Cyber & Risk

Understanding cyber security has never been as critical as it is today. 

The importance of having cyber security and risk mitigation strategies is now well-embedded in the corporate conscience, with more and more senior executives required to know their exact security posture and how to respond in the event of an incident.

In a complex world where new threat vectors appear almost daily, organisations must be ready. How well prepared are you? 

IBRS can help organisations understand how resilient their systems are, develop incident response plans and get the right policies in place to ensure compliance with the most rigorous of security standards. 

Conclusion: Risk management and quality are two sides of the same coin. Building quality into organisational decision-making processes and systems is only possible if operational risks are well understood. The results of risk analysis should be a key input for the design of enterprise architectures and systems. It all sounds obvious, but risks associated with the decision-making processes in an organisation are only rarely quantified in terms of likelihood, impact on external parties, and potential costs.

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Conclusion: The iPhone entered organisations like a bunker-buster, and has blown open the doors for diversity of devices and form-factors. Ultimately, most organisations will have devices that will be a blend of: a) a small set of corporate issued devices, and b) a larger set of personally owned devices. Consequently, any management of devices, and the data on them, must be independent of their various form factors, operating system, and capabilities (as per the PED trilemma). As a direct consequence, expect a long term shift away from trying to manage the device, towards a more focused effort to secure the data and authenticate the user.  

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Conclusion: The demand from non-IT business units for cloud computing is symptomatic of their desire for better IT services and should be supported, if not driven, by IT. However, an engagement with a cloud vendor must be treated with the same level of risk assessment and diligence as any other outsourcing engagement. Organisations must ensure that corporate governance is not bypassed in a rush for the cloud.

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A fascinating advantage of the public cloud is the extremely high availability of the data (at least in theory!). From any device, from any Internet connection, I can surf to a site, provide my credentials, and access data. We are so used to webmail that we can be nonchalant
about this, but it is quite extraordinary. The trouble is, if the data is highly accessible to you when you are on any device on any Internet connection, then it is accessible to other people from any device on any Internet connection.

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Conclusion: Data Loss Prevention (DLP) technologies have matured over the last 12 months. They are more capable, but there is still a wide range of capabilities between the various products, and an even wider gap between the brochure and reality. Before proceeding with a proof of concept, IT must understand the very specific requirements that the business is expecting to achieve through a DLP deployment, and how willing the business is to pay for these. Failure to understand these requirements, and failure to get business stakeholder commitment, will result in project failure.

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Conclusion: The transmission of pornography in email is a serious issue for all organisations which aim to comply with their own HR policies on providing a workplace free of sexual harassment. However, the technology currently available to support these policies, through filtering and classifying images, is far from perfect. CIOs and HR professionals must clearly understand that pornography in the workplace is better managed as a cultural issue, not a technology issue.

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Conclusion: Security professionals are valuable not only for what they know, but also for how they think. However, this style of thinking can often result in them being alienated for “being too negative”. An alienated security professional is a waste of resources, so CIOs should adopt DeBono’s Six Thinking Hats, a thinking exercise based on role-play, to ensure that they get the most value out of their security people.

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Conclusion: Most of the pressure on IT departments to deploy or support iPhones is from organisational VIPs, and so IT departments should not resist a deployment, but they should delay. With a new iPhone operating system and a new generation of hardware just around the corner (as well as the recently released iPad) IT departments should assess third party mobile device management platforms to assist them in supporting and securing an iPhone/iPad deployment.

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Conclusion: The rise in the Australian Dollar is encouraging many organisations to investigate using IT and business process service providers outside the country as a means of reducing their cost base. There is no doubt that ongoing savings are possible, but they will only be sustained if the risks are managed and IT professionals responsible for outcomes are diligent and track performance.

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Conclusion: A less frequently considered aspect of protecting an organisation’s information assets is the preparation required for the immediate aftermath of a successful attack. This is the crossover point between incident response and crisis management. The prudent organisation with valuable information assets has already planned what steps will be taken in the event of a successful attack. Most of these decisions must be made by senior executives from business units other than IT, and they must be made well in advance of the attack occurring. IT will merely be executing their instructions because decisions concerning the information assets are not IT’s to make.

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Conclusion: The recent attack on Google’s infrastructure (and resulting announcement by Google of the attack) has a number of important lessons for organisations which are also attacked by well-resourced hackers. These lessons are important and may not be immediately palatable to many, who would prefer to hush up an attack.

