DLP and Business Needs

Well it’s been a while and I wanted to write an entry about something that I’ve been dealing with lately. Data Leak Prevention or DLP.

Most non-IT people know about DLP only when the IT organization contacts them to let them know they did something they shouldn’t have. For those of us that have to deal with the policies, the alerts, and sending those notices, it can be more complicated. You start with crafting the policies based on corporate standards, other organization requests, and maybe some good ideas. The alerts start coming through, and you take action where appropriate.

The issues start to happen when something triggers an alert-only policy and you notify the appropriate group, and they ask “well why was this not blocked?”. You begin to describe what policies monitor items versus the ones that block. You try to explain that you can’t block everything, the business still needs to get work done! An example of this is where you block a Word document from being sent from the company. Someone takes that document, scans it to create a .tif file and sends that out. The other organizations that don’t understand the technology will expect that file to be blocked as well…”Well it’s the same document!” Other issues can arise if someone is authorized to use USB devices, but you’re expected to block them from taking specific data that you’re notified about after the fact.

Like other security solutions, the promise of “Data Leak Prevention” is not perfect. The business expects DLP to work flawlessly and as those of us in the infosec community know, there is always a way around any restriction. Implementing DLP requires someone who understands the business needs to set up the policies and tweak them as appropriate. It also requires someone to monitor the alerts and either send a notification, escalate as appropriate, or update policies to catch something that was not getting the visibility it should. What can be the most difficult is trying to translate this process to business customers who tell us what they want to see or know about.

Has anyone had any success explaining the nuances of DLP software to the business? If so please note and share some suggestions.

Security Job Titles Revisited

So I had an another thought along the lines of Security Job Titles. I threw out a tweet regarding the “Team Lead” title. There are a number of people that I’ve discussed this with at my day job and the opinion varied between a manager-in-training and the most technical of the team. While I think my coworkers are pretty knowledgeable, they don’t necessarily know what goes on outside our company so I thought I’d ask what others thought: “Team lead: top techy on the team or manager in training…and why?” Here are a few of the answers I’ve gotten from followers on Twitter:

While they left off the “…and why?”, I can understand the line of thinking. Others were definitely in a similar mindset but provided some additional detail:

  • @securityninja – “For us it is generally management as well as lead techy, we are line managers for the team and all others in it”

Two people came close to what I would assume when someone tells me that they are the “Team lead”:

  • @rogueclown – “manager in training. i’m surely biased, but i’d still like to spend my time dealing with cranky computers, not managing people.”
  • @georgiaweidman – “id say the one with the best skills for managing regardless of whether job title is tech or business side. case by case basis”

There were also those that pointed out that someone else shouldn’t choose for the individual and I completely agree:

  • @jjarmoc – “either, sometimes both. But forcing good techies into management roles is often a mistake.”
  • @DSchwartzberg – “I believe it’s up to the individual. Why-because any role you take can be what you make of it. Criticism comes with the outcome”

I think that when it comes down to it, the title is going to vary based on the company. Some organizations may see it as the most technically capable person on that team, where others may see it as a mid-level management layer to keep the day to day operations going. One suggestion I can offer is to split the title in two: Tech Lead / Team Lead. One for the most seasoned/knowledgeable, the other for the area manager.

The one thing that I’m getting out of all this is that a job title can’t tell you what a person is capable of or what they do day-to-day. Leave me a note and tell me what you think. Are job titles a convoluted jumble of words or something you should fight for and own as part of your career?

I miss you Patrick

Today I went to the wake for one of my best friends in the world. Patrick and I met when I started playing softball at a church my sister attended. Both of us were football fans and liked to razz each other over the fact that our favorite teams are in the same division. This made for some interesting conversations and Sunday afternoon’s while we cheered on our teams. The more we played on the softball team, and the more we hung out the better friends we became.

We started attending the same men’s small group for church, and as we lived near each other, we would take turns driving over to the pastor’s house. Over the months, these trips gave Patrick and I a time to share a lot of our lives and the struggles we had. We realized that a lot of what we had gone through in life, the other person had gone through as well. Patrick knew more about my life, my past, and my struggles than anyone in the world. He became my best friend and confidant for anything I needed advice on or was working through.

Patrick fought brain cancer a few times and suffered through brain surgery, chemo, radiation and still had a swagger about him that most people couldn’t hope to pull off. Although he didn’t share much about the cancer, I knew that it was always something he thought about. Near the end of his life, he was struggling with a few things and was having a hard time with them. We went out to talk one night and had a few drinks, talked about life and what he was struggling with. A few months later I received a call from him because we hadn’t hung out lately. I kept saying I needed to call him back, needed to catch up and say hi, but life was busy and it kept slipping my mind. A few weeks ago I found out he was in the ICU and his wife said that it wasn’t looking good. Within days he had passed on.

Tonight I went to the wake and seeing his wife and his mom, and hearing how he had the same thoughts running through his mind about needing to call me to catch up hit home. You’re not guaranteed tomorrow. You don’t have time to do stuff “later”. If you care about someone or you want them to know you’re thinking about them, you need to tell them now. Care about the people in your life and let them know you do. You may never get the chance to tell them if you put it off until “later”.

