Got Bot?

The world of malware (literally bad software) has some interesting terminology. Botnets and Zombie networks sound like they should be different, but they are basically the same thing. The imagery of masses of robots (ala I Robot) or hordes of Zombies from Night of the Living dead is surprisingly a relatively accurate description. Botnets or Zombie Nets are collections of computers that have been infected with a specific class of malware that is managed by an external ‘Controller’. Ok, Zombie hordes are not easy to manage, but the robot masses are. I’ll use the term botnets to refer to both.

Botnets can be used for many different illegal purposes such as distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, mass spam mailings, illegal data collection and more. Like the domestic robots in the movie I Robot, malware bots establish themselves unobtrusively in your network through the same types of mechanisms as a virus, worm, Trojan or other malware. In fact, Trojans, malware that masquerades as legitimate software, are often used to distribute ‘Bot’ malware. That ‘swimware calendar’ program you downloaded may look nice, but underneath there may be some malware silently doing bad things to your computer. Read more

7th Phase of growth – Security of the enterprise’s IT/IS Investment

So congratulations, you were just named Chief Information Officer of your company and now moved into your new office.  Looking through the top desk drawer you find a note with three sealed envelops attached.  The note says when you have your first major crisis, open envelop one, the second one open envelop two and the third one open envelop three.  Being the type “A” personality, the one that got you here, you decide to open all three now.  The first one says this is your first crisis blame it on me, your predecessor. The second one says this crisis is yours and you will need a plan to solve it.  The third one says “Oops”, prepare three envelops and leave them in the top draw for your successor.

At this point being a Type “A”, you decide that you are going with envelop two and throw away the other ones.  Your first step is to evaluate your staff and their capabilities.  Looking at their performance records you can learn some of the basics, but you will not be satisfied with just that limited amount of information.  You know about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  Although this was explained in a paper by Abraham Maslow in 1943, it still applies today.  The phases are: (1) Physiological (breathing, food, water, sleep, etc.); (2) Safety (security of body, employment, resources, morality, the family, health, property, etc.); (3) Belonging (friendship, acceptance by the group, social needs, sense of belonging); (4) Esteem (self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others, respect by others); (5) Self-actualization (morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, acceptance of facts).  You are aware that Self-actualization is the goal, studies show that only about 2 % are performing at this level.  As people move up the hierarchy with their needs, if suddenly there is a need below, a person will revert back to that level.  (i.e. if someone is working at a self actualization level and can’t breath he would abruptly revert to the Physiological level or if threaten to safety. Read more

Strengthening the Authentication of Your Users

They say a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.  In the world of IT systems, you don’t want that weak link to be user authentication.  Once a hacker gains access to a system as a valid (potentially high level) user, the amount of damage they can do is unlimited.  There are different ways to validate a user’s identity and they have different levels of security.  Using the three little pigs as an analogy, let’s take a look at the options:

1)      The straw house – This is what we call single factor authentication.  This just involves something you know or have.  An example for physical security is a badge that is tapped on a door reader to gain access.  If someone gets hold of the badge, that’s all they need to walk into the building.  Another in the IT world is the familiar user ID and password.  It’s what a majority of users use to gain access to their computer’s OS and applications. This has the potential to be fairly secure, but often times isn’t due to poor password choice.  Users frequently pick passwords that are easy for them to remember which means they are easy for hackers to crack. Once they know the password they have total access to the system/application.  Read more

IT Disciplines of an Identity & Access Management Expert

The field of identity and access management is considered a small, specialized niche in the world of IT. Some would speculate that this is because of the very complex nature of the applications we deploy to an enterprise. Although that may be true, it goes far beyond just the complexity of the specific applications we work with. A true identity and access management expert must be very knowledgeable over many IT disciplines. This is due to the products we architect and implement being entire solutions, as opposed to singular purposed applications. Let me provide some examples of the typical IT disciplines covered during a deployment:

Gathering enterprise requirements:  The expert must be well versed in enterprise architecture, security, networking, hardware, and multiple operating systems. This is crucial as they will propose the best suite of products based upon the clients requirements and the current state of the enterprise architecture. The expert must consider things as simple as who the primary user base is, to more complex questions such as what hardware will be required based on expected application load. This phase will determine both the tempo of the project as well as its success. Lest we forget the expert must also play the role of a project manager, technical writer and business analyst. Any well-rounded expert can explain identity and access management plans and concepts to the client in simple, no nonsense terms, but also deliver highly technical documents to the various IT departments in which the project will affect. In addition, a precise project plan needs to be delivered to the client to stay on task and on budget. Read more