posts in the selected areas would be accompanied by the real name of the owner of the online profile. The scheme would have been part of the newly available Real ID service offered by Blizzard, tying real names to online accounts. According to Blizzard, the reason behind the proposed change was to remove the veil of anonymity on the boards that allows some forum posters to hide their identity and post hateful, racist, or deliberately inflammatory comments. However, since the announcement, many users within the community voiced their concerns, and Blizzard has canceled the proposed changes. Even if the plan will not go into effect, it is worth examining the potential dangers in associating real names with online profiles.
On June 25, the US Government released the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC, pronounced “N-stick”) for public review and comment. NSTIC is a recognition of the need for a secure identity infrastructure to address the current fraud on the Internet, and the need to support additional applications that are not well supported by current identity systems.
While in many countries it is natural to think of the Government as the manager for one’s online identity, this makes many Americans, and indeed the US Government, very uncomfortable. NSTIC addresses this concern through an Identity Ecosystem, an accredited community of Identity Providers supporting authentication and Attribute Providers providing trustable information about users. The concept is to provide users with freedom of choice on what identity provider(s) to trust with their authentication credentials, and what attribute providers should be trusted to provide reliable information about the user.
The NSTIC comments website currently has about 300 feedback and idea items about the draft, with votes and comments on many of these ideas. It appears from many of the comments and from some press coverage that there are some misconceptions about NSTIC and what it is trying to do. Here are a few of them:
One of the first lessons I learned about business came from my first boss, Bill, the sole proprietor of a small retail shop where I worked after high school a few days a week: the customer is always right. Bill always told me that word-of-mouth advertising was much more valuable than paying for print or radio ads, because when a satisfied customer tells a friend about a good experience it makes a lasting impression. Even more-so the negative impression — if a customer goes away unsatisfied, they’ll tell even more people than if they were pleased with their shopping experience. So it was very important to smile (even when answering the phone), be courteous, helpful, and always look for an opportunity to make a bad experience a good one, or at least neutral, before the customer left.
Bill’s shop was a small-town business, and he knew that word travels fast in a small town, for better or worse. With social media, online customer reviews, and ubiquitous smartphones, shoppers are lured instantly to the best deals and away from the worst experiences. Now for even the largest businesses, much of that small-town atmosphere now applies to a global customer base, and handling this hyper-connected community can require great care. As we saw for one local contractor, sometimes an indelicate response to a customer’s bad experience can mean even greater negative publicity than before.
Customer service, public relations, and brand protection are disciplines in their own right, and I don’t presume to cover their concerns here. But each overlaps organizational security in key areas, including: protecting the organization, insuring adherence to defined policies, and communicating the customer’s or end user’s hardship back to the organization.
“Disorder increases with time because we measure time in the direction in which disorder increases.” -- Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time
F-Secure researcher Jarno Niemlä recently released a presentation on the increasing tendency for malware authors to sign their software with digital certificates. In the presentation, Niemlä notes a number of methods used by malware writers to produce and assign the signatures, as well as the implications of those signatures and what value, insight, or warnings they can provide to defenders. I’m thankful for Niemlä’s perspective, but thought it might be worthwhile to dive a little deeper into some of the subtexts that exist and perhaps lend some more context to F-Secure’s work, as well as our own brief coverage in the CRR.
No doubt the eruption of social media applications, networks and tools has caused a significant ground disturbance; some would say it’s been a series of category nine earthquakes. I recently had the pleasure of reviewing the results of a Cisco commissioned survey provided to 500 information technology security professionals in the US, Germany, Japan, China, and India concerning social media and personal devices conducted by InsightExpress.
Do take the time to review these results, and in doing so I think you will share my realization, that with everything new there are unintended and unforeseen security issues, both real and perceived. These issues appear to be at the root of the substantial consternation amongst the participating information technology security professionals. Indeed, this multidimensional capability called social media is in fact permeating the hermetically sealed secure environments of our businesses, or so it would seem. It is time to get out the plow, hitch up the horses and hoe a few rows in order to plant the seeds to grow healthy and sustainable security practices and capabilities surrounding these concerns.
So let’s dig into the issues that are making the respondents twitch. “Our employees are using unsupported applications on their laptops.” Is that you making the comment? Or are they thinking of you when they responded? Are “unsupported” social media applications used at the office? Is it you? How about peer-to-peer (P2P) software and networks, is it a necessity of your business for you to be connected and sharing work content? Or perhaps you are using an externally hosted and maintained service (aka cloud); especially given the large number of respondents who indicated they had employee clientele doing just this. But I believe a bit more context needs to be evolved to fully understand the issue(s) or we may find ourselves making “much ado about nothing” (with a tip of the hat to The Bard).