TRIAL Vipre Endpoint Security

What do ASD Essential Eight changes mean for your organisation’s security

 

By Alex Duffy, Security Solutions Architect, emt Distribution 

The recent (25/2/19) and unexpected update to the Australian Signals Directorate’s Essential Eight Maturity Model serves to keep the ASD’s guidelines relevant going forward and address the latest weak points in IT security. What stays the same though is the ASD’s guidance on practical updates on how to stay ahead.

 

While these guidelines are specifically relevant to federal government organisations’ critical infrastructure they are now being pushed indirectly to contractors or businesses who work with the federal government. But even though these guidelines may not be mandatory for private businesses, they are best practice. If they are good enough to safeguard our political, defence and economic interests as a nation, they should be appropriate to safeguard our businesses from the majority of possible cyber security attacks and incidents.

 

This recent update sees fewer restrictions around patching but a higher level of control on Application Whitelisting which has now been extended to all workstations for levels 1 and 2 of the maturity models. Multi Factor Authentication no longer permits the use of SMS, emails or voicemails for level 1 maturity and specifically states a requirement for passwords to be longer than six characters at all levels.

 

But what does this actually mean for today’s IT professionals?

 

These changes reflect the changing priorities required to address today’s threat landscape. With the loosening of controls around patching, the ASD acknowledges the balancing act that security personnel must perform in certain environments. There is definite acknowledgement of the dilemma faced where patching may break functionality vs maintaining a secure environment and strict adherence. A reduction in the burden on already overworked IT admins meeting requirements while allowing better automation is removing overhead while not reducing security.

 

The higher importance placed on Application Whitelisting definitely reflects what we see in the marketplace. With Application Whitelisting now available as a mature solution it is reasonable to expect organisations to use it across their entire environment. Increased visibility alone of endpoint applications makes life easier for security, helpdesk and management alike stopping more endpoint threats before they reach any part of the network.

 

Combined focus on patch automation and increased scope of Application Whitelisting we also see as acknowledgement of a more distributed workforce need for security and higher difficulty in controlling remote endpoints.

 

The more specific wording for Multi Factor Authentication also recognises how threat actors are now working around basic MFA and endeavours to close those weak spots.

 

There are now only three maturity levels instead of the original five: Partly (level 1), Mostly (level 2) and Fully (level 3) aligned. Level 0 is no longer listed as it doesn’t meet even the most minimal criteria and level 4 is only required on an ad hoc basis depending on advice from the ASD. These changes assume that organisations will now at least begin to adhere to these standards to a degree and give a clear path to full alignment at level 3.

 

The biggest takeaway from this update appears to be that it is no longer reasonable for a business entity to not address the Essential Eight, especially with the removal of level 0. If a business has not yet met the criteria for level 1 then its current security measures are faulty and need immediate remediation.

We welcome this specific update because it reflects what our customers have been demanding already. emt’s focus on security solutions addresses the Essential Eight and beyond to ensure our customers’ networks are ahead of requirements using the latest technologies. We already have solutions that address the Top 4 – Airlock Digital, Flexera, Stealthbits, and Thycotic.

 

Read more about our solutions for Top 4 mitigations at https://www.emtdist.com/solutions/australian-signals-directorate-top-4-mitigations/

 

 

What’s Wrong with New Vulnerability Information?

When it comes to application vulnerabilities, information is everywhere. You can scan social media for the latest discoveries, keep up with what the research community is doing, or depend on vendors to keep you in the loop.

All this information lets you take charge and, once you hear about a new vulnerability, it can be tempting to rush into action. After all, the faster you can resolve the vulnerability, the lower the likelihood of it being exploited.

But slow down. Take stock. Because the most up-to-date information on vulnerabilities isn’t always as useful as it seems.

When now is too soon

The moment somebody uncovers an application vulnerability, they’re keen to share their findings widely. But in their eagerness to share, the slippery slope of misinformation begins.
The problem is that the initial reports of a vulnerability could:

  • Refer to pieces of code that are never called
  • Refer to bugs and errors that don’t create risk – they’re not vulnerabilities in the true sense
  • Depend on the existence of another vulnerability
  • Not apply to all versions, or all instances, or all combinations of software in their varied environments

But the security community doesn’t wait. It’s been taught that reaction speed is everything. So vulnerabilities are reported, then they’re repeated. One inaccuracy – one incorrect detail – is shared endlessly in varied articles and reports.

