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Cybersecurity is complex and affects business. If you are an executive, have you considered whether you are fulfilling your fiduciary duty through cybersecurity strategy? If you are a CISO, have you taken a methodical approach to every increasing cybersecurity topic? If you are a non-IT person, have you wondered whether your enterprise information is secure?
The Ugly Truth
100% security does not exist and cybersecurity is a journey: even if you truly minimize the threats today, these are ever-evolving. Individual hackers get the power they didn’t dream of from IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service). Organized hacking groups – state or private – execute hacking as a well-run software project: they do reconnaissance, design, plan, execute and lessons learned in a well-oiled project loop.
It’s not only commercial proprietary information worth hundreds of millions which can get stolen, but government secrets causing prime ministers to resign. The latest downfall has been Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister of Pakistan, whose downfall was caused by the country’s Supreme Court based on the information from the leaked Panama Papers. While it may be argued that it’s good for some of the confidential information saw the light of the day, let’s also remember the Sony employees whose confidential records – social security numbers, medical records etc. – were published after the Sony hack in December 2014 or the massive WannaCry attack which paralyzed many companies, incl. UK’s National Health Service, putting life of patients at risk. Ransomware has evolved to the point that some ransomware “providers” sell their products and even provide customer service to hackers who prefer to pay for 3rd party software than to write their own.
How should we minimize the likelihood of a successful security breach?
The old rule stating “your system is as secure as its most vulnerable component” still stands. The challenge is that there are many components, and in the software area solutions contain subcomponents which may be difficult to identify. A rule of thumb is to go through different areas of your environment, identify both the threat and its impact and then prioritize what to protect first. “Saving” on security measures is a classic component of being penny-wise and pound-foolish, as recovering from a security attack can be costly in financial terms or in reputation, as seen by some retail vendors.
Get your environment into the ‘basic’ secure state:
Upgrade all of the operating systems, RDBMS and applications to the latest releases, execute regular patching policy and implement regular monitoring
Enforce adequate login policy with frequent mandatory password changes
Educate staff (webcast, testing which each staff member has to pass, simulated phishing attacks etc.)
Establish management dashboards and reporting
Make sure you have an adequate backup policy and your backups can be successfully restored
Consider Disaster Recovery (DR) for vital applications
Simulate incident response and monitor incident response performance
Implement security policy across the enterprise
Create KPIs to monitor the rationalized operations
Create regular “lessons learned” sessions based on real or simulated incidents and make sure your security policies are updated with these findings
Understand compliance obligations: as an example, if you are taking credit card payments you need to be PCI compliant. If you store personally identifiable information, with health care data, you need to be HIPAA compliant. If you store data of EU customers, you need to comply with GDPR. Ignorance of the law will not be an excuse and will not decrease your liability.
If your environment has been compromised, you may need to execute “step 0” – establish a new environment and gradually migrate components from the old environment in a secure manner. Independent tools like Bitsight may help give you a better picture of your security situation.
What components do you need to examine and what are the examples of actions you may need to take?
Network: conduct perimeter analysis – e.g. network sniffing, log analysis, data flow diagram, network diagram.
Create a Bill of Materials (BOM) per application. BOM is defined as a table of a list of components – application name, release version, a list of subcomponents within the application (this can be other commercial or open source components) together with their release number, list of ‘external’ applications components and release numbers (e.g. RDBMS, operating systems). Each component should be identified as “supported” or “not supported” by the supplier. The support expiration date should be listed for the existing version and the latest “production” version of each component stated in another column. Old components or subcomponents are often vulnerable to attacks, as witnessed by the hundreds of thousands of servers successfully compromised by WannaCry virus.
If you find that many of the applications are vulnerable, prioritize them. A good example is 3 categories – vital to a business, important but not critical and the rest. Harden the applications in this priority order.
Create an inventory of compliance for each application.
Segment your network so that applications are isolated, and vital applications are protected. The segmentation will also reduce the compliance burden.
Review incident response process
Implement Identity Management. Leaks of internal data can be more devastating than external attacks due to volume and importance, as seen on many occasions.
A Russian cybersecurity expert once said, “if I stop seeing attacks, it means that the attackers are already in.” Cybersecurity is everyone’s responsibility given the increase in cybersecurity crime. It’s not a question of “if” you will be hacked, but “when.” Being prepared consists of 2 steps: a) minimizing the chance of a successful attack, b) being able to recover quickly if such an attack succeeds. Examples provided in this blog illustrate the complexity of the task, yet being prepared optimizes cybersecurity expense and time, and it is critical to success. NewPush can help on this journey through cloud and cybersecurity offerings.
A car in front of me had a bumper sticker “ Hurry Slowly !”. My immediate thought was “how ridiculous”! It seemed a contradiction in terms. Who would want to slow down given the time pressures most of us live under? How many companies failed due to the suboptimal pace?
I then remembered we’ll mark the 31st anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger disaster next January: it broke up 73 seconds into the flight. NASA management hurried the launch.
