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Security Drives Major Transition in the Network and Data Center

Today, rapid changes in the world we live in, driven by technology trends, business model changes and market transitions, like the Internet of Everything, profoundly impact our networks and our data centers. With the advent of all of these new capabilities, we have created a new paradigm for security—it is what I refer to as the “Any to Any” Problem. That is, any user on any device increasingly going over any type of connection, to any application, that could be running in any data center and on any cloud. Regardless of how or where our users are connecting, we have to provide the right levels of inspection and protection against malicious actors.

Today, Cisco is announcing the new Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) designed to seamlessly integrate layer 4 through layer 7—and security, in particular—into next generation Data Center environments. As part of this framework, we are announcing ACI Security Solutions, which support next generation Cisco ASA physical and virtual firewall technologies by stitching them directly into the ACI network fabric, and can be managed using the ACI Policy Infrastructure Controller management tool.

The Cisco ASA 5585-X Series Next-Generation Security Appliance has been updated and certified to interoperate with the new Nexus 9000 switches—whether they are deployed in traditional or ACI modes. The new Cisco ASA Virtual Firewall (ASAv) performs the same functions as any ASA appliance. However, unlike an ASA 1000v Cloud Firewall, the ASAv maintains its own data path. This allows it to work with any virtual switch and it will be available on multiple hypervisors.  Read More »

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The Internet of Everything Including Security

It’s one thing to say that by 2020 the world will host 50 Billion Internet Protocol-connected devices. It’s even more amazing that the planet’s number of Internet-connected devices already exceeds the human population. So how do we secure tens of billions of devices when we know that the vast majority of them will not possess sufficient memory and processing power to accommodate conventional anti-malware or other security software? Two things are clear to me. We need to build security into Internet of Things solutions from the beginning, and that the network is the only option we have to bring security visibility and control to this new universe of connected devices.

The Internet of Things is going to transform the world, but unless we act to secure it now we will find ourselves asking at some future date whether it was worth doing in the first place. I don’t claim to have all the answers in the video post here, but we need to start asking the right questions about securing the Internet of Things now.

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Massive Increase in Reconnaissance Activity – Precursor to Attack?

Update 2013-11-12Watch our youtube discussion

Update 2013-11-05: Upon further examination of the traffic we can confirm that a large percentage is destined for TCP port 445. This is indicative of someone looking for nodes running SMB/DCERPC. With that in mind it is extremely likely someone is looking for vulnerable windows machines or it is quite possible that the “soon to be” attackers are looking for boxes compromised by a specific malware variant.

On 2013-11-02 at 01:00 UTC Cisco saw a massive spike in TCP source port zero traffic for three hours. This was the largest spike of reconnaissance activity we’ve seen this year. TCP source port zero is a reserved port according to the RFC and it should not be used. Customers who see port zero activity on their network should consider the traffic suspicious and investigate the source.

pscan

This graph displays the magnitude of the number of sensors logging this activity. Normally we see a magnitude of less than 20, this increased five fold on 2013-11-02. There was also an associated massive increase in the volume of traffic observed by signature 24199-0.

Read More »

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Education Embraces the Mobility Excitement

Let’s examine and consider mobile devices in education. Students need to become more tech savvy to compete in today’s economy, and mobile devices offer supplemental learning and a new style to learn. A recent report noted that educators see great potential in mobile technology for transforming learning. The most commonly expected and desired benefits are that mobile technology is engaging for students (62 percent of respondents) and that the devices can be used to personalize instruction to meet the needs of different students. There is no question educational institutions need to seize this mobility trend for better learning and to ensure our next generation is tech savvy.

Does your child’s school provide mobile devices for their learning or does it require your child to bring their own mobile device? I know in my case, my son’s school has a bring your own device (BYOD) policy. Yet some schools, whether higher education or primary or secondary schools, have made the decision to buy mobile devices for their student population. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest district in the United States, headed down this path to offer all students and teachers Apple iPads — only to find some challenges like unseen costs, secure access issues, and unclear policies. Others, like Bucks County School District in Pennsylvania and McAllen School District in Texas, have enjoyed the benefits of providing mobile device usage (whether BYOD or school sanctioned) in a simple and secure manner in the education environment by leveraging Cisco infrastructure.

The use of mobile devices by young children, whether it be for education or entertainment, has soared. A new report from Common Sense Media, a child-advocacy group based in San Francisco, found that 17 percent of children 8 and younger use mobile devices daily, up from 8 percent in 2011. I am guessing that education and entertainment will continue to drive this number each year. What is your opinion on schools using mobile devices? Is this the shiny new penny to improve our education systems? And as an IT professional, what is your experience with the mobility and secure access considerations?

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Using a “Playbook” Model to Organize Your Information Security Monitoring Strategy

CSIRT, I have a project for you. We have a big network and we’re definitely getting hacked constantly. Your group needs to develop and implement security monitoring to get our malware and hacking problem under control.

 

If you’ve been a security engineer for more than a few years, no doubt you’ve received a directive similar to this. If you’re anything like me, your mind probably races a mile a minute thinking of all of the cool detection techniques you’re going to develop and all of the awesome things you’re going to find.

I know, I’ll take the set of all hosts in our web proxy logs doing periodic POSTs and intersect that with…

STOP!

 

You shouldn’t leap before you look into a project like this. Read More »

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