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Bundled Third-Party Software Security at OSCON 2012

The practice of using Open Source Software (OSS) and other third-party software (TPS) to build products and services is well established. Not only can it create tremendous efficiency--why build an operating system or web server if you don’t need to?--it also allows individual products to leverage best-of-breed functionality. This best-of-breed functionality can be critical on today’s Internet as security and scalability are often difficult or even patently ignored until it is too late.

The use of TPS to build things has been so successful and is so widespread that many products may even be assembled from a majority of software written by unknown third parties. This practice is not without its challenges. One of those challenges is security.

How does the security of a product’s constituent TPS affect its own security? How does the creator of the product learn of, manage and ultimately resolve security issues that originate in the relevant TPS packages?

These are the types of questions I attempted to address during a recent presentation at O’Reilly OSCON 2012. During that session I touched on seven challenges and offered five tools that I believe can make a difference.

Our friends on the Cisco Security Marketing team have posted the slides from that presentation online at slideshare.net.

Managing the Security Impact of Bundled Open Source Software from OSCON from Cisco Security

Is this an area of concern for you? If it is, I’d like to know how you are tackling it. What is working well? What is working not-so well?

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Who Keeps Your IPS Up To Date?

The realm of Network security encompasses many perspectives and interests as is evident from the wealth of articles prevalent across the media and availability of various proactive protection measures. One particular technology recognized as integral to securing a network is the Intrusion Prevention System (IPS), which is used to detect and prevent suspected malicious network traffic or behavior. However, an IPS is not just a ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ type of solution. This is because of the necessity of employing current Cisco IPS signatures, which are the lifeblood of the IPS and are essential for it to identify and block attacks against specific vulnerabilities or certain types of threats. Because new threats and vulnerabilities are constantly being discovered, the IPS signature database for an IPS-capable device needs to be kept current to maximize the level of protection that it can provide. If you already use Cisco IPS technology, then you might already be familiar how crucial it is to use the most current IPS signatures. Otherwise, the IPS solution cannot provide optimal protection against new threats and attacks. Cisco IPS owners with a Cisco IPS Services License understand this fact and can receive signature updates as they become available. Signature updates can be installed manually or downloaded and installed automatically using native Cisco IPS capabilities or management tools such as Cisco Security Manager. For those inclined to write their own signatures, Cisco has published documentation on how to write customer signatures for the IPS.

And while the signatures are the “lifeblood” of the IPS and keeping them current is paramount, it is also important to make sure that the underlying operating system is kept up to date on the sensor as well. The underlying operating system and engines decompose and analyze the traffic as it passes through the device. Things like protocol decoding, features, and evasion resistance are handled here. The engines work but do not alert without the signature set as the signatures provide the matching framework for an alert to fire. The same can be said about the signatures. They do not work without the engines. Each requires the other to function and therefore keeping them both current is important.

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Simplifying PCI Compliance for SMBs

Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance can often be overwhelming for all enterprises, let alone small and medium businesses (SMBs).  Given limited budgets and IT resources, SMBs face an even greater challenge than large enterprises.

The PCI Data Security Standard (DSS) 2.0 is complex on several levels:

  • It requires expertise on a range of network systems and security technologies.
  • It requires continual monitoring and management of access to cardholder data.
  • There is no “silver bullet” technology that can address a growing list of detailed standards and requirements. Technologies such as encryption, tokenization, as well as Europay, MasterCard, and Visa (EMV) smartcards address portions of your infrastructure, but none provide a single compliance solution.
  • It’s dynamic and requires ongoing diligence.  Being compliant at the time of your audit is a snapshot in time that requires simplified maintenance.

These requirements take time, effort and funding, which are all in short supply in SMBs.

Help is at hand. Cisco and many of its partners offer cost-effective PCI compliance services--including assistance for SMBs as they complete their self-assessment questionnaire or assess PCI readiness.   In a recent article  authored by Cisco and partners Verizon Business and Presidio, we examine ways to simplify compliance for small and medium businesses.  Learn the 5 key strategies to securing your customer information while incorporating security best practices from Aaron Renolds, QSA and Principal Consultant at Verizon Enterprise Solutions and Sean Wallis, Senior Security Consultant at Presidio Networked Solutions.

Advice to Managers: Five Ways to Simplify Your PCI 2.0 Compliance:

http://www.cisco.com/cisco/web/solutions/small_business/resource_center/articles/do_business_better/advice_to_managers/index.html

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“War, what is it good for” as a security metaphor?

I have a thing for metaphors. I wrote my dissertation on them. And they have helped me enormously as a non-engineer working in IT security.

Metaphors are powerful tools (that’s a metaphor, by the way). Literally referring to something as something else enables us to make mental connections between concepts that are not really the same. War and weapons have proven historically useful metaphors. In wartime, everything changes. We look at the situation, our opponents, and even ourselves very differently (I like the image of a noble warrior on the battlefield more than that of a guy who spends most of his day sitting and typing…)

But metaphors also cause trouble, especially when we use them to over-simplify. I am skeptical of “security as war” metaphors, including that of the arms race. The metaphor detracts from the very real threats of cyber- and information warfare. War doesn’t define security any more than war defines firearms. Unless we are specifically talking about threats from nation states (and a few other actors) using information technology as part of armed conflict, we are not talking about war. And this is not what we are usually talking about in information security.

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Network Defense at Blackhat 2012

Just back from presenting lab-based training session Detecting & Mitigating Attacks Using Your Network Infrastructure with Joe Karpenko at Blackhat USA 2012. Great to see a Defense track of Briefings which included Intrusion Detection Along The Kill Chain: Why Your Detection System Sucks And What To Do About It and more of an emphasis on protecting or remediating network infrastructures in topics like Targeted Intrusion Remediation: Lessons From The Front Lines. I attended several of these briefings and was impressed with the breadth of information provided for network operators. The Defense briefings align well with the network security best practices advocated by Cisco and presented in our training. These best practices include: Read More »

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