Week in security: The future of security is agile

CSO Australia held its first-ever breakfast events in Sydney and Melbourne, with a range of speakers exploring the goals and obstacles in the effort to adopt Agile Security. Sponsor NetIQ said growing trust in social networks – mixed with the right standards – could make them trusted third-party ID brokers where other organisations have failed. New Telsyte research suggested that companies were spending more on security but still struggling to adopt agile principles, while warnings suggested companies needed to look past traditional silos to target agile security objectives.

Security also needs to deal with disappearing security perimeters, NetIQ advised, and integrate security and disaster recovery as well.

Further abroad, audiences gathered in Las Vegas for the Black Hat Conference, where demos included a methodology for beating Google's Bouncer technology, which is supposed to protect Android devices from malicious apps (on a related note, reports said Apple's iOS 6 will no

longer prompt for passwords before downloading free apps, raising concerns of a new security threat). Also new in mobile security was a service from RSA that scans for phony corporate apps and removes them ASAP when they're spotted.

Conference organisers also inadvertently demonstrated terrible email practice after sending password-reset emails to 7500 delegates to the conference – and then brushing it off.

Apple presented at the conference for its first time ever, with the in-depth view into the certificate-based encryption framework behind Apple's iOS architecture. Some observers were disappointed, but nevertheless the iOS architecture will be strengthened by Apple's $US356m purchase of mobile-security firm AuthenTec.

A panel session asked whether Google or the US government were worse privacy offenders, while a demonstration showed the use of NFC technology to break into the Nexus S and Nokia N9 and another researcher showed off vulnerabilities in three common payment terminals.

Meanwhile, even as a live demonstration showed off a new hack of an Oracle database, the inventor of SSH cryptography technology blasted current security practices by saying they are "getting worse", with one Black Hat presenter warning that cyber-espionage operations are both massive and highly-focused. And one presenter caused controversy as security experts debated the proper split between private and public roles in fighting hackers.

The event saw the launch of a new tool offering 150 ways to bypass Web application firewalls, while research presented at the event suggested the Gameover ZeuS peer-to-peer botnet could be extremely difficult to take down. And the conference's Pwnie Award went to the developers of the Windows Update hack used by Flame malware as the most impressive hack of the past year.

BitDefender updated its privacy-reporting app for iOS devices, while intrusion prevention systems and whitelisting were floated as indispensable parts of the enterprise security defence.

Cloud computing and BYOD trends are creating new security problems, some warned, while others pointed out that Google's search engines represent a threat that can be managed.

The European Union was considering new rules forcing social networks to adhere to information security standards, while the cause of openness got a strong ally as Amazon Web Services lodged a submission to the Cloud Security Alliance's Security, Trust & Assurance Registry. Not even the anonymity of the TOR-encrypted e-commerce platform Silk Road, which is used for the secure purchase of all kinds of illegal things, can be guaranteed.

Hackers continued their relentless pounding of all sorts of companies, with software vendor MapleSoft hit by hackers that sent malicious spamto its customers. Japan's Finance Ministry was apparently hit by a Trojan nearly two years ago but has only just noticed. Mac users got yet another Trojan – an "clever attack called Crisis – to worry about, while Apple's new Mountain Lion operating system prompted extensive discussions about its security. Taking the cake this week, however, was Anonymous – which stole gigabytes of subscriber data from telco AAPT and proceeded to publish it online.

Researchers flagged Java vulnerabilities as the current favoured modus operandi for hackers, but many may not have to work that hard: the Olympics not only crashed Twitter and offered rich pickings for scammers, but will drive a smartphone apocalypse, with security firm Venafi warning that 67,000 phones are likely to be lost or stolen during the 17-day Games, equating to 214.4 terabytes of data.

The City of London Police are amongst numerous organisations signing up for an international cybercrime thinkfest, although it's worth noting that not all cybercriminals are devious hackers: a mother in Pennsylvania has been charged after stealing passwords, Ferris Bueller style, to change her children's grades in their school computer.

Hardware was in the news, with a new technique enabling a $50 device to open hotel-room door locks from vendor Onity. Cisco unveiled plans for a software update that will improve the behaviour of Apple's Bonjour discovery protocol on enterprise networks, while there were even concerns about a new stealth power strip called the Power Pwn.

Also, potentially listening in on corporate networks is Microsoft, some said, although the company initially wouldn't say whether it can or can't tap Skype sessions before Skype moved to quell privacy concerns. Microsoft, which topped a list of US spammers, also released a technology preview of a new security toolkit inspired by the submission of one entrant to its $250,000 announced.

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Security Awareness Tip

Incident handling is a vast topic, but here are a few tips for you to consider in your incident response. I hope you never have to use them, but the odds are at some point you will and I hope being ready saves you pain (or your job!).


  1. Have an incident response plan.

  2. Pre-define your incident response team 

  3. Define your approach: watch and learn or contain and recover.

  4. Pre-distribute call cards.

  5. Forensic and incident response data capture.

  6. Get your users on-side.

  7. Know how to report crimes and engage law enforcement. 

  8. Practice makes perfect.

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