security

Security & Privacy Life Hack: advantages of a personal mail alias

Table of Contents

Introduction

You’ve probably got one or more personal and professional mail addresses. Who doesn’t?

And you probably want to keep that mail address safe from spammers, scammers or data theft.

Althoug you primarily use mail to communicate (send/receive messages), many platforms also use your mail address for authentication.

Security remark: It’s not always the best option to use single sign-on with platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Microsoft Account, Google, …

What’s the security issue?

The main issue with single sign-on is: when your mail address is breached or hacked, the hacker can use the breached mailbox fairly easily to login to the linked platforms.

And from a practical point of view, if you use that single personal mail address to subscribe to newsletters or you use that mail address for downloads protected by a “registration” wall, you’ll quickly experience a mailbox overload because of ‘spam’, eh.. .sorry commercial messages you didn’t ask for.

Another issue is, you usually have only 1 (one) personal mail address available on your mail platform, certainly for enterprise systems, you can’t create other alternative mail addresses at free will. Unless you own the domain name, of course, but that’s rather possible for personal use or small companies…

And except for the mail overload, you’ll notice that many companies sell your mail address to address brokers. And even with the GDPR in place, many of these address brokers have bad habits to scrape mail addresses from the internet, incl. public sources, government sources…

So, the question is, how do you manage this, to protect your personal data, to protect mailbox overload and abuse of your mail address?

First option is using MFA to increase security and block illegal authentication.

But MFA does not stop mail abuse. The mail alias to the rescue!

Implementing the mail alias

What is a mail alias?

A mail alias is an alternative name for the master mailbox. Usually a mail alias is forwarding mail to the target mailbox.

In many cases, that mail alias can also be setup or used as a temporary name for the target mailbox. It’s pretty cumbersome or difficult to switch a master mailbox on or off when you need it.

Purchase a Custom domain name

The most interesting option is purchasing a custom domain name (by preference a short URL).

In most cases, local domain registrars can offer you a custom mail domain of choice for a few bucks a year. It’s worth the money, I promise. Further explanation below.

Just a practical hint: make sure to use a domain registrar that offers unlimited mail aliases.

When you control the mail domain, you can forward any mail alias of the custom domain to your mailbox (eg news@short.url to subscribe to newsletters and filter them in your mailbox in a subfolder for newsletters).

Furthermore, when you own a domain, you can enable/disable a mailbox or alias. Meaning: block mail reception without deleting the mail address (keep the address, but desactivate it.)

Using the “+” mail alias option

If purchasing a custom domain is not an option, you can check with your mail platform or mail administrator to use a “+” alias.

That’s format supported by the internet standards (RFC 5233: https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc5233), that allows to extend a master mail address with receiver suffixes (BEFORE the @ sign), that still deliver the mail to the receiver. Google calls it “task based” variations of the mail address.

You’ll generally find it back on the internet as “+” aliases (“plus” aliases).

Some examples:

See the references section at the end of the article, for details how this “+” alias works for the well known mail platforms… Google, Microsoft, … and the major free mail providers support the plus-alias.

Using dummy or temporary addresses against spam and registration walls

I don’t know how you do it, but it frequently happens that I need to download a “free” white paper, which only seems to be free if you ‘pay’ with your contact details.

In most of the cases, they force you to “consent” with the requirement to send you marketing,… in GDPR terms it’s not considered consent if it’s forced… But essentially they force you to submit your personal data.

If you don’t want to disclose your data, just for that single download, or … if you want to avoid getting too much spam, what do you do?

One-time use, temporary mail domains (not your own domain)

First and easy option is to search the internet for “temp mail”, “temporary mail addresses” or “disposable mail“, … synonyms for one time use mails.

You use these addresses for quick use, one shot hit.

Samples:

  • mailinator.com
  • temp-mail.org
  • guerillamail.com
  • mail.tm
  • many more…

Use your custom domain

An easier, but less free, but still cheap option, is to purchase your own custom domain (on the condition you can have multiple mailbox aliases).

