What’s The One Big Issue Behind Almost Every Hack?
Hint: Most Risk Assessments Ignore It!
- Poorly configured or managed firewalls,
- Untested backup systems,
- Improper network segmentation
Are you assessing your client’s data security? More importantly, is your assessment turning up urgent issues. A week or so ago I posted on finding urgent issues – The Bot is your client’s number one enemy. Do you know what you’re looking for?
We’ve become lazy. Too many security assessments depend on scanners to find open ports and missing patches. But as I mentioned in a recent post, missing patches are not urgent. However they may be one of the reasons your client has bots on their network. But if you can’t come up with any bot activity, it’s kind of hard to get the client to see why the patches are so important.
In the House & Cloud book I recommend using a pro-bono assessment to build justification. If the company you’re calling on sees value in you, there may be an opportunity to actually do some business. If not, you can’t expect them to just sign up and try you. The assessment is the perfect service to both build justification and rapport. But you had better find something urgent if you’re going to unseat the competition. The Bot is your answer.
This is especially true in the small and midsize businesses. They lack the sophisticated security technologies needed to detect and stop the installation of botware on their computers. So chances are, if you look, you’ll find it. So what is a bot? It’s software, from an unauthorized user, used to gain access to your client’s computers. It comes in through email and infected websites, or downloads.
Your job in a pro-bono assessment is simply to find evidence of bots (or something else that just as urgent.) Don’t worry about over analyzing what they are and where they came from. If they exist, it means botware can get in, and the company is not properly detecting and stopping it. You job is not to prove an eminent disaster. Bots are bad, even if they are dormant when you find them.
When a bot hits a computer, that computer becomes a zombie. The bot software is installed and begins to execute it’s function on that system – a set of instructions to do something. That “something” is often detectable! While no one can physically stop all bots, early detection and response is the key to minimizing the impact. Some of these symptoms include:
Most of the assessments I review never mention botware or zombies. They only talk about patches and ports. The scans they are using have little or no information that the client will find interesting.
While it is possible to run some detection tools on each PC,”polymorphic viruses” have pretty much defeated traditional AV technology. Your client may need some education on this before moving ahead.
The alternative is to look at the network. As we mentioned, IRC traffic is probably not authorized traffic. So that’s the first thing I would look for. While it is possible to use a packet sniffer here, network switches make this more difficult – basically you would be looking for unencrypted keywords sent on IRC channels. IRC runs on port is 6667 by default, but the entire port range (6660-6669 and 7000) must be checked.
If you have the ability to access firewall logging, mass mailing can be detected over SMTP from a central location. This is often a sign of botware being using to send spam. Is spam urgent? Yes! It’s illegal in and of itself. But chances are it contains something worse such as illegal pharmacy marketing or worse, child pornography. Make sure your client understands what would happen if they were suspected of distributing either one. For one, their family would be ruined long before they could prove their innocence.
If endpoints on the network are simultaneously hitting a single external site, that can also be a sign. This would be true if the C&C had instructed these bots to launch a distributed denial of service attach (DDOS).
Note: Don’t bother checking server and email logs for this type of activity. Bots don’t go through the normal channels of communication and will not show up in your client’s log files.
In most cases you have someone technical working with you, if you yourself are not that technical. If you’re in sales and you don’t really understand the urgencies listed on the deliverable, neither will your client.
There are a few terms here that border on bits and bites, but with a few Google searches you should be able to nail down these terms and be able to communicate them in simple language to your client.
There’s a enormous amount of business waiting on the other side if this blog post. Learn these few concepts, locate the urgent issues in your next assessment, and be able to share the results (business impact) with your prospect. The rest is easy.
…quod erat demonstrandum
Copyright 2015, David Stelzl
One of my clients in Tampa just completed a very successful marketing event…in fact, 90% of the CIOs who attended this lunch meeting signed up to have their data center infrastructure assessed. How did they do it?
