Friday 23 January 2015

The Ongoing Security Awareness Problem:

Quite often I am sent reports, InfoGraphics and articles to post on this blog, many are too sales orientated or too off topic to consider, but the odd one is well worth sharing. So the following post and InfoGraphic has been provided by the UAB Collat School of Business, focusing on, in my view, the most riskiest and yet most neglected areas of Information Security, staff information security awareness. This is a little US focused, but the findings and advice mirrors what's seen within UK businesses. I've highlighted some very alarming statistics which shows the management 'god complex' attitude towards information security, and the business data leakage to the cloud.

Employees and General Information Security
Over 80%t of companies say that their biggest security threat is end user carelessness. 75% of companies also believe that employee negligence is their greatest security threat. 3% of all United States full-time employees admitted to using the same collection of passwords for their online needs. A third of this percentage even admitted to using less than five different passwords to access anywhere between twenty-five to fifty websites, some of which were business and professional locations. Over 33% percent of US companies do not have a security plan for internal security risks, which means personal responsibility is the largest deterrent in a vast majority of these incidents.

Top Mistakes
Many mistakes committed by employees are entirely avoidable. Things such as sharing passwords with others and leaving their computers unattended outside the workplace all contribute to security problems. Employees are strongly encouraged to use different passwords for different websites, and to change them frequently. Additionally, it is important to delete data when it is no longer being used on the computer, as well as avoid connecting personal devices to company networks and databases.

Largest Threats to Information Security
Senior managers are as much a culprit of problematic behaviour as their employees. Over 58% of senior managers have accidentally sent crucial and private company information to the wrong people. 51% percent of all senior managers have also taken private files from the company with them after they left the job. Business owners may end up compromising their own company’s security as well. Over 87% of all business owners regularly upload files from work to a personal cloud or storage network. 63% of business owners also use the same passwords to log into different systems in both business and personal affairs.

Tips on Promoting Security
There are many solutions that can be taken to help keep the workplace safe. One of the first of these is to implement a strict, written set of security guidelines. Enforcing physical restrictions to personal data is also recommended. Destroying older data in a more timely fashion can also help resolve many security risks. Generally raising security awareness in the workplace by training and educating employees in proper and improper behaviour can be a good idea. All business owners and leaders are strongly encouraged to become more vocal about security in the workplace.

Employees and Specialised Training
Proper information and security training on a professional level can also help reduce the frequency and severity of security breaches. Over 37% of employees had received mobile security training, while over 40% of employees had received information sharing training. Increasing this number can help spread security awareness in the workplace on a much more efficient level, and businesses are encouraged to introduce some type of professional training program.

Current Bring Your Own Device Practices
Fortunately, while there is room for improvement in many companies, management professionals are also looking into ways to help improve Bring Your Own Device standards and practices. Over 40% of companies currently consider mobile device insecurities to be a large security concern. 15% of employees believe that they have minimal, or practically no, responsibility to safeguard the personal data stored on their devices. This type of thinking is what encourages security risks to occur in the first place. As a result, there is going to be an expected increase in security strategies of upwards of 64% for employees concerning the use of their personal devices over the next twelve months.

Information Security Recommendations
Numerous security recommendations are already being considered by many companies and many businesses are planning on introducing more data leakage protection to help control what data mobile employees will be able to send through Bring Your Own Device practices. This can help prevent the transfer of regulated data through unsecured apps. These plans can also help prevent employees from accessing data on unsecured devices, or transferring unsecured data on their own devices. Future demands will also require owned devices to have a password necessary in order to access the stored data. Many training programs are also going to be planned as well, which will inform employees of the necessity of adhering to, and enforcing, data security regulations.

Tuesday 6 January 2015

2015 & UK websites still fail miserably to protect Customer Data

The New Year was ushered in with news that both and the UK Police National Property Register websites, had vulnerabilities that placed millions of UK citizen’s personal information at risk of data theft.

