Monthly Archives: March 2019


KWA UFUPI: Steffan Needham, Amabae alihudumu kama mshauri wa maswala ya tehama (IT Cosultant) katika kampuni ya Voova ya nchini Uingereza amehukumiwa kifungo cha miaka 2 Jela kwa kosa la kuharibu taarifa za muajiri wake wa wa zamani.

Kwa mujibu wa Thames Valley Police ya Nchini Uingereza, Mtuhumiwa alifukuzwa kazi na mwaajiri wake na baadae kuharibu taarifa zote muhimu za kampuni hiyo kwa kile kilicho tafsiriwa kama kulipiza kisasi kutokana na kufukuzwa kwake.
Uharibifu wa taarifa umekadiriwa kuigharimu kampuni hiyo kiasi cha Dola laki sita na elsfu Hamsini (US$650,000) ikiwa ni pamoja na kupelekea wafanyakazi kadhaa kupoteza kazi zao.

Mtuhumiwa amehukumiwa chini ya sheria ya nchini Uingereza ya mitandao (Computer Misuse Act)

Aidha, Kampuni husika imeonekana na mapungufu ya kushindwa kuwa na mikakati madhubuti ya kulinda taarifa zake ikiwa ni pamoja na uwekaji wa njia zaidi ya moja (multi-factor authentication) ya uthibitishaji pale mhusika anapotaka kuingia kwenye mifumio yake na kuhakiki ufutwaji wa taarifa katika mfumo unahusisha mtu zaidi ya mmoja.

Ushauri umetolewa kwa makampuni kuchukua tahadhari za dhati katika kulinda taarifa zake ili kujikinga na watumishi wasio wema walio ndani (Malicious/disgruntled insiders) kuweza kuleta maafa hapo baadae.

Wakati huo huo, mahakama Nchini marekani imepatia kibali cha ruhusa kwa Microsoft kuziangusha tovuti takriban 99 zilizo husishwa na uhalifu rubunishi (Phishing Attack).

Tom Burt, kutokea Microsoft ameeleza oparesheni iliyo ziharibu na kuziangusha tovuti hizo 99 ilihusisha makampuni mengine makubwa kama vile Yahoo na mengineyo.

Thoughts on OSSEC Con 2019

Last week I attended my first OSSEC conference. I first blogged about OSSEC in 2007, and wrote other posts about it in the following years.

OSSEC is a host-based intrusion detection and log analysis system with correlation and active response features. It is cross-platform, such that I can run it on my Windows and Linux systems. The moving force behind the conference was a company local to me called Atomicorp.

In brief, I really enjoyed this one-day event. (I had planned to attend the workshop on the second day but my schedule did not cooperate.) The talks were almost uniformly excellent and informative. I even had a chance to talk jiu-jitsu with OSSEC creator Daniel Cid, who despite hurting his leg managed to travel across the country to deliver the keynote.

I'd like to share a few highlights from my notes.

First, I had been worried that OSSEC was in some ways dead. I saw that the Security Onion project had replaced OSSEC with a fork called Wazuh, which I learned is apparently pronounced "wazoo." To my delight, I learned OSSEC is decidedly not dead, and that Wazuh has been suffering stability problems. OSSEC has a lot of interesting development ahead of it, which you can track on their Github repo.

For example, the development roadmap includes eliminating Logstash from the pipeline used by many OSSEC users. OSSEC would feed directly into Elasticsearch. One speaker noted that Logstash has a 1.7 GB memory footprint, which astounded me.

On a related note, the OSSEC team is planning to create a new Web console, with a design goal to have it run in an "AWS t2.micro" instance. The team noted that instance offers 2 GB memory, which doesn't match what AWS says. Perhaps they meant t2.micro and 1 GB memory, or t2.small with 2 GB memory. I think they mean t2.micro with 1 GB RAM, as that is the free tier. Either way, I'm excited to see this later in 2019.

Second, I thought the presentation by security personnel from USA Today offered an interesting insight. One design goal they had for monitoring their Google Cloud Platform (GCP) was to not install OSSEC on every container or on Kubernetes worker nodes. Several times during the conference, speakers noted that the transient nature of cloud infrastructure is directly antithetical to standard OSSEC usage, whereby OSSEC is installed on servers with long uptime and years of service. Instead, USA Today used OSSEC to monitor HTTP logs from the GCP load balancer, logs from Google Kubernetes Engine, and monitored processes by watching output from successive kubectl invocations.

Third, a speaker from Red Hat brought my attention to an aspect of containers that I had not considered. Docker and containers had made software testing and deployment a lot easier for everyone. However, those who provide containers have effectively become Linux distribution maintainers. In other words, who is responsible when a security or configuration vulnerability in a Linux component is discovered? Will the container maintainers be responsive?

Another speaker emphasized the difference between "security of the cloud," offered by cloud providers, and "security in the cloud," which is supposed to be the customer's responsibility. This makes sense from a technical point of view, but I expect that in the long term this differentiation will no longer be tenable from a business or legal point of view.

