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Lay Off the Marketing Plugins. Equifax Hit With Fake Flash Update.

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The Equifax website borked again, this time to redirect to fake Flash update (arstechnica.com). This is the latest episode in the sad saga of insecurity at the embattled Atlanta-based credit reporting giant. Atlanta is known for a healthy information security ecosystem and the Georgia Institute of Technology and Kennesaw State University both have cybersecurity programs at the undergraduate and graduate level. If Equifax cared to hire security minded people to work in key areas they could.

Certainly more details of this attack will emerge but there is “a strong case that Equifax was working with a third-party ad network or analytics provider that’s responsible for the redirects.” My advice for any website operator is to lay off on the marketing plugins and JavaScript widgets that your SEO team loves so much. Focus on your core technology and remember that attacks on your technology supply chain can lead to significant security incidents for your company.

Automated Patching Will Be New Reality

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Patch management is hard when the software being patched is supported by a major corporation with a long support window. It’s even harder when integrating numerous open source projects of various maturity. One lesson from the Equifax data breach is that failure to update your deployed application for months after the upstream project is updated can lead to dire consequences.

Automate Security Scans With Continuous Integration

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There are many tools out there that help you get a quick idea of possible security issues in your code and dependencies, but how often do you run them? If you’re running a Rails app and have never run brakeman or bundler-audit, I strongly urge you to run these tools immediately. Brakeman finds common insecure coding patterns that might be exploitable in the correct context and bundler-audit checks for known vulnerabilities within your installed gem dependencies.

The premise of this blog post isn’t to teach you to run these tools, but rather to teach you how to implement these tools into your Continuous Integration service. If you’re curious of how to run these tools outside of the test suite, both tool’s READMEs are informative.

Equifax Missed Defense in Depth, Allowing a Massive Data Breach

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Equifax has confirmed that the main vector that lead to the data breach was a remote code execution vulnerability in Apache Struts that had been known for months [1]. Equifax had not yet patched it within the production environment. This is not just a lesson in the importance of patch management but one of defense in depth. The weakness in Equifax’s design was set in motion years before when they failed to design with the assumption that the front-end web server would be compromised.

The attacker was able to obtain the massive trove of private data because the web application was the only gatekeeper. Once the remote code execution vulnerability was exploited, the attacker was able to access data unfettered by additional access controls. Equifax chose to use a typical web application architecture without defense in depth.

Defense in depth has to start as part of the development process. All developers should be aware of the OWASP Top 10 (#3) and their work should be audited against the OWASP Advanced Security Verification Standard (ASVS) [#3] for the level appropriate for the risk faced by an organization in the event of a security breach.

Troubling ISP Privacy Repeal: The Data Will Be Breached

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The U.S. Congress & The President's Troubling Repeal of Internet Privacy Protections - Photo Credit: © 2013 Frank Rietta.

Your Internet Service Provider has direct access to the type of information on you and your family that the National Security Agency uses for spying.

Your ISP knows when you are at home and when you are not, when your kids are doing their homework. They know or can know what you’re watching on Netflix (even when its encrypted) and YouTube. If any member of your household ever views pornographic content, your ISP knows how much and at what times such content is accessed. They can infer through traffic analysis how many people are living at your home and even know how many iPhone and Android devices that you have. And even though they cannot see into your encrypted search queries on Google, your ISP knows every medical website that you visited to research a condition that you think you have or are looking into a drug that your doctor has prescribed to you.

Americans’ Access to Strong Encryption Is at Risk, an Open Letter to Congress

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Dear Honorable Members of the United States Congress:

I work in application security in the cybersecurity field to make software more secure from attack. The cybersecurity threats that face our nation are very important to my wife and me. As Americans, our private data is in great jeopardy because of increased cybersecurity threats. Our infrastructure is prone to being hacked, and major data breaches of both private and government networks are routinely in the news. The best way to prevent these breaches is to increase the use of strong encryption with no backdoors.

The track record of data breaches demonstrates an uncomfortable truth: when sophisticated adversaries want to hack a network, they will ultimately win. Among the few tools known to computer science that can prevent a data breach is strong encryption. This means that there is no backdoor and no backup key. Either the original user needs to enter the password, or the data is un-retrievable.

Breach Prevention for Developers Talk at Kennesaw State University

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Earlier this month I had the honor of speaking with information security students at Kennesaw State University in Georgia thanks to Dr. Herbert Mattord. It is a very diverse class with both traditional students and more mature students who are switching careers. Most of the students had little or no professional software development experience so I view these talks as extra critical because infosec professionals play an important role in this by working with developers and thus need to know something about how software is made.