I’m sorry for not staying in touch better Patrick. I can only hope you knew how good a friend you were to me. Godspeed my friend.

Security Job Titles

I was seeing job postings the other day through one of my email blasts that I receive and it got me thinking. Who comes up with these job titles? When I worked for a small CPA firm and I was allowed to choose my own title, I chose “LAN Administrator”. It fit my job fairly well, I was responsible for the servers, the network, the PCs, etc. I moved to the helpdesk, and for a while I was a “Helpdesk Analyst”. A title that also makes complete sense. After a year or so though, HR decided to change our titles in IT. I got changed from the “Helpdesk Analyst” to a “Systems Software Engineer Analyst”. I had never engineered anything but a good case of loathing for users at that point.

When I moved to the Security Administration area, my title changed to a “Systems Software Engineer Specialist”. Again, complete and utter nonsense. I was a security administrator. Create accounts, grant rights, revoke rights, delete accounts, rinse, repeat. The only thing I was specializing in was creating copy/paste emails to send to users who were impatiently waiting to get Microsoft Visio.

Within a couple years I get promoted to a “IT Security Specialist”. Hmm…ok, at least this is a little closer. We were no longer called “IT Security” but working in Information Security, I at least had “security” in my title! Then HR comes in and says they are going to change things again. They were going to have “HR Titles” and “Internal Titles” because HR titles needed to match other jobs in the industry while our internal titles would closer match what we actually do. I was skeptical and it turns out it was warranted. It took them until I was promoted again to finally take hold. My HR title became “IT Security Sr Specialist”, while my internal title became “Vulnerability Management Senior Specialist”. While I’m trying to get more into the Vulnerability arena, it’s a very small part of what I do. I still do governance of the Security Administration area, I do some vulnerability scans, some security awareness, and a host of other “who can we get to do this” tasks. Someone who is a level above me at our company is listed as a “IT Security Sr Tech Specialist” yet my job is much more technical than that person.

I considered consulting our HR group on this issue but I didn’t think I would get very far, so I reached out to my friend @HackerHuntress and asked for her opinion on my confusion. She talks with job seekers as well as hiring managers on a daily basis. Her response cemented my opinion that job titles are really not geared towards what a user does and more on being able to gauge a salary band the user can fit into.

I asked her a couple questions including if she saw the title discrepancy and if so where, any tricks for our friends out there trying to find a job and deciphering the job postings, and if she thinks HR would ever get in the game and match titles to what we actually do. Her response was very informative in that she has seen the job title game played mostly at companies with internal security practices. (Think F-500 companies that do their own security but don’t do security as a service). Her comment to this was “Most companies, though, go the “security specialist” or “security analyst” route. In my experience a security analyst can be anything from a firewall engineer to a QSA.” She doesn’t hold out any hope that HR will ever get to the point that they are lining up with what the security individual is doing because most don’t know what the user’s responsibilities even are.

On the topic of how to assist our friends still looking for jobs, she said to talk to recruiters & hiring managers. Getting as close to the person as you can who is doing the hiring will help you in determining what you are getting into at that company. You may be listed as the ‘Security Guru’ in a large company but if all you’re doing is making sure everyone is swiping their ID badge as they walk in, it may not be the job for you.

Secureholio
-Chief Cook & Bottle Washer

GrrCON & DerbyCon

Although this is quite late, I think I need to write a post on the amazing time that I had at GrrCON and DerbyCon.

Well I started out the long weekend with a trip up to the speaker dinner for GrrCON (They actually wanted me to present something! Joke was on them! 😉 hehe). Grand Rapids is around two hours from my house so it wasn’t a long trip to start. Dinner was good, and I had some good conversations with David Schwartzberg, Nick Percoco, and Rafal Los in addition to the organizers & presenters of the conference. What I was not aware of was that the person I was staying with that evening lived an hour outside of the Grand Rapids area. We didn’t leave the dinner until after midnight local time so sleep was hard to come by for the day of my talk.

When I got to GrrCON and finally downed enough coffee and sugar to stay alert the rest of the day, I proceeded to wander the floor. I spoke to a few vendors, said hi to some friends, and even caught a few talks before it was time for me to speak. My talk on Infosec Flameout seemed to go over well, and although I didn’t quite make the times that I did in practice sessions, I hit a respectable 17 minutes for a 25 min talk. This left time for some audience participation & questions, and there were quite a few great comments from some of the attendees. I not only was able to reconnect with some people I knew, but create some new friendships that have been really beneficial as well.

I took the lazy way out that evening and drove home to sleep in my own bed before heading down to Derby for the remainder of the weekend. The ~4 hour drive wasn’t too difficult and I was there in time for some of the talks on Friday evening. The two conferences definitely had some differences also. Where GrrCON was held in a conference center and had a more traditional feel, DerbyCon felt more like a bunch of friends hanging out at a hotel. Derby also seemed a little more hectic because of the amount of people in the setup at the hotel lobby.

