“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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Tags: advisories, CVSS, cybersecurity, exploits, incident response, malware, psirt, security advisories, security advisory, security notice, security notices, security top of mind, vulnerability
Lately we have seen various attacks against the various SSL/TLS usages that we have in the world. The attacks have not been technical per se, but instead use weaknesses in the procedures that are used to get a certificate. Lets first look at how trust is built up using SSL.
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Tags: dnssec, security, security top of mind, SSL
The axiom “Quality, not quantity” has been adopted by everyone from stock pickers to those trying to successfully navigate the online dating scene. Now cybercriminals are also putting this philosophy to practice.
The fundamental shift away from mass spam attacks to more targeted threats with potentially bigger payoffs is top of mind to me. This trend is detailed in a new report by Cisco’s Security Intelligence Operation (SIO).
Specifically on the issue of spam, Cisco’s research reveals that mass spam volumes dropped from 300 billion daily spam messages to 40 billion between June 2010 and June 2011. Although 40 billion is still a huge number, signifying that spam is still an issue, the trend that’s most alarming is the threefold increase in spearphishing and the fourfold increase in personalized scams and malicious attacks such as malware.
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Tags: advanced persistent threats, APT, cybercrime, security, security top of mind, spam, targeted attacks
With the Black Hat and DEF CON security conferences last week in Las Vegas, two topics are top of mind for me and those in my organization: best practices for securing the network and the importance of applying software security updates. An event like Black Hat or DEF CON certainly raises awareness, but what’s really important is to take that awareness and embed it into daily management of the network. For the most part, those practices are followed on end points and applications. Unfortunately, our data indicates that patching in the infrastructure is much less consistent. This is usually based on complexity and the demands of uptime placed on the network. Events like Black Hat give my teams an opportunity to deliver training on implementing network-based mitigations and defenses. In many cases, participants in these events are simply unaware of what is available in newer versions of our products.
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Tags: network security, security, security top of mind
Today, there are many strong cryptographic algorithms and protocols, standards for their use at every layer of the network, and interoperable implementations in many products and in open source. When used appropriately, they provide strong safeguards against attacks that target our networks. Unfortunately, none of this good cryptography will protect anybody if it is used with secrets that are guessable.
Humorist Gene Weingarten claims he knows the secrets that protect the U.S. nuclear launch codes: 070494, which happens to be the date of Obama’s daughter’s birthday. No doubt the secrets are actually better chosen than that, but the joke conveys an important truth: you can’t expect everyone to choose passwords well. You should regard passwords that are human-generated or human-memorable as being guessable. A cryptographic system is only as strong as its weakest element. When human-generated keys are used in cryptography, the system should not be expected to resist a knowledgeable attacker.
The most secure key management technology is digital certificates; you should use them when you can. If for some reason you can’t, and you need to use shared secret keys, then you should make sure that those keys are generated by a uniform random process, and not by an administrator in a hurry. I will get to advice on certificates and key generation later, but first, I would like to explain why passwords and cryptography don’t mix well.
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Tags: cryptography, security, security top of mind