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Conclusion: The introduction of a Data Loss Prevention technology into an organisation will have a significant impact on organisational culture. An important aspect of the cultural impact is that a DLP product, if deployed in active blocking mode, could prevent senior people from doing their job as they (legitimately) share sensitive information with trusted partners such as accounting and legal firms. People in senior positions must be trusted to act as they deem best for the organisation, but this trust must be verified.

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Conclusion: Today business knowhow is mainly stored in two places: in human brains and in software systems. Both forms of storage share the problem that raw knowhow is not easily transferable from one context to another. Valuable knowledge is repeatedly lost through staff turnover and through technology replacements. Minimising knowledge loss requires determination and an understanding of the mechanisms that lead to unnecessarily strong coupling between business knowhow and implementation technology.

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Conclusion: Organisations that may be at risk of a discovery action should have strategies to minimise the impact of eDiscovery requests. They should have agreed processes in place and have implemented a comprehensive information and records management system that will enable rapid responses and minimise cost when responding to such requests. Poor electronic information management, particularly in the areas of email and collaboration tools are certain to create eDiscovery problems and expenses.

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Conclusion: Some organisations are deploying DLP, but the ones reporting successful deployments are the organisations that are able to invest more resources in both deployment and long-term support. Given the considerable overhead on staff, and the challenges of dealing with the deluge of alerts, organisations considering a DLP investment should first deploy endpoint encryption.

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Conclusion: IT security managers in larger organisations in Australia and New Zealand are approaching cloud computing very cautiously. The leading concern is the geophysical location of data and the risk this introduces to organisations – primarily from the possibility of a data loss resulting in reputational damage. This means that organisations will have carry less risk if they retain data in a jurisdictional cloud.

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Conclusion: From adversity springs creativity. History shows straitened economic times can serve as a greenhouse, rapidly germinating seeds of ideas that may otherwise have taken longer to establish themselves. Six clear trends have emerged from the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) providing business advantage to early adopters. The common thread is their potential to deliver organisational efficiencies, savings, or both. IBRS believe these trends are likely to deserve a place in the IT firmament for a considerable time. CIOs should defensively review these trends; the outcome may be selective adoption or deferral, but their potency cannot be ignored.

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Conclusion: Given that the deadline for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance has passed, and that most cardholder data in Australia/New Zealand is extracted via SQL injection attacks, local organisations should ensure that their website security gets priority attention. This is a classic instance of where a moderate degree of effort will result in an important reduction in an organisation’s risk profile.

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Conclusion: Microsoft’s Forefront Client Security will need to achieve a “better than” market perception before security professionals will consider it to be a reasonable and acceptable enterprise response; and this relates to both its anti-malware effectiveness, as well as its ability to be managed and automated in a heterogeneous environment. Obviously, security is a sensitive subject for Microsoft, so its efforts in achieving a “better than” market perception will be considerable, but it will also take the healing passage of time.

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Conclusion: Now, there is renewed pressure on new IT projects to prove their value. For IT security projects, managers may feel that they need to make excessively complicated calculations in order to prove a return on investment (ROI) and thereby justify the project, but this is an unnecessary complication. Rubbery figures will melt under close scrutiny – potentially sinking the project.

A security business case needs to communicate the fact that organisations must also spend money to stop losing money. Security projects are undertaken for loss prevention. Like all projects with soft benefits, an IT security project should be shown to be in alignment with, and supporting of, organisational values: specifically risk appetite. More mature organisations will have less of an appetite, particularly in challenging times.

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Conclusion: Security awareness campaigns are actually an effort to change an aspect of organisational culture. Cultural change is famously difficult, takes a long time, and will ultimately fail if it does not have senior executive commitment. Specifically, senior executives must be seen to be exhibiting the behaviour of the new culture. The implication for security professionals is that awareness campaigns must start at the top and not move out across the organisation until there is behavioural change at the top.

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Conclusion: Despite the vendor and media hype around malware threats to the hypervisor, the biggest risk to IT departments from virtualisation is insufficient procedural controls.

The risk stems from virtual machines being poorly managed, growing in number, and the consequent haemorrhage of money to support them. Virtual machines should be processed through a planned, and managed, lifecycle so that they do not sprawl out of control and absorb excessive resources. By using a chargeback mechanism, CIOs can ensure that each virtual machine instance is not further depleting the capacity of the IT department to support the organisation.

