Friday, March 24, 2017

I thought everyone knew this by now

But apparently not. I just saw some “Security Awareness Training” that gave the bad old advice of “look for the padlock” in your web browser. Here’s my answer to that:

image

In a world where most of us face a constant threat from phishing we need to better educate folks, and we need to make it easier to be secure. And since the latter isn’t that easy, we need to teach better. Also, “don’t click stuff” really defeats the point of the web, so while I understand the sentiment, it is not practical advice.

The padlock can mean a variety of things, but what it really signifies is that your web traffic is encrypted. It does not mean that all of the traffic on the page is encrypted, or that it is encrypted well. It also doesn’t assure you that the traffic isn’t being decrypted, inspected, and re-encrypted. Or maybe it isn’t encrypted at all and someone just used a padlock as a favicon on the website (this varies somewhat by web browser). The padlock doesn’t prove the identity of the site owner unless it is an EV(extended validation) certificate, and even then the validation is imperfect. When we just say “look for the padlock” we are giving people bad information and a false sense of security. It makes us less secure, so we need to kill this message. Even though it isn’t entirely true if we are going to oversimplify this I think we’re better off telling folks that the padlock doesn’t mean a damn thing anymore, if it ever did.

While we’re on the subject of browsers, you know the average computer user is just trying to do something, so the warnings they see are mentally translated to “just keep clicking until we let you go where you want”. I did find a few things which made me think of typical browser warnings:

BrowserWarning

This means it’s OK to trespass up to this point, but no further? Is that like this website is unsafe? No, because if you look around this sign you can see the end of the pier is missing, if you click past the browser warning you will not fall into the ocean.

And this, you know what it means, but what does it say?

image

That’s right, it says don’t P on the grass. Just because you know what something means does not mean you can assume others do, we need to do a better job of explaining things. Reminding folks of the invention of indoor plumbing when what you want is to keep cars off the grass, sounds like a browser warning to me.

Jack

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Where’s Jack?

As I mentioned in a post earlier this year I am traveling extensively this year, connecting and reconnecting with a lot of people. And thanks to a lot of wonderful people inside and out of the hacker and security communities I am doing very well after a rough few months. So, it’s time to share my plans and encourage folks to come and chat with me if our paths cross. I know I have a reputation of being a cranky old bastard, one which is well deserved, but I’m really not a miserable person- truly, seek me out and tell me stories, ask questions, whatever. If I can help you I will, or maybe I’ll point you to someone who can help if I can’t. I meant what I said in my recent post about the loss of Becky Bace and others, they set an example for those of us who knew them and I’m not about to let InfoMom down.

So, here’s my schedule as it looks from here:

Tomorrow, Friday March 24 I’ll be speaking at BSidesOK in Tulsa. Yeah, short notice, but there it is.

I’ll be speaking at the North Florida ISSA meeting in Jacksonville on April 6.

I’ll also be speaking at BSides Boston on April 15th.

BSides Nashville on April 22, I’ll be there, not speaking, so I’ll have more time to chat.

May 2 in Denver I’ll be speaking at the EDUCAUSE annual conference.

Later that week I’ll be attending Thotcon (May 4-5) and probably BurbSecCon (May 6) in Chicago.

Then things calm down a little before spending most of June in Europe, but more on that later.

See you on the road

Jack

Sunday, March 19, 2017

On loss and responsibility

We have lost more great figures in our world of InfoSec, and we are diminished by their loss.

Spaf has written eloquently on the passing of Kevin Ziese, Howard Schmidt, and Becky Bace. I never met Kevin, and I only met Howard a couple of times, but I know of them and their impact on our industry and people in our field.

Becky had become a friend over the past several years, and her loss has hit me hard. Becky has a long and storied history in InfoSec and cybersecurity (and damn, could she tell great stories). Becky was instrumental in nurturing the fledgling fields of network analysis and IDS when she was at NSA, but more importantly than her technical work she was  a great friend and mentor to so many in our field that it is hard to overstate how many people she touched in her life and career. For a glimpse into what Becky was like, check out Avi’s very personal and touching remembrance of meeting Becky.

Once again, we take time to remember lost friends. While natural to mourn their passing we must remember that there are still many in our communities who need the kind of friends and mentors that Kevin, Howard, and Becky were to those of us who knew them. It is our responsibility to them and many others we’ve lost in our young field to remember them, but more importantly to fill those roles of friends and mentors to those who never knew them.

 

Jack