Moonpig had 3 million customer records exposed by a basic web application vulnerability. By changing the customer ID number on an unauthenticated API request (the website's Application Programmable Interface). An attacker could return different website users personal data, which included their name, address, birth date and email address. By writing a simple script an attacker could (might) have taken a copy of millions of customer records. Worst still this serious vulnerability was reported to Moonpig some 18 months ago.

It only takes a few minutes on the Moonpig website to see they are a million miles away from adhering to industry best practice web (application) site security, as advocated by the likes of OWASP. It appears that the Moonpig website has never been properly Penetration Tested; if it has, then either the pen testers have done a terrible job, or the Moonpig staff have completely ignored fixing vulnerabilities discovered by the test.

The first thing I noticed when I set up a Moonpig account a couple of years back, is that I was provided with a default 8 digit password. That’s digits as in just numbers, even primary school children know only using numbers is a terrible idea when setting a password, trust me as I have educated quite a few school kids on password security in my time. Poor default passwords are a tell-tale sign of overall poor website security. has still not been Secured
The next thing I observed (which is still present as I write this), is the website does not timeout user sessions in an adequate timescale. When you close down the website on your web browser, you may believe you have logged out of the website, but give it 20 minutes or so, open on your web browser, then you, or if using a shared computer possibly someone else, still has a user logged in access to the Moonpig website (authenticated).  It is 101 web application security to set a website session idle timeout, depending on risk, to between 5 and 15 minutes. This logs an authenticated website user out of the website when a user is not actively using it. User session timeouts times play an important role in protecting user account against session hijacking and man-in-the-middle attacks, and is important enough vulnerability to be listed 3rd on the OWASP Top Ten.

If you have an account with Moonpig, you are probably thinking it would be wise to delete your account to ensure your personal information is kept safe. The problem is that you can’t delete your account via the Moonpig website, the best you can do is to remove all names and addresses of your loved ones and friends from your Moonpig address book. If you want your Moonpig account removed, which you fully entitled over UK law, I suggest you phone Moonpig on 0345 4500 100.

I expect the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), an independent body responsible for protecting UK citizen personal data, will take a dim view of the Moonpig's website, and take enforcement action against the business for the apparent flagrant disregard in protecting their customer's personal information.

Immobilise WebApp flaw was both Serious and Embarrassing
The serious vulnerability in the UK Police National Property Register website, Immobilise, is highly embarrassing to say the least. The Immobilise website allows members of the British public to list valuables kept within their homes. A similar web application vulnerability to that of the Moonpig website was found, by changing the ID number in the website URL, an attacker could gain access to different people’s records. This is possible due to a lack of a user authentication check by the website code. The Immobilise website data includes a name and address along with a list of valuables with an estimated value of each item, this just happens to be the perfect information for any would be burglar, hence the high embarrassment. Over 4 million records were placed at risk by this basic web application coding vulnerability.  Recipero, the provider of the Immobilise website, acted quickly to resolve the vulnerability, however the presence of this kind of vulnerability suggests the website was not properly penetration tested, or it was and either a poor testing job was done, or the vulnerability was previously detected but not fixed. 

The Moral of these Website Vulnerabilities
The moral of both these news stories, if your business has a website which holds personal or confidential information, ensure you have the website penetration tested by a reputable penetration testing company before the website goes live on the Internet. Then ensure the website is penetration tested on an at least annual basis there after, and after any significant change made to the website code. It should go without saying that any vulnerabilities found by pen testing are resolved. A quality penetration tester will be happy to explain the vulnerabilities found, and to advise developers on how to fix them. Make sure any Critical, High and Medium level vulnerabilities detected are not only resolved, but are re-tested before going live with the website.

I also recommend to perform an automated vulnerability scan of all websites. Subject to the risk, conduct automated vulnerability scans either daily, weekly or at the very most monthly, quarterly is not frequent enough in my view. The likes of Outpost24 Outscan provide quality external automated website vulnerability scans, which detects many web application vulnerabilities, helping keeping a step ahead of the bad guys that seek to exploit website vulnerabilities for personal gain.