The talks that I was able to catch at both events were pretty decent and I only walked out on one. I’ve listed each (except for the one I walked out on to protect the innocent) below if you want to watch them when they’re posted. Next year the organizers have also ensured that the two conferences are on different weekends so you can attend both. I will definitely be trying to go to both if possible. Guess that depends on if I can save enough pennies!

As I stated in my talk at GrrCON, networking with the community is incredibly important. You need to have friends, contacts, whatever you want to call them. They are invaluable for advice, help with finding a job, or just someone to bounce an idea off to see if you’re on the right track. So next time a conference is near you, get out there and get involved!

Talks at GrrCON:

  • House of Cards – How not to Collapse when Bad Things Happen – Rafal ‘Wh1t3Rabbit’ Los
  • Punch and Counter-punch with .Net Apps – J Wolfgang Goerlich
  • Mobile Attacks: What will the future bring? – Nick Percoco

Talks at DerbyCon:

  • Jayson E. Street – Securing the Internet: YOU’re doing it wrong (An INFOSEC Intervention)
  • James Arlen – Doubt – Deceit -Deficiency and Decency – a Decade of Disillusionment
  • Robert (Arch3Angel) Miller / Boris Sverdlik (JadedSecurity) / Rafal Los / Heather Pilkington /Krypt3ia – Bring your own doom or sane business decision
  • Michael Schearer – Flex your right constituion and political activism in the hacker community
  • Benjamin Mauch – Creating a powerful user defense against attackers
  • Boris – You Can’t Buy Security. Building an Open Sourced Information Security Program
  • Andy Cooper: Why Integgroll sucks at Python..And you can too
  • Chris Jenks: Intro to Linux system hardening

How I learned about file encryption

So a week or more ago I mentioned on Twitter that I would tell the horrible encryption failure I had when I first found out about how to encrypt data. When I first moved into Information security years ago, I learned about how you could encrypt data and no one would be able to view it without the key.

So I was running Windows XP at the time and I decided to play with the Windows EFS on my home machine. I encrypted my local “personal data” folder, and moved it off to secondary storage.  I was able to view it, open it, move it back and forth, etc. The time came to reload my machine. I was careful to move and verify all my data on the secondary storage, verified I could access it, open it, etc.

I proceeded to DBAN the local drive, reload the OS, install the applications, and when the time came to move the data over, I couldn’t open it. I thought “Hmm…that’s odd…” I proceeded to try to re-copy the data over to the local drive, and check a few of the attributes of the file before realizing that I had encrypted the files before moving them. I moved them to a NTFS drive, which meant it kept the encryption intact when I copied them to the external drive. I did my best google-fu to try to find any way to get this data back. The “personal data” contained family photos, my resume, web favorites, etc., so I was definitely not happy about losing it.

I even went so far as to ask a coworker to call in a favor to a friend at Microsoft. The reply was there was no backdoor/master key to get the data back again. I was learning a hard lesson in encryption really fast. Although I knew the passcode for the key, I was unable to retrieve the data. The good thing that it did was make me want to learn more about file encryption and what can/can’t be done with it.

I learned about file versus whole disk encryption, as well as where keys are stored. I also learned to be sure that no matter what, you move the keys if you’re going to wipe a drive! If I can offer anything to anyone about file encryption it would be to completely understand how it works before you play with live data when you have no other copy.

Also…if anyone breaks 256-AES EFS I’d like to chat with you 🙂

Information Addict

Part of the Information Security profession is staying abreast of the news and events in the technology world. You need to know what attacks are going on in order to know how to defend against them. When you start out in this industry you feel like you’re always behind, always trying to catch up. You read everything you can get your hands on, hoping that you don’t miss something important. The problem with this is that it consumes all your free time. After a while, you begin to see what you can pass over or just skim. New virus comes out? Great, there’s a update against it right? I can skip the part about how it was discovered on one machine on the other side of the world.

What you start to realize though, is you become addicted to information overload. You follow hundreds of people on twitter, dozens of blogs, you peruse the tech sites, and if there is a lull in the timeline for even five minutes, you start to wonder if you lost your Internet connection. You skim your twitter stream looking for articles to read, glossing over someone asking a question or looking for help. You start to read a longer article with an actual build-up and you get frustrated because they aren’t getting to the point fast enough. What you don’t realize is that “the point” sometimes is the build-up. Journalists get paid to tell a story, so that’s what they’re going to do.

Even those that you look up to in the industry, the ones that you think “wow…they really have it together, how do they keep up?” are skimming too. The ones that follow over a thousand people? Attending DefCon, I found out they see it as drinking from a fire hose as well. They miss things. The humble ones admit it and are willing to talk about it. They try to keep in touch with the people in our industry that matter. They try to stay plugged in as best they can. They are going to miss things, just like we all miss things. What matters is that they are trying, just like you are. When you think you know it all is when you have the most to learn. Keep reading, you never know what you may miss.