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Black Hat insights: How to shift security-by-design to the right, instead of left, with SBOM, deep audits

By Byron V. Acohido

There is a well-established business practice referred to as bill of materials, or BOM, that is a big reason why we can trust that a can of soup isn’t toxic or that the jetliner we’re about to board won’t fail catastrophically

Related: Experts react to Biden cybersecurity executive order

A bill of materials is a complete list of the components used to manufacture a product. The software industry has something called SBOM: software bill of materials. However, SBOMs are rudimentary when compared to the BOMs associated with manufacturing just about everything else we expect to be safe and secure: food, buildings, medical equipment, medicines and transportation vehicles.

An effort to bring SBOMs up to par is gaining steam and getting a lot of attention at Black Hat USA 2021 this week in Las Vegas. President Biden’s cybersecurity executive order, issued in May, includes a detailed SBOM requirement for all software delivered to the federal government.

ReversingLabs, a Cambridge, MA-based software vendor that helps companies conduct deep analysis of new apps just before they go out the door, is in the thick of this development. I had the chance to visit with its co-founder and chief software architect Tomislav Pericin. For a full drill down on our discussion please give the accompanying podcast a listen. Here are the big takeaways:

Gordian Knot challenge

The software industry is fully cognizant of the core value of a bill of materials and has been striving for a number of years to adapt it to software development.

Black Hat insights: Deploying ‘human sensors’ to reinforce phishing email detection and response

By Byron V. Acohido

Human beings remain the prime target in the vast majority of malicious attempts to breach company networks.

Related: Stealth tactics leveraged to weaponize email

Cybersecurity awareness training is valuable and has its place. Yet as Black Hat USA 2021 returns today as a live event in Las Vegas, it remains so true that we can always be fooled — and that the prime vehicle for hornswoggling us remains phishing messages sent via business email.

Cofense, a Leesburg, VA-supplier of phishing detection and response solutions, has set out to take another human trait – our innate willingness to help out, if we can — and systematically leverage our better instincts to help fix this while combining advanced automation technology to stop phishing attacks fast.

I had a lively discussion about this with Rohyt Belani, co-founder and CEO of Cofense, which started out as PhishMe in 2011.

Inspired by Homeland Security’s see-something-say-something anti-terrorism initiative, as well as by crowd-sourcing services like Waze, Cofense has set out to squash those phishing messages that circumvent Security Email Gateways and fool even well-intentioned employees. It is doing this essentially by training and encouraging employees, not just to be on high alert for phishing ruses, but also to deliver useful reconnaissance from the combat zone.

Black Hat insights: WAFs are getting much more dynamic making them well-suited to protect SMBs

By Byron V. Acohido

A cornucopia of cybersecurity solutions went on public display today as Black Hat USA 2021 convened once more as a live event in Las Vegas.

Related: Kaseya hack raises more supply chain worries

For small- and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) cutting through the marketing hype can be daunting. That said, there is one venerable technology – web application firewalls (WAFs) – that is emerging as a perfect fit for SMBs in today’s environment, as all companies shift to a deeper reliance on cloud services and mobile apps.

I had the chance to get into the weeds of this trend with Venky Sundar, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Indusface, a Bengalura, India-based supplier of  cloud-hosted WAF services (Indusface has numerous enterprise deployments and also offers the same protections, cost-effectively, to SMBs.)

For a full drill down on our discussion, please give the accompanying podcast a listen. Here are the big takeaways:

WAF resurgence

Web apps and mobile apps are where they action is. SMBs must continually come up with cool new apps to stay competitive; it’s no surprise that this is also where threat actors are focusing their attention.

Criminal hacking rings are carrying out big sweeps, 24X7, hunting for well-known application vulnerabilities that they can manipulate to breach company networks. WAFs help companies keep track of these malicious probes by scanning incoming HTTPS traffic and taking note of parameters such as IP address, port routing, cookie data and incoming data.

The knock on WAFs for many years has been that while they are excellent at parsing HTTPS traffic, all too many companies choose not to instruct their WAFs to actually block any traffic that might be malicious.

Black Hat insights: All-powerful developers begin steering to the promise land of automated security

By Byron V. Acohido

Software developers have become the masters of the digital universe.

Related: GraphQL APIs pose new risks

Companies in the throes of digital transformation are in hot pursuit of agile software and this has elevated developers to the top of the food chain in computing.

There is an argument to be made that agility-minded developers, in fact, are in a terrific position to champion the rearchitecting of Enterprise security that’s sure to play out over the next few years — much more so than methodical, status-quo-minded security engineers.

With Black Hat USA 2021 reconvening in Las Vegas this week, I had a deep discussion about this with Himanshu Dwivedi, founder and chief executive officer, and Doug Dooley, chief operating officer, of Data Theorem, a Palo Alto, CA-based supplier of a SaaS security platform to help companies secure their APIs and modern applications.

For a full drill down on this evocative conversation discussion please view the accompanying video. Here are the highlights, edited for clarity and length:

LW:  Bad actors today are seeking out APIs that they can manipulate, and then they follow the data flow to a weakly protected asset. Can you frame how we got here?

