I pulled a Peacock today

As if today wasn’t “exciting” enough, I just broke up a domestic dispute.

I am at a hospital with my wife who is recovering from some surgery. I decided to wonder the halls around 10 pm, looking for a snack. There was this guy following a few feet behind a girl saying things like “What? What am I doing? I’m just walking”. The girl was visibly upset and was telling him to go away, over and over. I watched for a while, acting like I was playing on my phone. I was hoping to see a silly argument, but it was apparent that he was just harassing her.

I walked over and told him, “I think she’s made her self clear. You need to turn around now.” I was prepared for him to get angry and take it out on me, but he just seemed broken. His shoulders slumped and his voice changed.

“But she’s my wife.”

I could see the pain in his eyes. “I’ve been there man. Sometimes it’s better not to push too hard. She needs her space right now”.

He kept repeating, “but she’s my wife” and, “where am I supposed to go?”

“Somewhere else in the hospital. I don’t know what you guys are going through, but she doesn’t want to be around you right now.”

“She’s got my baby in her belly.” He looked down the hallway in the opposite direction, wrestling with something in his mind.

I kept him in still, chatting away to let the girl get some distance. I walked on, hoping that was enough. I didn’t think this was going turn ugly, but your never know.

As I rounded the corner, she reappeared looking for a way out of the building. He started to approach again, but I walked her to the nearest open exit. As we exited, he got closer. I let her leave (I think she was was looking for a place to smoke).

“I don’t know anything about you two, but you are doing nothing but harassing her right now. You could be nicest guy in the world, or you could be violent type. Right now you need to back off.”

There was an intense glare from him. You could see the rage building in his eyes. “Oh shit, here we go” I thought. I put one foot back, leaned back for balance, and prepared for him to go ape shit. Then something broke inside his eyes. His muscles loosen and he looked at his feet. He silently walk outside, but in the opposite direction of the girl.

I noticed a police car in a adjacent building, and walked over. It was a sheriff. I gave him a run down of what was going on and he pulled his car around to the girl. I had to walk half way around the hospital to find a door that was opened. I headed back to my wife’s room.

Did I help or hurt? It’s so hard to tell. My southern upbringing makes me defend the girl, but I wish I could help the guy. He wasn’t a clear asshole or jerk. Things are never that black or white. He didn’t need to be “taught a lesson”. She might have been the biggest bitch in the world. Or, considering where we are, there could be a huge decision that she has to make.

So many possibilities, so many outcomes. I just hope I made the right call.

Funny enough, as I was walking around trying to get back in the hospital, I thought of Joe Peacock’s stories. It made me laugh out loud as I thought, “What would Joe do?” It would have probably involved a Waffle House.


Hackers, too Close to Home

I live in the far outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia.  It’s rural/suburban, with lots of horse farms and country clubs.  You never expect to have bad things happen near you home, myself included.  However, we do have some local drama that has bled in to my domain of information security.  It all started with this:

Acworth Teen Accused of Posting Nude Photos to Porn Sites

Authorities are investigating an Acworth teen who allegedly posted naked photos of at least eight children on pornographic websites, according to a Cobb County criminal warrant.

Interesting.  At this point I find it odd, but not too interesting.  Some kids getting in trouble.  Stupid trouble, but it sounds like this guy is not a pedophile.  Then more information came out.

Police Seek More Victims in Acworth Teen’s Alleged Child Porn Scheme

The Acworth teen who allegedly posted naked photos of at least eight children on pornographic websites created a company to gain the trust of the juveniles.

Cobb County Police Sgt. Dana Pierce said today that authorities believe Harrison High School senior Michael William Cook operated under the company name Maxi Focus Photography between Nov. 1, 2012, and Jan. 1, 2013, the time frame that he allegedly posted to pornographic websites “naked” or “erotic” photos of people that he obtained through fraudulent means.

Okay, now that steps it up a notch.  If true, this guy even got himself a fake business to entice girls.  So he may be more of a predator than I first thought.  At this point, it’s a wild story, but still a local quirky story.  It just happens to be walking distance from my home.  I was reading my security blogs this morning and came across this:

17-year-old arrested for hacking into phones, stealing and distributing explicit images of children

A US teenager has been charged with distributing child pornography he allegedly hacked out of minors’ cellphones with a bogus mobile text ad that installed phone-controlling malware.

According to 9News.com, Sgt. Pierce claimed that Cook sent text messages to victims from a company called “Maxi Focus Photography”.

When victims clicked on a link in the text message, it installed malware that essentially gave Cook access to all information stored on the phones.

That includes access to victims’ accounts on social network sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as sexually explicit photos stored on the phones.

Cook allegedly downloaded offensive pictures and sent them to pornographic websites, Pierce said.

Now things are getting very interesting.  This is more than just using a fake photography “studio” to convince girls to get naked.  This was a lot more sneaky, if true.  I’ve done security forensics before and they almost always are child porn cases.  For me, I was always helping prove that someone knowingly downloaded child porn, and usually disproving the “It must have been a Virus” defense.

