Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Appsec and Devops at RSA 2014

At last week’s RSA security conference in San Francisco the talk was about how the NSA is compromising the security of the Internet as well as violating individual privacy, the NSA and RSA (did RSA take the money or not), the NSA and Snowden and how we all have to take insider threats much more seriously, Apple’s SSL flaw (honest mistake, or plausibly deniable back door?) and how big data is rapidly eroding privacy and anonymity on the Internet anyways (with today’s – or at least tomorrow’s – analytic tools and enough Cloud resources, everyone’s traces can be found and put back together). The Cloud is now considered safe – or at least as safe as anywhere else. Mobile is not safe. Bitcoin is not safe. Critical infrastructure is not safe. Point of Sale systems are definitely not safe – and neither are cars or airplanes or anything in the Internet of Things.

I spent most of my time on Appsec and Devops security issues. There were some interesting threads that ran through these sessions:

Third Party Controls

FS ISAC’s recent paper on Appropriate Software Security Control Types for Third Party Service and Product Providers got a lot of play. It outlines a set of controls that organizations (especially enterprises) should require of their third party service providers – and that anyone selling software or SaaS to large organizations should be prepared to meet:

  1. vBSIMM - a subset of BSIMM to evaluate a provider’s secure development practices
  2. Open Source Software controls – it’s not enough that an organization needs to be responsible for the security of the software that they write, they also need to be responsible for the security of any software that they use to build their systems, especially Open Source software. Sonatype has done an especially good job of highlighting the risk of using Open Source software, with scary data like “90% of a typical application is made up of Open Source components”, “2/3 of developers don’t know what components they use” and “more than 50% of the Global 500 use vulnerable Open Source components”.
  3. Binary Static Analysis testing – it’s not enough that customers ask how a provider secures their software, they should also ask for evidence, by demanding independent static analysis testing of the software using Veracode or HP Fortify on Demand.

Threat Modeling

There was also a lot of talk about threat modeling in secure development: why we should do it, how we could do it, why we aren’t doing it.

In an analysis of results from the latest BSIMM study on software security programs, Gary Mcgraw at Cigital emphasized the importance of threat modeling / architectural risk analysis in secure development. However he also pointed out that it does not scale. While 56/67 of firms in the BSIMM study who have application security programs in place conduct threat modeling, they limit this to only security features.

Jim Routh, now CISO at Aetna (and who lead the FS ISAC working group above while he was at JPMC), has implemented successful secure software development programs in 4 different organizations, but admitted that he failed at injecting threat modeling into secure development in all of these cases, because of how hard it is to get designers to understand the necessary tradeoff decisions.

Adam Shostack at Microsoft outlined a pragmatic and understandable approach to threat modeling. Ask 4 simple questions:

  1. What are you building?
  2. What can go wrong?
  3. What are you going to do about the things that can go wrong?
  4. Did you do a good job of 1-3?

Asking developers to “think like an attacker” is like asking developers to “think like a professional chef” or “think like an astronaut”. They don’t know how. They still need tools to help them. These tools (like STRIDE, Mitre’s CAPEC, and attack trees) are described in detail in his new book Threat Modeling: Designing for Security which at over 600 pages is unfortunately so detailed that few developers will get around to actually reading it.

Devops, Unicorns and Rainbows

A panel on Devops/Security Myths Debunked looked at security and Devops, but didn’t offer anything new. The same people and same stories, the same Unicorns and rainbows: n thousand of deploys per day at Amazon, developer self-service static analysis at twitter, Netflix’s Chaos Monkey… If Devops is taking the IT operations world by storm, there should be more leaders by now, with new success stories outside of big Cloud providers or social media.

The Devops story when it comes to security is simple. More frequent, smaller changes are better than less frequent big changes because small changes are less likely to cause problems, are easier to understand and manage and test, easier to test, and easier to debug, fix or roll back if something goes wrong. To deploy more often you need standardized, automated deployment – which is not just faster but also simpler and safer and easier to audit, and which makes it faster and simpler and safer to push out patches when you need to. Developers pushing changes to production does not mean developers signing on in production and making changes to production systems (see automated deployment above).

Dave Mortman tried to make it clear that Devops isn’t about, or shouldn’t only be about, how many times a day you can deploy changes: it should really about getting people talking together and solving problems together. But most of the discussion came back to speed of development, reducing cycle time, cutting deployment times in half – speed is what is mostly driving Devops today. And as I have pointed out before, infosec (the tools, practices, ways of thinking) is not ready to keep up with the speed of Agile and Devops.