The quick and dirty: create an alias like download@yourdomain.url, keep it disabled by default and only enable it when you need to receive a download link. Afterwards, disable it again.

In some cases you literally need to have a mail address just once. Eg, when you want to download a “free” white paper, many companies harvest your mail, put it in a CRM system and keep spamming you afterwards. It’s fairly difficult to escape the forced consent or registration.

Then you can use a temporary mail alias:

  1. you enable an alias or dummy address,
  2. register for the download with the alias/dummy,
  3. then disable the alternative mail address again.

That way the address cannot be harvested for spam or marketing you don’t need. Easy.

(When a address broker tries to use the disabled alias, they will get an NDR, non-delivery report, and delete the invalid mail registration from their farm…)

Advantages

Keep your inbox clean : Mail filtering using simple mail rules

One the most prominent advantages of using aliases is that most of the mail clients can use the receiver address (or alias) to filter and manage incoming mail.

Based on the target receiver alias, you can set simple rules to move incoming mail from your inbox to another folder.

Basically an mail alias offers a simple mailbox optimization technique to make your life easy.

Securing internet logins

Another major advantage of aliases: use it as an alternative identifier for single sign-on.

Instead of logging in to multiple platforms with the same mail address, you better use 1 unique alias address per platform.

For example:

Of course it’s quite important to use different passwords or authentication methods too (incl. MFA).

The main reasoning behind this approach is: if 1 login is breached or leaked, the other accounts are not impacted. If you don’t think you can manage this collection of passwords, there is one good tip: use a password manager to replace your memory.

Use a password manager anyway.

Detecting data breaches

When you use 1 mail address (alias) for every internet login, you can also trace very easily if a website is selling your data to partners, other companies or personal data brokers. You can simply see who sends mail, if that source domain is correctly linked to your alias… or not. If your login is used by unauthorized party you can initiate GDPR subject data access request to track how it got there (against both the original data controller and the secondary party).

And when using a custom domain (or some “+” alias mail providers), you can simple disable or remove the mail alias, so it becomes useless for the perpetrators.

On/Off Temporary mail (when using your custom domain)

In some cases you literally need to have a mail address just once. Eg, when you want to download a “free” white paper, many companies harvest your mail, put it in a CRM system and keep spamming you afterwards. It’s fairly difficult to escape the forced consent or registration.

When you can use a temporary mail, you enable an alias or dummy address, register for the download with the alias/dummy, then disable the alternative mail address again. That way the address cannot be used for spam or marketing you don’t want. Easy.

One-time use temporary mail domains

First and easy option is to search the internet for “temp mail” or “temporary mail addresses”

You use these addresses for quick use, one shot hit. No hassle, no admin. Quick and dirty.

Some more advantages

You can also link your custom domain to shortener tools like bit.ly. This way you can manage your social media and easily track your popularity or maintain statistics on your articles and views. (For Bitly, search for “bitly custom domain”)

Disadvantages

Custom domain management

Managing your own custom domain might be cumbersome, depending how user friendly the management of aliases is. Certainly managing dynamic aliases for multiple users… can time consuming. Certainly if you have a large volume of mailboxes and/or aliases to manage.

But managing a custom domain for own personal use, for a few bucks a year, is really worth the time and money. 

If you cannot disable “+” aliases …

… then you might be in trouble, because you cannot stop the abuse once the senders have registered the alias in their mail system.
In many cases, you’ll need to unsubscribe or directly contact the platform owner and demand to remove your data, which can be cumbersome or time consuming… Or you need to excercise your right to be forgotten in the official way. (Ref. GDPR, …)

Temporary mail domains blocked & open access

The major disadvantage is that a lot of spam (eh sorry), marketing websites that offer these ‘free’ downloads, will recognize and block public temporary mail domains (like mailinator, guerilla mail, temp mail, …).

In most cases you’ll have to try a few options, as some of these temporary mail domains have alternative mail domain options, like dynamic domains not only hosting main on the master domain.