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Conclusion: Organisations are potentially at risk from employee fraud, and a frequent motivator for the perpetrators is their gambling problem. While not all employees who gamble are going to commit fraud, it is imperative that the subject of gambling by employees is addressed as part of any organisational risk assessment. The subject is sensitive and complicated, but must be considered because of the direct cost of fraud.

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In the numerous conversations I have had over the past few months, concerning the government’s ISP content filtering plan, a common pattern occurs. The people I’ve spoken to object to the plan, but when I ask what their specific objections are, nearly everyone provides ideological arguments – not technical. The most common ideological argument is a rejection of the government taking on the role of “Big Brother”.

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Conclusion: Many economists currently agree that the global economy is at least a year away from improving. Until the economy recovers, many IT professionals will have their positions made redundant and organisations must handle these redundancies with great care. The expertise of IT professionals who feel a need to take revenge means that the impact of an insider attack could be very costly to an organisation which may already be struggling.

Organisations which have already deployed technical controls, such as Identity Management suites, and procedural controls, such as separation of duties, will be better positioned to help close the window of opportunity against sabotage and fraud. But, inside attackers frequently have a pre-existing grudge which is work-related, and so IT management attention must be given now to dealing with the “soft side” of their staff and contractors.

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Conclusion: Historically, operating systems and applications were the richest source of software vulnerabilities for attackers to exploit, but the problem organisations are now facing is that web browsers and plug-ins are being targeted; and this is a trend that will only increase in the near future.

Internet-facing browsers are effectively part of the perimeter, and organisations must have a strategy which will not only protect the browser, but also protect against a compromised browser. This has implications for all browsers – including those on portable electronic devices (PEDs) which are increasingly pitched as mobile web-access devices.

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Conclusion: Despite the growing body of information available on data breaches, many executives remain unjustifiably overconfident in their organisations’ security capabilities. (Ironically, this overconfidence is reflected in the contributing causes of data breaches.) Organisations will not be breached through their strongest points of defence – the points organisations have most confidence in – they will be breached through their weakest points. The lesson from past data breaches is that these weaknesses are likely to be areas which have been overlooked. It is the unknown unknowns that undermine information security.

These unknown unknowns can only be identified by people who have not been instilled with the same assumptions that the organisation is already working with. It is only through encouraging designated people, and third parties, to challenge assumptions and voice dissent that organisations stand a chance of avoiding the trap of insecurity-by-consensus.

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Conclusion: The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is concise and promotes many effective controls – most of which can be achieved through business process reengineering or redesign. Software and hardware vendors talk about fines for non-compliance, but unlike the US, these fines are almost non-existent in Australia. As such, PCI DSS has no stick but there is the possibility of a carrot: a lower risk profile.

Many organisations confuse receiving credit card payment with handling cardholder data1. These are not the same thing and CIOs should challenge the assumption that it is necessary to handle the cardholder data. Only organisations that absolutely must handle cardholder data should become PCI DSS compliant. Otherwise, organisations should reduce their risk profile by not handling cardholder data at all.

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IBRS conducted an online survey of prequalified IT decision makers in Australia & New Zealand. The respondents were asked questions focusing on their experience of operational issues relating to identity and access management. The results of this survey are presented in this report, and a high level analysis is given.

Conclusion: The threat of a data breach (unauthorised access to data) is not just from hackers, and not just as a result of malicious intent. Carelessness and oversight by trusted inside sources has been shown, repeatedly, to be the root cause of numerous data breaches. Recognising this, many organisations (particularly in government and finance) include security awareness training as part of an employee's induction.

But this one-time security awareness training is easily lost in the information overload experienced by new starters. Security awareness training is vital but in order to realise the benefits, and prevent the acts of carelessness, it is even more important to repeatedly expose employees to the training to keep their level of security awareness elevated. Elevated security awareness helps create the human firewall: probably the most cost effective security resource you can get.

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Conclusion: Deprovisioning old accounts which are no longer required on corporate information systems is an essential process to managing complexity and supporting information security objectives. While provisioning and change management are aspects of identity management that often get more focus as they are seen as business-enablers; deprovisioning, as part of an identity lifecycle process, may not help businesses make money, but it does help mitigate risk. Failing to deprovision legacy accounts which then become a conduit for fraud could well be seen as a failing of due care and governance. After all, we are pretty good at stopping payments to employees once they have left; why aren’t the two processes combined.

