ISMS is Not equal to Real Security!

Is having an information security management system equal to actual security? 

No! Having an information security management system is not an indication of quality of security controls. Management systems are easier way of administration in a standard and systematic way, but they do not necessarily an indication of security control effectiveness. 

As an example, ISO 27001 as one of the most popular information security management system to date, has no effect on the quality of your controls, as there is no judgement on implementation quality, effectiveness and type of security controls. It is just the judgement of logic. 

This is no surprise though comparing to any other management system like ISO 9001 famous Quality where you can find thousands of firms holding to that certification with lowest quality of products. You will find same number of firms holding tightly to their ISO 27001 certification as an indication of “presence of quality security” but literally are at the lowest bracket of information security effectiveness in practice. 

Let’s say one has a system to fully manage firewall within an enterprise, all the rules are justified, reviewed and approved by head of your technology department (which FYI you could barely find such a well-managed system, but still let’s pretend it’s not a big deal). Does it mean firewall rules are technically security and configured in a way that address organization concerns?! 

However, an information security management system, whether globally recognized like ISO 27001 or organically internally created by your organization could be the best tool to approach your security program; it is all about execution and understanding of information security elements ‘particularly in regards to your business’. 

Simple Sign of Security Program Has Already Failed

The simple sign is your Trust and Confidence: Do you have faith in your security program?  

For a moment be honest and ask yourself: am I confident with my company security program? Do I have faith in our security team? Do they really know what they are doing? Does my information security officer worth pay 300 grands? How can I say my IT department is really at the top of security trends? Ami paying too much or less for security budget?  

Why I Do Not Trust in My Security Program?  

If your answer to any of above questions is shaky, you hesitate to answer, or just do not know that answer, or for any reason you are not sleeping peacefully at night, then your security program already failed!  

Has Your Security Program Stuck?  

But that is not your fault directly, not even your team, no one to blame from your side! The only thing to blame is “market”. Unfortunately, market pushes you and many top managers of security teams within big corporations to spend money on things that would not improve the security posture, otherwise you would sleep peacefully just like those who do not have any online presence.  

Market pushes us to spend and at the same time not have a peaceful mind; today is about a new trend, tomorrow even before catching up with yesterday “message” you attend a webinar and you face a new challenge, all true, but all irrelevant.  

Why with hundreds of thousands spending on my cybersecurity initiatives, still I do not feel confident?!  

You or your technology team do not have even enough time to catch up with emails and whitepapers full of useful info, let alone choosing and implementing what exactly you’re looking for. Even a week after implementation you realize there was better solution or you wish you would purchase another solution or just waited one week to buy the new one just arrived at your mailbox!  

Sounds familiar? Then you are not alone among majority of information security managers, engineers and architectures. Simply blame the “market”! Market is constantly pushing us to spend and still not being confident. Does it sound like something wrong? There has to be a different way. It does not make sense; it is not that much complicated!  

The trick is simply getting out of this sanity and leave the market flow and pass you! You won’t lose anything, do not worry. Step back, stop, relax and research more. There are very simple ways with less effort and less budget with more confident outcome. Simpler than you could imagine!

The Only Reason A System Has Not Been Hacked!

Real hackers do not randomly find a flaw in a system. There is a systematic approach to hack a system!

Regardless of size and type of an online entity and its online presence, a giant company with ten thousand of employee, or a home user of the Net, the only reason a system (may) have not hacked or taste the bitter part of internet is because it has not been targeted! 

Hack proof, and resistance…are you kidding? systems are mainly vulnerable to basic penetration testing! A system enough mature to resist targeted attacks is literally a piece of “Art of Security Management” rather than a collection of sophisticated security tools or staff. 

Once you are targeted you could truly measure the strength of your security measures and experience shows that we could barely stay safe after being actively targeted. However, targeting process may take years but once a malicious actor put your name on the list, you need to find way to response and faster ways for recovery. 

I am not considering persistent threats where you have been hacked for years before even you realize. Remember, not all malware activity is supposed to be noisy and obvious. Hence, targets remain totally open to adversaries for months and years before they could even detect anomaly so let’s talk about hidden-side of being victimized and APT later. 

What does it mean to be targeted? 

It is not as simple as it sounds but briefly, it means adversary simply profiles you/your business for a relatively longer time and uses every aspect of your online presence to have what I call BB or brighter blueprint of a cyber entity. 

