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  • 6 reasons why there will be another OPM-style hack

    The hack of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management didn't surprise me. All significant organizations are regularly attacked, and every major federal agency is a big target.

  • OPM: The worst hack of all time

    Hi, my name is Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols and I had a security clearance in the 1980s. Because of that, my personal records are likely to have been revealed by the Office of Personnel Management hack.

  • Is facial recognition a threat on Facebook and Google?

    Both Facebook and Google have been working hard at using computers and algorithms to identify people in photos. They've gotten really good at it.

  • A laser focus on PCI compliance

    For the past few weeks, I've been knee-deep in PCI compliance. I have previously mentioned that although my company's current credit card transaction volume doesn't require a full PCI audit, we have made a business decision to get the full PCI Report on Compliance, which entails hiring a qualified security assessor (QSA), submitting evidence, conducting a variety of qualified penetration tests and assessment scans and ultimately having an auditor spend about a week on site reviewing evidence and conducting in-depth testing of the 400-plus controls.

  • What defines a mature IT security operation?

    RSA recently published its inaugural and aptly named Cybersecurity Poverty Index. This study is based on self-assessments by organizations who compared their current security implementations against the NIST Cybersecurity Framework. According to the report, almost 66 percent rated themselves as inadequate in every category. With all of the recent breaches in the news, part of me is astounded at this finding. The other part is not surprised, given that this matches what I see in the field every day.

  • Google on Apple: The end is near

    The chat room and social network religious wars between Apple and Google demand that you take sides. But I've always felt that the best experience includes a cherry-picking of Apple hardware, Google services and apps from both.

  • Was the IRS breach unstoppable?

    Another hack, another claim of inevitability. It is frustrating to read about the IRS breach and see it declared sophisticated. The following quote, from the IRS commissioner to CNN, is just outright infuriating:

  • Data held hostage; backups to the rescue

    Last year, I wrote about a ransomware infection that encrypted the hard drive of one of my company's employees. In that situation, a live, in-person scammer called the employee, claiming to be from "technical support," and tricked the employee into visiting a website that infected his computer. As with a similar situation I wrote about in 2012, the infection came from an advertisement on the front page of a major news service's website. The website runs rotating ads, one of which was compromised and hit the victim with a drive-by malware infection (without any intervention by or even the knowledge of the victim). I thought that because the infection was on the victim's personal computer, not on my company's network, we were pretty safe. I thought that if it had been on my network, the attempt probably would have failed, or would at least have been detected right away.

  • Who's flying the plane? The latest reason to never ignore security holes

    Some things are just so predictable. A retailer is told about a mobile security hole and dismisses it, saying it could never happen in real life -- and then it happens. A manufacturer of passenger jets ridicules the risk posed by a wireless security hole in its aircraft, saying defensive mechanisms wouldn't let it happen -- and then it happens.

  • Applying the Irari Rules to a risk-based security program

    The feedback from our last article, in which we laid out what we call the Irari Rules for classifying a cyberattack as "sophisticated," was overwhelmingly positive. Nonetheless, a few people we respect disagreed with us. Ironically, examining why they disagreed demonstrates why the Irari Rules are relevant.

  • Taking our breach response plan for a test-drive

    One thing that we security managers can be sure of is this: There is no guarantee that our company will not suffer a security breach. In fact, the odds are increasing all the time, helped along by the proliferation of mobile devices, companies' heavy use of software as a service and the consumerization of IT. And let's face it: Creating a culture that fosters innovation and attracts talent exacts a cost in defensibility.

  • Patch Tuesday may be dead, but Microsoft's not confessing to the crime

    Microsoft is set to upend a 12-year practice of providing security patches on the same day each month to everyone. Or not.

  • Digital Dumpster diving: A trashcan that reports on what you throw away

    Every now and then, a product comes along that is either genius-level brilliant or celestially clueless. To get the CC award, product designers must force themselves to not only ignore the bad ways the product could be used or to naively believe that minimal safeguards would prevent them. For your consideration: the GeniCan, which scans and otherwise figures out almost everything you are throwing away or recycling and wirelessly transmits that data back to the mother ship.

  • To get more secure, first figure out where you want to go

    It's always a good idea to point the car in the right direction before pressing the gas pedal, right? Why is it, then, that so many people lose sight of that simple concept?

  • The Irari rules for declaring a cyberattack ‘sophisticated'

    Organizations hit by a cyberattack have reason to call the attack "sophisticated." But calling an attack sophisticated doesn't make it sophisticated. We have put our heads together and come up with some rules for determining whether an attack is sophisticated, and we have put our names together (Ira and Ari) to give these rules a name: the Irari rules. If any of the following conditions occur, the attack is not sophisticated:

  • Sony reminds us all what a pathetically weak link email is

    Sony is reliving the nightmare that its hacked databases gave rise to late last year, now that Wikileaks has thoughtfully published all of the leaked documents in a searchable database. Really, they are the most courteous hoodlums ever.

  • Discovering a blind eye to vulnerabilities

    Last week, I was horrified to discover a problem with my vulnerability scanner. The product I use relies on a user account to connect to our Microsoft Windows servers and workstations to check them for vulnerable versions of software, and that user account had never been configured properly. As a result, the scanner has been blind to a lot of vulnerabilities. And this has been going on for a long time.

  • With greater visibility comes increased response

    I mentioned in a previous article that we are using a "loaner" Palo Alto Networks firewall, with all the bells and whistles. Our testing led to all sorts of interesting discoveries, and I certainly hope that the executive staff will agree that the increased visibility makes this sort of new-generation firewall well worth the investment.

  • Where's the data?

    It's a time-honored tradition: U.S. businesses find ways to skirt inconvenient or expensive laws by moving operations to other countries. Thus we have had U.S. corporations operating overseas to exploit child labor, run sweatshops or avoid taxes and rigorous health and safety inspections. Now the U.S. government says something similar is happening in regards to email.

  • Don't get into an email mess

    Though she may have broken no laws, Hillary Clinton acted irresponsibly in using a personal email account to conduct official U.S. government business in her capacity as secretary of State.