And you make your decisions based on this information.

The cost of inaccurate or incomplete information

Inaccurate reports fill your workload with false positives to chase. You begin spending your time on things that aren’t relevant to you, or don’t apply to your environment.

Mitigating your exposure could mean testing and patching. Taking nodes off line. Changing several applications in line with the one that’s supposedly vulnerable. It’s widespread disruption, and it comes at a huge cost.

And all the time you’re prioritising those potential risks, you’re ignoring the ones that really matter.

VENOM – critical risk or just another vulnerability?

In May 2015, CrowdStrike discovered VENOM (CVE-2015-3456) – a vulnerability in the virtual floppy drive code used in common virtualisation platforms.

This vulnerability affected a huge number of platforms and, as a result, became big news across the IT security sector. Based on news coverage, social media, and the overall reaction of the community, there was a sense that almost everything needed to be patched – fast.

However, more research made things seem less severe.

Secunia’s Threat Research Team conducted extensive analysis on the vulnerability. After investigation, it became clear that an attacker would need to be on a console or physically at a server to exploit the vulnerability.

The vulnerability was serious but, making things more nuanced, the actual risk posed was comparatively low. And that’s why detailed analysis is so important when you’re about to make expensive decisions.

Focusing your attention on legitimate, significant threats

Informational reports can raise the alarm. But it’s only further investigation that lets you make the right decisions about your response.

Secunia’s analysts don’t just repeat reports. They don’t rush into responding before careful consideration.

The team only releases advisories after vulnerabilities are verified. They assign every vulnerability a clear criticality rating, which can be used to prioritise your patching. And they present every advisory in the same clear and consistent format, that’s easy to understand and full of practical insight.

So that’s why with Secunia VIM you get all the information you need – not just to act fast, but to take the action that’s most appropriate.

Get Verified Vulnerability Intelligence with Secunia VIM

How can you boost the capabilities of SCCM?

Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) is great for patching. It’s the most effective way for you to manage devices across your network, enforce your policies, and apply updates in a swift, automated fashion.

So it’s only natural to think that, with Microsoft SCCM up and running, you’re covered against application vulnerabilities.

But that’s an assumption that leaves your organisation exposed.

77% of vulnerabilities in the 50 most popular applications on private PCs affect third-party applications

According to the Secunia Vulnerability Review 2015, 15,435 vulnerabilities were discovered in 2014. But these weren’t all in Microsoft products – they were spread across 3,870 products from 500 different vendors.

In reality, 77% of the vulnerabilities uncovered in the 50 most popular applications on private PCs in 2014 affected non-Microsoft applications. So patching first party software with SCCM only solves part of the problem.

Of course, you’ve already spent time and money implementing SCCM. It’s a familiar tool that you use regularly, but it took time to learn its nuances and start using it efficiently.

Fortunately, you can leverage this existing investment and expertise to secure third-party applications right alongside Microsoft ones.

Using SCCM to find third-party applications

One of the hardest – and most time-consuming – parts of effective vulnerability management is achieving full visibility. Until you know the third-party applications that are used across your entire infrastructure, you can’t hope to check for vulnerabilities and patch them where appropriate.

SCCM includes a robust software inventory feature that can be used to scan for third-party applications. And when this is paired with an SCCM-integrated patch management platform, the results can form the foundation of your entire vulnerability work flow.

Secunia CSI takes data from SCCM’s software inventory and assesses the security patch status of more than 20,000 programs, reconciling SCCM’s knowledge of your network with Secunia’s insight into third-party software, vulnerabilities, and patches.

Bring third-party into Patch Tuesday

While Microsoft attempt to rebrand it as ‘Update Tuesday’, Patch Tuesday is a long-standing part of the IT administrator’s routine. It’s when Microsoft release new patches – or updates – for its software, fixing known security vulnerabilities.

Thanks to its SCCM and Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) integration, Secunia CSI can make third-party patching a seamless part of this established routine.

So, using a familiar interface that doesn’t slow you down, you can:

  • Take stock of the applications across your network
  • Package patches for distribution
  • Deploy patches to every instance of an application

All in record time – and in a single downtime window.

An integrated platform for third-party patching and vulnerability scanning saves time, energy, and – as a direct result – money. So while SCCM doesn’t cover all bases out of the box, you can leverage your existing investment to keep your network defended against the entire spectrum of vulnerabilities.