VERY IMPORANT SECURITY NOTICE: whatever mailbox you use on these temporary domains, anyone can read or access these mailboxes, so make sure nothing important or private is sent to these mailboxes.

Bonus: the “oh shit rule”

While I’ve been focusing on the security & data protection features of the mail alias, I still want to mention an important principle to protect your reputation: the “oh shit rule”.

The principle is simple: delay the sent articles with one or more minutes before the mails are actually sent to the receiver.

It gives you a bit of slack if you want to fix a mail, or in worst case scenario cancel the mail if you have second thoughts or regret sending the mail, to avoid embarrassment or being forced to search for a new job.

Some useful references

Below you’ll find some interesting articles on managing aliases on the well-known mail providers

Gmail

Microsoft Office 365 “+” alias

Yahoo

Other providers

Other providers, like Protonmail, … also provide the alias “+” option, sometimes by default. Carefully check if you can remove the “+” alias or not, in case the alias got listed by address brokers.

Custom mail address RFC standard

https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc5233

BTW, did you know… that following the RFC standards, an email address is case sensitive. 😉

Excel Security and Not Excel security, that’s the question

Executive overview

Excel has various levels of protection.
Many people use worksheet protection.  This feature is designed as a simple blocker to avoid unwanted edits to your sheet. Users can open and use the file without the protection password.

By design, Excel sheet protection is NOT a security measure, to keep data secret or to hide IP or formulas from unauthorized parties. The worksheet protection password is fairly easy to remove as explained below.

If you want actual protection in your Excel sheet, you need to use the encryption feature, but then every user will be forced to enter a password to open the file.  Which is difficult from usability point of view. And you need to apply security for each user separately.

Applies to

This discussion actually applies to the latest version of Excel in the Office 365 version. Some options or features might not be available or might not apply to previous/older versions of MS office.

Introduction

If you spend a lot of time to build a smart calculations or data management solutions in Excel, it’s very likely that you want to protect your hard word, or the smart layout or the intelligence behind your calculations. Or simply avoid any accidents crippling the nice layout.

Most people will first think about worksheet protection to achieve this, but there are some more options.

Excel Security options

If you create or open an Excel sheet (in current version of Office 365), you can add security via the menu “FIle” then choose the “Info” option.

Then click the “Protect Workbook” option.

Worksheet protection

In short: Worksheet protection is not intended to be a security feature.

And that’s documented at: https://support.microsoft.com/office/protect-a-worksheet-3179efdb-1285-4d49-a9c3-f4ca36276de6

From the Microsoft support document, the security impact of the protection features is explained as (quote):

Important: 

  • Worksheet level protection is not intended as a security feature. It simply prevents users from modifying locked cells within the worksheet.
  • Protecting a worksheet is not the same as protecting an Excel file or a workbook with a password. See below for more information:

Even with worksheet protection, the formulas are stored in the file as this is what allows you to later modify the formulas and for the cells to update their values. Because the file is not encrypted, a user could inspect the file contents to determine what the formulas are.

For advanced Excel users:

  • There are mechanisms that allow you to remove formulas from the workbook while keeping the cell values the same. When this is done, these cell values no longer update as they no longer have a formula.
  • If you want to strip out a formula that refers to another workbook, you can use the break link feature for external links (Data tab > Queries and Connections section > Edit Links > Break Link) – this keeps the current value of the cell and removes the formula referencing the external workbook.
  • If you want to strip out a formula regardless of where it refers to, the easiest way to do this is to copy the cell and paste as value to the same cell.

Implementing worksheet protection

Implementing worksheet security using encryption

Managing cell security

Before you activate worksheet protection, you need to consider unblocking cells to allow edit when protection is activated. Right click the target cells, you want to leave unprotected.

In the cell format options, “Locked” is enabled by default. Uncheck if you want to edit after password lock.

Next, to activate worksheet protection, right click the worksheet tab (below) and click the Protect sheet option.

You  can select which kind of protection you need on the level of the sheet and cells.

You need to enter the password and then reconfirm, of course.

