Category Archive Information Security

ByJayanthi

Reflections – A2Z19

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The month of April is always a busy one for me. Two grown kids at home(oh, they are work too!! :)) , schedules all over the place, travelling, business work – all start running riot in April… πŸ™‚ And in the midst I really wanted to do the #BlogchatterA2Z challenge as I had enjoyed doing it so much last year … so, how did I manage? Here goes the report card and my reflections on the whole journey:

Report card:

My idea was to write posts in Information security(in tune with my blog’s primary objective) and proverbs.. and I did manage to complete them very well… Actually, I had a lot of Information security thoughts in my head, which got shape and a final form once I started writing… Given a deadline to finish one post per day motivated me to stay on track and write about all about what I wanted to do!! πŸ™‚ 

My Information thoughts just flowed and flowed!! πŸ™‚

What was the hard part?

Being both a technical and a personal blogger, I always wonder what is the hard part of blogging? Sometimes, it is just getting started…other times, it is just the content and yet, at other times, the flow just doesn’t seem right…but most times for me, it is just the ‘title’ of the blog topic which is the challenging part… once a suitable and interesting topic arises, everything falls into place miraculously!! πŸ™‚

Here are my InfoSec posts which I managed to write making it both understandable and techy at the same time…

Authentication

Cyber-bullying!

Digital forensics

‘Everyday’ security

GIAC certifications

Identity chaos

Identity management

OWASP Top 10 vulnerabilities

Is ‘Privacy’ a myth?

Red Team – Blue Team

SOC

Two factor authentication

Women in Cybersecurity

YouTube security

Project Zero

All of the posts were something that I enjoyed writing, but I particularly enjoyed researching and writing about Project Zero, YouTube Security. OWASP top 10 vulnearabilities the most!! I hope my writing shed light on some topics that you were vague about and motivated you to stay on top of Cybersecurity as well!

Until next year from A2Z…. Ciao!!  πŸ™‚

 

 

 

 

 

ByJayanthi

Project Zero

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Security has become an important component of every business. Many(if not all) organizations are choosing a proactive approach to security rather than a reactive one. It is better to deal with bugs and flaws in any software, before the malicious elements manipulate the same flaws for personal and monetary gains. 

Project Zero:

It is with this same thought that Google created ‘Project Zero’ in 2014. ‘Project Zero’ was also termed as the ‘Cybersecurity dream team’!! The primary aim of this project is to find flaws and vulnerabilities not only in Google products but in other products, operating systems and software. The goal is to detect “zero day vulnerabilities” which are mostly exploited by criminals, state sponsored hackers and intelligence agencies and make the Internet a safe place for all. 

Once a bug was discovered by the ‘Project Zero’ team, it was intimated to the manufacturer directly. Only when a patch was released, was the bug disclosed to the public. However, if a patch was not released by the manufacturer within 90 days, then again it was released to the public. 

Zero-day vulnerabilities are those bugs or loopholes that are known to a hacker but not to the vendor of the product. How do you feel when you have created a product, but do not know the bugs or drawbacks in it but somebody else knows it and is misusing it? This is exactly what was happening with a number of products – hackers were making use of vulnerabilities and exploiting it to the maximum but the vendors were clueless about what was happening. 

The team:

The team included New Zealander Ben Hawkes, Tavis Ormandy, an English researcher , American hacker prodigy George Hotz, Switzerland-based Brit Ian Beer. All of the professionals were extremely good at bug hunting(finding flaws in software) and hacking. 

Is ‘Project Zero’ still hiring?

The good news is ‘yes’! πŸ™‚ Google is still hiring for its ‘Project Zero’ team. Good coding skills and the ability to do vulnerability research and exploit development are crucial skills that are needed. In addition, if you have publicly reported vulnerabilities, you have a brighter chance of getting in! For more details on joining ‘Project Zero’ visit this link.

Latest findings by ‘Project Zero’:

As early as October of last year, a security hole was plugged in for Facebook owned ‘Whatsapp’ which was discovered by Project Zero. 

In March of this year, Google disclosed a flaw in the MacOS kernel. 

Let’s hope Google’s ‘Project Zero’ helps in the betterment of the netizen’s Internet experience without offending anyone… πŸ™‚

Written for the letter ‘Z’ for #BlogchatterA2Z challenge. The previous post can be found here.