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Conclusion: The field of biometrics still has many challenges to overcome and is still on a steep developmental curve. As biometric authentication technology improves over the coming years, there may be a role for it in encouraging users to take responsibility for their actions. The belief that their actions on corporate networks are physically linked to them through multiple factors of authentication will help extinguish the lack of accountability which continues to undermine many organisations. This linking of action to identity will help increase the risk of detection in the mind of individuals contemplating fraud – as they will struggle to argue that someone else used their biometric credentials (and password and token) without their knowledge and/or consent. But it must be understood by CIOs that the value from biometric authentication comes from the “security theatre” that it creates in the minds of users; as the technology itself currently offers questionable additional value to existing strong authentication systems.

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Conclusion: Biometric authentication can be an effective inclusion for organisations to reduce the risk of unauthorised access. However, as the general public becomes more informed on privacy issues, their tolerance for data breaches involving biometric data will plummet. Organisations that are named and shamed for failing to protect biometric data will suffer the consequences of excruciating scrutiny, as well as increased legislative and regulatory conditions. For the majority of Australasian organisations the cost and complexity of deploying biometric authentication correctly are prohibitive, and the costs of deploying it incorrectly are unacceptable.

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Conclusion: Analysing the challenges of portable electronic devices (PEDs) through the PED trilemma model breaks down the problem into three addressable aspects which can more easily be tackled, often by non-technical means. IT departments can manage the inundation of PEDs into corporate networks; but only with unambiguous commitment from senior business managers. IT can get commitment from these managers by using charge-back models.

If we put a dollar sign in the middle of the trilemma, we can show that expansion on any of the three sides results in a total increase in support costs (represented by the area in the middle). IT should use charge-back models for PED support to the business units. An appropriate charge-back mechanism forces business units to carefully consider their choices. The days of gluing up USB ports are long gone.

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IGNORING the use of personally owned portable electronic devices in the corporate network is a trap IT departments must avoid, a study shows.

Users of personally owned PEDs are increasingly expecting full functionality and interaction with corporate resources, according to analyst IBRS.
 

A briefing paper, titled Portable electronic devices (PEDs): a frog close to the boil, warns that Apple's iPhone and Google's Android will exacerbate the situation in the short term. It says IT managers must focus their response to PEDs on the corporate network or face a gradual but substantial drain on IT resources.

Original article here... 

Conclusion: Personally owned Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) are being introduced into the corporate network and users are increasingly expecting full functionality and interaction with corporate resources. Apple’s iPhone, and Google’s Android will exacerbate the situation in the short term. Looking at the problem using the perspective of the PED trilemma - ubiquity, multiformity and capability – presents an opportunity for IT departments to work on a strategy for control. Just like the fire triangle (heat, fuel, oxygen) if you can control one aspect, then the situation becomes manageable. IT managers must use the three aspects of the PED trilemma to focus their response to PEDs on the corporate network, or face a gradual though significant drain on IT resources

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At AusCERT 2007, a software programmer from Australia’s Defence Signals Directorate delivered a fascinating presentation on a simple strategy they had developed to help manage the influx of malware, browser exploits and malicious web content. The strategy was designed around risk transference through personal accountability, rather than threat mitigation1.

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Conclusion: Both black lists and white lists are effective security measures, but these two approaches are opposites and therefore, have different issues and applications. If only a few items need to be forbidden, then a black list is adequate. But if only a few items need to be permitted, then a white list is the efficient way to enforce policy.

When used in conjunction with business policy and procedures for acceptable content, white lists can be a very powerful mechanism creating a culture of individual responsibility that enables users to access necessary business information while holding individuals to account for the information they access.

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Conclusion: In 20-30 years time Generation Y will be running not only IT departments (in whatever form that takes) but they will also be running other business units, and in fact entire organisations. How we engage with them, train them, empower them, and become mentors to them; will sculpt their ability to make decisions. It is vital that the hard-earned knowledge of the last 50 years of IT is not lost from lack of mentoring and succession planning by the retiring Baby Boomers. This research note looks past the immediate skills shortage and into the area of lost industry knowledge.

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Conclusion: Data leakage prevention (DLP) it is an information management tool, not a threat mitigation tool like anti-virus or intrusion prevention. The DLP market is still very immature, and the products are not integrated with other related technologies, such as: enterprise content management (ECM), enterprise rights management (ERM), and identity management systems. When the vendors who specialise in information management have integrated DLP into their existing suites, then the story will be compelling. We’re not there yet.

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