Now, when you try to edit the cells that are blocked, you’ll get an error.

The actual Excel security: sheet encryption

To implement actual security, you need to encrypt the file.
When you want to use encryption, go back to the file menu and workbook protection, as explained earlier.

Choose the encryption option

When you save the file and try to reopen it, you’ll get a password prompt.

In one of the next chapters below, I’ll show what happens with the file security, and if you can hack it… or not.

Hacking Excel worksheet protection

The actual reason for this article, is that the worksheet protection is NOT a security feature and more important, the worksheet protection can be broken in a matter of seconds.

You’ll find a lot of password cracking tools, brute force password guessing or macro scripts to crack the passwords. Don’t bother if you simply want to remove the password protection.

The worksheet protection is embedded in the XLSX file, as XML. And you should consider the XLS sheet as a compressed/zipped dossier/file collection of config files containing the hashed password.

And that’s exactly the easy shortcut to remove the password, remove the password hash.
I won’t go in detail on the steps, but it’s about renaming the XLS file to zip, opening the zip, removing the pasword hash, saving the file, rename to XLS and open your sheets without password protection.

The method is explained over here: http://www.excelsupersite.com/how-to-remove-an-excel-spreadsheet-password-in-6-easy-steps/

Hacking encryption? (Nope!)

Using the XLS to Zip rename, you can inspect the file content of the encrypted file.

When you try the same technique, removing the encryption info…you’ll notice that the “EncryptionInfo” is not allowing to save. And you can’t remove the encryption (at least not this way, here we stop… )

When you try to remove the encryption tag, including the cipher and password hash, you’ll notice it won’t work.

Reporting security issues to Microsoft

If you think or suspect to have found a security issue in a Microsoft product, don’t hesitate to report it.

To report a vulnerability in a Microsoft product or service, got to the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC) website at : https://www.microsoft.com/msrc.

You can track the status of your report as the MSRC team will work with you to investigate and resolve the issue. Or confirm that a suspected behaviour is not a security issue, but a light-weight protection to avoid layout incidents.

Extended mapping of CIS Controls to ISO27001 security controls

Introduction

The CIS (Center for Information Security) Controls list is a very well known list of security measures to protect your environment against cyberattacks.
The Center for Information Security provides a handy XLS sheet for download to assist in your exercise.

Here is the link: https://www.cisecurity.org/controls/cis-controls-list/

Many companies use this controls list already, but also require to map their CIS security controls to ISO27001, for various reasons.

Implementing security controls with regards to the NIS directive, is one of them, eg when you’re implementing OT…

ISO27001 controls mapping

For that purpose the CIS provided a XLS mapping between the CIS controls and ISO27001.

You can download the sheet from the CIS website: https://learn.cisecurity.org/controls-sub-controls-mapping-to-ISO-v1.1.a

Security note for the security freaks, apparently the document is hosted on the pardot(dot)com Salesforce website, which might be blocked by Adlist domain blockers as it’s used for marketing campaigns, you might need to unblock it, or use Tor browser…)

Alternatively, it’s available from the CIS Workbench community at: https://workbench.cisecurity.org/files/2329 (registration might be needed to access the download)

FYI, the previous version (2019, v1) of the mapping had quite some gaps. Therefor I’ve submitted a suggestion for an updated CIS-ISO27001 mapping.
And after review, a new version (1.1) with updates has been published on the CIS workbench.

Direct download for version 1.1 available at: https://workbench.cisecurity.org/files/2329/download/3615

Still some gaps

You’ll notice that the update (1.1) version has still some gaps. And I’ll leave to the discretion of the CIS review work group to argument these gaps.


But I’m convinced you can map the CIS controls for 100% to ISO27001, in one way or another, meaning use ALL ISO27001 controls in certain extent (sometimes a subset, equally or a superset of it, combining controls.)

