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Posts Tagged ‘BigFix’

It is the foundation for the free market system and capitalism and it is every entrepreneurs dream; build a great technology, execute and achieve excellence in GTM, deliver fantastic value to customers and take great pride in watching your passion grow – fast.

Then it happens; the exit, the liquidation event, the ‘golden ticket’ and in a blip of your time on this tiny little rock your life changes.

Last year, after spending almost four years as the CTO of BigFix, we were acquired by IT industry behemoth IBM (IBM to acquire BigFix) for what was the largest acquisition of a private software company in 2010 (second was CA’s acquisition of Nimsoft at around $380m) and my life changed…

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There is a dull hum permeating the industry of late – security is dead some say, others think it to be too costly to maintain, others still believe that what is needed is a change of perspective, perhaps a radical shift in how we approach the problem. What underlies all of these positions is a belief that the status quo is woefully ineffective and the industry is slated for self-destruction or, as a whole, we will succumb to a digital catastrophe that would have been avoided if only we had just…well, just done something different from whatever it is we are doing at the time something bad happens.

As we go round and round on the never ending hamster wheels provided as best practice guidelines and securty frameworks by security vendors, consultants, and pundits, we find ourselves trapped in an OODA loop that will forever deny us victory against malicious actors because we will never become faster, or more agile than our opponents. But to believe one can win, implies that there is an end that can be obtained, a victory that can be held high as a guiding light for all those trapped in eternal security darkness. We are as secure as we need to be at any given moment, until we are no longer so – when that happens, regardless of what you may believe, is outside of of our control.

One of the biggest trends in security over the past 5-6 years has been its movement into mainstream IT. Traditionally IT security has been seen as outside of normal business processes. Organizations tended to react driven by a security incident or compromise, an audit or compliance event, or due to perceived changes in the threat landscape. For the most part security has been and still is an afterthought.

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I will post more later but given all the blood, sweat, and tears we have poured into BigFix we are extremely excited about this move.

IBM and BigFix are a great fit. The product portfolios are very complementary (data center to the endpoint), the strategy and vision are well-aligned (automated service management and convergence) and the companies respective values and focus will drive greater innovation to the market

Product and market synergies

  • BigFix offers best in class endpoint management (PCs, laptops, and distributed servers) that extends the IBM portfolio enabling their smarter computing vision from the data center to endpoints anywhere in the world
  • Our product portfolios are very complementary, as demonstrated by the many joint customers we successfully serve today

Strategy and vision:

  • We share a common vision for delivering automated service management and security and operational convergence to our customers worldwide
  • IBM intends to continue to evolve the rich capabilities of the BigFix platform and to innovate, integrate, and expand the combined solutions to address a broader set of market requirements than ever before

Company values and market focus

  • We share similar ideals and value around integrity and innovation
  • We both have a workforce that is provisioned and dedicated to solving the problems of the largest and most sophisticated enterprise environments in the world.

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Recently I wrote a guest editorial for Virtual Strategy Magazine, although I have to admit I wasn’t made aware of my goofy picture – look away I’m hideous – until the article was published. You can find the full contents at Virtual Strategy Magazine

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Back 
to 
Basics: 
What 
is a Client Hosted Virtual Desktop (CHVD)?

Client 
hosted virtual desktops 
refer 
to 
the 
combination 
of 
a 
management
 system
 and
 a 
hypervisor 
on 
a
 client
PC,
 utilizing 
the 
local 
resources 
to 
execute 
the 
operating
 system.


Figure 1. different desktop virtualization models segmented by central vs. distributed computing environment support and reliance on operating system

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The rising tide of mobile computing, driven by the introduction of consumer devices such as the iPhone and iPad, is crashing against the shores of many an IT shop. Most IT organizations have lived on a diet of corporate policy restrictions and liberal use of the word “No!”, unfortunately their time has come. (more…)

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From my recent posting on Computer World UK (here)

Whenever I hear the phrase “identity theft,” I can only imagine what the late, great Rodney Dangerfield would have made of it: “Some guy in Moldova stole my identity. The FBI said, ‘…and you want it back?’ No respect!”

Despite what seems to be a public fascination with identity theft as the latest innovation in cybercrime, it isn’t really new. Even before the Internet came along, criminals could steal and manipulate identity data by modifying the magnetic strip on the back of a credit card to access a different account than the one listed on the front of the card. This would allow the thief to present a credit card and identification that matched and hope that the employee didn’t actually look at the name on the receipt.

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The world needs a treaty to prevent cyber attacks becoming an all-out war, the head of the main UN communications and technology agency warned Saturday.

“A cyber war would be worse than a tsunami — a catastrophe,” the UN official said, highlighting examples such as attacks on Estonia last year (more…)

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btp2

Not too long ago I embarked on a creating a podcast series that would provide more regularity than the blog. Beyond the Perimeter has been a tremendous amount of fun and as we just posted our 50th podcast I wanted to reflect on some of the highlights and wonderful guests we have been honored to have joined us.

