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

6/28/2013
11:52 AM
Mike Rothman
Mike Rothman
Commentary
50%
50%

The (Attack) Path To Prioritization

Since you can't fix every vulnerability, you need to prioritize what needs to get done now and what doesn't. Using attack path data can help

When I want to troll during a speaking gig, I'll usually ask how many folks in the crowd get through their to-do lists every day. I get some uncomfortable laughter, but almost no one raises a hand (except the one numbnut in the crowd who's usually between jobs). Suffice it to say that no one doing security can get everything done. Not consistently, anyway. There are too many users clicking on too many links -- too many applications to protect and too many adversaries with too many attack vectors to think you can protect everything.

So your key to security success is to prioritize fiercely. You have to choose wisely about what really needs to get done now and what can wait for the next Ice Age since you'll never get to it. Our security management tools aren't helping, either. Your vulnerability scanner is happy to tell you that you have thousands of things to fix. As shown in Krebs' great post on the FIS breach, those folks had more than 18,000 network vulnerabilities and 291 application vulnerability past due.

Yeah, no one is getting through 18,000 vulns. Ever. You may as well turn the data center into a parking lot. But we know that not all of those 18,000 vulnerabilities represent real risks to the organization. And your job is to figure out which 100 or 200 you can fix in a reasonable time frame. An interesting way to evaluate the real "risk" is to figure out what can be accessed by an adversary, since any vulnerabilities on those devices are in play.

That brings us to the concept of attack paths. You start by spending a little bit of time determining what would be attractive targets for the attacker. I'm talking about your private customer data, your organization's intellectual property, or the photos you have of the CEO. (I think I'm kidding about that last one). Once you know what's important, you need to figure out whether an adversary can get to it and how. Even if a device is vulnerable to some kind of attack, if the adversary can't get to it, then it's not really a risk, right? So attack path becomes another attribute to determine the criticality of each vulnerability.

The problem is that you can't determine attack paths on the back of an envelope. In any network of scale, you are talking about millions of ways to get from point A to point B. To fully understand your security posture, you need to evaluate each of those paths to determine whether proper controls are in place to protect the data on those devices. This requires highly optimized algorithms (yay for math!) to factor all of this data, and it's not like you network is static. So with every new connection and every changed route, your attack paths change. The good news is that we're starting to see new offerings -- kind of like network topology tools on steroids -- that can do this math and give you an idea about which devices are exposed at any given time.

Of course, we all know that attackers tend to take an indirect path to your sensitive stuff. They compromise an interim device to gain a foothold and then move laterally through your environment until they get what they are looking for. Yeah, that complicates the math further. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

But of all the means to help understand your priorities, evaluating every vulnerability and/or configuration problem through the prism of an attack path is a good means to figure out what needs to get done right now and what doesn't. 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

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
Mobile Banking Malware Up 50% in First Half of 2019
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/17/2020
Active Directory Needs an Update: Here's Why
Raz Rafaeli, CEO and Co-Founder at Secret Double Octopus,  1/16/2020
New Attack Campaigns Suggest Emotet Threat Is Far From Over
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  1/16/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
The Year in Security: 2019
This Tech Digest provides a wrap up and overview of the year's top cybersecurity news stories. It was a year of new twists on old threats, with fears of another WannaCry-type worm and of a possible botnet army of Wi-Fi routers. But 2019 also underscored the risk of firmware and trusted security tools harboring dangerous holes that cybercriminals and nation-state hackers could readily abuse. Read more.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
Organizations have invested in a sweeping array of security technologies to address challenges associated with the growing number of cybersecurity attacks. However, the complexity involved in managing these technologies is emerging as a major problem. Read this report to find out what your peers biggest security challenges are and the technologies they are using to address them.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-20399
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-23
A timing vulnerability in the Scalar::check_overflow function in Parity libsecp256k1-rs before 0.3.1 potentially allows an attacker to leak information via a side-channel attack.
CVE-2020-7915
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-22
An issue was discovered on Eaton 5P 850 devices. The Ubicacion SAI field allows XSS attacks by an administrator.
CVE-2019-20391
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-22
An invalid memory access flaw is present in libyang before v1.0-r3 in the function resolve_feature_value() when an if-feature statement is used inside a bit. Applications that use libyang to parse untrusted input yang files may crash.
CVE-2019-20392
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-22
An invalid memory access flaw is present in libyang before v1.0-r1 in the function resolve_feature_value() when an if-feature statement is used inside a list key node, and the feature used is not defined. Applications that use libyang to parse untrusted input yang files may crash.
CVE-2019-20393
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-22
A double-free is present in libyang before v1.0-r1 in the function yyparse() when an empty description is used. Applications that use libyang to parse untrusted input yang files may be vulnerable to this flaw, which would cause a crash or potentially code execution.