The chief engineer refused to sign off on the launch. Since he and his team didn’t believe that the O-ring rocket booster seals had undergone adequate testing in cold conditions. However, NASA management overruled them. Probably because the mission had already been delayed for 6 days by weather and technical issues, NASA decision makers didn’t want to delay again. In fact, the investigation after the disaster confirmed that the O-rings became too brittle in the cold weather. As a result, this prevented proper sealing and allowed flames to damage the external fuel, causing an explosion. Hence, NASA’s decision to hurry not only cost 7 lives but delayed the Space Shuttle program by 2 years – a true lose-lose. Hurry slowly.
Are We Slow Learners?
The Challenger isn’t the only incident caused by rush and faith that everything will go well (hope is not a strategy). There are many recent examples and high profile failures:
BP with the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry,
GM with the faulty ignition-switch,
Toyota with the famous brakes recall,
Takata with the malfunctioning airbags (the company is mulling bankruptcy for its US unit as a direct result),
Samsung with the Galaxy Note7 battery “fix” which didn’t work and seriously damaged Samsung’s name,
and Samsung’s exploding washers and their subsequent recall didn’t help Samsung’s brand.
So how many times was a decision made to “just ship it” and hope for a “sunny day” scenario? Or is the answer just “blowing in the wind”?
Ignoring The Lessons In Software?
Software is no exception. For example, Ralph Young estimates the cost of a bug fix to be 1:10:100: 1x in requirements/coding phase, 10x in testing and 100x in production. In addition, production fixes often damage the company’s name, sometimes beyond repair. Writing tests against requirements seems like a low hanging fruit. If it’s not possible to create a test case, the requirement probably needs to be updated. Despite this, managers often skip this early step. The result is an underbid project and a financial loss or product flaws. Hurry slowly.
Starting “in the middle” to rush things through without proper strategy defined can waste significant resources and time. It is often the main reason for failure as outlined in “Ten Deadly Sins of Strategy Creation”.
Dilbert as a team-lead tells his team “You guys start coding while I go upstairs and find out what they want”. This illustrates the “ready-shoot-aim” philosophy on some projects. A car traveling at 50 mph in a straight line will likely reach its destination much faster than a zig-zagging car going twice as fast. Hurrying slowly may actually be the fastest way to get to your objective it if means taking time to lay the proper foundation of the strategy, solid requirements for projects and working smart.
The majority of projects in IT are over budget and miss their deadline. We often notice that IT staff works hard just to stay in one place. While there are many causes, one of the key factors to mitigate the problem is testing. In this article, we will define show what happens if you:
let testing become an afterthought.
let testing to be reckoned with after the software exists.
fail to consider all kinds of testing: unit, system, performance, and acceptance testing.
When these happen, the benefit of testing will be very limited: thumbs up or down on software, the final mark of quality, or the lack thereof. What are the opportunities missed with this view?
Hardly anyone disputes that a lack of clear, well understood and documented requirements is a land mine likely to blow in the development cycle, often causing overruns in both timelines and budgets. Yet a lot of companies miss the low hanging fruit in this phase: creating test cases, where each test case corresponds to each functional requirement. (Think of specifying technical requirements and performance requirements in this phase to improve effectiveness.) More often than not we find requirement “bugs” using this simple method. At this stage, we can easily clarify and fix them. Cost of defect fixing is exponential – 1x in requirements, 10x in testing after coding and 100x in production. This is often referred to as the 1:10:100 rule.*
If we find a bug when the software is live, it is likely tarnish the reputation of the software supplier or service company. We have seen when a bug can even sink it. The example of Sybase in the area of RDBMS demonstrates this best. (Who remembers today that they used to be Oracle’s strong competitor?) Yet how many times does a team rush to design? How often do we see people making assumptions and finding out these were incorrect in the latter stages of development?
Frequency of testing and test automation
It’s more a rule than an exception that monolithic projects with a massive delivery at the end – often nicknamed “the miracle happens here” – don’t work. We believe that small deliveries have the advantage of realizing business advantage early and enabling adjustments. Whether you practice true ‘agile’ methodology or phased development, testing is an integral part of this cycle. When we optimize testing using automation tools, it saves both elapsed time and costs. In small phases, this becomes a necessity, as developers can leave testers in the dust when doing sprints with manual testing, with all of the negative ramifications.
When we developed automated testing, we realized that most of the tools require scripting and in turn need a qualified scriptwriter. As it takes time to become a scriptwriter, we noticed in many cases teams often end up using developers to write scripts. As a result, we found that scriptwriters end up creating bottlenecks. That would increase costs and create delays. The solution we found was to use tools which allow test creation through GUIs so that anyone can create such tests.
Finding bugs early is cheaper and saves time. It is key to maximize ‘test coverage’ defined as the percentage of the code covered by test cases. A simple matrix illustrates the challenge:
It is the major unknown bugs which present the biggest challenge – we don’t know what we don’t know. How do we minimize this quadrant? The higher the test coverage the lower the likelihood of unknown bugs. Automating testing through tools which provide agility in the creation of test cases and updates in conjunction with doing test cases parallel with requirements can significantly change the probability of success of your project while decreasing its cost. Why not do it?
At NewPush we provide Testing as a Service to help start testing. Our service offers minimum difficulty while reaping all the benefits. There is no prior knowledge of testing needed. We create automated test cases which can be run at any time. We also provide project management consultancy and we can create test cases upfront during the requirements phase.
*Ralph Young: Effective Requirements Practices: Defining the Real Customer needs.
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