Tag Archives: Detection

Prevention before Detection in Industrial IT

1 May 2017

Currently, I’m working on a paper for safety engineers about cyber security requirements for Safety Instrumented Systems (SIS). For preparation I examined some of the existing publications from other European countries, e.g. the paper ‘Cyber Security for Industrial Automation and Control Systems (IACS)‘ from the British Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

In the chapter ‘Note 5 – Define and Implement Countermeasures’ one reads:

A hierarchical approach should be adopted, for example prioritising implementation of measures such as inherent resilience, and prevention (e.g. physical security controls, authorisation and authentication) over other measures for detection.

That is diametrically opposed the Gartner’s advice ‘Shift Cybersecurity Investment to Detection and Response’. Gartner’s Sid Deshpande said in an interview:

Gartner is now recommending to companies that they shift their security spending to have at least 60 percent of their security budget to be spent on detection and response, up from 10- to-15 percent today.

I think Gartner’s advice needs to be seen in the context of the industry where one works. IT security deals with Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability (the CIA) issues. Every industry has specific requirements regarding CIA issues. For example, integrity of product and production plays a higher role in pharmaceutical production than in the process industry. This is be shown very well with a spider diagram:

CIA-Diamond

CIA-Diamond. Click to enlarge.

In general, Gartner’s advice is useful where we have a high demand for addressing confidentiality issues. In industries, where integrity plays a major role, the Gartner advice is less useful because you cannot wait until a customer or the FDA detects that a drug has a wrong composition.

CIAS-Diamond

CIAS-Diamond. Click to enlarge.

Safety is a game changer. As soon as we face medium or high safety requirements, Gartner’s advice is counterproductive.

Have a great week.

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Senators accuse Yahoo of ‘unacceptable’ delay in hack discovery

4 October 2016

Six Senators demanded that Yahoo should explain why it took about 2 years before the massive data leak came to light.

In Reuters Technology News of 27 September 2016 Dustin Volz and Lisa Lambert wrote:

The lawmakers, all Democrats, said they were “disturbed” that the 2014 intrusion, which was disclosed by the company on Thursday, was detected so long after it occurred.

“That means millions of Americans’ data may have been compromised for two years,” the senators wrote in a letter to Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer. “This is unacceptable.”

This is a very interesting turn on events, but entirely justified.

In report ‘Yahoo breach calls into question detection and remediation practices’ published on SearchSecurity on 28 Sep 2016, Michael Heller discussed the question about Yahoo’s detection and response practices. I haven’t seen any discussions about missing preventive controls, although these are the foundation for the rapid detection of cyber-attacks.

The goal of prevention is to force the attacker to make errors by isolating him from his and our environment. A well-tuned SIEM system should then rapidly detect such anomalies and create incidents from them. A good mixture of detection and prevention is required for the rapid detection of cyber attacks.

For a comprehensive discussion on prevention and detection see post Cyber Security Investments: Experts Discuss Detection vs. Prevention published in the Digital Guardian blog.

In briefing document ‘The Strategic Game of ? and ?’ John Richard Boyd shows the direction to cyber security:

The Strategic Game is one of Interaction and Isolation. A game in which we must be able to diminish adversary’s ability to communicate or interact with his environment while sustaining or improving ours.

Have a good week.

Is ‘Assume you have been breached’ really the best Cybersecurity Strategy?

19 March 2016

I watched webinar ‘The Best Cybersecurity Strategy: Assume You Have Been Breached’ this week. The summary in the email invitation sounded really interesting, thus I registered, and had to compromise the integrity of my computer once again. Why on earth presents SC Magazine all content in this security nightmare Flash Player?

Young-Sae Song, Vice President Marketing, Arctic Wolf, quotes the Gartner advice ‘Shift Cybersecurity Investment to Detection and Response’ of January this year:

Experts recommend more focus on detecttion

Experts recommend to shift focus on detection and response

Is this advice meant seriously? I don’t think so. The Ponemon Institute estimated in the ‘2015 Cost of Data Breach Study: Global Analysis’ the mean time to identify at 206 days with a range of 20 to 582 days (based on a sample of 350 companies). And this, despite the increasing number of SIEM installations in the past years.

CISOs are well advised to make sure, that the existing cyber defense measures, including their SIEM system, work effectively before they follow this advice.

A ray of hope is Invincea’s Advanced Attack Challenge Simulator. The simulator allows to test the effectiveness of defensive measures against a variety of adversaries. For more details, please see Anup Ghosh’s post ‘Take the Advanced Attack Challenge’. I tried to cut the number of possible defense measures as far as possible. The results are really interesting. Of course only in the context of this model?

Have a good weekend, and good luck with the simulation.

A mere detection strategy will fail in the defense of cyber-attacks. Just like a mere prevention strategy.

10 May 2015

Article ‘Falling Off the End of the Cyber Kill Chain’, published by Anup Ghosh, Founder and CEO at Invincea, in the May edition of The Cyber Intelligencer is worth to read and comment.

For years now detection is praised from all cyber defense experts and system vendors as the spearhead in the defense of cyber-attacks. Gartner Security Analyst Neil MacDonald’s puts it succinctly in his tweet: ‘Prevent you may, Detect you must!’

Just set up a SIEM system and record any events from any server, database, firewall, application server, network, etc. With big data methods your data scientist will find every small hint to a cyber-attack from this universe of data, in the best case only some minutes after the attack happened, in the worst case some month later or never. In the meantime the cyber attackers will quietly copy your intellectual property.

A mere detection strategy in the defense of cyber-attacks is doomed to failure, just like a mere prevention strategy.

Just a short example. Let us assume that your Windows 2012 member servers are well protected, with the latest security features configured and the latest patches installed. One of your administrators becomes a victim of a phishing attack. An attacker steals the password for the administrator account of one of your member servers and signs in to the system. He debugs the LSASS process to get access to the password hashes or the plain text password or runs a DLL injection attack against the LSASS process.

Both events are recorded in the event log of the member server. Both events are hints to cyber-attacks and must be directly investigated. But it is very likely that these events are never investigated because no one checks the logs in time.

But if your SIEM system regularly collects the critical events from your member servers the attacks are detected within minutes and proper measures can be taken.

In my opinion a successful defense strategy requires a finely balanced mixture of both detection and prevention. SIEM comes into play when all other protection measures have failed. It should be neither the first nor the sole line of defense.

Take care!