But the license for use of the CIS controls mapping does not allow redistribution of modified materials…

Disclaimer (the small print)

Here’s the License from the mapping file:

Their work (quote) “is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives 4.0 International Public License (the link can be found at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode

To further clarify the Creative Commons license related to the CIS ControlsTM content, you are authorized to copy and redistribute the content as a framework for use by you, within your organization and outside of your organization for non-commercial purposes only, provided that (i) appropriate credit is given to CIS, and (ii) a link to the license is provided. Additionally, if you remix, transform or build upon the CIS Controls, you may not distribute the modified materials. Users of the CIS Controls framework are also required to refer to (http://www.cisecurity.org/controls/) when referring to the CIS Controls in order to ensure that users are employing the most up-to-date guidance. Commercial use of the CIS Controls is subject to the prior approval of CIS® (Center for Internet Security, Inc.).”

So I CANNOT distribute the XLS as modified material (Why not?).

Extending the mapping

If you still want to build an extended version of the mapping on your own, you download the 1.1 version and add these items to the list:

CIS sectionCoverageISO27001 Control
2.2=A.12.5.1
2.5=A.8.1.1
2.8small subsetA.12.5.1
2.10small supersetA.9.4.1/A.8.2
3.1small subsetA.12.6.1
3.2small subsetA.12.6.1
3.4small subsetA.12.6.1
3.5small subsetA.12.6.1
3.6small subsetA.12.6.1
4.1small supersetA.8.1.1/A.9.2.3 
6.5small subsetA.12.4.1 
6.6small subsetA.12.4.1 
6.8small subsetA.12.4.1 
7.3small subsetA.12.2.1
7.5small supersetA.8./A.13.1.1
7.6small subsetA.13.1.1
8.3small subsetA12.2.1
9.5small subsetA.13.1.1
10.2small subsetA.12.3.1
10.5=A.12.3.1
11.1small subsetA.13.1.1
11.2small subsetA.13.1.1
11.6small subsetA.13.1.1
12.1small subsetA.13.1.1
12.5small subsetA.13.1.1
12.10small subsetA.13.1.1
13.2small subsetA.11.2.5
14.7small subsetA.8.2.3
16.2small subsetA.9.3.1
16.3small subsetA.9.3.1
16.9small subsetA.9.2.1
16.10small subsetA.9.2.1
16.12A.12.4.1
16.13A.12.4.1
17.1=Clause 7.2
18.3=A.12.5.1
18.4A.12.5.1
18.7A.14.2.9
18.10small subsetA.14.2.5 
18.11small subsetA.14.2.5 
19.3small subsetA16.1.1
19.6small subsetA16.1.2
19.7small subsetA16.1.1
19.8small subsetA16.1.4
20.1small subsetA18.2.3
20.2small subsetA18.2.3
20.3small subsetA18.2.3
20.4small subsetA18.2.3
20.5small subsetA18.2.3
20.6small subsetA18.2.3
20.7small subsetA18.2.3
20.8small subsetA18.2.3

Planning for ISO Certification using CIS Controls?

When you look at it from a different angle and you would like to build a plan to certify your ISO27001 implementation, we need to turn around the mapping, and look for the gaps in the ISO27001 security controls AND CLAUSES, when doing the CIS control mapping.


And then you’ll notice the explicit difference in approach between CIS controls and ISO27001 controls.
CIS controls are focusing on technical implementation to harden your cybersecurity, while ISO27001 is a management system that needs these controls, but requires a management layer to support these technical controls. CIS controls are lacking this management layer.
If you compare both systems in a table the story gets clear:

The “red” areas require extra work to make it ISO27001 compliant.

And as always, if you have suggestions of feedback to improve this article, let me know, I’ll fix it on the fly.

Note-to-self: MVA Learning Path – Security for the Chief Security Officer (CSO)

From a LinkedIn connection (thx Jeff and congratz on the achievement) I received an interesting pointer to a set of courses on MVA, Microsoft Virtual Academy.

An MVA ‘learning path’ is a combination of learning courses.
Just recently MVA published the ‘Security for the Chief Security Officer (CSO)’ learning path.