It has been a pleasure writing about Information security and proverbs this entire month! I hope you enjoyed reading them as much I did writing them! See you next year!! πŸ™‚

 

ByJayanthi

YouTube security

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There must not be a soul in this planet who has not watched YouTube videos in this age! From small babies to older adults we all watch them. There are cooking videos, educational videos, entertainment videos, cartoons and name a topic and you can find a video on the same. The business has grown so much that there are many who have made a fine career by making YouTube videos and are known as ‘YouTubers'(not an easy one though, atleast initially) 

With so much riding on YouTube are there any security problems? Of course, for any social media that is used billions of people there is bound to be a few(or more!)security hiccups here and there. The problem is identifying it first and then closing it. 

Comments:

If you have watched a lot of videos that have children in them, you might have noticed that many of them(though not all) have their comments section disabled currently. Why did this happen? In February this year, video creator, Matt Watson found a “pedophilia wormhole ring” which was being facilitated by the comments in the YouTube videos.  I know, I feel disgusted too… πŸ™ How did this happen? Pedophiles were meeting through the comments section on YouTube videos which feature children. They exchange their contact information, pass lewd comments and do other disgusting things! For more information visit this link.

What is being done after this discovery?

It is safe to say, that YouTube has disabled the comments section of many videos featuring children. It has also removed thousands of “inappropriate” comments and terminated hundreds of viewer accounts. Though many YouTuber creators might be offended that this might be eating into their advertising and marketing, I think this is a good move to keep children safe online. 

What else can be done by us?

The only thing that we can all do is to ensure that children get a YouTube account only when they are advised to do so – at age 13! After that, it is important for the parents and children to learn and know the risks associated with “broadcasting oneself” and then take the plunge.

I know many parents and children cannot wait to get an email account or YouTube account even at 8 or 9 years of age, but considering that the Internet is not such a safe place after all, isn’t it wise to just a few more years? After YouTube isn’t going anywhere and neither is the Internet. Maybe we will have something more exciting than YouTube too in the few years that they wait too… πŸ™‚

Here’s to keeping children safe online!

Written for the letter ‘Y’ for the #BlogchatterA2Z challenge. The previous post can be found here

ByJayanthi

Women in Cybersecurity

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A little girl always fiddled with her mother’s smartphone and tried to crack the passcode or the pattern on it. She knew exactly what her mother would use as passcode or pattern as she knew her mother inside out!! πŸ™‚ She will try and most of the times, she can crack the passcode within three tries!! How? she will use the concept of social engineering. She was always glued to her mother’s cybersecurity’s posts(whether she understood them fully or not)  – and she was constantly wondering if this can be “hacked” or if “biometrics” can indeed work!! πŸ™‚ Do you think this little girl will be a budding “white hat” hacker in the future and “another woman to reckon with in the cybersecurity domain”? Only time will tell and this mother is eager to know that… πŸ™‚

Now moving on from that little story to the real women who are rocking the InfoSec domain today… πŸ™‚

Introduction:

Women have stepped into all professions today. There were always women in engineering, medicine, marketing, art, management, research and more. But ‘Women in Cybersecurity’ has become a movement towards empowering women and trusting their inherent capabilities to beat the newer threats arising everyday.

Statistics about ‘Women in Cybersecurity’:

  1. The total number of cybersecurity openings is expected to be close to 3.5 million by the year 2021. However, the total number of women in the cybersecurity domain today stands at only 24% of the total workforce.
  2. However, more and more women are entering the cybersecurity workforce. 
  3. Pay disparity between women InfoSec professionals and their male counterparts is present as in the other professions(my guess, this is due to “family” breaks that most women end up taking)
  4. Men and women do identical cybersecurity duties in the industry(as an example, “threat detection/remediation”, “data security”, “network security architecture”)
  5. Women are getting a higher education in cybersecurity along with most sought after certifications(CISSP, CISM, CISA etc) too!

Who are some of the women leading the cybersecurity domain?

This is a list of some of the top women in the field in no particular order:

  1. Ann Barron-DiCamillo  – is the Vice President Cyber Threat Intelligence and Incident Response at American Express.
  2. Niloofar Howe – is the Chief Strategy Officer at RSA
  3. Eleanor Dallaway – is the Editor of Infosecurity Magazine

Why should women enter the cybersecurity domain?

Apart from the cliched reason, that there is a huge gender gap and the profession needs more women to join the field, from a personal perspective, it is truly amazing to be in the field! πŸ™‚ When most people are just enjoying on the Internet, we can see the things underneath the Internet with a “magical lens” and we take it as a moral responsibility to catch the threats early.

Women also bring a totally new perspective to the field, thus motivating everyone in the board room to include them more!

Information security is not just programming, hunting for bugs, building firewalls – it encompasses all this and even more! And with the field constantly churning out new hacker avatars – there is never a dull moment!

