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Michael Siteman, EVP - Data Center Solutions, JONES LANG LASALLE, INC.

Continuing Security Threats and Security Protection Procrastination
Wednesday, November 30 2011 | 10:42 AM
Michael Siteman
EVP - Data Center Solutions, JONES LANG LASALLE, INC.

In my last post, I mentioned a presentation given at the 7×24 Exchange International Fall Conference by Kevin Kealy, Security Architect at AT&T regarding the lack of security measures protecting control systems as well as the popularity of control systems as the new target for hacking. Two of the topics on which Kevin touched during his presentation were the Stuxnet virus and the Son of Stuxnet, DUQU.

Interestingly enough, in preparing for this posting, I did a little research to see if anything new had been discovered about the DUQU virus and found on the Symantec site (http://www.symantec.com/connect/w32-duqu_status-updates_installer-zero-day-exploit) a notification that CrySys, the group that initially discovered the original DUQU binaries, has since located an installed for the DUQU threat. Until now, no one had been able to recover the installed for the threat and, therefore, there was no understanding of how it was infecting systems. We now know that the installer file is a Microsoft Word document (.doc) that “exploits a previously unknown kernel vulnerability that allows code execution.” Symantec and Microsoft are working toward issuing a patch and an advisory.

What’s really scary here is that, similar to the Stuxnet virus, this virus was created so it definitively targets the intended recipient and its shell code ensured that it would only be installed during an eight-day window in August 2011. The virus only has a shelf life of 36 days after which it becomes almost undetectable. The installer that was identified was the only one found, but there may be other methods that were used. Fortunately, most security software vendors have already detected and are blocking the main DUQU files, somewhat preventing an attack. However, once DUQU is able to penetrate an organization, through the zero-day exploit, the attackers can command it to spread to other computers, many of which were not even connected to the Internet by using a file sharing C&C protocol with another compromised computer that had the ability to connect to the Internet.

As of November 3, 2011, six possible organizations in eight different countries were confirmed to have been contaminated.

This leads me to my next point… There’s no time like the present to secure your IT environment. While I was reading an article this morning titled, “Top 10 Dumb Computer Security Notions and Myths”, written by Fahmida Y. Rashid (http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Security/Top-10-Dumb-Computer-Security-Notions-and-Myths-740587/?kc=EWKNLEDP11282011A), it occurred to me that too many have become complacent about security issues. This article highlights a keynote speech given by Charles Pfleeger (Pfleeger Consulting Group) to a meeting that was jointly held by Kaspersky Lab and NYU Polytechnic University in New York City.

In light of virus and intrusions, whether your company utilizes the cloud, virtualized environment, or conventional assets, security is imperative. Mr. Pfleeger outlines the following ten ideas and myths that should be heeded.

#1 – We’ll do security later. Security should never be an afterthought. It should be designed in from the beginning;

#2 – We’ll do privacy later. Compliance issues should outweigh speed to market and privacy issues strike at the heart of compliance;

#3 – Encryption is enough. Encryption is certainly important as practically every data breach has been unencrypted or under-encrypted, but architecture is equally important to ensure that the network is secure;

#4 – One tool to defend them all. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. Security solutions are very specialized and should be customized to each different environment and application;

#5 – Security must be perfect. As with everything else, balance is important. In this case, even if the solution isn’t perfect, a solution must be deployed, so the discussion becomes one of the cost-benefit equation between the level of protection and the cost of the solution;

#6 – Security is easy… DIY Security. Unless you really know what you’re doing, leave the design and implementation of the tool to a professional that has experience;

#7 – Find and Patch is sufficient. Really? Of course it’s important to continually be testing your systems, but this isn’t a replacement for having security by design. As Mr. Pfleeger states, “True security is making sure the common issues are not in the application in the first place and addressing subtle, more complex problems that are discovered down the road;

#8 – We aren’t a target. Everyone is a target. If you store any kind of sensitive or propriety data, financial information, or have control systems operating your business, you are definitely a target;

#9 – No one knows about it. Some people mistakenly assume that the software their enterprise is running is obscure and, therefore, is not subject to attack. This is not true. Many attacks are easily prevented, but many times overlooked by developers and this includes the most common attack vector, cross-site scripting and SQL injection;

#10 – We just need to train the users. Despite the fact that security breaches occur when a user click on infected documents or viruses, that doesn’t address more sophisticated intrusions that we’re now seeing proliferate.

The above focuses on digital threats to the IT environment, but there are other physical security threats that exist, even in a secure data center facility. Those include:

- Power & Cooling problems or interruptions;

- Human error or malice;

- Fire, or other casualty events;

- Water leaks; or

- Air quality.

These threats are constantly being monitored, but can still cause problems and interruptions if the underlying design was not initially well-conceived. Additionally, some serious threats, which may cause problems and for which certain data centers may not have designed in adequate monitoring is poor humidity control. All of the threats mentioned can and should be monitored. Over the past year, we’ve seen some unique methods for addressing human error and malice that also address inventory control. One such solution uses fixed cameras on top of each rack that feeds to the NOC (Network Operations Center), is recorded and constantly monitored. When work is being done on that particular rack, the camera captures all of the activity.

Furthermore, all of the data that is collected from monitoring sources can be aggregated at certain points that are distributed throughout the data center. This eliminates the risks associated with single points of failure, which should be avoided at all costs.

Conclusion

Addressing digital and physical security threats should be a current and prime directive for every enterprise. Finding the right tools and solutions need to be included in strategic planning and regularly implemented
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