Attacker creates an enhanced “vision” of a cyber target and s/he uses every single direct or indirect possible object to picture the target. At the end, or somehow in the middle of this process, attackers know your system way better than yourself! And that’s where they land the attack. The result depends on the purpose and motivation, could be destructive or hidden with minimal impact which is scary because then they nest somewhere within your system as long as they need. 

The truth is, if a system has not been hacked, that’s not because it has a solid security posture, it is only because it has not been targeted. 

Stay secure, 

One Strategy to Win the Cyber-security Battle: Change the Focus!

Sales pitch force us to worry about things that are not so important; Change your mindset to win the battle!  

“Battle” would not be the right term if we didn’t have a market full of competition to sell cybersecurity products rather than focusing on the right and real way of defense. In other words, focusing of what really cyber criminals are up to, rather than pretending that we are securing our networks!  

So let’s admit it is actually like a battle ground when sales guys reach out to you and want to convince you to accept a risk they are anticipating with your business and you have this relation with a dozen of firms out there and literally everyone says: all other products are crap, ours is so and so! And in the meantime, you are in a real unfair battle with cybercriminals where you’ve never been able to catch up.  

We do not need to be part of this battle, but it is only possible by changing mindset and direction! I know it is so hard and even scary to go a different direction when all the market trends are pushing you to believe something else. I know it sounds insane to forget about EDR when all pros say it’s a panacea, it scary to uninstall Application control or whitelisting solution from your server. Should you avoid and ignore critical patches? Would it be madness to forget about dual-factor authentication and not having a PAM solution, especially when you have money and human resources to spend on these?  

Any solution may or may not fit to your business but cybersecurity is not all about implementing new solutions, what if I tell you that you could still be incredibly secure with the same sort of security products in 90’s?!  

The first step to win the battle with both sides of adversaries and sales is just to change the focus from being tools-oriented to rely on techniques, from implementation of new solutions to find the solution natively in your systems. I am not talking about native security tools of any OS necessarily; I am diverting your mind to a totally different world where understanding and picturing your cyber security posture automatically brings the solution with itself!

Does Technology Solve Our Problems?

Real issues are not going to be solved bY any of those known internet applications!

Currently it does not but technology could solve our problems if two factors considered: 

  • Definition of ‘Problem’
  • Justifying practical ‘Application’

The former seems so obvious but that is actually the root cause of why technology is not able to solve our problems. You see how major aspects of technology are focused on ‘things’ that are neither a problem, nor an issue, or even a basic consideration. 

Internet does it really justified to solve our problems? The answer is no because first we are misleading ourselves with unreal problems and things that are more wanted than needed, and more a matter of convenience than a matter of reasonable living.

As an example, transportation, social media, advertising… even fast communication are not real issue. Comparing to other side of same stories like fossil fuel, introversion and lack of communication. When you do not have transportation, focusing on Uber and Lyft is more insulting than funny. When people are getting more and more introvert, talking about your virtual friends is ridiculous. When delivery of an important message to appropriate people is being distracted by many political and ethical issues, focusing so much on advertising is like ignoring the entire word of ‘humanity’. 

internet does not really justified to solve our problems

Real problems are not part of, or addressed by Google, facebook or instagram. Real issues that all of us facing are not going to be solved by Amazon, because shopping online is not the real deal that we want to focus on right before Christmas eve. Cyber Monday should not be a concern and first thing in the morning when you turn your radio on. Apple latest iPhone is not going to be a tiny positive factor in any aspect of real life. And we are not going to die if Paypal decides to change its privacy policy, or Twitter decides to delete out tweet.

You see that definition does matter because if the problem was really how you could faster load facebook pages, or how to have a video with more viewers on YouTube, then yes, all those internet trends and application would frankly be toward solving our issues. But the real deal is different, and that’s why most of internet applications are going wrong direction. 

Real problems are food, drinking water, population, education, diseases…but not how many restaurants have online vitrines, or how fast and convenient you could order pizza online, or millions of recipes in a PDF…the problem is providing enough resources for a billion of people in lack of basic life resources. 

Enough food for one in nine people on earth just to make sure that they can function. Fighting against global water and waste crisis. Eliminating the risk of malaria to half of the world’s population. Taking care of millions of people with at least one sort of dangerous addiction. You can name it. 

