Archive for August, 2010

CSO, Sticks and Stones: Picking On Users and Security Pros
Dark Reading, Mobile Devices Threaten Enterprises From Within
Help Net Security, The Dramatic Increase of Vulnerability Discoslures
SC Magazine, Four Tips to Secure Your Smart Phones
TechNewsWorld, The New Threats: The Bad Guys Up Their Game

You know the scenario, you implement your organization’s security policy, and then within minutes can hear employees groaning and mumbling about IT. According to a new survey, employees don’t just complain to each other – they are now complaining directly to IT.

Four in 10 CIOs interviewed for the Robert Half Technology survey said that it’s at least “somewhat common for employees to complain about security measures that limit which websites or networks they can visit at the office.”

IT professionals have long grappled with being the organization’s “bad guys,” limiting access and denying service to frustrated employees. To dodge outright mutiny, IT professionals can help employees better understand why we have to restrict and monitor what they do. To do this, we’ve turned the survey’s suggestions for employees confronting IT administrators on its head to make the list for IT professionals.

  • Be Open to Questions. Nobody likes to be told policies exist “just because.” If an employee wants to know why a certain site or network is restricted, tell them why. And if they’re not super tech-savvy, do so in laymen’s terms. The answer can be simple, but fostering this dialogue will make employees more comfortable with restrictions.
  • Listen to Business Cases. IT professionals are sometimes so far removed from the rest of the organization, they don’t understand why blocking certain sites and networks is detrimental to business. When employees are making legitimate business cases to change the IT policy, listen. We’ve heard stories of IT departments blocking social media channels at news organizations, leaving reporters scrambling on their mobile devices to catch up on breaking news stories.
  • Explain Your Role. Let employees know that your job isn’t to deny them access to “fun” sites, it’s to protect the organization’s security. The better they understand your role, the more the policies will make sense.
  • Be flexible. When possible, work with the employees. For example, set up one computer in the office that isn’t restricted so employees can occasionally access restricted sites. Compromises like this go a long way in helping employees make peace with IT security policies.

Dark Reading, Ferreting Out Rogue Access Points and Wireless Vulnerabilities

InfoWorld, 5 Reasons IT Pros Should Be Paranoid

Computerworld, Managing and securing iOS 4 devices at work

Technorati, Why a Blackberry Ban Won’t Affect Privacy

PCWorld, Google CEO Exposes Dark Side of Social Networking

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VPN Haus spoke with Volodymyr Styran, a security expert, about ways IT professionals can work more closely with HR on issues like provisioning. VPN Haus has long advocated for IT departments to make user provisioning a higher priority and Stryan has some ideas on how this collaboration can be turned into reality.

VPN Haus:  Let’s start with basic tampering. How can IT administrators prevent users, especially ones who are tech-savvy themselves, from tampering with settings?

Styran:  I’d suggest application of strong organizational policies and thorough logging of user actions. Changes to local policies are usually reflected in [programs like] Eventlog. Collect it centrally in a separate log management facility, review the logs regularly, and follow up the findings via disciplinary action. This may sound a bit aggressive, and is rather reactive than preventive, but in my opinion this is the most effective approach.

VPN Haus:  What’s the greatest enforcement challenge?

Stryan: The greatest enforcement challenge is making HR execute disciplinary action. Punishing is not their favorite part of the job, because it affects image…So, when it comes to HR, one has to present and explain every bit of risk and harm introduced by a violation. And all this definitely makes little sense unless strong administrative policies are established beforehand.

VPN Haus:  Can you provide 3 – 5 tips on how IT departments could work more closely with HR to foster better communication between the departments?

Stryan:  Sure.

– Be friendly, while being firm when needed.
– Make it formal, while maintaining good relationships. Write your policies firm and strict, but socialize with HR in a positive manner.
– Pay more attention to HR’s needs and concerns; this is relevant to relationships with any other non-IT function as well.
– Always explain. [In most cases,] they know next to nothing about [IT]. “We know better” doesn’t work. Although, the more you explain in the beginning, the less explanations they will need later on. This is how trust is developed with time.

Volodymyr Styran is based in Ukraine.

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There’s a simple math problem causing quite a lot of pain for companies who use the Internet. Here’s the math: seven billion does not equal four billion. As simple as this statement is, the complexity it creates is staggering. IPv4 represents the smaller sum. The solution, of course, is IPv6 with its 128-bit scheme, compared to the 32-bit predecessor. That equates roughly to 3.4×1038 unique addresses, enough to cover the seven billion people on the planet today and more than enough to substantially future-proof the protocol until we’re all well done and gone.

The security threat for companies in this situation lies in how to update all the technology to reflect the inevitable shift to IPv6. This includes all the technology they rely on that runs, processes or navigates any Internet data stream.

First, let’s cover the baked-in security of IPv6 protocol stack. In simple terms, the major difference is section RFC4601 which mandates use of IPsec for all nodes – something available for IPv4, but not required. The large address space in IPv6 safeguards against port scanning. Again, there’s math here that Samuel Sotillo details in his East Carolina University paper. Changes to the authentication header; encapsulating security payload, transport and tunnel modes; protocol negotiation and key exchange; and neighbor discovery and address auto-configuration further improve security.

Defcon speaker, Sam Bowne warns the industry that IPv6 adoption will likely cause “severe security headaches” because IT professionals haven’t really dug into the issue yet, as it’s not widely adopted today. What is happening today is a slow rollout – or a dual-stack environment – where both v4 and v6 are co-mingling, creating two infrastructures to secure, instead of just one. Bowne stressed during his presentation that it is extremely important for white-hat hackers to dig in and identify these threats. Sotillo also identifies a few areas worthy of inspection, including header manipulation issues such as spoofing, and flooding issues such as Smurf-type attacks on multicast traffic. Jake Kouns and Daniel Minoli dive into these issues in detail with their 2008 book, Security in an IPv6 Environment.

Interestingly enough, much of the advice given as far back as 2005 has still not been widely adopted. For example, Mike Chapple, CISSP, offered five tips that networking pros should pay attention to, including education across configuration, new tunneling protocols risks, and addressing complexity created by auto-configurations. Yet most professionals are still unfamiliar, according to a recent article by Robert Westervelt of

Buffer overflows and bugs will be an issue with the IPv6 transition as well. Joe Klein, Defcon attendee and subject matter expert with the North American IPv6 Task Force, states that it will take years for the bugs and flaws to be worked out.. But  these will do, as it starts to gain wide acceptance. One particular flaw that is unique to IPv6 and causes chaos in networks is packet amplification attacks. This particular attack places a “0” in the routing header of each packet, and causes them to travel in a looped path. Ping pong exploits then take advantage of the 64 subnets available in the protocol, and allows attackers to send packets from one non-existent connection to another. This results in an ongoing series of ICMP Unreachable error messages and floods the network with wasteful data. In a podcast with TechRepublic’s Michael Kassner, Klein gives a great overview to of some of other issues that’s worth a listen.

IPv6 is a completely new protocol, not a simple patch slapped on existing IPv4 technology. Any technology has to be able to handle these changes, including VPN, routers, intrusion detection and prevention, firewalls, and network access control (NAC) solutions. Work-around solutions create gaps and gaps are what hackers exploit.

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