Check it out at : https://mva.microsoft.com/learning-path/security-for-the-chief-security-officer-cso-21

It combines 6 courses (better make sure to access them from the learning path):

  1. How to Harden Your Enterprise in Today’s Threat Landscape
  2. Cybersecurity Reference Architecture
  3. Cloud Security from the Field

BTW: have a look on the ‘security’ based content on Microsoft Virtual Academy, you’ll be surprised how much you can (continue to) learn.

See: https://mva.microsoft.com/search/SearchResults.aspx#!q=security

Last Updated: 2020-12-29

That alphabet of Security starts with I of “Identity”

It’s an understatement to say security is moving fast, it’s changing very rapidly and the pressure to keep up with it, increases too.

From various angles, people in IT (as in Information Technology), are under fire to keep the infrastructure secure. Cloud is getting mature, new features pop up every week.
It’s almost a contradiction, but also legislation is catching up to close the holes regarding the protection of people’s security and privacy.

In many cases, the first reaction of customers, management, ITPros, Developers, DevOps,… is to look for the ultimate and ideal tool that will help to plug the security hole.

But if you only focus on the tooling, you’ll discover rather sooner than later, it is not sufficient to get your security watertight.
One of the basic reasons is that tools can’t be implemented properly without involving people and processes. I don’t need to explain the PPT (people-proces-technology) or PPP (people-proces-products) triade, right?

Lots of security management approaches and certifications handle this triad (ISO27001, CISSP, … I’ll cover that another time.

(credits: smart picture of ITGovernance.co.uk)

Rather than diving into the search for a tool, you better take a step back and consider first.

What’s the primary function of security?
Protecting an item that you want to keep (safe), right?

[The reason (“why”) for keeping it safe = the CIA triad, Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability]

When you think about the processes (“how”) to secure  an asset (anything that is worth securing), there are 3 basics actions you need to define

  • authorization: what you can do with the asset (the CRUD stuff, create/read/update/delete)
  • identification: who needs the authorization?
  • authentication: the method to proof your identity (using passwords, passes, cards, 2FA, MFA, …)

This is essentially the foundation of my credo “no security without identity”

Just by interpreting the basic components of security, you directly hit the “PROCESS” part of the PPT triad.
Now, here’s were most technical people get into trouble… not knowing how to put this in practice.

But let me ask you a simple question: within the normal, usual businesses or companies, where does the identity process typically start?
Yes, correct, HR (Human Resources)

The second question: can you name at least 2 typical high-level HR processes (for people).
Answer: something like “hire” and “fire”, or synonyms like “onboarding/off-boarding”, “termination”, “end-of-life” (but that sounds pretty dramatic when talking about people…).

These 2 events announce the beginning and the end of a lifecycle, the identity lifecycle.
And to make it complete, you also need to define the life-in-between as people change over time.

BTW, just a small side step here: this does not apply to humans only, but any other asset in your environment has pretty much the same cycle and it does not matter if it’s considered “IT” or not… computer, certificates, smart cards, disks, tapes, … but also cars, documents, …

This idea to consider the lifecycle as universal, is a great approach to explain the “identity lifecycle” to non-techies that get involved in the identity lifecycle processes.

This is the common ground you can use to talk to HR people, business managers, Executive level, …

Now, if you look on the internet for pictures on identity lifecycle management, you’re smashed with a lot of complex schemas…

google_identitylifecycle

Many of results are variations of 3 essential processes

hire-change-fire1

Depending on your background you might name them differently, like:

1AA.png

For the sake of simplicity, when teaching IDM and security workshops I usually only keep the keywords “Hire”, “Change” and “Fire”.
Short and easy to remember for most people.

For your understanding, the circle approach  would assume you start over again after the “Fire” block, but that’s not always the case. The cycle might stop.
So, the approach below is easier to visualize for most people.

Clockwise:

  1. Starting the cycle at (1),
  2. updating the identity at (2),
  3. exiting the cycle at (3)

hire-change-fire2

As I mentioned, earlier, virtually any IT or asset related proces is basically working like this.

Now, let’s take it a step further… How does identity management control security?

