To most in the security industry these words bring to mind attack and defense of the electronic communications and control of military assets and sensitive government institutions and information. Government vs. government. The US government recognizes this as a developing threat and has undertaken steps to prepare for possible cyber war scenarios. But recent press coverage has been filled with what can be best described as a cyber war between a foreign government and a US commercial business – China and Google. Google’s belief it has the right to do business as it sees fit has come into conflict with a government that does not share this view and apparently has taken action. Most hacking incidents we read about involve criminal activity and easily understood motives – money. Businesses understand this too and are diligent to prevent and minimize this. There are means (at times) to legally redress criminal breaches, minimize and recoup losses – but what of this incident? As large and savvy as Google appears as a business they seem to be on their own against an even larger and capable foreign government and the vast resources it can bring to bear in the electronic arena. A frightening position indeed. Who does Google turn to and for what result? Is this the opening shot of ever increasing and blatant ideological (based on national interests) ‘hacktivism’ by governments as they take action not against governments, but the business and economic assets of countries with differing views?
Do you accept the definition of cyber war presented here? How would you define and what would you call the recent exchange between China and Google? Cyber war to me seems a little extreme and hacktivism a little light.
Yahoo and others too?
Law firm a victim
US Cyber Command
The holidays are over, time to focus on the new year ahead. For some the holidays provide a little more time – as others are busy preparing for the holidays – to research, review and ‘catch up’ on security news and trends from around the industry.
I have always been an advocate for security awareness in the small to medium business (SMB) space. Working in this field I have come to understand the balance between equipment and resources cost and the margins which SMB’s operate within to remain viable. Calls for increasing security can appear to negatively impact this balance. Unfortunately the SMB space is becoming an increasingly popular target for internet criminals as witnessed by these two recent articles.
Although the targets here were school districts one can easily see the correlation to the SMB space when thinking of resources available and operational processes within an organization. How long would it take for an SMB to notice that the transfer or payment of funds was not proper and then correct it? How much can they afford not to recover? As noted in one article the red flag was raised by the bank and not the customer! One wonders how many SMB’s would receive the same amount of diligence from their banking institutions.
So how does this tie in with VoIP security? Even in these tight economic times unified communications has continued to increase in deployments due in part to operational improvements and cost reduction promises. Growth in UC deployment means increased deployments of SIP trunking and SIP trunking usually means port 5060 is open in your firewall and network. Now we see that this open port can possibly be used as a probe point to other servers and services within the network through the firewall. Its time for SMB’s to think of more than just a firewall and anti-virus (as most SMB’s do) as protection enough from threats.
We can understand the criminal intent to go for the ‘big score’ (against the big institutions) but these attacks should remind all to never underestimate the lure of easy cash wherever it may be or whatever the amount – never think your business is ‘not large enough’ to be a target. It’s not the size of the prize but the ease of exploitation that makes you a target.
Growth of SIP trunking:
Verizon recently released its data breach report for 2009. I was interested in reading this as I still have the 2008 report. What better way to educate yourself on trends, good or bad, then comparing historical data when someone else is taking the time to do the work for you? Quickly comparing the two reports I was surprised to find very little appears to have changed. I was hoping to see improvements in increased awareness, improved processes mitigating attacks and possible new attack vectors due to this vigilance, but unfortunately this was not the case. The most telling was the section regarding attack difficulty. In 2008 approximately 55% of attacks required no skill or that of a ‘script kiddie’. In 2009 this total number decreased to 52% but surprisingly there was an increase in the ‘no skill’ needed – from 3% to 10%. Based on this report it appears that security professionals are not getting the message across regarding the basics of securing systems. Now I understand that this is one report from one vendor but Verizon is a known name as a provider. You have to assume they respond to and investigate claims by customers with their service offerings and the report should carry some weight regarding security threats and trends. One wonders if this report opens a window to the current state of VoIP security. Even during difficult economic times it appears VoIP deployments are maintaining a good pace. The expense to deploy VoIP when measured over the operating expense ROI (using the existing ip network for interoffice calls, SIP Trunking, unified communications to streamline business processes) is still attractive. Regarding a VoIP security focus are we in the industry doing enough to emphasizing the need to secure VoIP? What can we do to improve getting the message across?