In this case they had a former CIO do the speaking. Understanding the pressures on the CIO role is critical – things are rapidly changing for IT leadership. Every day the CIO journal (your are reading this, right?) is reporting on trends that are forcing CIOs to become business level participants. Rather than focusing on 5 9s up time and the next major OS upgrade, the new CIO has to be thinking, “How does my company become the next Amazon.com?”
At the end of their presentation they offered a complementary assessment. It’s important to note that this assessment is not really free – it’s complementary. In other words, it has value and is worth paying for. But as I explained to a senior VP of sales the other day, the trade off may be months of courting a new company. Which is cheaper, two or three days of intense assessment work, or 3 to 6 months of lunches and golf outings? They quickly agreed, the assessment makes sense.
© 2013, David Stelzl
Join me on June 8th at noon EST – Leveraging the Discovery Process to gain access to decision makers (CLICK to SIGN UP). I will be building on material presented over the past several months, but you can always go back and review sessions you might have missed. In this one hour session I will be covering important concepts such as:
1. Types of questions to ask asset owners and executive managers
2. How to avoid getting demoted to IT in the discovery process
3. When and how to engage the IT group in this process
4. What to do with data collected in both
5. How to deliver your findings
6. How to present your findings and recommendations
7. How to turn this process into fee based business and product sales
Don’t miss this! It’s funded by Cisco and costs you nothing but time…sign up here (CLICK)
© 2011, David Stelzl
The fastest way to inculcate the concepts from our Making Money with Security Class is to try it. Last week I had opportunity to interact with one person attending the 3-day virtual class currently in process…
He writes, “I thought I would try to apply some of the nuggets I have learned this week, in a meeting I had earlier this morning. It went really well! I met with a CISO and we discussed assets and started applying the likelihood vs. impact philosophy. As I was doing this, my customer said the biggest problem he has is understanding likelihood.”
…This is predictable. As I stated in last Thursday’s session, everyone seems to focus on the impact side of the security equation, but CISO’s and asset owners are already well aware of this, and continue to hear the same ROI and Insurance sales pitches almost daily from your competition. By taking the “Likelihood” approach, a new discussion evolves.
He continues with a great question, “Based on this approach, is determining likelihood done through risk assessment or are there more dimensions to consider?”
If you’re in the class, you know we have one more session to cover, and this is where we will address this in detail, …but, this is the right question to be asking…how do we move this conversation forward to create business? Here is a portion of my reply:
“…it means starting with executives rather than IT, and interviewing them to understand the assets; how they’re used, who uses them, who can’t use them…etc. Then, armed with a complete understanding of the data (the assets), the technical side of the assessment should be used to discover how the necessary security is being achieved, or how to reduce the likelihood to an acceptable level of risk. The ‘’Impact vs. likelihood” graph from by book, The House & the Cloud becomes our primary deliverable, backed by data from the assessment.
His final comment: “Application to real world is the best way to learn… I personally missed focusing on the asset and pitched it more towards the vulnerability discovery. The asset that has the vulnerability determines the impact and the level of the vulnerability determines the likelihood. Starting to add up.’’
This is exactly right and leads to the justification this sales person needs to create new business.
© 2011, David Stelzl
Almost every reseller does assessments, and now, many manufacturers are not only doing them, but equipping their reseller community through partner program trainings, and portals, and the creation of assessment tools. Why? If you don’t understand the core reasons for doing an assessment, chances are you are wasting your time.
© 2010, David Stelzl
1. If the test is done for IT, you won’t have visibility into the executive ranks
2. If the process doesn’t involve the executive team they won’t care much about the results
3. The report is too technical
4. The report uses jargon that disguises the problem and it’s urgency
5. The provider appears to be more focused on analytics than urgent issues
Eg. If I come to you and say, this is the problem, I’ll put together some options and pricing and get back to you next week, do you feel like the issues are urgent? What if you plumber did that after discovering a leaking pipe in your wall? You’d fire them! (But only because you know that is urgent.)
© 2010, David Stelzl