The world of IT security was recently shocked by the Bash Bug vulnerability and I believe that none of the readers do need to explain the impact of this vulnerability. We are in almost the same situation as few months ago when the Heartbleed bug was discovered. What changed? Well, something, but nothing.
We are all aware that not a single one system is perfect. There will be vulnerabilities we will not be aware of, and there will be vulnerabilities we are aware (patched or accepted the risk). Accepting the vulnerabilities with the low impact because also the risk is low or none is something that I usually see across many companies, starting from SMB up to the big enterprises. Despite the fact that the risk is here in various forms from a simple thing up to the most complex scenarios the companies start only now consider involving the security more into their organizations. For all of them one example, speaks: recent JP Morgan Chase leak. And (what sounds weird and scary) many still did not start yet.
The first step can be made by each one: we should be once again vigilant (do you remember when you entered the security industry? So many dreams, so full of energy) in responding the incidents, dealing with vulnerabilities and accept the risk as a last resort. We should not leave everything onto the researchers that spend nights and days in finding the cure to the vulnerabilities and then we simply… do not patch. The effort making this world secure can’t be put on the shoulders of the vendors; we have to be the active part as well. During the past months I’ve learned that not only the technology, but also the behavior matters. I am not talking about the countless security awareness sessions where we try to force the employees to not to do the bad things. I am talking about changing the decisions of using vulnerable solutions, simply because it just does not reach the desired security standard.
Relaxed approach to the security can be seen worldwide; dozen of we-do-it-cheaper devices fighting with we-have-more-features devices are filling the Internet of Things because what matters is the sale. Of course, but will the struggle for a bigger sale kill the security? We already see the big warnings of what might come, and we are not ready for that, while IoT is not the only problem we will face.
The second step includes the vendors themselves. Bringing the security culture does not mean only bringing the latest patches. It means also to respond to the threats to the privacy. I am not accusing anyone of having placed a backdoor on purpose into their product because the government wants to fight the crime. But… Recently Wikipedia released the Finfisher files. I’ve put the files on VirusTotal and found the detection ratio 4/55. Here the story ends. I agree that using the tool that would be detected by the antivirus solution is not effective at all. On the other hand, the tool most likely exploits the security holes in the same way as the malware is doing now. The same approach is used for different purposes. Cybercrime is also using the set of the vulnerabilities in their products, assuring the quality of service. The same as the conditions of FinFisher are (if the published documents are true).
The second step is zero tolerance to the vulnerabilities and malware (be it cyber criminal or governmental) from the vendor side. I can hear now the readers arguing that this will cause losing the war against the criminals. And here we are back on the old track: there has to be a balance between the security and functionality. We have to start somewhere. First with the consideration: if we reduce the attack surface, will the risk remains the same? The answer is: let’s do the first step first.
What would be the impacts of starting doing the things properly? Sure, we have to expect higher costs, not only in the enterprise sector, but mostly in the SMB part and of course also in the end user segment. Bigger enterprises can only estimate the RoI (Return of Investment), while it will take some time the small and medium businesses to understand the value of the higher security projected into the higher costs for more secure technologies they want to use. Moreover the RoI is not the argument here, we are about to lose one very important battle if not even the whole war because mitigation of the damage costs much more, if only it can be done. In the battle for more secure computing, one of the key roles can be taken for example by the ISPs and Telcos by adopting stronger countermeasures against those who do not comply with higher security standards when communicating. Another role can be taken for example by ICANN and other Internet authorities and we can go further and further. The industry has to understand that we have one common goal. We can’t fight the cybercrime at the front door of our houses while opening the backyard door widely.
Boris Mutina is freelancer with more than a decade of experience in IT, security audits and advisory, education, cybercrime analysis and investigation. Among other projects he is currently developing with other freelancer the online brand protection and information leakage online detection tool.
(Security Affairs – Infosec, security)