This is different.  If true, my neighbor was hacking into phones and stealing nude photos.  In my line of work, we talk about the various type of threats we have and what are their motivations.  Now we can add perverted 17 year old boys trying to find naked pictures of teenagers.  What if can across your banking info?  Think he’d buy himself a couple of video games?

I can think of several lessons here:

  • Everything on a computer is discoverable.  If you have a naked photo of yourself, it could get posted somewhere.  Those files seem to live forever.
  • This is even more true on phones.  Did you know that many photos are automatically “backed up” onto servers (especially on non-smartphones)?  Things like IM and texting are unsecure and can be read by others?
  • Teach your children about security.  Do you tell your children about dark alleys at night?  Then tell them how to avoid getting attacked on the internet.  Here’s a few good links:
  • Install Anti-Malware on your Smartphone and Tablets. Here are two of my favorite (and they’re free!):

I’ll keep monitoring the situation and see how things evolve.  For this kids sake, I hope it’s not true.  We’ll see how the investigation goes.

A free tool to Scan to PDF that WORKS!

My move from running RedHat on the desktop back to Windows 7 hasn’t been too bumpy.  Only one big driver corruption issue that took me a couple of days to solve, but it seems running Windows is like riding a bike.  I have a need to scan a good bit of documents into a single Adobe PDF file.  The driver & software package that comes with my Lexmark printer only scans to individual files.  I had been using PDF Creator, which has a tool to suck up all the individual jpegs and put them in a PDF.  It was clunky, and often files would be out of order.

I went on a search today to find another tool to meet my needs.  I tried 5 different freeware or shareware programs.  The first four didn’t function in some way.  Most just errored out, one didn’t even run.  I finally found NAPS (Not Another PDF Scanner).  The only problem I have is that the default permissions on the program folder in which it runs keeps it from saving a config file.  Running it as Administrator worked for setting up my profile.  Now it runs fine as under regular permissions.

Just wanted to share to possible save someone else some time.  Cheers!

UPDATE; well, NAPS ended up being too buggy for me.  I went back to the developer page on Sourceforge and saw a comment that some one else has forked the project.  Yay, NAPS 2 is better!  Open Source FTW!

My Evolving Security Philosophy

From the very start of considering a move from IBM Security Systems to Bit9, I gave a lot of thought to my security philosophy.  I really do believe strongly in IBM’s security portfolio, and I wanted to make sure moving to Bit9 didn’t undercut my security philosophy.  Working for IBM taught me a lot about holistic security and how good security products are usable no matter if you have basic security maturity, or advanced.  I generally focused on the network side of security, mainly in SIEM and NIPS.  I’ve shied away from endpoint security (for the exception of dabbling in forensics and TEM), because it’s such a headache. Virus scan software is a joke, letting just about everything modern in.  Case in point with the recent attacks at the New York Times:

Over the course of three months, attackers installed 45 pieces of custom malware. The Times — which uses antivirus products made by Symantec — found only one instance in which Symantec identified an attacker’s software as malicious and quarantined it, according to Mandiant.

I see this all the time.  That’s why products like QRadar and IBM Security NIDS are so popular.  You have to fall back to the network, if can’t get control of the endpoint.  Why attack the endpoint?  It’s seems to be the easiest and most successful.  There’s typically three categories of attacks:

  1. Remote attacks launched from the internet (DoS, SQL Injection, etc.)
  2. Insider threats, and
  3. Infect an endpoint, then launch attack from within (phishing, drive-by downloads)

Network based protection is very useful at blocking and/or detecting all three of these attacks categories, but that leaves you with a perimeter based security protection.  With perimeter based security, one tries to tackle the channels of infections like email and web browsing.  There are tons of solutions that help with this, but nothing helps as soon as that endpoint walks out the door.  Network security should be used to protect infrastructure, not endpoints.

So what can be done to protect the endpoint?  IBM Tivoli Endpoint Manager does a lot to manage all the small stuff like patch management, software delivery, compliance, and virus scanning.  I say small stuff, not to dismiss its importance, but they are processes that should be in place already.  Having TEM take care of it all is just easier.

When I was at IBM and a customer was worried about the Insider Threat, we would use either TSIEM or QRadar to pull in system and audit logs.  What we usually found near pure chaos, since it’s very hard to figure out what is what within system logs.  The best approach I have found is using white list policies.  We would build profiles of acceptable behavior in an environment, filter it out, then analyze the rest.  It was a great approach and bled over into some of my other SIEM and NIPS scenarios.

The reason I bring this up is that one of the reasons I like Bit9’s software is that it employs a similar white list approach, but looks to be MUCH easier than the rat’s nest that is system and audit logs.