Learn more about Secunia CSI here.

Critical Vulnerabilities You Haven’t Read About

The issue used to be understanding that applications could be vulnerable. Today, you know that attackers can exploit your software to gain wider system access.

That’s largely in part to headline incidents where major vulnerabilities were discovered in common applications. From VENOM to Code Red to Heartbleed, more and more vulnerabilities are picked up by specialist media. Some of the biggest even manage to hit mainstream press.

But while knowing that vulnerabilities pose a huge danger is a good start, it’s actually not that useful. It just leads to a bigger question – what on earth do I do now?

When vulnerabilities hit the big time

Forget celebrities and footballers – the mainstream press is increasingly concerned with our network security. After all, we’re in a world where everything is connected. From phones to thermostats to fridges, the Internet of Things means everything can be networked.

And in a digital age, digital crime is just as important as any other form.

Take ShellShock. In 2014, open source software developer Stephane Chazelas discovered a bug in the Unix Bash shell that could be exploited to run arbitrary code. As a result, people could execute malicious commands on any device where Bash is used – everything from Linux web servers to Apple laptops and smartphones.

Having gone unnoticed in Bash since 1993, this was big news. So when Chazeles disclosed the bug he had uncovered, it was detailed everywhere from specialist IT security websites to The Huffington Post and The Guardian.

With even a cursory eye on the latest news, you couldn’t help but know about ShellShock. So it was easy to get to work, investigating where Bash was present across your network and applying the relevant patches.

But, widely reported, ShellShock was the exception to the rule.

Meet CVE-2015-0332

You’re probably familiar with ShellShock. You can’t have missed Heartbleed. But without celebrity status, CVE-2015-0332 hasn’t hit the headlines.

SA62621 Adobe Flash Player /AIR Multiple Vulnerabilities

SA62621 Adobe Flash Player /AIR Multiple Vulnerabilities

Despite a less catchy name, this vulnerability is serious. It affects Adobe Flash Player and Adobe Air – popular, commonplace applications that most of us are running.

According to Secunia’s detailed vulnerability advisory, the vulnerability relates to a series of exploits that could be used to corrupt memory, and then used to run arbitrary code.

Like ShellShock before it, CVE-2015-0332 represents a huge risk. Thankfully, it’s easily fixed with an update to the latest Adobe Flash Player and Adobe Air versions.

But CVE-2015-0332 hasn’t been reported. The Guardian hasn’t given it a glance. The Huffington Post hasn’t posted.

So how can you expect to know about the latest vulnerabilities as soon as they happen, let alone resolve them quickly?

How do you check for critical vulnerabilities?

The security community has a collaborative approach to disclosing and logging all vulnerabilities as they’re discovered. Meanwhile, most reputable software vendors aim to keep customers informed.

So, to keep up with the latest vulnerabilities, you could:

  • Use an open source vulnerability database like OSVDB – manually checking every application you use for vulnerabilities. But how often? Every hour? Every day? Every week?
  • Sign up for updates from every third-party software vendor you use – and trust that they’ll keep you updated about vulnerabilities as soon as they happen
  • The problem is that this doesn’t leave a lot of time for everything else you need to do. Staying on top of application vulnerabilities requires a significant investment of time.

And even if you can spare the time, this approach depends on a 100% accurate view of all the third-party software that’s installed across your entire network.

The advantage of specialist vulnerability intelligence

It’s your job to eliminate application vulnerabilities through diligent patching. But it’s also your job to do lots of other things.

Secunia’s threat research team is dedicated to assessing reported vulnerabilities, verifying the nature of the exploit, assigning a clear criticality rating, and publishing all this information to the IT community. They keep on top of the latest threats so you don’t have to.

And with Secunia CSI, you get the advantage of Secunia’s expert vulnerability intelligence along with an accurate software inventory and packaging and deployment through Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) and Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) integration.

So you always know which third-party applications you’re running. And you always know about the latest vulnerabilities – even if you don’t recognise their names.

 

emt Distribution is the regional distributor for Secunia. Secunia is recognized industry-wide as a significant global player, within the IT security ecosystem, in the niche of Software Vulnerability Management. Our award-winning portfolio equips corporate and private customers worldwide with Vulnerability Intelligence, Vulnerability Assessment, and automated Security Patch Management tools to manage and control software vulnerabilities across networks and endpoints.