Author Archive Jayanthi

ByJayanthi

Red Team – Blue Team

Reading Time: 2 minutes

“Red team – Blue team” is a popular parlance in the Information security domain. It actually imitates military tactics, ” red teams” and “blue teams” who work in offensive and defensive positions. Protecting the infrastructure of an organization and ensuring the complete security of an organization is the ultimate goal of every security program.

Every organization wants their

a. precious data to be safe

b. data not to fall into wrong hands

c. not to have any of their client’s passwords stolen

d. not to have any of their private conversations being snooped on and more…

How do we achieve this in the Information security domain? By forming two teams – the ‘Red Team’ and the ‘Blue Team’.

Red Team:

The ‘Red Team’ is:

  • The offensive team or the attacking team
  • It consists of team members who perform duties similar to pen-testers who will attack and test an organization’s defenses
  • It may consist of team members from outside the organization 
  • The Red team will have skills pertaining to performing the attacks like phishing, social engineering, masquerading like employees and more
  • The ‘Red Team’ will attack an organization’s defenses and find loop holes in the system that might be potentially attacked by hackers

Blue Team:

The Blue Team is:

  • The defensive team
  • Will erect all defenses by ensuring that necessary software (such as firewalls, anti-virus definitions) have been installed and all patches are downloaded as and when they are released
  • They will also ensure that all loopholes in the security program are sealed
  • The ‘Blue team’ will have to keep up with all the new security threats and bugs in the Information security landscape and mitigate them accordingly
  • The ‘Blue team’ will have to re-group and re-strategize once the threat of attacks looms

Who is more important? (Red Team or Blue Team?)

Both the teams are equally important as both of them work for the betterment of an organization. While one team erects defenses and makes sure everything is secure, the other team attacks it and shows the vulnerability of defenses. The best way to work  of course, is for the “Red team” to think like the “Blue team” and attack the defenses and for the “Blue team” to think like the “Red team” and create good defenses!

This way, the organization can try to be as secure as possible!

There is also a ‘purple’ team but that will be for another post… ๐Ÿ™‚

This post is for alphabet ‘R’ for the #Blogchatter challenge. The previous post can be found here.

 

 

 

 

 

ByJayanthi

Winners are not people who never fail, but people who never quit…

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Next in my series of loved proverbs and quotes is this saying “Winners are not people who never fail, but people who never quit”. There must not be one successful person in the world who has not failed at anything. It is also said that “Failure is the stepping stone to success”. If you have not failed in anything in life, success will definitely take longer to reach you. Luckily for me, I have failed a few times here and there and I don’t quit that easily either – hope lady success finds me soon! ๐Ÿ™‚

Here are a few people who had to take a few misses initially but made sure they didn’t quit to reach their successful state today:

  1. Bill Gates the creator of Microsoft stumbled with his first start-up and dropped out of Harvard to start his most successful company. 
  2. J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series of books, faced rejection of her manuscript 12 times before finally being accepted. 
  3. Steven Spielberg, director of extremely popular movies such as ‘Saving Private Ryan’, ‘Jurassic Park’, ‘BFG’, ‘ET’, ‘Schindlers list’, ‘Jaws’ was rejected twice by the ‘University of Southern Californiaโ€™s School of Cinematic Arts.’!!
  4. Albert Einstein’ – the brainy man born in 1879 was considered as a major failure by his father. He did not talk till he was 4 years old. He also joined college but almost dropped out. This is the person, who taught us the theory of relativity and more ground breaking work in Physics.

All the personalities listed suffered initial setbacks in their current glorious career. But it was their inherent trait to never quit that got them to the level they are today!

‘Winners are not people who never fail, but people who never quit’…

Cheers! ๐Ÿ™‚

 

This post is for alphabet ‘Q’ for the #BlogchatterA2Z challenge. The previous post can be found here.

 

ByJayanthi

Is “Privacy” a myth?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

“Privacy”, what? might be a common reaction for some of us. For me, of late, I have been getting more and more passionate about privacy issues. What is “privacy” anyways? Is it a total myth in this digital age? Most of my digital life is spent in wondering who has stolen my private information, or who “else” has seen my online pictures and who “else” is listening to me…if you are like me – you are a true “privacy” warrior like me! ๐Ÿ™‚

Almost all of our information is stored online in some server in a strange country(or in your very own background!! :)) Safeguarding this personal information and ensuring that this information is not “sold” to other third parties is one way of ensuring “privacy”. Anything that is yours and yours alone and which is spied upon or stolen cunningly is loss of privacy. 

