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Cisco Security Disclosure: Help Us Help You!

April 15, 2013 at 4:00 am PST

Wow! We just published our tenth bundle of Cisco IOS Software Security Advisories and what a ride it’s been!! Way back when in the fall of 2008 when we produced our first Cisco IOS Software Security Advisory bundle, we had no idea of the impact that this delivery format would have on us internally and, more importantly, on you -- our customers!! The decision to deliver the biannual (on the fourth Wednesday of every March and September) Cisco IOS Software Security Advisory Bundled Publication brought with it many challenges, process changes, and—in the end—a format for Cisco Vulnerability Disclosure that we hope addresses at least some of your concerns. This format was modeled after the scheduled monthly release used by Microsoft for years, known affectionately as “Microsoft Tuesday” and based on requests we heard through discussions with many of our customers.

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I Can’t Keep Up with All These Cisco Security Advisories: Do I Have to Upgrade?

April 2, 2013 at 6:00 am PST

“A security advisory was just published! Should I hurry and upgrade all my Cisco devices now?”

This is a question that I am being asked by customers on a regular basis. In fact, I am also asked why there are so many security vulnerability advisories. To start with the second question: Cisco is committed to protecting customers by sharing critical security-related information in a very transparent way. Even if security vulnerabilities are found internally, the Cisco Product Security Incident Response Team (PSIRT) – which is my team – investigates, drives to resolution, and discloses such vulnerabilities. To quickly answer the first question, don’t panic, as you may not have to immediately upgrade your device. However, in this article I will discuss some of the guidelines and best practices for responding to Cisco security vulnerability reports.

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March 2013 Cisco IOS Software Security Advisories: T-7 and Counting!

It’s that time of year again, folks. On Wednesday of next week, the Cisco Product Security Incident Response Team (PSIRT) will release the first Cisco IOS Software Security Advisory Bundled Publication of 2013. As a reminder, Cisco releases bundles of Cisco IOS Software Security Advisories on the fourth Wednesday of March and September each calendar year. As is the case with the vast majority of our security advisories, vulnerabilities scheduled for disclosure in the upcoming bundle will normally have a Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) Base Score from 7.0 to 10.0.

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Let’s Hack Some Cisco Gear at SecCon!

December 18, 2012 at 8:54 am PST

Cisco SecCon 2012 brought together hundreds of engineers, live and virtually, from Cisco offices around the globe with one common goal: to share their knowledge and learn best practices about how to increase the overall security posture of Cisco products.

It is amazing to see how many definitions the word “hack” has out on the Internet. Just look at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hack. In short, the word “hack” does not always mean a “bad” or “malicious” action.

I’ve had the opportunity and honor to present at SecCon several times, 2012 being my fourth year. My session this year was titled “Cisco PSIRT Vulnerability Analysis: What Has Changed Since Last SecCon”. As you probably already know (or might have guessed), I’m part of Cisco’s Product Security Incident Response Team (PSIRT). During my talk I went over an analysis of the vulnerabilities that were discovered, driven to resolution, and disclosed during this past year, as well as lessons learned from them. I also highlighted several key accomplishments Cisco has achieved during the last few years. For example, Cisco now has the ability to correlate and patch third-party software vulnerabilities. Additionally, we have grown Cisco’s Secure Development Lifecycle (CSDL) into a robust, repeatable and measurable process. As Graham Holmes mentioned in a recent blog post:

Our development processes leverage product security baseline requirements, threat modeling in design or static analysis and fuzzing in validation, and registration of third-party software to better address vulnerabilities when they are disclosed. In the innermost layer of our products, security is built-in to devices in both silicon and software. The use of runtime assurance and protection capabilities such as Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR), Object Size Checking, and execution space protections coupled with secure boot, image signing, and common crypto modules are leading to even more resilient products in an increasingly threatening environment. Read More »

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Help! I Need to Respond to All These Cisco IOS Software Vulnerabilities and I Cannot Scale!!!

October 23, 2012 at 7:32 am PST

No software is immune to security vulnerabilities. The time between the discovery and disclosure of security vulnerabilities and the availability of an exploit is getting shorter. This imposes pressures on network security professionals and information technology (IT) managers to quickly respond to security vulnerabilities or apply mitigation in their network. Many organizations are struggling to keep up-to-date with the constant release of new vulnerabilities and software fixes. At the same time, they are under pressure to provide near 100% availability of key business services and systems.

Note: Cisco has a very robust vulnerability management process. This process is described in detail at Cisco’s Security Vulnerability Policy. The Cisco Product Security Incident Response Team (PSIRT) manages the receipt, investigation, and public reporting of security vulnerability information that is related to Cisco products and networks.

As an example, every time Cisco discloses a security vulnerability for Cisco IOS Software (or any given product), network security administrators have to identify affected devices and (in numerous cases) upgrade such devices. These activities can take hours, days, or even weeks depending on the size of the organization. For instance large enterprises and organizations may have thousands of routers and switches that need to be assessed for the impact of any given vulnerability.

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