Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

9/26/2013
06:25 PM
Mike Rothman
Mike Rothman
Commentary
50%
50%

Fixating On The Edges

Security folks tend to concentrate on their inability to block improbable attacks, while forgetting to focus on the attacks they're most likely to see

As security folks, we're trained to look for holes. To identify threat vectors that could result in successful attacks and/or data loss. We need to go through the mental exercises (and sometimes real-life pen tests) to feel good that we're doing our best to meet our charter and protect our information. But at times this mind set can lead even experienced folks down dark alleys and result in getting wrapped up in what I'll call "edge cases." You know, fixating on our inability to stop 5 percent of the attacks, while losing sight of the 95 percent of attacks we are far more likely to see.

I wish this epiphany were my idea, but per usual it's because I spend a bunch of time talking to really smart folks kind enough to share their wisdom and perspectives to benefit the rest of us. As I was facilitating a meeting of 20-plus CISOs earlier this week, one of the attendees made the point that we (as a business) get so wrapped up on blocking "all" of the attacks that we lose sight that it's not possible to do so. We want to give a thumbs-down to something because there are very random and difficult ways to exploit it.

We've seen this over and over again -- a point I made in my previous column that some folks have a vested interest in dousing the flames of a new and hot innovative technology. Security research correctly focuses on whether something can be broken and how, not necessarily how scalable or practical an attack.

To illustrate my point, let's revisit the attack published by the CCC, which showed how to beat TouchID with a 3D mold of a fingerprint captured from the device. From the article: "Essentially, CCC researchers demonstrated that an attacker with physical access to the phone could take a picture or scan the fingerprints of the device's owner and use that to create a mold of the fingerprint to launch an attack."

Good thing you got that MakerBot and have a stack of photo-sensitive PCB information lying around, right? Let's be realistic about the value of that device. Are its launch codes on it? Does it posses the combination to the 10-ton lock guarding Fort Knox? The map to the Holy Grail? There would have to be something similarly valuable to warrant producing a 3D mold to gain access to a phone.

It's like I tell my kids after they get a bunch of money for their birthdays: "Just because you have the money doesn't mean you should to spend all of the money." Same goes for security. Just because an attack is possible doesn't mean it's probable. And we, as an industry, get wrapped up in newfangled ways to defend against the improbable.

Ultimately security, like everything else, involves making a bet. You are betting your job that you have got the right people, processes, and technologies in place to protect your critical devices and information. To be clear, that's a bad bet -- but it's the only bet you have. To maximize your likelihood of success and minimize the need to start a job search, you need to play the odds. That means you may have to consciously decide to leave the edge cases unprotected, while making sure you can stop the most probable attacks.

Of course, it's more art than science to figure out which of those attacks are most probable. But that's another story for another day. Just keep in mind if the attack you read about in this here fine publication requires a MakerBot, or a can of dry ice, or an oscilloscope, or a soldering iron, and physical access to the device, then you can address that risk when you get all of the likely attacks you'll face mitigated. Which is basically the day before never.

Mike Rothman is President of Securosis and author of The Pragmatic CSO Mike's bold perspectives and irreverent style are invaluable as companies determine effective strategies to grapple with the dynamic security threatscape. Mike specializes in the sexy aspects of security, like protecting networks and endpoints, security management, and ... View Full Bio

 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 6/1/2020
Stay-at-Home Orders Coincide With Massive DNS Surge
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  5/27/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
How Cybersecurity Incident Response Programs Work (and Why Some Don't)
This Tech Digest takes a look at the vital role cybersecurity incident response (IR) plays in managing cyber-risk within organizations. Download the Tech Digest today to find out how well-planned IR programs can detect intrusions, contain breaches, and help an organization restore normal operations.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-20811
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-03
An issue was discovered in the Linux kernel before 5.0.6. In rx_queue_add_kobject() and netdev_queue_add_kobject() in net/core/net-sysfs.c, a reference count is mishandled, aka CID-a3e23f719f5c.
CVE-2019-20812
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-03
An issue was discovered in the Linux kernel before 5.4.7. The prb_calc_retire_blk_tmo() function in net/packet/af_packet.c can result in a denial of service (CPU consumption and soft lockup) in a certain failure case involving TPACKET_V3, aka CID-b43d1f9f7067.
CVE-2020-13776
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-03
systemd through v245 mishandles numerical usernames such as ones composed of decimal digits or 0x followed by hex digits, as demonstrated by use of root privileges when privileges of the 0x0 user account were intended. NOTE: this issue exists because of an incomplete fix for CVE-2017-1000082.
CVE-2019-20810
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-03
go7007_snd_init in drivers/media/usb/go7007/snd-go7007.c in the Linux kernel before 5.6 does not call snd_card_free for a failure path, which causes a memory leak, aka CID-9453264ef586.
CVE-2020-4026
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-03
The CustomAppsRestResource list resource in Atlassian Navigator Links before version 3.3.23, from version 4.0.0 before version 4.3.7, from version 5.0.0 before 5.0.1, and from version 5.1.0 before 5.1.1 allows remote attackers to enumerate all linked applications, including those that are restricted...