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The China/Google thing, accountants and other miscreants

Real world perspective on the latest from China

Aha! Can’t believe I managed to avoid the unbelievable hype flood that swept across the interwebs in the last month. And to think that the last post (long overdue, I know… had REALLY good reasons for not being able to post anything) was somewhat oracleish in predicting that this would be the focus of this year.

Just to set the stage right – we are at a point where I just saw a USA Today “Money” section front page article on how Google’s engagement with the NSA post the breach will affect the security vendor market, and a few VCs were also quoted to the fact that we will be seeing IPOs this year that will ride this trend.

Overhyped – definitely. Real – just as it’s overhyped. You must be asking then what to do? If the hype is too much, then there must not be so much behind these scary global cyberwar threats! Not exactly – the threat exists, and countries do deal with making sure they have an edge over everyone else (see how I didn’t use adversaries… hint, hint ;-) ), but at the same time this has been happening for years now.

The news here is somewhat lukewarm when compared to the hype. The news is that it is becoming common knowledge that companies tend to miserably fail when keeping their own intellectual and informational assets under wraps. The news is that even the “do no evil” Google(tm) have their own share of problem using old(tm) (or should I say pathetically insecure?) software inside the Googleplex.

But let’s dig a little deeper past the hype – have anyone heard of the fourty-something other “big” companies that were affected? have anyone heard of the thousands of companies that deal with data of sensitive nature (whether they know it or not) that also have a big job ahead of them dodging the flak from their local government trying to make sure the exposure is somewhat lessened? Probably not.

I’ve have the questionable pleasure of assisting some of these entities – which have anywhere between loose and close ties to local and federal government (either providing data at will, or being relied on for compiling national threat level information at varying level of the threat modeling). Without getting into any specific details I can truly say that I was simply disappointed. A lot of good people trying to do good things, but ev

entually (as always) a big fat failure due to some sideline error brings the whole security architecture down. Things as easy as applying service packs, eliminating use of old un-pached software (IE6 – are you still here? I think I to

ld you to get out and never come back again!) and just plain good-ole’ malpractice.

Without sounding too dreary (I’m sure the horrible weekend east-coast weather is doing that to me) we still have our work cut out for us. As long as people (non-security-industry ones) are ignorant regarding the implications of their actions in an all-connected world (nice evasion of “cyberworld”!), holes will be cut open in any modern security design – no matter how well it was thought to be, or how much money was thrown into it. With almost zero-cost, we managed to implement an “idiot-proof” system that would just stop these things from happening for one of the companies…

What can you do? remember how we were taught to plan for the worst – count people in that too. Your people. They may be the smartest guys in accounting, or marketing, or production, but in terms of information assurance they can be your worst enemy (no offense guys, but it’s just like that…).

 

More Stories By Iftach Ian Amit

With more than 10 years of experience in the information security industry, Ian (Iftach) Amit brings a mixture of software development, OS, network and Web security expertise as Managing Partner of the top-tier security consulting and research firm Security & Innovation. Prior to Security & Innovation, Ian was the Director of Security Research at Aladdin and Finjan, leading their security research while positioning them as leaders in the Web security market. Amit has also held leadership roles as founder and CTO of a security startup in the IDS/IPS arena, developing new techniques for attack interception, and a director at Datavantage, responsible for software development and information security, as well as designing and building a financial datacenter. Prior to Datavantage, he managed the Internet application and UNIX worldwide. Amit holds a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science and Business Administration from the Interdisciplinary Center at Herzlya.

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