To date, a major gap exists in vulnerability standardization: there is no standard framework for the creation of vulnerability report documentation. While the computer security collective has done a bang-up job in several other areas, including categorizing and ranking the severity of vulnerabilities in information systems with the widespread adoption of the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposure (CVE) dictionary and the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS), this lack of standardization is evident in every vulnerability report, best practice document, or security bulletin released by any vendor or coordinator. This blog post explores a nascent standard to close this gap.
Lack of Standard Promotes Chaos
Conventionally, the documentation of vulnerabilities is an ad hoc, producer-specific, and overtly non-standard process. Each vendor compiles, collates, and produces their own version of a vulnerability document that may or may not be similar to comparable reports by other vendors. To see examples of this, consider the 2008 multi-vendor “outpost24 TCP” vulnerability report from major producers such as Cisco, Microsoft, or CERT. Because each producer employs a unique and non-cooperative document structure, users must manually parse individual reports to find information that is germane to their environments. Additionally, the documents are typically flat and do not facilitate nor support any sort of automated processing.
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In this week’s CRR, we continued to follow an interesting roller coaster of events that has overshadowed electrical companies in Brazil over the past few weeks. There have been reports that recent power failures were a result of computer hacking, a rebuttal that the failures were not caused by hacking, and finally reports that power company websites were hacked into (though without any power failures). This has resulted in a flurry of media reports, fear mongering about “cyber attacks,” and general uncertainty about what is and is not possible.
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The Bay Bridge, connecting San Francisco to Oakland, California, carries approximately 280,000 vehicles per day. Many of those vehicles are transporting employees to their workplaces in the greater San Francisco-San Jose-Oakland area, which is why those of us who work at Cisco headquarters in San Jose were directly affected or know someone who was by the bridge’s recent and unexpected shutdown. This debacle, caused by failing and falling bridge beams, left thousands of workers stranded, backed up in traffic, or forced to find alternate means of getting to work, such as circuitous commutes, ferries, or public transit. Others found alternate means of working.
Employees with remote access capabilities and those whose jobs do not require full-time, in-person presences could telecommute during the bridge closing. Although this does not seem like a revolutionary notion in our day and age of anywhere, anytime work and with wireless access in every airport, hotel, and coffee shop, are most organizations gearing up all of their essential employees with the capabilities to work remotely? Can businesses ensure business-as-usual during major interruptions, such as severe weather, widespread employee illness, or bridge closings? New data suggests they can not.
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We learned from this past week’s Cyber Risk Report that inane Facebook status updates may in fact have value after all. Rodney Bradford mildly teased his pregnant girlfriend in front of his friends on the social networking site: “On the phone with this fat chick… where my IHOP.” If there was any chance that his “fat chick” was going to be upset about being left out of Rodney’s trip to get some pancakes, or even for being called “fat chick”, I’m betting she’ll give him a pass on this one.
Using this Facebook posting to corroborate an alibi, Rodney’s attorneys were able to convince the district attorney’s office to dismiss an armed robbery case against Bradford. Based on timestamp evidence provided by Facebook, and further alibis provided by Bradford’s family, the DA’s office was certain that Rodney could not have gotten from Harlem to Brooklyn in time to commit the robbery that took place one minutes after he made his now-famous posting.
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The idea of a global CERT has been proposed multiple times in the course of several years. And while it has not always been proposed in the same form, the concept is the same nonetheless. The idea is very simple — we need a global CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team) to coordinate all other CERTs in the world.
Let us examine this idea through a dialog between two imaginary people, Mr. Pro and Mr. Con, who will debate some issues related to a global CERT, or G-CERT as we will call it for short. We will start the discussion by asking Mr. Pro to explain the benefit of a G-CERT.
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