Let me summarize:

  • Network security is best when focused on protecting infrastructure like hosted applications and databases.  It loses effectiveness when trying to secure the endpoint.
  • As for hosted applications, security vulnerability testing and security development should be a closed loop.
  • Insider threats can only be managed if you are doing system and audit log analysis.  It’s a costly investment, but worth it to certain business sectors like banking and military.
  • Endpoint protection must include basic measures including patch management, lifecycle management, and basic written security policy.
  • I believe SIEM is critical to tie it all together and should be the single pane of glass.
  • Maturity in other security processes like identity management, access management, policy, compliance, encryption, and asset management help all your other security investments.
  • Overall security policy governance has to be tailored to the size and type of organization.

As I write this out, I see that going after endpoint security with Bit9 fits for me.  I am looking forward to learning more about its capabilities and how our customers would like to use it.

Impressions of Windows 8 for the family

I’ve been running Windows 8 on one my laptops since it’s release and put in the kitchen for my family to use.  It’s a powerful laptop, i7, 12 gb RAM, nice graphics card.  I’ve used it, as has my wife and my three elementary age kids.  My teenagers have their own PCs and laptops.  I’m now replacing this laptop (need to give it back to IBM) with another.  It has Windows 7 on it.  Note, neither laptops have a touchscreen.

My first thought was to reformat with a fresh Windows 8 install, since it will be the new family machine.  Windows 8 has family controls built in to the OS, has PIN logons, and the Metro look and feel is very nice.  But I started thinking about how many family uses it.

My wife was constantly frustrated about trying to get stuff done on it.  The Metro version of IE has some shortcomings, mainly not running flash unless Microsoft approves it.  She googled how to recreate a Start button, and if she uses this machine, she goes directly to the desktop.  She never used one of the Metro apps, but she also has her own laptop with Windows 7.  She installed Chrome and stopped using IE 10.

My boys (ages 6 and 8) love the Bing app.  They can spend hours just searching various star wars names and looking at the image results.  But IE has problems with various sites like starwars.com and lego.com.  I put a Chrome icon on their Metro home page.  It of course runs in the desktop.

My 10 year old daughter does a lot of homework online.  Half of her sites don’t work in IE 10, so she uses chrome, too.  My 8 year old boy attends an online school.  Again, IE 10 doesn’t work.  Word processing is via Symphony, on the desktop.

Even though I installed a bunch of free Metro games for the kids, they don’t use them.  They want the games on PBS, Star Wars, Lego, American Girl, and other web sites.  They each got their own Android tablets for Hanukkah, so all those Metro games have similar ports on Android and are more fun to play on a touchscreen device.

The only positive things out of Windows 8 is the Bing Search app, parental controls built it, and my kids learning how to use the new OS.  But in the end, most just go to the desktop and launch Chrome.  The new laptop has a fingerprint scanner, so there’s no reason for a password or PIN.

I think I will leave Windows 7 on the new family laptop.  I get my new work PC next week.  I will contemplate putting Windows 8 on there for a while and see how it works for work.

Moving On and adding some Bits

As of February 1st, I will be leaving IBM.   It’s been a great 7 years.   I never thought I could enjoy working for a large company, or working so long in the same position.   Man was I wrong.   IBM really has some great people, and I had the best quality of life during my tenure.   Even though I was in the same position, life was rarely dull with constant acquisitions (nearly one per year that affected me!).   I started off working with NeuSecure/TSOM, then TDI, then TCIM, then TSIEM, then AppScan, then Proventia and SiteProtector, then BigFix/TEM, and finally QRadar.   That’s a busy seven years!

Well, what’s next?  I have accepted a position at Bit9 as a client partner. I am excited about this on several fronts.   One, I think the technology is amazing.   I’ve never been a big supporter of virus scan products.   They just never seem to offer adequate protection.   Bit9′s approach is to whitelist the good stuff as opposed to trying to find all the bad stuff.   I really think this is a better way to secure endpoints.   I’ll be posting more on my security philosophy soon.

Secondly, I’m excited to be moving to a small company.   Not only is moving to a start-up* exciting, the people there are too.   Everyone I’ve talked to so far seems to be on the same page as me when it comes to security philosophy, business philosophy, and look to be very fun to work with.   I was lucky to find a good crew at IBM, and it looks like my luck continues at Bit9.

Also the client partner role looks to be very fulfilling.   When I look back on my time at IBM, I really enjoyed the time that I could form long-term relationships with my customers.   That’s also where I found the greatest success.   This position looks to mix engagement management, relationship management, and technical account management. I’m also planning on doing some evangelist work too.

I am so excited to get started at Bit9 in February.   I will have to spend some time deprogramming myself as an IBMer, but I think this is a good move with a good company with a great product.

* Bit9′s been around for about 7 years and can hardly be called a start-up anymore.   But every company seems like start-up when coming from IBM.

Comments and WordPress links

Looks like I missed a bunch a comments. I thought WordPress was emailing me alerts for new comments, but that broke at some point. I just happen to notice them when I finally got around to downloading the WordPress android app. So if your comment was just now posted, it’s all WordPress’s fault. I usually stay on top of that. I love getting your feedback.

Also, the comments alerted me to the fact that WordPress changed the directory structure, breaking some links. I’m going back through my recent posts. If you see any more, let me know.