Customers are not going to have the skills or interest to secure their software in the cloud, as they outsource ever more technical talent to the cloud providers and their infrastructure. I expect cloud providers to continue to develop, acquire, and offer more security services, and accelerate their competition on a "complete security environment."

I look forward to more OSSEC development and future conferences.


IN BRIEF: In recent year, we have seen a tremendous increase of mobile applications across many countries – It is like everyone want to come with a mobile application for many reasons. On the other hand, the rate of fake and malicious mobile applications is rapidly growing posing major security risk to mobile users.

 Mobile application developers are now facing threats to customers and application data as automated and sophisticated attacks increasingly target the owners, users and data of mobile applications.

Apart from jeopardizing our privacy from unprotected Application from various application developers, Criminals are also developing mobile applications with malicious intentions putting thousands of users who download them to fall victims of cybercrimes.

It is prudent to secure our mobile devices with security solutions – Sadly, A recent test of anti-malware apps available in Google Play showed that most are not, in fact, worthy of the name and, indeed, the space they take up on the Android device.

Independent testing outfit AV-Comparatives threw the 2,000 most common Android malware samples seen in the wild last year at 250 security (and, as it turns out, also “security”) apps that were available in the Android store in January of this year. Only 80 apps passed the organization’s most basic test – flagging at least 30 percent of the samples as malware while reporting no false positives for some of the most popular and clean apps in Google Play.

Crucially, only 23 apps passed the test with flying colors; that is, they had a 100-percent success rate at detecting the malicious code.

So, what are those purported anti-malware solutions that failed the test up to? You may have guessed it – for the most part, they’ll only foist ads on you. Put differently, instead of keeping you safe from pests that are banking Trojans, ransomware and other threats, many of the fake security apps will apparently only pester you with unwanted ads, all in the name of easy revenue for the developers.

Indeed, some of the products are already detected, at the very least, as “potentially unwanted applications” by at least some reputable mobile security solutions and are likely to be booted by Google from the Android store soon.

In many cases, the apps’ “malware-detecting functionality” resided in their comparing the name of a package for any given app against the AV apps’ respective whitelisted or blacklisted databases. This way of determining if a piece of software is safe or not, can, of course, be trivially easy to defeat by malware creators. Meanwhile for the user, it creates a false sense of security.

The fact that many ad-slinging apps are disguised as security solutions may not be a revelation for you. After all, ESET malware researcher Lukáš Štefanko warned early in 2018 about dozens of apps that professed to protect users from malicious code, but were instead only vehicles for displaying ads.

Meanwhile, a number of products that scored poorly in the test were deemed to be the work of what AV-Comparatives called “hobby developers”. Rather than focus on producing quality security software, these software makers apparently produce a variety of apps that are only designed to generate ad revenue for them. Still other developers “just want to have an Android protection app in their portfolio for publicity reasons”, wrote the AV testing outfit.

In addition, user ratings and/or download numbers are not necessarily something to go by. “Most of the 250 apps we looked at had a review score of 4 or higher on the Google Play Store. Similarly, the number of downloads can only be a very rough guide; a successful scam app may be downloaded many times before it is found to be a scam,” wrote AV-Comparatives, adding that the ‘last updated’ date isn’t a reliable indicator, either.

All told, the results can be understandably disheartening. On the other hand, they’re another reminder of the need to stick to reputable products with proven track records in mobile security.

Thoughts on Cloud Security

Recently I've been reading about cloud security and security with respect to DevOps. I'll say more about the excellent book I'm reading, but I had a moment of déjà vu during one section.

The book described how cloud security is a big change from enterprise security because it relies less on IP-address-centric controls and more on users and groups. The book talked about creating security groups, and adding users to those groups in order to control their access and capabilities.

As I read that passage, it reminded me of a time long ago, in the late 1990s, when I was studying for the MCSE, then called the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. I read the book at left, Windows NT Security Handbook, published in 1996 by Tom Sheldon. It described the exact same security process of creating security groups and adding users. This was core to the new NT 4 role based access control (RBAC) implementation.

Now, fast forward a few years, or all the way to today, and consider the security challenges facing the majority of legacy enterprises: securing Windows assets and the data they store and access. How could this wonderful security model, based on decades of experience (from the 1960s and 1970s no less), have failed to work in operational environments?

There are many reasons one could cite, but I think the following are at least worthy of mention.

The systems enforcing the security model are exposed to intruders.


Intruders are generally able to gain code execution on systems participating in the security model.


Intruders have access to the network traffic which partially contains elements of the security model.

From these weaknesses, a large portion of the security countermeasures of the last two decades have been derived as compensating controls and visibility requirements.

The question then becomes:

Does this change with the cloud?

In brief, I believe the answer is largely "yes," thankfully. Generally, the systems upon which the security model is being enforced are not able to access the enforcement mechanism, thanks to the wonders of virtualization.