So, what are you waiting for, ladies? πŸ™‚ Hop onto the InfoSec domain today…:) (and I will keep an eye on that little girl for you!! ;))

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

 

 

 

ByJayanthi

Two factor authentication

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Recall the ‘Authentication‘ post for alphabet ‘A’? Now we deal with two-factor authentication which is an extension to that post.  Authentication in the information security realm is the process of identifying yourself to the system. The most popular way of authentication is the classic ‘username-password’ combination. This is one aspect of Information security that touches us all the time.  From email logins, social media logins, we may have to enter and re-enter our passwords everyday.  We thereby implement the concept of authentication all the time in our lives! Now let us see what is  ‘two factor authentication’ and see what role it plays…

Two-factor authentication:

Do you think the common username and password is totally safe? Is your account totally hack-proof with just a password? Nope – think again… the common username-password combination might be easily cracked by a determined hacker.

Two factor authentication is an additional layer of security for your account. In addition to the username and password combination, one way of establishing two factor authentication is to enter a code that is sent to the user’s phone via a SMS or a voice call. Some other ways of performing two factor authentication are tokens, RFID cards and smartphone apps.

Example of two-factor authentication:

Facebook two factor authentication:

  1. You will enter your username
  2. You will enter your password
  3. You will also additionally be asked to enter a code sent to the phone(assuming you have chosen text messages as your two factor authentication)
  4. Once you enter the correct password and code, you will be logged in successfully

 Example of Google two factor authentication or Google two step authentication can be found here

Now if the hacker intends to hack you account, he has to pass through two layers of security. He has to crack the username/password combination first  and then figure the code that is sent to the phone. Two factor authentication might not be the magic bullet to prevent attacks on any account,but since it involves more work, it might stop the hacker from getting into your account. This is the concept of ‘two factor authentication’. 

Another trivia related to passwords: Did you know the most common passwords all across the world was “123456”, “123456789”, “qwerty”, “password” and “1111111”? If you have any of these passwords for any of your accounts please do change them as you run a high risk of getting hacked! πŸ™‚

This post is for alphabet ‘T’ for #BlogchatterA2Z. The previous post can be found here.

 

 

ByJayanthi

SOC

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‘SOC’ is the acronym for ‘Security Operations Center’. The 2018 Verizon DBIR (Data breach investigations report) states that there were 53,308 security incidents and there were 2,216 data breaches in the year 2018. It also states that the 68% of the breaches took months or longer to discover! Isn’t it amazing – there is a  breach in your organization and you don’t have any idea about it till your customers let you know about it or a third party lets you know about it! That is probably the sad truth in the industry!!

SOC:

Keeping that in mind, the SOC is a team that has been informed whose sole purpose is to monitor and analyze the security of an organization. As with other things in security, a SOC team must be formed only after the formal assent from senior management. For any security program to be successful, the senior management in an organization must always be in tune with the goals of the Information security team.

Since security is mostly a reactive approach for most organizations, the SOC team is trained to detect security incidents within an organization and pass the control onto the ‘incident response team’ if an incident occurs. 

The SOC team consists of security engineers, SOC managers and security analysts along with other security professionals. The SOC team will hopefully reduce the time needed to respond to a cyber attack – since a team is always there to detect attacks as early as possible.

The SOC team must be up 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year! There might never be a dull moment in the SOC team. The day may start out calm and before long alarm bells might be ringing detecting a security incident.  The SOC infrastructure involves the defensive security mechanisms of firewalls, IDS/IPS, breach detection solutions and more. 

Responsibilities of a SOC:

A professional in the SOC team is expected to be able to perform these tasks:

  • network analysis
  • IDS monitoring and analysis
  • malware analysis and forensics
  • The SOC team should also be in tune with the emerging trends and threats in the cyber security landscape. 

What are the skills to be a member of the SOC team?

You may need to have:

  • a Computer Science degree
  • 1-3 years of work experience related to SQL, TCP/IP, IDS/IPS, C, C++, Java, PHP, OS(like Linux, Unix, Windows)
  • Certifications such as GIAC, CISSP, CEH

These are some skills that are suggested to become a member of the SOC. There are other ways if you have the passion for joining a very happening team in the InfoSec domain!!

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

ByJayanthi

Red Team – Blue Team

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“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 precious data to be safe, for their data not to fall into wrong hands, not to have any of their client’s passwords stolen, 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… πŸ™‚

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

 

 

 

 

 

ByJayanthi

Is “Privacy” a myth?

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“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! πŸ™‚

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! πŸ™‚

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

 

ByJayanthi

OWASP Top 10 vulnerabilities

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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

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.