The places you visited, your birthdays, the pictures you take, the milestones achieved(and shared), the places that you have been to, the credit card numbers that are stored for ease of transactions –  we give all this information voluntarily and unknowingly to some online giant. This information – if it stays with the same organization – it is “private”. But more often than not, “your” information gets sold and you have no clue about it.

The EU GDPR(General Data Protection Regulation) that came into effect last year was the strongest data privacy regulation in 20 years. It broadly seeks to protect user data and make all organizations create transparent data policies. Selling user data is not the only invasion of privacy – there are other ways that privacy of users can be lost too.

Alexa:

Digital assistants or personal assistants(like Siri, Cortana, Amazon Echo) may be more ubiquitous in the West than in India. Personal assistants are supposed to make our life simpler – they can call anybody, order pizza, turn on the lights and more. But according to a report published a week back, did you know that “Alexa” was listening to your conversations all along? If you forgot to “turn off” your Alexa, it could eavesdrop on all your personal conversations. According to this report, voice snippets are  analyzed by Amazon employees for better customer experience.  

So, if you feel your privacy has been lost with the Amazon Echo devices, it would be good to go to ‘Settings’ in the ‘Alexa’ app – and disable “the use of voice recordings for the development of new features’. Similarly, it would be good to review all ‘privacy” features in all digital devices and set it to stringent levels. 

With all the privacy hacks on various digital platforms – I hardly feel like sharing anything online except for meeting everybody in person! ๐Ÿ™‚

This post is for alphabet ‘P’ of the #Blogchatter challenge. The previous post can be found here.

 

ByJayanthi

OWASP Top 10 vulnerabilities

Reading Time: 3 minutes

OWASP( ‘Open web application security project’) is a community and it is a non-profit organization that is primarily oriented towards securing software. Any type of software that we use today, is always prone to vulnerabilities and bugs. These bugs give hackers a chance to proliferate inside the software and steal our precious information. Can we say any of the data that is stored on countless servers and databases is safe? Never…there is always a way to steal your credit card number sitting in a strange server on a strange land. One way of doing it is by exploiting the vulnerabilities or weaknesses in the software that we use everyday…

OWASP lists the top 10 vulnerabilities in application software along with their risks and countermeasures. This helps organizations to ramp up their software by knowing the common vulnerabilities that are being used. This list is updated every 3-4 years and the last list was updated in 2018.

 

 

It is quite that amazing that when I started coding years ago – we were only worried about getting the code to run the way we wanted it to. But now, times have changed and we have to make sure that the code is hack proof in every possible way.. anyways, here are the OWASP top vulnerabilities released in 2018:

  1. Injection

        ‘Injection’ may mean different things to people from different walks of life but in our context – ‘injection’ is inputting wrong user  data thereby triggering unintended commands. Some examples of injections can be SQL queries, PHP queries, LDAP queries and more.  ‘Injection’ attacks check if an application is vulnerable or not.

    2. Broken authentication

      We have already discussed authentication in an earlier post.  In a typical authentication scenario, we enter the ‘username’ and ‘password’ and if we enter them correctly, we are authenticated. What happens if somebody steals your session maybe in a shopping conversation with a big online retailer? Maybe you were just authenticated and you finished shopping online. What if somebody steals your financial information with the information you entered last?  This is ‘broken authentication’.

   3. Sensitive data exposure

    Now that online banking and online transactions have all become common place – all usernames and passwords can be sniffed if good encryption is not in place. Just imagine a scenario, wherein your online banking password is sniffed by miscreants! Imagine the damage they can do!! 

  This can be avoided by using the latest encryption algorithms and making sure that none of the information is stored in the cache.

4. XML external entities

  This is known as XXE attacks and these are possible due to the uploading of malicious XML files by the user. Once a malicious file is uploaded to the server, it can be used to steal data and do other malicious things.

5. Broken access control

   I have already written about ‘access control‘ in another post.  ‘Access control’ authorizes users to access the appropriate resources. What if ‘John’ gains ‘admin’ privileges and is able to access your account? Is that right? This is ‘broken access control’. John is not authorized to access your account and he should not be able to access by changing a small piece of code.

This can be prevented by using ‘authorization tokens’.

6. Security  misconfigurations

Security misconfigurations can result from using default ‘security’ settings. 

This can be avoided by configuring all the servers appropriately and preventing wordy error messages.

7. Cross site scripting

Cross site scripting occurs when attackers can insert a piece of code on a web page. This can then be used to steal user data and bring down websites.

8.  Insecure deserialization

Serialization and Deserialization are two processes which happen when dealing with data. This is a type of vulnerability wherein the ‘deserialization’ happens with untrusted sources. 

9. Using Components with known vulnerabilities

It is always possible that web application developers are working with components that have some vulnerabilities in them. The vulnerabilities might have just have been discovered. Once that happens, it is good for application developers to delete such components or install patches immediately.