Should an intruder find a way to escape from their restricted cloud platform and gain hypervisor or management network access, then they find themselves in a situation similar to the average Windows domain network.

This realization puts a heavy burden on the cloud infrastructure operators. They major players are likely able to acquire and apply the expertise and resources to make their infrastructure far more resilient and survivable than their enterprise counterparts.

The weakness will likely be their personnel.

Once the compute and network components are sufficiently robust from externally sourced compromise, then internal threats become the next most cost-effective and return-producing vectors for dedicated intruders.

Is there anything users can do as they hand their compute and data assets to cloud operators?

I suggest four moves.

First, small- to mid-sized cloud infrastructure users will likely have to piggyback or free-ride on the initiatives and influence of the largest cloud customers, who have the clout and hopefully the expertise to hold the cloud operators responsible for the security of everyone's data.

Second, lawmakers may also need improved whistleblower protection for cloud employees who feel threatened by revealing material weaknesses they encounter while doing their jobs.

Third, government regulators will have to ensure no cloud provider assumes a monopoly, or no two providers assume a duopoloy. We may end up with the three major players and a smattering of smaller ones, as is the case with many mature industries.

Fourth, users should use every means at their disposal to select cloud operators not only on their compute features, but on their security and visibility features. The more logging and visibility exposed by the cloud provider, the better. I am excited by new features like the Azure network tap and hope to see equivalent features in other cloud infrastructure.

Remember that security has two main functions: planning/resistance, to try to stop bad things from happening, and detection/respond, to handle the failures that inevitably happen. "Prevention eventually fails" is one of my long-time mantras. We don't want prevention to fail silently in the cloud. We need ways to know that failure is happening so that we can plan and implement new resistance mechanisms, and then validate their effectiveness via detection and response.

Update: I forgot to mention that the material above assumed that the cloud users and operators made no unintentional configuration mistakes. If users or operators introduce exposures or vulnerabilities, then those will be the weaknesses that intruders exploit. We've already seen a lot of this happening and it appears to be the most common problem. Procedures and tools which constantly assess cloud configurations for exposures and vulnerabilities due to misconfiguration or poor practices are a fifth move which all involved should make.

A corollary is that complexity can drive problems. When the cloud infrastructure offers too many knobs to turn, then it's likely the users and operators will believe they are taking one action when in reality they are implementing another.

A Simple Trillion$ Cyber Security Question for the Entire RSA Conference


This week, the famous RSA Conference 2019 is underway, where supposedly "The World Talks Security" -

If that's the case, let's talk -  I'd like to respectfully ask the entire RSA Conference just 1 simple cyber security question -

Question: What lies at the very foundation of cyber security and privileged access of not just the RSAs, EMCs, Dells, CyberArks, Gartners, Googles, Amazons, Facebooks and Microsofts of the world, but also at the foundation of virtually all cyber security and cloud companies and at the foundation of over 85% of organizations worldwide?

For those who may not know the answer to this ONE simple cyber security question, the answer's in line 1 here.

For those who may know the answer, and I sincerely hope that most of the world's CIOs, CISOs, Domain Admins, Cyber Security Analysts, Penetration Testers and Ethical Hackers know the answer, here are 4 simple follow-up questions -

  • Q 1.  Should your organization's foundational Active Directory be compromised, what could be its impact?
  • Q 2.  Would you agree that the (unintentional, intentional or coerced) compromise of a single Active Directory privileged user could result in the compromise of your organization's entire foundational Active Directory?
  • Q 3.  If so, then do you know that there is only one correct way to accurately identify/audit privileged users in your organization's foundational Active Directory, and do you possess the capability to correctly be able to do so?
  • Q 4.  If you don't, then how could you possibly know exactly how many privileged users there are in your organization's foundational Active Directory deployment today, and if you don't know so, ...OMG... ?!

You see, if even the world's top cyber security and cloud computing companies themselves don't know the answers to such simple, fundamental Kindergarten-level cyber security questions, how can we expect 85% of the world's organizations to know the answer, AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, what's the point of all this fancy peripheral cyber security talk at such conferences when organizations don't even know how many (hundreds if not thousands of) people have the Keys to their Kingdom(s) ?!

Today Active Directory is at the very heart of Cyber Security and Privileged Access at over 85% of organizations worldwide, and if you can find me even ONE company at the prestigious RSA Conference 2019 that can help organizations accurately identify privileged users/access in 1000s of foundational Active Directory deployments worldwide, you'll have impressed me.

Those who truly understand Windows Security know that organizations can neither adequately secure their foundational Active Directory deployments nor accomplish any of these recent buzzword initiatives like Privileged Access Management, Privileged Account Discovery, Zero-Trust etc. without first being able to accurately identify privileged users in Active Directory.

Best wishes,

PS: Pardon the delay. I've been busy and haven't much time to blog since my last post on Cyber Security 101 for the C-Suite.

PS2: Microsoft, when were you planning to start educating the world about what's actually paramount to their cyber security?