Friday, 8 August 2014

Security groups should sit under Marketing, not IT

Ok, so I'm being a little facetious, but I do think that putting Security departments under IT is a bad idea, not because they don't naturally fit well there, but because usually it gives the wrong impression and not enough visibility.

Security is far more wide reaching than IT alone and touches every part of the business. By considering it as part of IT, and utilising IT budgets, it can be pigeonholed and ignored by anyone who wouldn't engage IT for their project or job. Security covers all information, from digital to paper-based and is concerned with aspects such as user education as much as technology.

There is a clear conflict of interest between IT and Security as well. Part of the Security team's function is to monitor, audit and assess the systems put in place and maintained by the IT department. If the Security team sits within this department then there can be a question over the segregation of duties and responsibility. In addition to this, Security departments can end up competing with other parts of IT for budget. How well does this work when project budgets are allocated to one department responsible for producing new features and fixing the vulnerabilities in old ones?

The Security department should answer directly to the board and communicate risk, not technology. It is important that they are involved with all aspects of the business from Marketing, through Procurement and Legal, to the IT department. You will, more often than not, get a much better idea of what the business does and what's important to it by sitting with the Marketing team than with the IT team. Hence the title of this post.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

eBay's Weak Security Architecture

Well eBay are in the news due to their breach of 145 million users' account details. There are a few worrying things about this breach, beyond the breach itself, that point to architectural issues in eBay's security.

The first issue is that a spokeswoman (according to Reuters) claimed "that it used 'sophisticated', proprietary hashing and salting technology to protect the passwords." This sounds very much like security through obscurity, which doesn't work. So, either they are using a proprietary implementation of a publicly known algorithm, or they have created their own. Both of these situations are doomed. As always, no one person can think of all the attacks on an algorithm, which is why we have public scrutiny. Even the best cryptographers in the world can't create new algorithms with acceptable levels of security every time. Do eBay have the best cryptographers in the world working for them? I don't believe so, but I could be wrong.

Also, if their argument is that hackers don't know the algorithm so can't attack it, then I'm fairly sure they're wrong there too. Even if the algorithm was secure enough to stand up to analysis of the hashes only, as hackers have eBay staff passwords perhaps they also have access to the code! If, on the other hand, they have their own implementation of a public algorithm I have to question why? Many examples are available of implementations that have gone wrong and introduced vulnerabilities, e.g. Heartbleed in OpenSSL. Do they think they know better?

The second issue is that they don't seem to encrypt Personally Identifiable Information (PII). This is obviously an issue if a breach should occur, but, admittedly, doesn't solve all problems as vulnerabilities in the web application could still expose the data. However, it is likely to have helped in this situation.

Finally, and most importantly, how did gaining access to eBay staff accounts give attackers access to the data? Database administrators shouldn't have access to read the data in the databases they manage. Why would they need it? Also, I would hope that there are VPNs between the corporate and production systems with 2-factor authentication. So how did they get in? Well, either eBay don't use this standard simple layer of protection, they leave their machines logged into the VPN for extended periods or they protect the VPN with the same password as their account.

Even if eBay do implement VPNs properly with 2-factor authentication, the production servers shouldn't have accounts on them that map to user accounts on the corporate network. Administrative accounts on production servers should have proper audited account control with single use passwords. Administrators should have to 'sign out' an account and be issued with a one-time password for it by the security group responsible for Identity and Access Management (IAM).

All this leads me to think that eBay have implemented a weak security architecture. 

Welcome to the RLR UK Blog

This blog is about network and information security issues primarily, but it does stray into other IT related fields, such as web development and anything else that we find interesting.

Tag Cloud

Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter

    Purewire Trust