At FOXMOLE, we have met with many large organisations and whilst they are all different in terms of their particular security challenges, there have been a number of commonalities observed:
Lack of mitigations
One example of this is the absence of a patch process, which is surprisingly frequent. Once a vulnerability with an internal or external application has been identified, how is a patch issued, and how quickly is the fix implemented? The issue is that the processes are not reoccurring as frequently as they should, leaving a window of opportunity for an attacker to compromise the system with known vulnerabilities. FOXMOLE has also observed that the patch process does not address all layers, for example only the server patches are applied, but not the service-layer, the used frameworks or the applications are part of it.
Too often we see either a piecemeal approach that only addresses part of the network, or a reinvention of the wheel each time – as if a patch has never occurred before. With attacks more than likely to succeed at some point (however small), it is time to factor in how these would be remediated so minimize the chance of reoccurrence.
Insider threat often underestimated
In modern company culture that often stress (rightly) collaboration, assumption of best intent and HR/privacy guideline adherence, it can be hard to stress the need to factor in actions by a disgruntled employee. A Forrester Research report, “Understand the State of Data Security and Privacy,” showed that 25% of survey respondents the most common breach occurred in the past year at their company derived from abuse by a malicious insider. If that insider has privileged account access, the risk is particularly significant.
One failure FOXMOLE sees in this respect is a focus on policies and the main solution. Companies tend to protect against external threats; they patch every external server-system (available from the internet) and do not do that for internal systems (same applies to hardening…). In the end, the important systems (which often are not available from the internet such as SAP, HR-Systems, Customer Analytics,…) are in a weak security state (default passwords on the databases, old patch levels…). This means that anyone with access to the local network (an insider, subcontractor) has a very soft target which enables them to steal the data. In addition, if employees can bring their own devices (subcontractors with own laptops) they normaly have administrative rights with them and can bring their own attack tools and have all the time to exploit systems and extricate data – since no corporate compliance tool will typically check these BYOD devices.
Poor password practices
This seems like an old “classic”, but these present issues in multiple ways. A recent study in Luxembourg revealed that over 40% of respondents would share their passwords in return for chocolate. The significance of handing over a password still seems not resonate. Sharing password for admin accounts may be convenient and time-saving but presents major risks. Another challenge is laziness in creating passwords themselves, with “123456” or “welcome” remaining popular and of course easily hackable choices. Whilst it is hard to remember a wealth of complex passwords in work and personal life, using “password” for example, is not the smartest idea.
Linked to this is the fact that few companies seem to enforce strong passwords, or do not store the passwords in a secure manner (bcypt, scrypt with salts). It is essential to combine strong password policies with frequent password change requirements that will decrease the selected passwords to avoid predictability! Recent research showed that 63% of confirmed data breaches involved weak, default or stolen passwords.
General awareness of security
This may seem like a catch-all topic, but it’s really just a simple mindset issue. It’s about taking care of the basics such as locking the desktop, vetting sub-contractors, challenging non-familiar faces, not allowing visitors to walk around the building unescorted and not leaving valuables in the office. One service FOXMOLE offers is the “evil cleaner”; which involves consultants spending five minutes in an employee’s office to see how much could be taken by regular office presence with bad intentions.
Adherence to manual approaches
In a app-driven world, it is still a shock to witness the lack of automating of security and the modeling of this all into all processes. Addressing human weaknesses such as errors, laziness, absence of a repeated and consistent approach through automation is essential as the type, volume and complexity of security threats increase. FOXMOLE has observed on multiple occasions an absence of a defined, transparent and robust security framework.
There are no doubt many other common failings – look out for some more observations in a future blog!