13 Security Myths Busted.. My thoughts.

I was recently sent a link to an article covering what were described as ’13 security myths – busted’ and asked my opinion.  As it was a fairly light and interesting I thought I would share the article and my thoughts;

The original article can be found here;

http://www.networkworld.com/slideshow/86918/13-of-the-biggest-security-myths-busted.html?source=NWWNLE_nlt_afterdark_2013-02-21

Have a read of the myths and why they thin they are myths, read my thoughts below, and it would be great to hear your thoughts.

1. AV – Possibly not super efficient, but I think still necessary – they kind of mix apples and oranges with the targeted attack comment, as it is not designed for that, but it still prevents the vast majority of malware, and general attacks.  Possibly and an environment where literally no one runs with admin privileges and there is strong white listing you could do without AV, but generally I’d say it is still relevant and required.

2. This one is hard to know as there is so much FUD around.  It is clear that in many circumstances (stuxnet etc, Chinese APT , US government espionage etc.) that governments are investing huge sums of money and employing extremely bright people to attack and defend in cyber land.  I suspect much will never be known as the NSA / Mi6 / <insert secret government money pit here> are by definition very secretive.  Remember all the speculation around the NSAs ability to crack encryption in the past..

3. Totally agree – just look at most businesses and the trouble they have getting control of authentication via AD / IAM.  However, many are moving in the right direction though so maybe soon we’ll have everything in IAM and / or AD..

4. I think this one proves itself incorrect in the text – Risk management is needed, you just need to work on understanding your adversaries and the actual risks you face, which includes understanding their motivations and the value they place on your data and IP.

5. This I totally agree with.  I have already highlighted I don’t really like the fact we as an industry use the term ‘best practice’ all over our standards and policy documents etc – who defines what it is? Is it best in any specific environment with it’s support skill sets and technology stack etc?

6. Half agree they are a fact of life, however you can have effective responses and strategies around privilege control and application controls etc. to massively mitigate the risks these pose.

7. I can’t comment on this one, but most national infrastructures are inadequately protected and tend to rely on old legacy systems for many of their functions so this is probably try in the UK for much supporting infrastructure as well.

8. Completely agree with this.  Compliance is a useful checklist, but compliance with standards should be a by product of good secure design and processes, not something we strive for as a product in itself.  If provides a driver but is very much the wrong focus if you want to be secure rather than compliant.

9. Agree – CISO may own security policy and strategy etc., but security is everyone’s problem and everyone should be accountable for performing their duties with security and security policies in mind.  I’m a big fan of security awareness training as a regular thing to help educate people and keep security at the forefront of the way we do business.

10. Likely has been true, in the same way as Mac / Linux are ‘safer’ than Windows, as it has not been the focus of as much malicious attention and has not been carrying as much functionality and valuable data.  This is rapidly shifting though as we rely more and more on mobile devices for everything from banking to shopping to actual business.  So I think this one is rapidly if not already becoming a myth.

11. Agree – you can likely never be 100% secure if you want to have a life or business online.  I think it was an American who coined ‘eternal vigilance is the price of freedom’  we should work to be secure, but freedom both individually and as a business is too important and hard won to give up.  Obviously some personal freedoms to do whatever you want with corporate devices have to be given up, but I think my point stands as a general concept.  As the guy in the article says (and I do above) work to understand your adversaries, their motivations and tools.

12. Agree with this one also – continuous monitoring, trending and learning are key to understanding and preventing or at least capturing todays advanced long term threats such as APTs.

13. I agree with this final one as well, and have actually blogged about this before.  We live in an ‘assume you have or will be breached’ world.  Put the detective measures and controls in place to ensure you rapidly detect and minimise the damage from any breach.  Read last years Verizon data breach report..

It would be great to hear your thoughts on this light article.

K

What is your current desktop strategy? part 2 – VDI strategy

Following from my previous post I wanted to cover some of the areas / themes that should be included or at least considered when creating your virtual desktop (VDI or vDesktop) strategy.

There are currently a variety of drivers for virtual desktops ensuring that this topic remains one of the key discussion points when ICT departments and C-levels talk about IT strategy.  These drivers range from data security and centralised management to the increasing prevalence of BYOD (Bring your own Device), and are aided by the increasing flexibility and maturity of the technical VDI solutions.  As such, even if you don’t yet plan to implement this technology you should be very aware of it and be formulating your strategy.  If you are already have implemented, or are planning to implement, a VDI solution then you should already have a firm strategy, and vision, in place.  Either way I hope this proves to be a useful reference.

The below list is likely not exhaustive, and includes both very high level strategic considerations, along with some more technical concerns.

