Business Security

What do you learn from your security reviews?

Posted on 2020-07-16 by Matt Strahan in Business Security


The results of the security review come in and they’re…let’s just say “less than ideal”. Vulnerabilities that could be used to break in, steal data, and potentially get the organisation in the news. Better fix those right away!

So we assign the tasks in our ITSM system and get to work. We patch what needs patching, reconfigure what needs reconfiguring, disable what shouldn’t be there and then pat our back and call it a day. We’re now secure…right?

This is what a lot of organisations do, but you’ve only got half the story. Those vulnerabilities didn’t come from nowhere, they were the symptom of an underlying problem and if you don’t fix the problem then the same thing will happen over and over again.

In a previous blog post I spoke about the “5 whys” and pinning down root causes that pop up as vulnerabilities. One of those root causes that is bound to prop up again and again is training.

Developers are often not trained in secure coding. Administrators are often not trained in secure administration. And yet the security vulnerabilities that could be placed in the environment from those teams could cause huge consequences to the organisation.

What can you do with a penetration test to help training?

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We just need to test this one project…but will I be secure?

Posted on 2020-06-25 by Matt Strahan in Business Security


What is in scope for a penetration test will be tested and what isn’t in scope for a penetration test won’t be tested. Simple enough, right? The problem comes when the hackers don’t follow the same scope that the penetration testers follow.

The choices that are usually made when scoping a penetration test are often made around simple practicalities and the various requirements that pop up for the organisation. Security considerations are important, but can be a secondary factor to it all.

For smaller organisations it’s not uncommon to have a full annual test with the entire internal and external environment in scope. After all, it’s easier to do it in one lot and just get it over with.

For larger organisations a full annual test would be too much since there are too many moving parts. It’s more common to have the scope restricted to a single project, maybe the new web application, new SOE, or the new network environment.

For this project by project testing the idea is that you can potentially get comprehensive coverage over the entire environment by testing each project in isolation. Hopefully a group of secure systems ends up being a secure environment. In the end, though, hackers will end up not targeting the systems directly, but they’ll start manipulating how they integrate and interact together.

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Zoom’s lesson on responding to security issues

Posted on 2020-06-09 by Matt Strahan in Business Security


When investigating software to use, I’ll inevitably have a look at their security record. What vulnerabilities have they had? Should I be worried?

Sometimes you see something really really dumb. Like an SQL injection in 2020. Or backdoor credentials… Wait I mean an “undocumented user account“.

Sometimes the security record makes news, like for Zoom at the moment. They’re suddenly one of the biggest pieces of software on the internet, and that means they’re being picked apart. There’s worries about privacy issues and their end-to-end encryption. Zoom has become a household name, and more than a few people have said to me “aren’t you worried about their security issues?”

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Third party systems in your pentest

Posted on 2020-05-21 by Matt Strahan in Business Security


What is in scope for a penetration test will be tested and what isn’t in scope for a penetration test won’t be tested. Simple enough, right? The problem comes when the hackers don’t follow the same scope that the penetration testers follow.

The choices that are usually made when scoping a penetration test are often made around simple practicalities and the various requirements that pop up for the organisation. Security considerations are important, but can be a secondary factor to it all.

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The security supply tree

Posted on 2020-05-13 by Matt Strahan in Business Security


How many organisations have access to your customer data?

As software-as-a-service and cloud-based environments become more standard within organisations, this question becomes harder to answer. In the modern interconnected security world, though, it’s a question that needs to be answered for all organisations.

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How likely is it that you’ll be hacked?

Posted on 2020-04-29 by Matt Strahan in Business Security


There I was again, staring at the report. In each security issue in our penetration testing and compliance work we have our risk assessment rating which is a pretty simple process based on ISO 31000. You identify the risk, figure out the likelihood and impact, and then use the risk matrix to give it a risk rating. Although a fair few companies now have their own risk matrix which we are happy to use in our reports for them, our standard risk matrix looks like this:

Volkis Risk Matrix

It should be a simple enough process, yet still I am left staring at the report thinking “how likely is it that this company will get hacked using this vulnerability?”

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“We need to strike the balance between security and convenience” … but do we?

Posted on 2020-04-22 by Matt Strahan in Business Security


I often hear a common phrase from people both in the security industry and those who are now faced with dealing with cyber security in their business: “We need to strike a balance between security and convenience!”

It’s a phrase that makes it feel like we’ve got a line with convenience at one end and security at the other. We have a slider on that line, and security as an exercise is really about picking the exact right point for that slider to land on. “This is a critical environment, so let’s take 20% convenience and 80% security.”

Maybe security within organisations is actually a battle between two parties: “Security” against “Convenience”. Maybe one of the solutions could be that organisations have a “Convenience” department like the security departments they currently have. Should we have a “Chief Convenience Officer” that sits alongside the CISO when reporting to the board?

Is that really how it is? A never-ending battle between security and convenience? Is there really such a trade-off between security and convenience?

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Are you opening a security hole for your remote workers?

Posted on 2020-04-02 by Matt Strahan in Business Security


On Tuesday Shodun showed that the number of RDP servers exposed to the internet has skyrocketed, going up by 30%. Just having RDP exposed to the internet is pretty much automatically considered a vulnerability in our penetration testing, as it’s a complex protocol that has a history of vulnerabilities (most recently BlueKeep), and exploitation can lead to administrator access to the system. Given that most RDP servers have to be connected to an Active Directory domain, often administrator access is all you need to completely compromise the network and all its data.

Clearly the rise in remote working has caused some windows to be opened in organisations’ environments. While remote working doesn’t have to be a security nightmare, it can still be surprisingly easy to open holes in your security in the name of remote working.

The two main reasons for this is a lack of a strategy and technical debt.

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Why remote working isn’t the security nightmare you think it is

Posted on 2020-03-19 by Matt Strahan in Business Security


A couple of days ago we posted up tips and advice to deal with this period of remote working. It’s a scary time not just for our health but also for our security, with organisations suddenly needing to have everyone to stay away from the office and to work from home, safe from the coronavirus.

For today, I’d like to provide a bit of reassurance: this period of remote working probably won’t present new risk to your organisation. Don’t get me wrong – there’s still a lot of risk in cyber security, but having a whole bunch more people working remotely probably isn’t going to open you up to new threats.

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Security precautions for remote work – Quick wins

Posted on 2020-03-17 by Alexei Doudkine in Business Security


The sad truth of the world is that there are people out there who will take advantage of the COVID-19 crisis. As more organisations shut down their offices and ask employees to work from home, those that are less geared towards remote work will be targeted by threat actors.

It is my goal to give organisations pushing for remote work the basic necessities for securing their remote workforce. Rather than long-term strategies, these are things you can do or start doing this week to protect your employees and keep the organisation safe at the same time.

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