After you believe in real problems of today’s human on the earth, you’ll see how technology is far from helping us to solve those issues. Thousands of scientists all over the world are committed to solve our real issues, but that number is way less than hundreds of millions of people focusing on unreal aspect of life. 

Conquering space for search of what we call inevitable for life, H2O, while we do not have the basic water treatment and culture of consuming drinkable water sounds very naive. Every day we make thousands of chemicals and medications for weight loss while a billion of people do not have enough food to function. We develop all sort of online applications but it’s like all of us are blind and deaf, we can’t see, we can’t hear what is going on before our eyes.

Technology is actually so capable of resolving our real issues. Let’s define and review and digest today’s issues and force technology to handle them for us. Not a cybersecurity professional, or a programmer, but as a human, that is my career to help technology solve human real problems with practical cheap solutions.  

Tools vs. Techniques

Operations fail by focusing on tool rather than technique!

In context of information technology, with all primary operations like system administration, patching and updating, backup and replication, malware protection…and all related sub-tasks, focus on Tools is an enemy of the process!

Defining, developing or choosing a technique in advance is crucial to an IT operation. Then finding a tool to do whatever the technique is dictating, not vice versa. Techniques are also backed up and rationalize by objectives and policies but that is out of scope of this article.

Techniques → Tools

That is the right flow chart: reaching device, gadget, program, software, application, script…or anything like that  only after knowing the method or routine. In other words, we need to define the way we want to do something (process) and what is required (features) and then go after shopping or writing a code to handle that.

Many IT operations fail due to doing this simply in reverse direction: finding a tool just by searching the Subject and then refine the “forced” process based on what tool is dictating, not what we were expecting. Well, sometimes there is no expectation at the first place which is sign of a immature IT practice but that is also behind this short article.

Manage Numerous IT Projects With No Resource Constraints

IT resource management is crucial in chaotic environments where multiple projects collide… 

The most obvious challenge of IT managers is to make sure they meet deadlines and projects deliverables in a timely manner. This is more tangible in environments where tons of big and small projects overlap in shared resources. That is a sign of resource constraint. By resource, I mean IT staff and personnel. 

Regardless of why an IT team faces unexpected projects and ends up with a messy environment, or how IT manager job description and responsibilities are important at the first place, let’s focus on how to address IT project management disordering, and how to reach a smooth flow of projects mixed with daily IT tasks. 

One of the simplest techniques to handle resource allocation is aliening expected assignment(s) with factual capacity of resource; when and how a resource is free and what and when to assign them with, but there are many ways to do this. I prefer mapping the current state of resources (main aspects or features of them), plus identifying projects and their specifications and finally justify these together via any simple tool. 

Information Technology Project Management
Gain a strong understanding of IT project management as you learn to apply today’s most effective project management tools and techniques…

Once you master this very basic and easy technique, no matter what is your tool, you will be able to manage IT projects even in a very disordered and out-of-control department. That is one of the reasons why I do not believe in phrase “lack of resources”! The more we blame shortage of human resources, the more we put ourselves in a situation that is irreversible. A situation where it does not matter how many staff you add to your team, still you will not be able to meet deadline, and more important, have reasonable quality for you IT operations. 

Information Technology Project Management: Providing Measurable Organizational Value
how to create measurable organizational value through IT projects…

Back to the technique, list your resources and calculate their availability and capacity at a certain time. What are the factors in equation? It really depends on your very particular environment but universal factors are known to any project manager. Then list you projects and identify their specifications in detail. If you do not have time to do these basic steps then you better put more time and reputation on fixing a broken IT department and a dozen of overdue deadlines and unhappy c-suite. Allocation of resources is going to be so strait forward if you complete the 1st and 2nd step precisely. 

There are bunch of tools to execute such a simple idea, but some of them like Microsoft Project requires a dedicated trained professional just to use the tool and set it with right information. That is too complicated and is not reasonable where the task of project management is not the goal. In other words, tools like MS Project are good for those that are project managers and they do this for thousands of clients. 

I developed a simple smart Excel spreadsheet to handle this crucial task of managing IT projects with real scenarios. As simple as 123. Based on size of your staff and project, you might be eligible to use free of charge. 