A first thing to consider is the typical length of the hire-change-fire modules.

How many tasks/steps does it usually take to complete each of the 3 steps?
Keep the asset in mind and keep it simple…

Typical actions in a hire process:

  • signing contract
  • getting an network/AD account
  • getting an email address
  • getting building access
  • IT stuff (laptop, …)

Pretty straight forward…
How much time would it take, in simple cases to start working?  Hours if not days.

What about the change process? For example, you get promotion to team lead or head of department…

  • hand over your tasks to peers
  • get ramped up on new job
  • in some cases, there is segregation of duties, getting rid of existing rights permissions
  •  getting access to new environment
  • changing communications channels (notifications to stakeholders of change)

In reality, this usually takes a few weeks.

And what are the typical things your consider for the “fire” process?

  • informing stakeholders/customers
  • disabling the account
  • changing password
  • lock account
  • removing access
  • extracting documentation form personal storage
  • move documents to manager or team
  • handing over ownership
  • knowledge transfer
  • data backup/archiving
  • cleaning the mailbox
  • deleting the account (* not always allowed for various reasons)
  • sending legal / tax documents
  • and more…

As you can understand, this entire termination process might take months… In many situations the termination process must be executed in different steps, like:

  • Disabling the account till x+30 days (for example, revert in case the person gets a renewal)
  • Removing access on x+60 days
  • Kill mailbox on X+90
  • Remove the account on X+1y (or even: never)

In some cases accounts must be kept for legal reasons or tracking/cybersecurity reasons…

The further you go in the lifecycle, you need to combine more tasks, and tasks or decisions get more complex.

Overall you can distinguish 2 properties of these processes: duration and complexity. Both go up.

complexity

procesduration

Now, when considering security, why is this important?
Instead of discussing the impact of successful processes, it’s easier to find out what happens if it fails.

WHAT IF… (the process fails)??

Let’s run through the cycle again….

What if the “Hire” process fails?

  • you can’t access the building
  • you do not get an account
  • you can’t logon
  • you can’t access documents

Basically, on your first (few) day(s) you can’t work. Sorry!
But what’s the balance for security: just great, because the risk is nearly 0, except for a bad start and a bit of reputation damage..
At the end: you can’t do any harm, essentially.

In case of the “change” process, a larger part of the tasks and operations will impact the security posture.

When your “change” process fails,  for example

  • you can still access your old documents
  • you get more access (eg collecting access of your old and new role)
  • you start collection sensitive accesses over time
  • managers don’t know
  • user profiles get copied from existing colleagues in the same team (no ‘reset’ or the permissions before the new ones are assigned)

So for this second piece of the circle, the impact might be significant, over time.

But for the “end-of-life” the story is completely different, a failing “deprovisioning” scenario has major impact on the business and IT process

  • accounts stay active
  • accounts not being disabled
  • access not removed
  • active accounts not detected
  • account with highly privileged access still active
  • accounts being deleted too soon
  • unauthorized users that have access to critical resources
  • hackers go undetected for a long time, using sleeping accounts
  • hardware not returned,
  • data stolen,
  • over-use of budgets to software licenses that are not revoked
  • access badges allow unauthorized access to your building and environment
  • failure to ‘deprovision’ old hard disks properly expose your company data to interested (unauthorized) parties…
  • …,

It’s clear that a failing deprovisioning/end-of-life process has major impact on your enterprise security.

risk.png

And hackers or disgruntled employees like that.

Of course you can imagine the benefits of an efficient and effective end-of-life process. It’s the opposite.

Does that require you implement an automated identity management?
No.

That’s where ISO27001 and eg GDPR surprises a lot of people.

Once you’ve got the basic processes in place you can discuss tooling, not the other way around.

questforsecurity

You have
no security without managing your identity.

you want
no identity without security.

Did I mention  that I’ll be presenting more of this fun stuff on TechoRama 2017.
Check it out here: http://sched.co/9M94

I’m very proud to present a session on the ABC of identity: Maximizing security with 10 simple processes.