10. Insufficient logging and monitoring

Many security breaches are detected long after an incident. By this time, hackers can penetrate the system and cause even more damage. In order to minimize extra damage, all activities must be logged and monitored. 

The original set of OWASP top 10 vulnerabilities can be found here

This post is for alphabet ‘O’ of the #Blogchatter challenge. The previous post can be found here.

ByJayanthi

Never judge a book by its cover!

Reading Time: 2 minutes

In my favorite proverb series – this is yet another one ‘Never judge a book by its cover’!! – which means not to judge a person too quickly and by looking at only their outward appearance and demeanor. 

Almost all the proverbs seem to be leading us for a perfect life(good healthy eating habits, forgetting the past, moving on etc etc) which is next to impossible for all us… ๐Ÿ™‚ but we can still try to follow it to some extent at least…

Judging someone is something we are all guilty of…but sometimes, we judge somebody without knowing them totally and by external appearances alone.  We judge a person in a hurry just by looking at them or by speaking just a few words with them too. We label them quickly too (talkative, quiet, silent, pessimistic, optimist, studious, nerd, geek, no sense of humor etc etc) I have been guilty of judging somebody too quickly just by their appearance and finally realized how wrong I was too!(face palm!!)

All of us undergo many,many experiences in life and each of the experiences either mellows us down, makes us stronger or weaker. Even though there is a Tamil proverb “agathin azhagu mugathil theriyum”(The beauty of your mind is visible on your face) – more often than not, you cannot understand everything that a person has undergone just by looking at their face. Most of us maintain a happy and smiling face which holds many secrets! 

So, good to not judge a book by its cover but give all relationships some time to develop and grow!

This post is for alphabet ‘N’ of the #Blogchatter challenge. The previous post can be found here.

ByJayanthi

Identity management

Reading Time: 2 minutes

‘Identity management’ in some ways is an extension of the concepts of  access control and authentication. The current business environment is complex and getting more complex with time. There are numerous departments(like CRM, ERP and HR) and networks. There are hundreds of business users(like employees, customers and partners) constantly logging into systems and accessing different resources. Employees might also move onto different departments and they might also quit and move onto different organizations. How do we handle the huge responsibility of checking the credentials of the users, authentication them and authorization them? This is done by process of ‘identity management’.

‘Identity management’ involves the process of first identifying the user, authenticating the user and authorizing them to access appropriate resources in an automated way. ‘Identity management’ solutions have to handle the huge task of assigning access to  different users across multiple systems. They also have to make sure that the access is neither too restricted nor too broad.  ‘Identity management’ solutions also involves revoking the credentials of former employees so that cannot access the old resources again.

 

Advantages of IDM solutions:

In the earlier days, IDM solutions were manual, but with today’s complex business scenario, automated solutions are the need of the hour. IDM solutions offer these advantages:

  1. They increase the productivity in an organization(administrators do not have to spend time configuring the different settings for different users)
  2. Security in the organization is enhanced since users are given appropriate access and single-sign on is implemented

IDM solutions:

A number of organizations offer IDM solutions and here are a few of them:

  1. Computer Associates Identity and access management
  2. IBM Identity and access management
  3. Oracle Identity management

Seamless digital transitions in today’s business scenario is possible because of sophisticated identity management’ solutions. 

This post is for alphabet ‘M’ of the #Blogchatter challenge. The previous post can be found here.

ByJayanthi

Let bygones be bygones…

Reading Time: 2 minutes

In my most liked proverb series – here is the next one…

Ten years ago, I had a surgery and I cannot help thinking about it till today. “What if I had some things had happened differently?” – how would have my life been? This is my “flashback” many days… do you also rewind your life to some point in your life?

By the time we reach our late 20s or 30s , we all start having things in our life that we cannot banish. It might be that sour relationship, that terrible let down, that breach of trust, that bad accident or any other bad memory. I used to be a person who could never dismiss the past. I could cling to the past forever and forever. When it dawned on me one day, that carrying the past on my shoulders wasn’t doing anything good. Instead, it only got me disappointed. 

Finally, I read this proverb one day and realized how true it was. From that day, I have tried my level best to not dwell on past things and move forward in life. I haven’t stopped dwelling on the past entirely, but I certainly have learnt to look ahead and move forward. What had happened, had happened – and I had to move ahead….

How about you? Do you keep looking at the back and wonder “if this had not happened” or “if that had not happened” – how life would have been? It would be good to look ahead because we cannot change the past but we can certainly look to the future to make our life better! ๐Ÿ™‚

This post is for alphabet ‘L’ for the #BlogchatterA2Z challenge. The previous post can be found here.

