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A New Model to Protect the Endpoint, Part 1: Continuous vs. Point-in-Time Security

The fundamental security problem that many defenders face is securing their environment in a world of continuous change. IT environments change. Threats change. But today’s threat detection technology doesn’t change. It’s stuck in time, point-in-time to be exact.

Sure, detection technologies have evolved. The latest improvements include: executing files in a sandbox for detection and analysis, the use of virtual emulation layers to obfuscate malware from users and operating systems, reputation-based application whitelisting to baseline acceptable applications from malicious ones, and, more recently, attack chain simulation and analysis detection. But predictably, attackers fundamentally understand the static nature of these security technologies and are innovating around the limitations associated with them to penetrate network and endpoint defenses.

These point-in-time detection technologies will never be 100 percent effective and are unable to identify the unfolding follow-on activities of the attacker which require continuous scrutiny. The disconnect stems from the fact that malware is dynamic and three dimensional. It doesn’t just exist in a two-dimensional point-in-time ‘X-Y’ plot waiting to be detected, where X is time and Y is the detection mechanism. Malware exists as an interconnected ecosystem that is constantly in motion. To be even remotely effective, malware defenses have to be multi-dimensional and just as dynamic, taking into account the relationship dimension as well.

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Forget Looking in the Mirror, It’s Your Digital Image That Truly Matters

It’s great to stay in shape at the gym and pick out stylish clothes. But more and more, the personal image that really counts is digital.

That’s because the Internet of Everything (IoE) era demands new ways of looking at, well, just about everything. And everything includes you. In an expanding universe of new connections, each of us needs to ask, just where do I fit? And how am I being viewed?

In short, what is my digital persona?

The ways in which we are seen online have assumed acute importance in recent years, and that only stands to increase. Therefore, our digital personas have to be cultivated and maintained, just as we care for our images in the physical world.

In career terms, for example, you may be known in your daily work life as a good leader. But the physical world has limited reach.  If there is no evidence of that in the digital world, you will be in trouble, especially if you happen to be looking for a new job. Recruiters, of course, know that they can do an instant search and start compiling your digital profile within seconds. If you say you’re an expert or a good manager, your digital persona had better back it.

According to some recent research, job recruiters are turning more and more to Facebook, which by some measures is becoming even more impactful for employment purposes than LinkedIn. So, if the personal social media site can actually trump the professional social media site, think twice before you post those Spring Break photos.

As the consumerization of IT extends ever further into the workplace — via personal devices, social media, and so forth — the blurring of the personal and the professional will only continue.  As a result, everyone must be aware that personal actions have an impact comparable to professional achievements. And the digital trail that you leave behind every day influences how you are perceived in the marketplace.

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Steganographic Key Leakage Through Payload Metadata

Steganography is the ancient art of invisible communication, where the goal is to hide the very fact that you are trying to hide something. It adds another layer of protection after cryptography, because encrypted message looks like gibberish and everyone immediately notices that you want to hide something. Steganography embeds the (encrypted) secret message into an innocuous looking object such that the final communication looks perfectly normal. The “analog” form of steganography is the art of writing with invisible ink. The digital version hides the message by a subtle modification of the cover object. Probably the most researched area in digital steganography uses digital images as a cover media into which the message is inserted. The oldest (and very detectable) technique replaces the least significant bit (of each colour channel) with the communicated message. Shown below, the first picture is the cover object and the second one is the stego object.

cover

stego_2

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Enhance Your Security Investment with Security Optimization Service

Many organizations have the same challenges when it comes to security: blurring boundaries, more and more organized cybercrimes, difficulty in finding and retaining technical talent, and keeping up-to-date with the latest security threats and tools.

In my inaugural blog, I’d like to tell you about one useful offering: the Security Optimization Service (SOS) from Cisco Services. The service can help you keep current with what is happening in the industry and in your security fabric on an ongoing basis.

Your corporate security infrastructure fabric should be treated as a dynamic living and breathing ecosystem of policy, framework, hardware, software, applications, people, and processes, with errors, omissions, and commissions all inclusive.

Ongoing care, maintenance, optimization, change support, and user education is critical to get more out of your investments and future planning. This is the philosophy behind Cisco SOS.

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Safeguarding Privacy in the Internet of Things

Jason KohnBy Jason Kohn,  Contributing Columnist

You can’t open a web browser these days without coming across a story on the Internet of Things (IoT), and the ways that connected, autonomous devices will revolutionize every industry. There’s a reason for the hype: Cisco forecasts 50 billion connected devices by 2020, with the potential to create more than $14 trillion in value for global businesses over the next decade.

But IoT also heralds another revolution, in the degree to which individual behavior can be tracked and analyzed. While much of IoT focuses on verticals like manufacturing, energy exploration, and industrial applications, where the massive data generated by fine-grained monitoring is almost entirely beneficial, IoT will also touch on a broad range of consumer devices. From transportation to home automation to connected medical devices, machines will be monitoring the behavior of individuals more than at any time in human history. This raises a number of serious questions about consumer privacy and information security.  Read More »

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