Podcast: #DtR Episode on Lines in the Sand on “Security Research”

You really need to hear this podcast where we draw lines in the sand staking out what is – and what is not — security research

The #DtR Gang [Rafal Los (@Wh1t3Rabbit), James Jardine (@JardineSoftware), and Michael Santarcangelo (@Catalyst)] invited me to tag along for another episode of the Down the Security Rabbit Hole podcast.

Also joining us for this episode were Chris John Riley (@ChrisJohnRiley) and Kevin Johnson (@SecureIdeasllc).

You can click here to see a list of the topics we covered in this episode or just jump straight into the podcast.

Let us know what you think by tagging your comments with #DtR on Twitter!

Yes, I will mention this post in tomorrow’s seminar on data breach! “Who’s Gonna Get It?”

This is one of my favorite and my most popular posts ever — and you better believe I will find a way to mention it to this group of CEOs to help them understand why it is important to take seriously the data security threat!

Data Breach – Who’s Gonna Get It? | business cyber risk | law blog.

 

Publix hasn’t had a data breach but is already seeking PR help in case it does — good or bad?

Chaos? Plan Ahead!This is interesting. Publix grocery store chain has made the news because of data breach — not because they have had a data breach (though they probably have and just don’t know it) — but because it has been learned that it is sending out proposals for PR help in the event it does have a data breach. The reaction to this is mixed. Some people think it is good but many are taking a cynical view of this move.

What do I think?

Well, thank you for asking!

I like it. First, one of the most important messages I try to preach these days is the need for companies to take the threat of data breach seriously, to prepare ahead of time, and have a plan in place so that all they have to do is execute that plan in the event a breach occurs. Look, I blogged about this just this past week and a whole bunch of times before.

Does the fact that the attention to Publix’s preparation is being focused on the fact that it is seeking PR help in any way diminish this?

That depends.

One of the key components to any breach response and breach response plan is to involve PR to help the company properly “message” their response to its customers to help minimize the overall disruption to the business. If the business crumbles, nothing else matters — the PR side is a key component to this is crucial.

So, if Publix is screening and assembling its PR team in an overall effort to prepare for a breach, that tells me that it is taking data breach seriously [give it a check] and that it is putting resources behind that concern [give it another check], and putting a plan in place to be prepared to respond to the inevitable data breach [give it another check]. This is good — this is what we are encouraging.

What this also tells me, and that I hope is the case, is that if Publix is devoting energy and resources to this kind of preparation, there is at least a decent chance that it is putting energy and resources into actually hardening its data security systems and improving its overall cyber security as a company. If this is true, then this is great — this is exactly what we are trying to encourage!

Now, if my assumptions are wrong and all that Publix cares about is the PR message and nothing else, well, then that is a much different story. If it is, then I really have to question the wisdom of its leadership because what this shows is that Publix is aware of the threat, recognizes the harm it can cause, is devoting energy and resources to it but in a self-centered and careless way, and is making a conscious decision to not correct it — and when that happens, if it has a breach, it just may be the one to get it!

Check out the article for yourself, here’s a brief quote:

Publix operates 1,082 locations in six states across the South and Southeast, and ranks as one of the 10 largest supermarkets by volume. The company’s request for proposals says it “would like to understand how a PR company could provide assistance preparing for, and during a data breach, e.g. advice and assistance with messages.”That could include a “proactive review” of Publix customer relations and “rapid response scheduling in the event of a confirmed breach. Publix prides ourselves in the relationships we build with our customers and associates and as such will require a company with outstanding communications skills and experience.”

via ‘Proactive’ Publix seeks PR help in event of data breach | TBO.com, The Tampa Tribune and The Tampa Times.

Podcast: DtR NewsCast of Hot Cyber Security Topics

I had the pleasure of joining the DtR Gang for another podcast on Down the Security Rabbit Hole and, as usual with this bunch, it was more fun than anything — but I learned a lot as well. Let me just tell you, these guys are the best around at what they do and they’re really great people on top of that!

This episode had the usual suspects of Rafal Los (@Wh1t3Rabbit), James Jardine (@JardineSoftware), and Michael Santarcangelo (@Catalyst), though James was riding passenger in a car and could only participate through IM. Also joining as a guest along with me was was  Philip Beyer (@pjbeyer).

Go check out the podcast and let us know what you think — use hashtag #DtR on Twitter!

Thank you Raf, James, Michael and Phil — this was a lot of fun!

Podcast: CFAA, Shellshock and Cyber Security Research — What the Heck Do We Want?

Today I had a blast doing a podcast on the CFAA, Shellshock, and cyber security research with Rafal Los (@Wh1t3Rabbit), James Jardine (@JardineSoftware), and Michael Santarcangelo (@Catalyst) — in fact, we had so much fun that I suspect Raf had quite a time trying to edit it!

The starting point for our discussion was a recent article written by security researcher and blogger Robert Graham (@ErrataRob) titled Do shellshock scans violate CFAA?

