The Safari of Cybersecurity

Sitting on a shady porch overlooking the river and savanna of Samburo in Northern Kenya. To the left, several elephants lounge in the water. To the right, baboons gather along the riverbank and the safety of the trees beyond. In the middle, just across the river from the shady porch, a leopard stretches lazily to shake off a midday nap and surveys the evening’s offerings at what might be considered his food court. Dissatisfied with the current menu, the leopard retires to the shade of the saltbush and acacia tree to give the chefs at the circle of life cafe a chance to prepare a fresh offering.

(more…)

Cousin Eddie And Hurricane Names

Clark Griswald’s cousin meant well, but every time he pulled the RV into the driveway, chaos ensued. All Clark seemed to get out of the visits was a pair of white patent leather loafers. Ain’t family grand, especially when you’re on vacation.

(more…)

Justice

Politico and others report that the Department of Justice has indicted a Chinese national accused of selling malware to hack a number of American and European companies. The general sense is that Yu Pingan and friends conspired to create the Sakula malware used effectively in the OPM breach and others. (more…)

The Semantics Of Passwords

One of the hallmarks of successful cybersecurity is an organization’s ability to protect its assets while making them fully available to staff. The right people accessing the right data and moving the human ball forward. That’s the stuff dreams are made of. A key ingredient to that stuff is a mechanism that encourages and requires robust passwords at the consumer level. Not the general consumer, of course, but the staff who consumes your data in order to help your business thrive.

(more…)

Beyond The Political

Politics is one of those topics best avoided among polite company, and this post in no way espouses particular views or partisan sentiments. It is difficult to talk about federal efforts to enhance cybersecurity without drawing attention to national politics, but that is what we hope to do. (more…)

Riding Along On Easy Street

Your organization is a well-oiled machine. It’s nimble, responsive, and ready to follow in any direction you lead. Or lean. In many ways, it’s like a Segway. You don’t want to get too far ahead of it, and if you stay behind it, the machine will simply stand still. You have to confidently lean in the direction you want it to go, and you have to trust it to respond accordingly. When you reach that level of synergy, you and your Segway — your organization — become one.

(more…)

The Swede Smell Of Cyber

Checking into the hotel in Stockholm, visiting Scandinavia with the family, I couldn’t help notice the local papers. On the cover, above the fold, was the face of a man frustrated with a recent turn of events. Even though I couldn’t read the words — I don’t know Swedish — I could tell the man was a politician. It was that kind of picture. Given the current state of American politics, it was almost refreshing to see another country swimming in scandal. Imagine my surprise, though, when I discovered the punchline. There were no prostitutes or drunken junkets. There was only cyber. But it was just as messy.

(more…)

Cat Stevens: Cybersecurity Hero

Though he now performs under a different name, Cat Stevens once had his finger on the hippy, singer-songwriter pulse in America. Naturally, this made him something of a cyber savant as well. Naturally. It was his early encouragement of software and firmware updates and the direct correlation between those and network security. And he worked all of this early magic into his lyrics. Specifically one line, which suggested that, “The patches make the goodbyes harder still.” Many assumed he was only referring to the blue jeans of our passing youth, faded blue into the sky. But give that joint a rest and read between the lines.

(more…)

You Have The Power, Mostly

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, Russian hacking resurfaces in waters beyond the political. Sure, it was devastating when we realized that Russia had wormed its way into our electoral and democratic process, but that was apparently just the beginning of the story. (more…)

The Future of Cyber- Part Two

During a recent talk at The Chautauqua Institution, Denise Zheng held forth on the nature of cyber conflict: past, present, and future. A Senior Fellow and the Director of Technology Policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Zheng has some interesting perspectives on the nature of cyber threats going forward. The concept of deterrence, for example is complicated, at least on a national or global scale. “Deterrence requires attribution supported by evidence, further supported by classified information and practices,” Zheng suggests, and governments know that for every action there is a reaction, often deploying the same technology. So global resolution of cyber threat potential seems problematic.

(more…)

The Future of Cyber- Part One

During a recent talk at The Chautauqua Institution, Denise Zheng held forth on the nature of cyber conflict: past, present, and future. A Senior Fellow and the Director of Technology Policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Zheng has also worked as a senate staffer on the Homeland Security Committee, in the Computer Associates software engineering process, and, most recently, on cyber moonshots at DARPA. So her perspective on cyber reflects and informs those of consumers, governments, and leading edge developers. (more…)

Marsha Marsha Marsha!