Mobile Insecurity

The state of mobile security has definitely not improved over the past couple of years. One embarrassing example: the RSA conference mobile app was hacked multiple times by security researchers in the days leading up to and during the conference.

Dan Cornell at Denim Group presented some research based on work that his firm has done on enterprise mobile application security assessments. He made it clear that mobile security testing has to cover much more than just the code on the phone itself. Only 25% of serious vulnerabilities were found in code on the mobile device. More than 70% were in server code, in the web services that the mobile app called (web services that “had never seen adversarial traffic”), and the remaining 5% were in third party services. So it’s not the boutique of kids who your marketing department hired to write the pretty mobile front end – it’s the enterprise developers writing web services that are your biggest security problem.

Denim Group found more than half of serious vulnerabilities using automated testing tools (58% vs 42% found in manual pen testing and reviews). Dynamic analysis (DAST) tools are still much less effective in testing mobile than for web apps, which means that you need to rely heavily on static analysis testing. Unfortunately, static analysis tools are extremely inefficient - for every serious vulnerability found, they also report hundreds of false positives and other unimportant noise. We need better and more accurate tools, especially for fuzzing web services.

Tech, Toys and Models

Speaking of tools... The technology expo was twice the size of previous years. Lots of enterprise network security and vulnerability management and incident containment (whatever that is) solutions, governance tools, and application firewalls and NG firewalls and advanced NNG firewalls, vulnerability scanners, DDOS protection services, endpoint solutions, a few consultancies and some training companies. A boxing ring, lots of games, coffee bars and cocktail bars, magicians, a few characters dressed up like Vikings, some slutty soccer players – the usual RSA expo experience, just more of it.

Except for log file analysis tools (Splunk and LogRhythm) there was no devops tech at the tradeshow. There were lots of booths showing off Appsec testing tools (including all of the major static analysis players) and a couple of interesting new things:

Shape Shifter from startup Shape Security, is a new kind of application firewall technology for web apps: “a polymorphic bot wall” that dynamically replaces attributes of HTML or Javascript with random strings to deter automated attacks. Definitely cool, it will interesting to see how effective it is.

Denim Group showed off a major upgrade to ThreadFix, a tool that maps software vulnerabilities found through different testing methods including automated dynamic analysis, static analysis and manual testing. This gives you the same kind of vulnerability management capabilities that you get with enterprise appsec testing suites: hybrid mapping of the attack surface with drill down to line of code, tracking metrics across applications and portfolios, integration with different bug tracking systems and the ability to create virtual patches for WAFs, but in a cross-vendor way. You can correlate findings from HP Fortify static analysis testing and dynamic testing results from IBM Appscan, or from a wide range of other tools and security testing platforms, including Open Source tools like Findbugs or Brakeman or ZAP and Arachni and Skipfish. And ThreadFix is Open Source itself (available for free or in a supported enterprise version).

The best free giveway at the conference was viaProtect an app from mobile security firm viaForensics that lets you check the security status of your iOS or Android device. Although it is just out of beta and still a bit wobbly, it provides a useful summary of the security status of your mobile devices, and if you choose to register, you can see track the status of multiple devices on a web portal.

Another year, another RSA

This was my third time at RSA. What has changed over that time? Compliance, not fear of being hacked, is still driving infosec: “attackers might show up; auditors definitely will”. But most organizations have accepted that they will be hacked soon, or have been hacked but they just haven’t found out yet, and are trying to better be prepared for when the shit hits the fan. More money is being poured into technology and training and consulting, but it’s not clear what’s making a real difference. It’s not money or management that’s holding many organizations back from improving their security programs – it’s a shortage of infosec skills.

With a few exceptions, the general quality of presentations wasn't as good as previous years – disappointing and surprising given how hard it is to get a paper accepted at RSA. There wasn't much that I had not already heard at other conferences like OWASP Appsec or couldn't catch in a free vendor-sponsored webinar. The expert talks that were worth going to were often over-subscribed. But at least the closing keynote was a good one: Stephen Colbert was funny, provocative and surprisingly well-informed about the NSA and related topics. And the the parties – if getting drunk with security wonks and auditors is your idea of crazy fun, nothing, but nothing, beats RSA.

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