As I mentioned on the show, when I first saw Robert’s article, I viewed it with skepticism. However, after actually reading it (yeah, I know — makes sense, right?), I found the article to be very well written, sound on the principles and issues of the CFAA — in my view, Robert did a great job of framing some key issues in the debate that definitely needs to happen.

From the article, our discussion expanded to a general discussion of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, its confusion as to application to “security research,” and whether it is even possible for Congress to “fix” the CFAA.

I do not think Congress is able to “fix” the CFAA right now for many reasons. However, I believe we pointed out some additional issues that must be taken into consideration during the public debate in determining what we as a society really value and want on these issues. Until “we the people” can figure that out, I see no way for Congress to “fix” this law which means the Common Law method is what we are left with.

Anyway, this post is just skimming the surface — Raf turned this into a really nice podcast so check it out: Down the Security Rabbithole.

Thank you Raf, James and Michael — this was a lot of fun!

Uncle Sam doesn’t have a clue on data privacy, cyber crime laws, and neither do we!

©2011 Braydon Fuller

©2011 Braydon Fuller

The point of the article that is the source of the quote below is exactly right: there is no consistency, cohesiveness, or harmony with the cyber crime and data privacy laws. I believe there are several reasons but these are the two that are most prominent:

  • The cyber crime and data privacy laws are a patchwork collection of laws that have been enacted based upon reactionary fears over a vast amount of time, each in response to a particular “concern of the day” without taking into account the other laws or the possible evolution of the issues and technology they seek to redress. Imagine trying to paint a painting after blindfolding yourself and then only using “dot by dot” with the tip of the brush to make the painting — no strokes (seriously, try it).
  • We, as a society, do not yet know what we really value.
    • On one hand, we want to protect our own information when it is in the custody of others yet, on the other hand, also disclose much of our own information through public channels yet keep others from using that information for purposes we do not like.
    • On one hand, we want to protect other people’s information yet, on the other hand, we want to freely exercise our perceived rights to free access to information (even when it may legally belong to others).
    • On one hand, we want to have a secure information system that allows for vibrant eCommerce that is protected by laws prohibiting people from “hacking” that information, yet on the other hand, we want to protect the rights of the good “hackers” who do security testing and are necessary to ensure that information system is secure.
    • On one hand, we want to punish those who have our information, try to protect it, yet have others hack them and steal it while, on the other hand, support those who are hacking to steal such information, while, on yet another hand (or foot), freely give our information to others and then punish them for using it in ways we do not like.
    • … and the list could go on … (for more, see Hunter Moore or Aaron Swartz: Do we hate the CFAA? Do we love the CFAA? Do we even have a clue?)

Anyway, here is the article that got me thinking about this at 4:00 in the morning:

Uncle Sam has gotten his wires crossed on internet data privacy. A hacker went to prison for exposing private customer information that AT&T failed to protect from online access. Now U.S. prosecutors are defending their right to do essentially the same thing in the Silk Road drug-website case. Anti-hacking laws are tough to take seriously when even enforcers can’t decide what’s allowed.

via Uncle Sam gets wires crossed on data privacy.

Data Breach Judgment: Will Home Depot Be the One to “Get It”?

Will Home Depot be the one to "get it"?Will Home Depot be the one that’s “gonna get it”?

Based upon the information we are learning, it could be.

Way back in 2011 I wrote Data Breach — Who’s Gonna Get it? and it scared people. For good reason. In that piece I wrote of how one day, in the future, a company would come along that had clear and unequivocal knowledge of the risk posed by data breach and, despite that knowledge, ignored it.

Then, because it knew of the risks, but chose to ignore those risks, there would be no forgiveness when its time for judgment came and it would have to pay the price for ignoring this risk.

I expected that judgment to come from a jury. Data breach lawsuits based on privacy rights are are having a difficult time in the courts because the plaintiffs are unable to show they suffered any actual harm. However, enterprising lawyers are finding a way around these impediments by looking to companies’ contractual documents and websites to find things such as Privacy Policies, Terms of Service, and other literature making representations about security and using those documents to serve as the premise for deceptive trade practices claims. A case against Home Depot just may be able to get to a jury on these types of claims.

Or, the judgment could — and likely will — also come from elsewhere such as the FTC or attorneys general of many states.

If true, there will be a price to pay

Regardless of where it comes from, the ultimate price that Home Depot pays for this data breach could be of record proportions and make the costs Target paid for its breach pale in comparison. Why?

Because, according to the statements below, Home Depot knew the risks, was fully aware of scope of the risks, knew the consequences of those risks, could have taken steps to mitigate those risks, but instead, it consciously ignored them. If these statements prove to be accurate, sit back and get ready to watch because this one could get interesting:

The risks were clear to computer experts inside Home Depot: The home improvement chain, they warned for years, might be easy prey for hackers.

But despite alarms as far back as 2008, Home Depot was slow to raise its defenses, according to former employees. On Thursday, the company confirmed what many had feared: The biggest data breach in retailing history had compromised 56 million of its customers’ credit cards. The data has popped up on black markets and, by one estimate, could be used to make $3 billion in illegal purchases.

via Ex-Employees Say Home Depot Left Data Vulnerable – NYTimes.com.