You would think it would’ve been Jan Brady who wreaked havoc on the world this summer, trying anything to get the attention that always goes to Marsha. But, alas, it was Cindy, a tropical storm that stormed off the gulf coast like a teenager scorned, leaving a trail of devastation that even Gladys couldn’t fix. Homes were destroyed, businesses damaged, and lives lost, reminding us of the serious punch that Mother Nature can pack when she wants to. If you’re reading this, you’re among the lucky.

(more…)

The Smaller They Are, The Harder They Fall

While the media streams constantly with news of big-name breaches that threaten the global economy to the core, an even more significant story grows on the outer banks of public awareness. Sure, the big banks and retailers have lots of data to steal, but they also have the resources to protect their networks. The same is not always true of smaller enterprises. Perhaps in recognition of this, ransomware attacks on small businesses are increasing in greater numbers than their Goliath counterparts, according to Small Business Trends.

(more…)

No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

As remarkable as adware can be, both from the marketing side and the consumer side, the fact that banner ads and other promotions stem directly from your search habits is really the least of your worries. Imagine if the ads began to deploy code that controlled your computer, changed your default browser, and tracked your search habits for a Chinese marketing firm? (more…)

It’s A Family Affair

If you grew up in a large family, you know the sensation. Lots of aunts and uncles and thousands of cousins you saw on a limited basis, like every other year or so at a family reunion somewhere. Some of those kids were really weird, and they seem to come by it pretty naturally, since Uncle Fred and Aunt Eunice popped out of the RV with a gin and tonic in one hand and a fistful of political conspiracy theories in the other. Who knew Tolstoy was the second gun on the grassy knoll?

(more…)

Hacking Up Your Tex-Mex

Some breaches are just tough to stomach, and earlier this year that was especially true at Chipotle Mexican Grill stores across the country. Drawing details from a recent story on The Verge, every state in the Chipotle Nation, it seems, was affected by a credit card POS breach that garnered the hackers sensitive account information. No word yet on whether they wanted black beans or pinto beans with that data.

(more…)

Camp Songs For IT Professionals

It’s summertime, and the livin’ is easy. Fish are jumpin’, and the cotton is high. If you’re lucky, the old memories from summer camp return to the fore, as nostalgia delivers you from the daily stress of network security and constant threats.

(more…)

The Business Side Of Cyberthreats

The Wall Street Journal is not a publication prone to hyperbole, so a recent headline in the May 18th Business & Finance section screamed for attention. “Cyberthreats Breed Deep Unease” was the title of the article. The media would have us believe that all the really bad things seem to happen to multinationals or political parties. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

(more…)

When Cybersecurity Is Mainstream

Let’s face it. Most IT Departments feel undervalued or ignored. Like lawyers, you try to avoid them at cocktail parties until you need one. At least that’s the way it was in the old days, like back in 2015 or so. With the ever-advancing wave of cyberthreats and our reluctance to reduce the epic size of our digital footprints, cybersecurity is entering the mainstream in new and surprising ways. Consider a long but thorough examination of the current state of cybersecurity in, of all places, The New Yorker. Known more for it’s insights into western philosophy and the Upper Easy Side, even The New Yorker has recognized the growing ubiquitousness of cyberthreats. Have you?

(more…)

Hacking Ain’t What it Used to Be

Do you remember 1986? The first class was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster rocked our world, and Top Gun was the highest grossing film of the year. That year also brought us the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a law that many have suggested hasn’t kept up with the rapid pace of technological innovation. After all, ARPANET was in its infancy in 1983, and the World Wide Web wouldn’t become a consumer reality until around 1990. Protecting isolated computers is a wildly different thing from keeping networked devices secure in the IOT world. (more…)

The Imperfect Storm

There’s a storm brewing, potential chaos lurking in the wings. And I’m not talking about politics. Though, if we’re being honest, there’s a storm brewing there, too. We can argue cause and effect, but the world is changing in palpable ways, probably more rapidly than we imagine. (more…)

When The Chips Are Down

Ever had that feeling that someone is watching you, like the door is ajar and folks just passing by the office can see everything on your desk? Have you felt that way for the last seven years? If so, you’re not alone, especially if your computers use Intel chips with vPro technology. According to a recent Ars Technica report, Intel has only recently provided a patch to a backdoor in your network that has been open since the year Facebook was launched. Think about that.

