Saturday, January 14, 2017

Snowden Petition Reaches One Million Signatures

The petition to President Obama to declare clemency for Edward Snowden has reached one million signatures. With a few days left in office, President Obama is purportedly preparing a short list of pardons and many are hoping Snowden is on this list.

If you haven't already done so, you can sign the petition here:

Alexa, are you spying on me?

It wasn't law enforcement. or an oppressive regime, that installed surveillance in our homes, but a population bowing to convenience. With the increase of virtual assistants, like Amazon's Alexa, we're causing self-inflicted privacy wounds from the likes of big brother business and government. These systems are dutifully listening to our every word while recording and storing this information to be used at a later time.

This is an emerging topic we're rushing headlong into without thinking about the future of privacy or security in our homes. Not to sound sarcastic, but right now it seems like we're more concerned about walking into a room and "speaking" the lights on or asking Alexa random questions without having to get off the couch. It's a topic that definitely needs more conversation.

I wrote this article for Tripwire to discuss the current and long-term privacy concerns of implementing virtual assistants. Hopefully, this article helps stimulate some thoughts on the issue.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Maintaining Digital Privacy in an Evolving World

I wrote this article in attempts to take the best tools in the digital privacy space and have them listed under one blog. There are many other good tools available, but these in my opinion are the most important and easily accessible tools to help bolster your online privacy right away.

This article touches on browser, email, messaging, mobile and cloud storage alternatives which can be utilized to protect your privacy today. Please give it a read and let me know if there are other applications you recommend that aren't in it. If so, I'll add them to a blog in a future post to get the word out.

Here's the article:

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Guardian: Privacy in Donald Trump's America

Here's a quick interview with Ewen MacAskill, from The Guardian, talking about the state of privacy and mass surveillance in Donald Trumps America. Ewen was one of three reporters that met and worked with Edward Snowden in Hong Kong while he was revealing the NSA's bulk data programs.

During the podcast, Ewen offers his opinion on how he thinks President Obama and President-Elect Trump will compare and contrast each other on digital privacy and the current state of mass surveillance globally. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Chronicling Ransomware

Check out this excellent resource from "PrivacyPC" on ransomware updates and variants starting from May of 2016. The timeline goes through release dates, updates, ransomware decryption and other related events. This is definitely something worth keeping in your toolbox as "PrivacyPC' continues to maintain the list.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

What to Expect When Moving to Amazon's AWS

So your organization has decided to make the move to AWS and they’re thinking about ways to manage the migration with the least amount resistance. Good for you! When moving to AWS there are multiple tasks that need to be completed for a successful migration or new implementation within their cloud offering. There are in-depth checklists, Amazon actually has one of their own and in this article, we’re going to review six areas we think should be considered before your move to Amazon occurs.

Applications and Data

When migrating to the cloud an organization needs to consider the applications they’re currently using and if they’ll function properly in AWS. It’s very possible an organization is using legacy apps that might not function properly up in the cloud. Yes, believe it or not, people still use legacy apps. Understand the needs of these applications and if they’re even able to be installed within AWS. Also, get a firm understanding of the data being stored in the cloud. If this data is sensitive, think PHI or PCI, determine if you have the proper controls implemented to cover both security and compliance. If you don’t have this capability after moving to the cloud, you’ll have to start utilizing security solutions to protect this data, either with the AWS native security resources, or other solutions you have configured as an EC2 instance or within a hybrid install. Examples of these solutions would be a web application firewall, data encryption (rest and transit), logging and security assessments. Amazon offers all these services, but it’s possible the organization already has virtual or hybrid solutions which will fulfill your needs. Lastly, it’s important to determine if you’ll be using a public or private cloud model with your data/applications. This could come into effect if there’s a busy tenant causing resource issues which inadvertently cause your stack/application to have performance degradation.

Billing and Cost

As with anything cost and billing are important. This will almost always be an operational expense and the budgeting of moving to the cloud should be spoken of with finance before considering a move. This being told there are a few items to keep your eyes on with AWS. The first thing to determine is if there are other accounts setup with Amazon that might be active within the organization. With it being as easy as setting up instances with a credit card it’s possible a business is already in the cloud and you don’t even realize it. If this occurs or there’s a need to have multiple accounts created there should be an AWS master account created to link back all the services to the organization. Secondly, create billing alerts that will notify you when configured thresholds have gone over. The last thing you want is a misconfiguration or security issue causing additional dollars without knowing about it upfront. There are many other areas to review with billing, but these are two areas you might want to start off with.

Change Management and Automation

This is a big deal in the world of cloud. When deploying systems in the cloud everyone thinks it will be automation nirvana, but because of this flexibility, change, and config management need even more attention. When dealing with a purely AWS environment it needs to be determined who can build and launch instances within your account. AWS has something called Amazon Machine Image (AMI) which allows the needed information for an instance to be built. These need to be monitored as to not have issues with deploying wrong instances and keeping up with updates. Also, how will an organization deal with system hardening, patching, firewall changes (since security groups need to be understood before making inappropriate security holes). When dealing with additional changes and config management on instances it’s very easy to start VM creep and creating a decommissioning process should be written for cost, operational and security concerns.

Incident Response and Security

This is a topic that can have multiple articles written on it alone, but we’re going to try and cram as much as we can in here now. If you’re using AWS for your entire ecosystem then bringing in their security services is a must. Amazon has published native services that allow the ability to use them for IAM, logging, cloud WAF, MFA, encryption with HSM’s and security assessments. Using these tools is a must if you’re going to go all in with Amazon. Using their tools can assist with security since they have native integration with each tool within the Amazon ecosystem. Last, but not least, incident response in the cloud needs to be reviewed. Performing IR in the cloud is a different animal and you’ll need to determine if your normal procedures, tools and runbooks will fit while performing IR in the cloud. There will be areas you can’t touch, like logs on a system within a multitenant environment, and working with Amazon during this time is essential. Learn what you need to do upfront before you have too late.

Remote Management

Obviously, since the systems aren’t on-premise there needs to be a way to remotely access your instances securely. With this there are a few options that need to be thought out before even creating a single instance in AWS. The access to the console needs to be secured and logged right away. It should also have MFA on it and locked down to a particular range if possible, possibly via VPC. This is the access to your world in the cloud and it needs to be secured. Also, there will be applications that have access to the API’s which essentially could have complete access to the instances in AWS. These need to be protected and configured in a way that this access doesn’t get compromised. It’s a big subject and one that needs to be reviewed in greater detail. Lastly, understanding if you’ll be using federation services to tie back to any on-prem LDAP or other identify instance is a thought that must be understood during the design phase of the cloud implementation.

Disaster Recovery and Resiliency

Reviewing how your new cloud environment is built for disaster and resiliency is another major factor to consider when investing in AWS. Get a feel for the availability zones you’ll be hosting your environment in and where you’d like to fail in case of emergency. It’s possible to fail to availability zones in different countries and if that’s that case you should review the data laws of the country your data will no reside in afterward. For your applications and systems, there should be no single point of failure and all critical apps should have a process to make it resilient. Amazon has multiple load balancing, snapshot and synchronization services that allow a customer to keep their data available at all times.

AWS offering is deep and before investing your money into moving into their architecture a customer should have a firm understanding of both their current architecture, where they’d like to be in the future and what AWS has to offer. The options are vast and planning up front is needed for a successful implementation.