ByJayanthi

Keep your mouth shut and eyes open!

Reading Time: 2 minutes

This proverb as a poster was given to my daughter and I haven’t agreed with anything more than this(along with the proverbs in the series! :))

If only most of the world were to follow this – if only.. how would the world be if there were a lot less of talking and more observing?

  1. Lesser arguments
  2. Lesser misunderstandings
  3. Lesser quarrels 
  4. We would understand more
  5. Better relationships! ๐Ÿ™‚

 

I am sure many or all of us have been caught in circular conversations – wherein we say one thing to person( as a “secret”!) and that person tells the same thing to another person(as a secret again :)) and by the end, everybody knows the “secret” and the first person comes and asks you “Can’t you just keep a secret?” and you wonder “Why didn’t I just keep my mouth shut in the first place?”

 

Social media may be a powerful tool today to spread messages around but the human mouth is the always strongest news spreader! ๐Ÿ™‚ And to top it all, it cannot be documented too. Sometimes, news spreads like wildfire just by a word of mouth.

Which is why in Information security, the weakest link in any security perimeter is always the human factor(or the human mouth in our case!) How is this even possible – you might think – we have the greatest firewall, anti-virus software and all the security safeguards and we might still get hacked. How? Because some person, might have the leaked the password to a database to another person and this might have landed in the wrong person’s hands. If only, they kept their mouth shut and did not tell the password…if only…

In an ideal world our mouths would be shut at incorrect times and our eyes would be open all the time… ๐Ÿ™‚ but since we are all mere mortals, we could try and follow the proverb to the best of our efforts by talking less and observing more!

This post is for alphabet ‘K’ for the #BlogchatterA2Z challenge. The previous post can be found here. 

ByJayanthi

A journey of a thousand miles…

Reading Time: 2 minutes

….begins with a  single step!! Next in my line of favorite quotes is this one…

I signed up for the Blogchatter challenge with a lot of apprehension. The month of April is always an interesting one for me. Both my children’s exams get over that time. Their summer vacations begin that time too. If you thought, having small kids at home and working(writing) from home is hard, think again! Older kids are also a lot of work!! Many a time, I have two pairs of eyes always peeking into my laptop – wondering what I am going to be writing about next ๐Ÿ™‚ They have their summer classes, entrance exams, play dates, and are constantly going in and out of the house with their friends…and you get the point…it is a busy house! ๐Ÿ™‚

To top it all – we had also planned for short trips wherein I knew I would not have time to write posts then and there. How will I be able to manage writing 26 posts one for each and every day of April? (except for Sundays) I knew I had to take the first step and decide to do it. Then, I had to draw a plan. Yes, I am a planner and I have been able to stick to it so far, even though I have been traveling through the A2Z challenge.

So, how have I been able to do it so far? By taking the first step of deciding to do it. Yes, friends – ‘the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’ is so true for me for the #Blogchatter challenge and for many mammoth tasks too. 

Once the first step was taken, all other activities have followed and I have got some direction on how to proceed and complete it.

The Blogchatter challenge runs all through April and it isn’t over yet. Wish me luck to complete it!

This post is for alphabet ‘J’ for the #Blogchatter challenge. The previous post can be found here

ByJayanthi

Identity chaos

Reading Time: 2 minutes

As I was toying with my next topic for my technical post in Information security, I bumped into this concept called ‘Identity chaos’ – my curiosity was piqued and well, I wrote about it instantly! ๐Ÿ™‚ So, here goes:

As reminded by several security professionals, a good password is one that has a combination of:

  1. Upper case letters
  2. Lower case letters
  3. Numerals
  4. Special characters
  5. Be a minimum of 8 characters in length

All security practitioners constantly remind you to follow these tips diligently to protect yourself from hacks and breaches. Now when users finally condescend and start following these rules, each of the websites they visit must be given a new password.

Next comes the real test. They have to remember the password the very next day or so.

Now assume they visit website1 and begin typing the password:  xyZ123! and success! – they have logged in!

                                     They visit website2 and type the password:  XyZ324! and success again and they are logged in again !

                                     They visit website3 and try typing the password….only to realise that they have forgotten the password :

“Was it xyZ123 that was the password?” OR

“Was it XYZ!123 that was the password?!!” OR

“Was it an entirely different combination?!!” 

They are totally confused and frantically try the different password combinations….till they get locked out!! 

    Sounds familiar? This is “identity chaos” or “password fatigue“!!

When a user tries to remember the different password combinations for different website logins when they forget it, is known as “identity chaos” or “password fatigue”!!

This post for alphabet ‘I’ of the #BlogchatterA2Z challenge. The previous post can be found here.