Beyond the Perimeter iTunes subscription

Beyond the Perimeter Direct XML Feed

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The Great Depression

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Peter Kuper and discuss the impact the economic crisis has had on the IT security industry on the latest Beyond the Perimeter podcast (here). Peter Kuper, former analyst Morgan Stanley and SC Gowen, now associated with the IANS (Institute for Applied Network Security) organization notes that IT security spending is down, and with it, investments in security start-ups and innovation initiatives. Kuper believes that good new technologies and well managed companies can still attract investors and customers. Furthermore, the industry supports tier of robust, established private IT security companies weathering and even prospering in current conditions. While the short term remains challenging, Kuper believes that good technologies and companies can still get a foothold in the current economic environment. You can read more from Peter at the IANS blog (here), below are some recent comments from Peter (here)

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Yes I know it has been some time since I have posted a blog entry. The pain and suffering this has caused I can only imagine has been unbearable. Many of you must be feeling the nauseating withdrawal like symptoms of not enough me, but do not fear you will no longer need to remain in a fetal position rocking back and forth wondering if I will blog again – I shall. (more…)

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ccmanifesto

So apparently a group of technologists and vendors working under the cloak of digital darkness drew out a pentagram and locked arms as they called out to Cthulhu to manifest and drive out those that would oppose their ultimate aims of total and complete world domination. Domination brought about through a set of cloud computing solutions that would revolutionize antiquated IT infrastructures and deliver agility, scalability, and operational efficiencies through an open platform at a really, really good price.  Blood was spilled, virgins were killed, and apparently an “open” cloud-computing manifesto was drafted. (more…)

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viz-and-control1

Quick thought for the day. Most technologies in the security world move through a predictable cycle of adoption. First an organization implements a solution to gain visibility into the scope of the problem (VA, IDS, DLP/CMF, SIEM) then once it becomes apparent that the problem is vast and overwhelming they move to operationally implement technical controls to protect the environment and to enforce organizational policies, when this switch over occurs the adoption of the pure visibility tools becomes eclipsed by the control tools. This doesn’t mean that the visibility tools are ineffective, it generally means that the scope of the problem is understood to the point that an organization can effectively implement controls, it also means that the problem has successfully moved from the security team to the operations team. You can apply this same logic to any segment of security and to any new technology, including cloud computing, virtualization and all the little shiny obejcts in between.

Examples of this movement from visibility to control include intrusion detection, vulnerability assessment and content monitoring and filtering. Let’s look at VA, It’s initial use was to determine the scope of the ‘exposure’ problem, that is to scan the environment against a database of known vulnerabilities to determine the extent of exposure. Unfortunately the volume of output was very high and was presented in a format that was not easily consumable or actionable by the IT operations team. What exactly does one expect the server admin to do with 300 pages of vulnerability data? There were also inherent issues of fidelity. The use of VA tools moved into targeted scans to determine what needed to be patched, which resulted in the operational implementation of patch management technologies, which soon overtook the market adoption of vulnerability assessment tools. There was also the pressure of auditors looking for the implementation of technical controls and although vulnerability assessments were viewed as an important first step, without the work-flow and controls to address the volume of vulnerability data they proved to be less effective in improving operational security than was originally thought.

It became clear that vulnerability management needed to cross the chasm to become an operationally actionable tool, without remediation capabilities the organization would always be under a mountain of vulnerabilities and the use of the technology would linger in the trough of disillusionment. Security configuration management met that need, it allowed an organization to define the desired configuration state of an environment against industry best practices (NIST, DISA, CIS, etc) and then to operationally implement technical controls to identify non-compliant devices and enforce policy. Security configuration management also had the benefit of providing a common language between the security, audit, and operations teams. I wrote about this in a series of posts (here), (here), and (here).

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Cloud computing, or as I like to call it the return of the mainframe and thin-client computing architecture – only cloudier, has been creating a lot of interesting discussion throughout IT recently.

Cloud computing, which we will define as any service or set of services delivered through the Internet (Cloud) without requiring additional infrastructure on the part of the organization. Although a broad definition it encompasses everything from storage and capacity services to applications like CRM or email to development platforms and everything in between that is delivered and accessed through the Internet (Cloud).

Obviously the concept of ubiquitous broadband connectivity combined with a highly mobile workforce enabled to productivity, independent of location and with the promise of limited, if any, additional infrastructural costs, offers new levels of efficiencies for many organizations looking to leverage and extend their shrinking IT budgets.

There is little doubt that cloud computing offers benefits in how organizations look to drive greater benefit from their IT dollars, but there are also many trade-offs that can dramatically reduce, and negate the benefits altogether, understanding these trade-offs will allow an organization to make the right decisions.

As with most advancements in computing, security is generally an afterthought, bolted on once the pain is great enough to elicit the medication. Sort of like the back pain of IT, security enhancements tend to result once the agility (availability, reliability, etc) is somehow inhibited or because it is prescribed as a result of a Doctors visit (compliance audit) cloud computing is no different.

But before we can understand the strengths or inadequacies of cloud computing security models we need to have an understanding of baseline security principles that all organizations face, this will allow us to draw parallels and define what is and isn’t an acceptable level of risk.

