FedRAMP Released “Real Soon Now”, Lolcats Happy

Posted September 30th, 2010 by

I’ve been waiting all of September for FedRAMP to be released and hoping they get over the last-minute hurdles to put something out into view. Our lolcats will feel much more secure now with a squishy buddy.

fedramp iz heer



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Google Advanced Operators and Government Website Leakage

Posted August 24th, 2010 by

Ah yes, the magic of Google hacking and advanced operators.  All the “infosec cool kids” have been having a blast this week using a combination of filetype and site operators to look for classification markings in documents. I figure that with the WikiLeaks brouhaha lately, it might be a good idea to write a “howto” for government organizations to check for web leaks.

Now for the search string:, “enter document marking here” site:agency.gov filetype:rtf | filetype:ppt | filetype:pptx | filetype:csv | filetype:xls | filetype:xlsx | filetype:docx | filetype:doc | filetype:pdf looks for typical document formats on the agency.gov website looking for a specific caveat.  You could easily put in a key phrase used for marking sensitive documents in your agency.  Obviously there will be results from published organizational policy describing how to mark documents, but there will also be other things that should be looked at.

Typical document markings, all you have to do is pick out key phrases from your agency policy that have the verbatim disclaimer to put on docs:

  • “This document contains sensitive security information”
  • “Disclosure is prohibited”
  • “This document contains confidential information”
  • “Not for release”
  • “No part of this document may be released”
  • “Unauthorized release may result in civil penalty or other action”
  • Any one of a thousand other key words listed on Wikipedia

Other ideas:

  • Use the “site:gov” operator to look for documents government-wide.
  • Drop the “site” operator altogether and look for agency information that has been published on the web by third parties.
  • Chain the markings together with an “or” for one long search string: “not for release” | “no part of this document may be released” site:gov filetype:rtf | filetype:ppt | filetype:pptx | filetype:csv | filetype:xls | filetype:xlsx | filetype:docx | filetype:doc | filetype:pdf

If you’re not doing this already, I recommend setting up a weekly/daily search looking for documents that have been indexed and follow up on them as an incident.



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Metricon 5 Wrapup

Posted August 13th, 2010 by

Metricon 5 was this week, it was a blast you should have been there.

One of the things the program committee worked on was more of a practitioner focus.  I think the whole event was a good mix between theory and application and the overall blend was really, really good. Talking to the speakers before the event was much awesome as I could give them feedback on their talk proposal and then see how that conversation led to an awe-inspiring presentation.

I brought a couple security manager folks I know along with me and their opinion was that the event was way awesome. If you’re one of my blog readers and didn’t hunt me down and say hi, then whatcha waitin’ for, drop me an email and we’ll chat.

You can go check out the slides and papers at the Security Metrics site.

My slides are below.  I’m not sure if I was maybe a bit too far “out there” (I do that from time to time) but what I’m really looking for is a scorecard so that we can consciously build regulation and compliance frameworks instead of the way we’ve been doing it. This would help tremendously with public policy, industry self-regulation, and anybody who is trying to build their own framework.



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Metricon is Next Week

Posted August 4th, 2010 by

…and I’m excited.  I’ll be talking on “Meta-Metrics: Building a Scorecard for the Evaluation of Security Management and Control Frameworks” which is an Idea I’ve been mulling over on how to “build a better rat race” or at least to consciously build security management frameworks in a coherent manner. Obviously I’ll put up slides afterwords.

Agenda is here, I think there is still time to sign up and come as long as you’re not going to be a wallflower.  =)



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Senate Homeland Security Hearings and the Lieberman-Carper-Collins Bill

Posted June 16th, 2010 by

Fun things happened yesterday.  In case you hid under a rock, the Intertubes were rocking yesterday with the thudding of fingera on keyboard as I live-tweeted the Senate Homeland Committee’s hearing on “Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset: Comprehensive Legislation for the 21st Century”.  And oh yeah, there’s a revised version of S.3474 that includes some of the concepts in S.773.  Short version is that the cybersecurity bills are going through the sausage factory known as Capitol Hill and the results are starting to look plausible.