1. What are you trying to achieve?

–         Ensure the goals are clearly articulated, such as cost reduction, business enabler, improved security, and centralisation.

2. Clearly define use cases

–         Is VDI critical to achieve these or just one option?

–         Is this a tactical or overall strategic solution?

3. How does this align with other plans / strategies

–         Plans to roll out or upgrade to Windows 7 and 8

–         Plans to enable remote / mobile working

–         Support of BYOD initiatives

4. What is the wider business case / benefit of the strategy?

–         User satisfaction

–         ROI (Return On Investment)

5. What is the endpoint strategy

–         Thick clients

–         Thin Clients

–         Mobile Clients

–         BYOD

–         Do the proposed solutions have clients for all supported endpoints?  Can access be provided via a browser?

–         What are the plans for managing the endpoints?

6. Do the users require the ability to be able to work offline?

7. How will images be managed?

–         Single or multiple images?

–         Maintaining ‘gold’ images?

8. How will profiles be manages?

–         Do users require individual and persistent profiles / workspaces?

–         Can static / mandatory profiles be used in some / all instances?

9. How do currently deployed technologies match up with those required to deploy and manage the VDI solution?

–         Propose transition plans

10. How do current skill sets match up to those required to support and manage the VDI solution?

–         Propose training plans

11. What are the impacts to;

–         Storage

–         Network – LAN / WAN

–         Do these impact cost and business case?

12. Are the vendors being considered suitable partners?

–         Do they design for and target businesses of your size and in your segment

–         Are they healthy financially?

–         Do they have strategic, long term plans?

–         Is there a healthy ‘eco system’ of applications and other vendors around the solution?

13. How available and resilient will the solution be?

–         Resilient infrastructure?

–         Multi-site?

–         Backed up?

14. Scalability and flexibility

–         How does the solution scale?

–         What operating systems do you require it to support?

–         Are 64 as well as 32-bit operating systems supported?

15. What are the licensing implications of virtualising your current operating system and application estate?

16. What are the user and business expectations around areas such as;

–         Multi media

–         3d

–         Audio

–         Telecoms

–         Unified communications

–         Video conferencing

17. Will supporting technologies such as application virtualisation be part of the strategy?

18. How compatibility issues such as requirement for local licensing dongles will be dealt with.

19. …

As a final note, it is a common issue in VDI plans and deployments for organisations to focus on the technology, features, and products in the market without first having a clear vision and defined strategy.

Remember – vision and strategy first for any large programs of work!

K

What is your current Desktop strategy? part 1 – VDI options compared

If you are currently evaluating or planning to evaluate VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) solutions for your businesses it can be hard to know where to start, with various vendors currently offering mature solutions that will all meet the majority of businesses VDI requirements.  These include;

– Citrix Xendesktop

– Citrix VDI in a box

– VMware View

– Microsoft VDI

– Quest vWorkspace

When tasked with looking for a VDI solution for your company the first thing you should do, indeed the first thing you should do for most if not all projects, is understand the requirements from the solution.  For something like this that may be adding quite a lot of new functionality and future options to the business, this is likely to incorporate some of the usual solid requirements such as;

–         Number of users

–         Performance and scalability

–         Ease of management

–         Interoperability with existing user and management applications

–         Integration with existing infrastructure

–         …

In addition to the ‘solid’ requirements there will likely be a lot of potential ‘requirements’ that are effectively potential benefits the solution could bring to the business such as;

–         Improved data security

–         Improved resilience of the workstation environment

–         Improved agility of the workstation environment

–         Enabling BYOD

–         Improved productivity

–         Enabling ‘work from anywhere’

–         …

The next thing to do is to assess the various VDI products on the market in order to choose the best one for your environment.  Given the variety of solutions available, some Hypervisor independent, some dependant, some easier to manage and deploy, some with lower costs it can be a daunting and more importantly resource intensive task to assess and test all of the viable options.

This is where the very helpful and impartial ‘VDI smackdown’ from the guys at PQR comes in.  This document is kept reasonably up to date with version 1.3 released earlier this year.  This can be found here;

http://www.pqr.com/images/stories/Downloads/whitepapers/vdi%20smackdown.pdf

Note – free registration may be required to download the PDF.

The white paper covers topics including;

–         Desktop virtualisation concepts

–         Pros and cons of VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure)

–         Comparison of the different VDI vendors solutions and their features.

Overall this document is well worth a read if you are planning to embark on a new or upgrade VDI project or indeed if you just wish to learn more about VDI and the features currently available.

An upcoming post will cover some of the areas I think need to be considered when creating you virtual desktop strategy.

K