(more…)

Arraigned On The Planes Of Spain

Back when Julie Andrews was in her theatrical prime, there was more than just The Sound of Music in the hills. In My Fair Lady, she repeated “the rains in Spain stay mainly on the plains” in an effort to lose her cockney accent. One could argue that Eliza Doolittle was trying to escape her past and enjoy the liberty associated with a new identity, a new language, a new sense of freedom. The same might be said of Peter Yuryevich Levashov, a Russian hacker whose fingerprints are said to be found on such exploits as the Russian intrusion into our 2016 elections. (more…)

Not What You Think It Is

Some things are exactly what you expect. A ballpene hammer, for example, is difficult to mistake for anything else. But if someone hammers your online presence, littering comment and review boxes with inaccurate characterizations of your business, the picture seen by your customers and prospects is very different from what you might imagine. (more…)

Is That Toaster Listening To Us?

In the interest of your organization’s OPSEC, step away from the microwave before you answer this question. There is no telling who might be listening right now. And if you’ve ever had Russian dressing on your salad, be sure you state that explicitly. Denial is not just a river in Egypt. Here’s the question: How confident are you that your cybersecurity practices are up to speed? (more…)

Who’s Baking Your Cookies?

So you say you’re not a Yahoo user, that the news of their latest breach is no concern of yours. That sound about right? Well, you may be right, but consider also that the exploit used in the latest breach (early February) has far-reaching implications for anyone who takes even the first step onto the Internet. (more…)

Now You See It, Now You Don’t

Hacker trying to hack into phoneStand against the wall. That’s the common advice given to tourists when they start to make calls on their smartphones in foreign lands. It’s not the roaming charges you have to look out for any longer. It’s now the roaming thieves who want to steal your phone in broad daylight and compound the pain by phishing your account information to unlock, wipe, and resell the phone. By standing against the wall, you limit the access and cover your blind side. Sadly, the stories are anything but rare. (more…)

The Internet of Misfit Toys

Inherent to the narrative about the Internet of Things has been the assumption that greater efficiencies would save consumers time and money. It stands to reason that if your toaster talks to your watch, it would know that about 15 minutes after waking up, you would want your toast to pop up and be plated. Further, it goes without saying that your life would be dramatically improved if your thermostats were in on the conversation, so that the kitchen and breakfast room could begin to warm at about the same time as the toast. (more…)

A Good Defense is the Best Offense

Let’s say you’re the DNC and you’re really upset about the recent hacking perpetrated by the Russians. Or, we could imagine you’re the US Government, and you’re feeling vulnerable and diplomatic and vengeful, all at the same time. A recent NY Times article expands on the President’s feelings along these lines, and the frustration he feels at having a mighty cyber arsenal at his disposal when revenge only makes matters worse.
(more…)

And In Other News

circusWhile the world has been watching the American political circus over the past several years, a recurring question put forth by all parties has been, “Can this or that person be trusted with the nuclear codes?” This is an important question, no doubt, but one that overshadows an even more significant question. Granted, the President is the single gatekeeper to the national arsenal, but enemies foreign and domestic seem to be making their own keys to nuclear infrastructure these days. (more…)

REM and the Lyrical State of Cybersecurity

Way back when, in a world before the Internet, when information moved by postal truck and mere facsimile, there strode upon the earth an alternative rock band whose words were even more prescient now than when they first uttered them. And while REM exited stage left, their pronouncement that “It’s the end of the world as we know it” enjoys fresh relevance with each wave of technological advance. (more…)

Dyn-A-Mite!

dynamiteA closer look at recent chaotic events surrounding the DDoS attacks on Dyn DNS reveals some frightening things about our rapidly growing dependence on the Internet. A recent NY Times article does a great job of explicating the events in layman’s terms, including the warning, “And the threats will continue long after Election Day for a nation that increasingly keeps its data in the cloud and has oftentimes kept its head in the sand.” (more…)