Does JavaScript Pose A Security Risk?

Javascript is a silent threat!

Professional JavaScript for Web Developers
essential guide to next-level JavaScript development…

I no longer am able to imagine the current structure of the web without JavaScript. This is about online applications in form of traditional websites, otherwise traditional web interfaces won’t be able to handle the applications and web would collapse without JS!

That does not mean I am a fan of JavaScript in terms of security even though I am a JS coder myself. Because with all that sandboxing and native security countermeasures, the way we use it today is risky. What level of risk and threat model? It depends on what type of internet user we are dealing with.

As user with limited internet browsing scope, whether home user or a corporate user with restrict and secure corporate policies, risk is very low. Assuming user has a limited number of trusted sources to browse so exposure is only to the known codes and applications.

Javascript threat is completely out of scope of general endpoint protection solution

How JavaScript Works
Most of our languages are deeply rooted in the paradigm that produced FORTRAN…

As a user with wide range of random and unknown sites and applications, home or corporate, the possibility of facing a malicious Javascript is so high. This is either directly from malicious codes like browser extensions and add-ons or indirectly from malicious Ads and other type of metadata. Let’s list some of the common scenarios:

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  • Malicious Javascript in a browser extension records everything you do online
  • Malicious Javascript in a hijacked Ad redirects to any malicious destination
  • Malicious Javascript within a page mimics joining by Google, facebook, or Microsoft account and steals credentials
  • Malicious Javascript renders the content and mislead the visitor

The possibilities are endless when it comes to creative malicious content. But again, how can you even thinking about Not using most reputable Net applications by disabling Javascript?

JavaScript: JavaScript Programming.A Step-by-Step Guide for Absolute Beginners
some of the best resources to learn JavaScript from scratch…

The beauty of JS from a hacker POV is that, it does not matter what type of protection you have: a basic anti-virus or the most sophisticated EDR; none our capable of handling many types of malicious Javascript code. That means the threats are totally out of scope of general endpoint protection and all those solutions which majority of technology currently relying on.

The Fine Art of Network Security Configuration: Micro Segmentation

Micro segmentation is the particle of an effective network segregation

Network security administration barely leverages a concept which basically has been there forever and could literally saves them forever when dealing with security of network services, and that is nothing but micros segmentation. 

I usually bring practical examples to my workshops so students are able to see and feel MS in real scenarios but as a brief explanation, micros segmentation is the technique of limiting a network node presence with only needed services and to the limited audience. 

Get rid of the flat network but simple techniques around Micro Segmentation!

This simple technique is so away from majority of network configurations these days where nodes are all connected together to a switch and the most segmentation is done via virtual LAN segmentation. Micro segmentation takes care of nodes within their micro virtual world of services and clients. 

MS turns most insecure network protocols to even more secure than a natively-secure-protocol, improve performance, and forever saves network from unknown attacks or malicious actors. Again, no specific tools is needed to implement this concept on a network of any kind, Linux, Windows, Mac… it fits with any infrastructure or technology, the only thing needed is the clear understanding of nodes, network services and their clients’ needs.

About SECURETARGET

Once Upon A Time . . .

first logo SECURE TARGET

SECURE TARGET was one of the first independent group of professional freelancers in field of IT security, founded 1996 in Islamic Republic of Iran, when even using Internet in the country was a dream!

The freelance group directed by its founder, Kaveh Mofidi and initially named ‘Iran Security Consulting Group’, the first and the last mission of those cybersecurity entrepreneurs was delivering the right and accurate knowledge of computer security towards having a safe and secure CyberSpace. That objective made the foundation to disclosing security vulnerabilities through intensive research and active discovery. The result was compiling numerous hands-on training courses on ethical hacking by the motto “Security through hacking”, from internet portal security, to system, application and network security and hacking essentials. This strategy was replaced later by a new approach as non-disclosure or traditional “Security through obscurity” policy when group found out knowledge could be easily end up in hands of malicious users.

logo SECURETARGET

Members with decades of experience in principles of computer security and as a rare collection of IT professionals who worked so hard and relied on constant learning to enhance the quality of service, finally departed from the group due to lack of financial support; the effect of a extremely depressed economy at the top of technological sanctions on Iran which forced IT industry into its struggling mode, particularly and severely “Security” as an IT luxury.