Dwivedi: So 20 years ago, as a hacker, I’d go see where a company registered its IP. I’d do an ARIN Whois look-up. I’d profile their network and build an attack tree. Fast forward 20 years and everything is in the cloud. Everything is in Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform or Microsoft Azure and I can’t tell where anything is hosted based solely on IP registration.

So as a hacker today, I’m no longer looking for a cross-site scripting issue of some website since I can only attack one person at a time with that. I’m looking at the client, which could be an IoT device, or a mobile app or a single page web app (SPA) or it could be an … more

Black Hat insights: The retooling of SOAR to fit as the automation core protecting evolving networks

By Byron V. Acohido

In less than a decade, SOAR — security orchestration, automation and response — has rapidly matured into an engrained component of the security technology stack in many enterprises.

Related: Equipping SOCs for the long haul

SOAR has done much since it entered the cybersecurity lexicon to relieve the cybersecurity skills shortage. SOAR leverages automation and machine learning to correlate telemetry flooding in from multiple security systems. This dramatically reduces the manual labor required to do a first-level sifting of the data inundating modern business networks

However, SOAR has potential to do so much more, observes Cody Cornell, chief strategy officer and co-founder of Swimlane. SOAR, he argues, is in a position to arise as a tool that can help companies make the pivot to high-reliance on cloud-centric IT infrastructure. At the moment, a lot of organizations are in this boat.

“Covid 19 turned out to be the best digital transformation initiative ever,” Cornell says. “It forced us to do things that probably would’ve taken many more years for us to do, in terms of adopting to remote work and transitioning to cloud services.”

Swimlane, which launched in 2014 and is based in Denver, finds itself in the vanguard of cybersecurity vendors hustling to retool not just SOAR, but also security operations centers (SOCs,) security information and event management (SIEM) systems, and endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools. A core theme at RSA 2021 earlier this year – and at Black Hat USA 2021, taking place this week in Las Vegas – is that the combining of these and other security systems is inevitable and will end up resulting in something greater than the parts, i.e. not just more efficacious security, but optimized business networks overall.

MY TAKE: Equipping SOCs for the long haul – automation, edge security solidify network defenses

By Byron V. Acohido

Network security is in the throes of a metamorphosis. Advanced technologies and fresh security frameworks are being implemented to deter cyber attacks out at the services edge, where all the action is.

Related: Automating security-by-design in SecOps

This means Security Operations Centers are in a transition. SOCs came on the scene some 20 years ago as the focal point for defending on-premises datacenters of large enterprises. The role of SOCs today is both expanding and deepening, and in doing so, perhaps modeling what it will take to defend IT systems going forward – for organizations of all sizes.

I recently moderated a virtual panel on this topic featuring Scott Dally, director of security operations center Americas at NTT Security, and Devin Johnstone, senior security operations engineer at Palo Alto Networks.

For a full drill down please give a listen to the accompanying podcast version of that discussion. Here are the takeaways:

Pressurized landscape

Organizations today must withstand a constant barrage of cyber attacks. Primary vectors take the form of phishing campaigns, supply chain corruption and ransomware attacks, like the one that recently resulted in the shut down of Colonial Pipeline.

What’s happening is that digital transformation, while providing many benefits, has also dramatically expanded the attack surface. “An old problem is that many companies continue to cling to the notion that cybersecurity is just another cost center, instead of treating it as a potentially catastrophic exposure – one that needs to be continually mitigated,” Dally says.

SHARED INTEL: How ‘memory attacks’ and ‘firmware spoilage’ circumvent perimeter defenses

By Byron V. Acohido

What does Chinese tech giant Huawei have in common with the precocious kid next door who knows how to hack his favorite video game?

Related: Ransomware remains a scourge

The former has been accused of placing hidden backdoors in the firmware of equipment distributed to smaller telecom companies all across the U.S. The latter knows how to carry out a  DLL injection hack — to cheat the game score. These happen to represent two prime examples of cyber attack vectors that continue to get largely overlooked by traditional cybersecurity defenses.

Tech consultancy IDC tells us that global spending on security hardware, software and services is on course to top $103 billion in 2019, up 9.4 percent from 2018. Much of that will be spent on subscriptions for legacy systems designed to defend network perimeters or detect and deter malicious traffic circulating in network logs.

However, the threat actors on the leading edge are innovating at deeper layers. One security vendor that happens to focus on this activity is Virsec, a San Jose-based supplier of advanced application security and memory protection technologies. I had the chance to visit with Willy Leichter, Virsec’s vice president of marketing, at Black Hat 2019.

“There are multiple vectors, lots of different ways people can inject code directly into an application,” Leichter told me. “And now we’re hearing about new threats, throughout the whole supply chain, where there might be malware deeply embedded at the firmware level, or at the processor level,  that can provide ways to get into the applications, and get into the data.”

For a full drill down of our discussion, give a listen to the accompanying podcast. Here are a few key takeways:

Firmware exposures

Firmware is the coding built into computing devices and components that carry out the low-level input/output tasks necessary to enable software applications to run. Firmware is on everything from hard drives, motherboards and routers … more