SSL: welcome to digital GULAG

Let's take a look at a seemingly innocent practice of OCSP stapling. Basically it is a certification that your certificate is valid, with the certificate for the validity of your certificate being issued by your certificate authority and bundled with your original certificate. Sounds perfect! If only we could certify the validity of this second certificate too, with a third certificate issued by the same authority, would be enough, certainly, three certificates are enough for everyone. Right?

This practice stems from OSCP (an Internet protocol used for obtaining the revocation status) which is not nearly as funny, and far from «innocent».

The original OCSP implementation can introduce a significant cost for the certificate authorities (CA) because it requires them to provide responses to every client of a given certificate in real time. For example, when a certificate is issued to a high traffic website, the servers of CAs are likely to be hit by enormous volumes of OCSP requests querying the validity of the certificate.

Do you see what does this quote imply? That FOR EACH SSL CONNECTION YOU MUST ASK THE AUTHORITY'S PERMISSION. The certificate authority is now an authority that decides whether to allow or refuse your SSL connections. In real time. You no longer decide to connect to a host of your choice, this decision is moving to some authorities.

Let that sink in.

P.S. Certificate revocation (without SSL) is not that dangerous and absurd. It was initially designed to work OFFLINE, i.e. all certificates, requests and answers are strictly timestamped — which makes revocation lists valuable and transferable — this is all designed to post-factum verification of documents and such.

"Security Management" "Maturity" "Model"

A few days ago I twitted this picture:

RSA model for security management "maturity"
with a comment: guess what's wrong with this picture (hint: EVERYTHING).

Not everyone got the joke, so I think it deserves an explanation (sorry).

At a first glance it makes some sense and reflects quite common real world situation: first you start with some «one size fits all» «common sense» security (antivirus, firewall, vulnerability scanner, whatever). Then you get requirements (mostly compliance driven), then you do risk analysis and then voila, you get really good and start talking business objectives. Right?


It is a maturity level model. Which means a each level is a foundation for the next one and cannot be skipped. Does it work this way? No.

Actually you do some business driven decisions all the time from the very beginning. It is not a result, it is a foundation. You may do it an inefficient way, but you still do. With risk analysis. It may be ad hoc, again, depending on the size of your business and your insight into how things work, but from some mid-sized level you simply cannot stick to «checkbox mentality», you need to prioritize. Then you come with checklists and compliance requirements as part of your business risks.

The picture is all upside-down and plain wrong. I understand they need to sell RSA Archer at some point there and that's why they see it this way, but it does not constitute an excuse for inverting reality.

An open letter to mr. John Kelly the Homeland Security Secretary

Dear mr. Kelly,
do you realize that you lose the ability to attribute a suspect's social media account to the said suspect immediately after obtaining a password to the said account?
Once you own the password, the account is attributed to YOU, shithead, thus rendering all your claims about the suspect's alleged activity associated with the account completely inconsiderable.

Resign immediately! You know _NOTHING_ about security nor elementary logic, you are utterly unqualified for the Homeland Security Secretary position.

"One Brand of Firewall"

Gatrner sent me an ad of a quite disturbing report ( ) which advocates using «one firewall brand» to reduce complexity.

Sorry, guys, one brand of WHAT?

There is no such thing as «general purpose firewall» that fits all. It is a mythical device (and this myth was supported by Gartner for years).
What you call «firewall» is actually one of three (or more) things:

1) A border/datacenter segmenation device. Think high throughput, ASICs, fault tolerance and basic IPS capabilities.
2) An «office» firewall. Think moderate throughput, egress filtering, in-depth protocol inspection, IAM integration and logging capabilities
3) WAF. Enough said, WAF is completely different beast, having almost nothing in common with any of those.

Ah, and a VPN server. It is not a firewall (though it should have basic firewall capabilities). Not falls into any of those categories.

Dear Gartner, have you ever tried to market a pipe-wrench-hair-dryer? You should, you have a talent for that.

Smartphone is a computer (actually, not, but it should be)

There is a simple remedy to many information security woes about smartphones.

And it is simple. And extremely unpopular. Vendors, operators definitely won't like it.

Just it: turn a smartphone to a computer. No, not like now. Really.

A computer does not run «firmware» bundled by «vendor» and «certified to use». It runs operating system, supplementary components like libraries and device drivers, and applications, both system and users'.

And there are updates. When there is a bug, an update is issued, not by the computer vendor, but by the OS or other software vendor. While «firmware» which FCC et al should care of is the tiny thing that runs inside broadband module you user probably never think of at all.

I've seen people arguing that it would break things. Due to device fragmentation people will get broken updates, brick their phones and overload repair centers. Come on. Never seen bundled OTA firmware update doing that? It is actually safer if the update is going to be granular and won't touch things it does not need to.

But you won't ever seen unfixed remote code execution bug to stay for years or even forever if your phone vendor decides that it no longer necessary to support this model.

I want my smartphone to be a real computer. With OS, applications, and no unremovable bloatware that is burned in by the vendor or (worse) MNO. Do you?

UPDATE: and surely initiatives like this will get middle finger as they deserve and no questions could be raised. You may run anything you want on your COMPUTER.

One more lesson to repeat from HackingTeam breach

(it is a copy of my old LinkedIn blog post, I saved it here because Linkedin sucks big time as a blog platform)

The full story is here:
and it is worth reading for all InfoSec professionals and amateurs: perfect, outstanding example of an «old school» hack described step by step.

Also it provides us a classic example of another issue often overlook, or rather intentionally ignored: starting from certain (rather small) organization size and complexity, a sophisticated attacker WILL compromise your Active Directory. There is no «if» in this sentence: it is inevitable. I've seen many pen tests and many advanced attacks by malicious entities — ALL, I mean it, ALL of them ended like that.

That leads us to obvious, yet controversial conclusion: for certain valuable resources it is better to keep them OFF the domain. This means cutting away the whole branch of an attack graph: no SSO, no access from domain-joined admin workstations, no access recovery via domain-based email, no backups on AD-enabled storage, whatever. Which rises some completely different issues, but that's it.

Can you manage this? Can you live with this?

"We are not responsible"

More than 90 percent of corporate executives said they cannot read a cybersecurity report and are not prepared to handle a major attack, according to a new survey.

More distressing is that 40 percent of executives said they don't feel responsible for the repercussions of hackings, said Dave Damato, chief security officer at Tanium, which commissioned the survey with the Nasdaq.

Seriously. They are «not responsible»! Who is, then? Those guys are getting paid enormous amount of money for being MANAGERS. Manager is a person who is responsible — for solving problems he/she might not truly comprehend as well, but that's ok. I do not expect them to really know a thing or two about IT or security. An executive should understand business risks, that's enough. If there is a business risk that an executive does not understand and is not willing to, he/she should consider getting another job, probably McDonalds could offer them an intern position?

Those people say they are utterly incompetent — and they say it in public and get away with that. And everyone thinks it is ok.

I still fail to understand why ransomware is such a big deal

I've seen a lot of companies where it is not — not necessary big corporations with huge IT staff. There is just no reason to have anything of significant value on a workstation (and quite a few reasons to have it on a file share) and it is not a huge complication to live without it.

I'd be more worried about the fact that if you've got ransomware (or any malware at all) it means you have been compromised. And you are just lucky that the attacker was not sophisticated enough to get any other advantage of the situation (in a way that would be even more harmful to you), maintaining covert access for indefinite amount of time and silently ruining your business the way you wouldn't even be able to identify before it's too late.

So it is not about desktop backups, or antivirus, or advanced anti-APT self-guided silver bullets. It is about you.