You can go watch the video and read the written testimonies here.  This is mandatory if you’re working with FISMA, critical infrastructure, or large-scale incident response.  I do have to warn you, there are some antics afoot:

  • Senator Collins goes all FUD on us.
  • Senator McCain grills Phil Reitinger if DHS can actually execute a cybersecurity mission.
  • Alan Paller gets all animated and opens up boxes of paperwork.  I am not amused.


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How to Not Let FISMA Become a Paperwork Exercise

Posted June 7th, 2010 by

OK, since everybody seems to think that FISMA is some evil thing that needs reform, this is the version of events on “Planet Rybolov”:

Goals to surviving FISMA, based on all the criticisms I’ve read:

  • Reduce paperwork requirements. Yes, some is needed.  Most is not.
  • Reduce cost. There is much repetition in what we’re doing now, it borders on fraud, waste, and abuse.
  • Increase technical effectiveness. IE, get from the procedural and managerial tasks and get down into the technical parts of security.

“Uphold our Values-Based Compliance Culture photo by kafka4prez.

So now, how do you keep from letting FISMA cripple you or turn into death-by-compliance:

  • Prioritize. 25% of your controls need to not fail 100% of the time.  These are the ones that you test in-depth and more frequently.  Honestly, how often does your risk assessment policy get updated v/s your patch management?  Believe it or not, this is in SP 800-53R3 if you interpret it in the correct context.  More importantly, do not let your auditors dictate your priorities.
  • Use common controls and shared infrastructure. Explicitly tell your system owners and ISSOs what you are providing as the agency CISO and/or the GSS that they are riding on.  As much as I hate meetings, if you own a General Support System (GSS), infrastructure (LAN/WAN, AD Forest, etc), or common controls (agency-wide policy, budget, Security Operations Center, etc), you have a fiduciary, legal, and moral obligation to get together with your constituency (the people who rely on the security you provide) and explain what it is you provide and allow them to tell you what additional support they need.
  • Share Assessment Results. I’m talking about results from service providers with other agencies and systems.  We’re overtesting on the high-level stuff that doesn’t change and not on the detailed stuff that does change.  This is the nature of security assessments in that you start at the top and work your way down into the details, only most assessments don’t get down into the details because they’re busy reworking the top-level stuff over and over again.  Many years ago as a contractor managing infrastructure that multiple agencies used, it was unbelievably hard to get one agency to allow me to share security documents and assessment results with other agencies.  Shared assessment results mean that you can cut through the repetitious nature of what you’re doing and progressively get deeper into the technical, frequently-changing security aspects.
  • Simplify the Paperwork. Yes, you still need to document what you’re doing, but the days of free-text prose and being graded on grammar and punctuation need to be over.  Do the controls section of System Security Plans as a Requirement Traceability Matrix.  More important than that, you need to go by-control by-component.  If you are hiring contractors and their job is to do copypasta directly from NIST documents and change the pronouns and tenses, you’re doing it wrong.  Don’t stand for that in your security policy or anything else that you do.
  • Automate Wherever Possible. Note that the controls that change frequently and that need to not fail usually fit into this group.  It’s one of those “Things that make Rybolov go ‘Hmmmm'”.  Technology and automation provide both the problem and the solution.  Also see my first point up above.
  • Fire 50% of Your Security Staff. Yes, I’m serious.  Those people you didn’t need anyway, primarily because they’re violating all the points I’ve made so far.  More importantly, 25 clueless people can mess things up faster than 5 clueful people can fix them, and that’s a problem for me.  Note that this does not apply to @csoandy, his headcount is A-OK.

The incredible thing to me is that this stuff is already there.  NIST writes “hooks” into their Special Publications to allow the smart people the room to do all these things.

And now the part where I hop up on my soapbox:  reforming FISMA by new legislation will not make any achievements above and beyond what we have today (with the exception of creating a CISO-esque position for the Exective Branch) because of the nature of audit and compliance.  In a public policy sense, the more items you have in legislation, the more the audit burden increases and the amount of repetition increases, and the amount of nonsense controls (ie, AntiVirus for Linux servers) increases.  Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.



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