Blue Skies and Fireflies

Businessman using his tablet phone on airplane. Business travel and communication concept.If you have flown lately, you might have noticed a new wrinkle in the use of cell phones in flight. In addition to limiting use to airplane mode on those devices so equipped, the crew currently prohibits the use of or charging of any Samsung Note 7 device at any point while aboard the plane. CNET offers a brief explanation here for why that message has been added to the mix with making sure your tables and seats are in the upright and locked position. (more…)

A Made-for-TV Reality

Cable News is Not Enough

Mixing the newsThis election cycle will go down in history as one of the strangest in American history. Both candidates face low favorability numbers and they remain statistically close in most of the polls. This is widely known to anyone who watches cable news programs, mainly because those networks tend to recycle the news over and over again, day after day, and week after week. No reason to blame the networks, though, because that’s the business model. And, quite frankly, there is only so much human activity that is newsworthy, though they seem to always push those boundaries as well. (more…)

Get Your Head in the Game

helmetRemember the old days, when military pilots wore wool-lined leather helmets and big, clunky headsets? Probably not, since those practices tapered off after World War Two. By the time fighter pilots came into your field of vision, it was probably Tom Cruise singing “You’ve lost that loving feeling” while Goose couldn’t eject from the backseat. It didn’t end well for Goose, but you have to remember ICEMAN and MAVERICK in bold print on the helmets as the frosty colleagues pulled together to fight off the Russians and save the day. In addition to the monogram, the helmets had been upgraded to include oxygen masks and room for the really cool aviator sunglasses. Negative, Ghost Rider, the pattern is full. (more…)

Jackware In The Box

carjackFans of this blog — and let’s be honest, who isn’t a fan? — will recall a recent post that detailed the carjacking of a Jeep Cherokee from several miles away. It was an effort to demonstrate the security vulnerability of cars equipped with wireless access points and other IoT equipment. And it worked. Cars were recalled, security issues were addressed, and we now have an additional lens through which to view rapidly advancing car technology. But what if the car is advancing beyond us, the drivers? (more…)

Open Says A Me

2faPasswords are the first line of defense for critical network infrastructure. Building an organizational expectation for strong password use in no longer seen as an option. It is now a requirement. If you can get your staff to deploy 8-12 characters randomly selected from all varieties available, that’s $uPer GrE@+. (more…)

At the Crossroads

crossroadsRobert Johnson is believed to have sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Legend has it the devil offered Johnson in trade a well-tuned guitar and a peculiar gift for singing the blues. His songs have been made famous by Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, and The Rolling Stones, among others. Despite this oft-intoned gift, Johnson suffered an early departure from this world, though one shudders at the thought of such talent descending eternally southward into fire and brimstone, a musical fate we’d more readily assign to boy bands and pre-pubescent pop stars. (more…)

Politics as Unusual

Regardless of your political affiliation or your favorite — or least unfavorite — candidate, the 2016 election cycle has been anything but predictable. If this were a circus, it would be a very good one. Instead, though, it is the pinnacle of the democratic mechanism by which we choose our leadership. That is a sobering reality that could make you reach for the bottle. (more…)

The Ubiquity of Remote Access

remote accessForget about the Internet of Things. Yeah, like that’s possible. But set that aside for the moment. Another stark reality of our new global economy and digital footpath is the flourishing of remote access. Road Warriors access their office PCs from business travel hotels from Scranton to Sacramento while small businesses choose NAS over cloud services, reaping the many benefits of local data control and network accessibility but facing the daunting reality of localized vulnerabilities. (more…)

Crazy Cousin Guccifer

Every family’s got at least one, a crazy uncle or distant cousin who adopts a scorched earth perspective when exiting the reservation or joining the circus or moving to Iowa to invest in an earthworm farm. You don’t hear much from them for a while, but the names and stories get opened up at family weddings and funerals, reunions marked by distant sadness and curiosity. Guccifer, aka Marcel Lazar, is a Romanian hacker who may seem new to the family, but his name should sound familiar very soon if not already. (more…)

It’s Graduation Season

The waypoints on our life journeys are marked by ceremony. Weddings, funerals, births and Baptisms, and, from time to time, graduations. High school and college seem to be the major events, but the zealous have introduced kindergarten, grade school, middle school, and traffic school to the mix. So congratulations to those who wiped the points off their driving record with 8 hours of vehicular remediation, Your future is, indeed, bright. (more…)