Again for the sake of brevity I will keep this high-level, but it really comes down to two main concepts; visibility and control. All security mechanisms are an exercise in trying to gain better visibility or to implement better controls all balanced against the demands of the business. for the most part the majority of organizations struggle with even the most basic of security demands. For example visibility into the computing infrastructure itself;

  • How many assets do you own? How many are actively connected to the network right now? How many do you actively manage? Are they configured according to corporate policy? Are they up to date with the appropriate security controls? Are they running licensed applications? Are they functioning to acceptable levels? How do you know?
  • How about the networking infrastructure? databases? application servers? web servers? Are they all configured properly? Who has access to them? Have they been compromised? Are they secure to the universe of known external threats? How do you know?
  • Do internal applications follow standard secure development processes? Do they provide sufficient auditing capabilities? Do they export this data in a format that can be easily consumed by the security team? Can access/authentication anomalies be easily identified? How do you know?
  • What happens when we an FTE is no longer allowed access to certain services/applications? Are they able to access them even after they have been terminated? Do they try? Are they successful? How do you know?

These are all pretty basic security questions and it is only a small subset of issues IT is concerned with, but most organizations cannot answer any one of them, let alone all of them, without significant improvement to their current processes. It is fair to say that the majority of organizations lack adequate visibility into their computing infrastructures.

Of course the lack of visibility doesn’t imply a lack of control;

  • Are assets that are not actively managed blocked from accessing corporate services? Are they blocked from accessing internal applications? Based on what criteria – lack of policy adherence? How granular is the control? And if you lack visibility how can you be sure the control is working?
  • What controls have you implemented to prevent external access to internal resources? Does this apply to mobile/remote employees? How long after an employee is released does it take to remove access to all corporate resources? What authentication mechanisms are in place to validate the identify of an employee accessing corporate resources? Without visibility how do you know?
  • What controls are in place to ensure the concept of least privilege? What controls are in place to ensure internal applications (web, non-web, or modifications to COTs) adhere to corporate secure coding standards? If you lack visibility how do you know?
  • What controls are in place to ensure that a malicious actor cannot access internal corporate resources if they have stolen the credentials of a legitimate employee? How do you know the controls are adequate?

Again, just a small subset of the controls IT must be concerned with. Like the problem of visibility most organizations are barely able to implement proper controls for some of these, let alone the universe of security controls required in most organizations. Let me state, in case it isn’t obvious, the goal of security isn’t to prevent all bad things from occurring – this is an unachievable goal – the goal of security is to implement the needed visibility and controls that allow them to limit the probability of a successful incident from occurring, and when an incident does occur to quickly limit it’s impact.

So what happens when we move services to the cloud?  When we allow services to be delivered by a third party we lose all control over how they secure and maintain the health of their environment and in many cases we lose all visibility into the controls themselves, that being said…Cloud Computing platforms have the potential to offer adequate security controls, but it will require a level of transparency the providers will most likely not be comfortable providing.

Our current computing paradigm is inherently insecure because for the most part it is built on top of fundamentally insecure platforms, there is some potential for cloud computing to balance these deficiencies, but to date there has been little assurances that it will. Some areas that require transparency and that will become the fulcrum points of a sound cloud computing security model:

  • Infrastructural security controls
  • Transport mechanism and associated controls
  • Authentication and authorization access controls
  • Secure development standards and associated controls
  • Monitoring and auditing capabilities
  • SLA and methods for deploying security updates throughout the infrastructure
  • Transparency across these controls and visibility into how they function on a regular basis

Most organizations struggle with their own internal security models, they are barely able to focus their efforts on a segment of the problem, and in many cases they are ill-equipped to implement the needed security mechanisms to even meet a base level of security controls, for these organizations looking to a 3rd party to provide security controls may prove to be beneficial. For organizations that are considered to be highly efficient in implementing their security programs, are risk adverse, or are under significant regulatory pressures, they will find that cloud computing models eliminate too much visibility to be a viable alternative to deploying their own infrastructure.

I will leave you with one quick story, when I was an analyst with Gartner I presented at a SOA/Web Services/Enterprise Architecture Summit a presentation titled “Security 101 for Web 2.0″ the room was overwhelming developers who were trying to understand how to better develop and enable security as part of developing the internal applications they were tasked to develop. The one suggestion that elicited the greatest interest and most questions was a simple one; develop your applications so that they can be easily audited by the security and IT teams once they are in production, enable auditing that can capture access attempts (successful or not), date/time, source IP address, etc…the folks I talked to afterwards told me it was probably the single most important concept for them during the summit – enable visibility.

In part 2 we will take an in-depth look into the security models of various cloud computing platforms, stay tuned for more to come….

Some interesting “Cloud” Resources that you can find in the cloud:

  • Amazon Web Services Blog (here)
  • Google App Engine Blog (here)
  • Microsoft Azure Blog (here)
  • Developer.force.com Blog (here)
  • Gartners Application Architecture, Development and Integration Blog (here)
  • The Daily Cloud Feed (here)
  • Craig Balding – Cloudsecurity.org (here)
  • James Urquhart – The wisdom of Clouds (here)
  • Chris Hoff – Rational Survivability (here)

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