Ransomware Exposed: Sextortion

Ransomware is not new. It’s been around for a while, and clever hackers have found ways to extort just the right amount of money to make it worth your while to settle. The balance is somewhere between what the data is worth and what it would cost you to recover it through normal machinations. Traditionally they’ve kept the number low enough that is was cheaper to pay up and walk away. An easy decision, perhaps, when the data is just that. Data. (more…)

Hackers Prove Patient But Swift

Breaching a global bank network is no smash and grab operation. As organizations focus and fund their cybersecurity resources with even greater alacrity, the bad guys have to continue to polish the edge of their sword, patiently waiting for the right opportunities to score bigger and bigger hits. Such is the case with the recent — and second — attack on Swift, the global messaging network banks use to move money around. If you think you’re covering all your bases and keeping your data out of harm’s way, you may be giving yesterday’s news and last week’s security protocols too much play. Hackers, in one small way, are like PGA Tour Pros: These Guys Are Good. (more…)

A Coppertone Moment

It’s the official beginning of summer, and hundreds of thousands of tourists from the far reaches of North America are making their way across the USA in a Chevrolet, migrating to the seasonal climes and exotic beverage offerings of coastal communities across the Southeast. Escaping the more — perhaps presumably — mundane and pedestrian challenges of their normal lives, many tourists engage in atypical behavior, casting inhibitions to the wind and embracing the larger world in various stages of sobriety and dress. It’s all umbrella drinks and beach reads, kids running amok and minivans loaded with folding chairs and inflatables. Now imagine your data sitting next to that family in Denny’s. You know the one. (more…)

Authentic Intelligence

Over the last holiday season, around the IT water cooler, the talk inevitably turned to the cool new gadgets that impressed the mortals and blew the minds of Luddites everywhere. That talk was all about Artificial Intelligence and the need to more efficiently sell shoes. IT folks are way too immersed in AI to get bogged down in practical application, but Marketing and Sales were all over it, both in search and point of sale.  (more…)

Grab That High Voltage Line, Again

As thrilling as it might have been for the relatively few men and women who successfully navigated the Ashley Madison portal to extramarital affairs, nothing can compare to the thrill of seeing your name and vital statistics on view in the public square, again. But that is the ruling of a District Court Judge in Eastern Missouri, who determined that “embarrassment” was not sufficient cause for the plaintiffs to proceed as “John Does” in their suit against Avid Dating Life, Inc. for not protecting their sensitive data. This New York Times article will get you up to speed, if necessary. (more…)

60 Minutes of Cyberthreat

It was a beautiful Sunday, a great day to be outside enjoying the wonder of nature. Maybe you played golf, or maybe you got two tractors stuck trying to cut firebreaks into quail woods that desperately awaited a prescribed burn, probably wishing you had chosen to play golf instead. Don’t ask.
At any rate, Sunday evening rolls around and you settle in for a little light television to bring the weekend to a close without letting Monday rush the gates ahead of schedule. And then it happens.

(more…)

Bite from the Apple

Which interests outweigh the others? Should the U.S. Government be able to force Apple to assist in breaching the iPhone used by a terrorist? Or should consumers rest assured that, even when their feet are held to the fire, private companies can hold the line about their intellectual property and the security of their products? What was set to be a contentious and landmark legal battle has now been relegated to the moot court and debate team practice file. (more…)

Real American Hero

superyou_111As an IT Professional, you’re well aware of the near-term implications of your work. You keep networks up and running, safe from the grubby hands of hackers and malcontents around the globe. In your spare time, you seek a cure for cancer, provide for widows and orphans, and move the human race toward world peace and universal fiscal solvency. It’s what you do, and it’s all in a day’s work. You probably don’t have the time to study the finer points of our constitutional democracy, but did you know that you may one day emerge as a real American hero? (more…)

Technology Industry InnovatorsVeteran Owned Small BusinessCMMI Maturity Level 3CISSP® - Certified Information Systems Security ProfessionalCertified Penetration TesterITIL IT Service ManagementCertified Ethical HackerProject Management Institute CertifiedUS Department of Homeland SecurityDisaster Recovery Institute CertifiedCertified Information Systems Auditor