 

June 2017: @TroyHunt is back in Belgium for his workshop ‘Hack Yourself First’. Wanna join?

ZIONSECURITY will be welcoming Troy Hunt again. The 1st and 2nd of June, he will be leading a ‘Hack Yourself First’ workshop where he will teach professionals how to break into their own applications. Find out the program and register here!

#update: download the flyer with program and details here: Flyer Troy Hunt June.

I have been there the last time, it was great fun, lots of interaction. And I certainly would recommend you to join.

What if you really wanna join, but your boss is not willing to sponsor? (While he SHOULD!).
Or any other silly reason you can’t attend?

Well, you know, if you can provide me a very good, strong, original and unique argument why you MUST be at this workshop, you might be lucky.

You know the channels to reach out to me and test your luck.

Some suggestion, send me a direct message:
1. Comment on this post,

2. mail me, tweet me (direct message!), F@ceBook me, LinkedIn …

Convince me and it could be you sitting at the first row.

Note-to-self: Security Compliance Manager 4.0 now available for download!

Sometime you get some silent signals that you have been way too busy…

Like stumbling into an announcement of a tool you evangelise…

Security Compliance Manager 4.0 now available for download!

Updated: 2020-12-30

#FIM2010 / #MIM2016 not so dead, and what you didn’t hear.

What seemed to be a small note on a MPN blog, landed on LinkedIn and finally got into a pretty… eh how would you name it … disappointing, bizar, vicious, mean, deviant, misunderstood .. nah .. just a wrong direction, has caused quite some confusion.

And looking at the IM and messages I get, it still is.

Let me spoil the clue of the story: Microsoft Identity and Access, FIM, MIM,… IS … ALIVE. VERY MUCH ALIVE. (NOT DEAD)
If you need more detail, continue…

Lots of things have been said and I don’t want to repeat too much stuff, and certainly don’t want to take credit for it.
But let me pick some core components of the discussion and get a few things straight.

Why not refer to the sources first, by chrono. (If you want to have them in a short list all together, quickly read through the post till the end.)

It started here (by Gavriella Schuster on 12 April 2016):

https://blogs.partner.microsoft.com/mpn/microsoft-partner-network-evolution/?ln=en-US

In essence Gavriella discusses MPN (Microsoft Partner Network) competencies and mentions the “The retiring competencies”, which include: “Identity and Access”.
She doesn’t mention any product specifically, but she doesn’t mention either that “Identity and Access” is being moved to the Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) competency.
This is clearly a cause for confusion, disappointment and misunderstanding.

But if you continue to read her post and check the next paragraph, you’ll see:

  • Interactive MPN Evolution Guide – This NEW interactive tool is your first step to guide your decision process. Use this to explore all of the new paths and options and easily identify which is the best fit for your business.
  • MPN Evolution Page – This is an overview of the changes, including the full list of impacted competencies and timeline.
  • FAQ – We have received feedback from some of your peers in our advisory councils and compiled answers to some of the questions we anticipate you might have. We will continue to build on these as we receive new questions.

 

After a few clicks in the MPN evolution guide, you’ll see that “Identity and Access” is now in the Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) competency. But it takes a few pages to find out. Right.

Also the MPN Evolution FAQ (downloadable PDF) says:

“Identity and Access Competency

Q) Where can I find more information about Enterprise Mobility Suite and partner opportunities?
A) For Enterprise Mobility Suite information, go here. For competency information, go here.

Q) Where can I find more info around Enterprise Mobility Suite incentives eligibility via the Enterprise Mobility Management Competency?
A) To learn more about EMS Incentives, visit the portal page, here. “

A few days later a post on LinkedIn interpretes the competency change as “It marks the end of MIIS, ILM, FIM, and MIM“.
This opinion/ interpretation ignited a discussion or list of comments that even got vicious and mean if not incorrect. But I’ll leave that to your own interpretation.

But I can certainly advise to read all of it.

One of the key comments is posted by Alex Simons (Director of PM, Microsoft Identity Division): (quote)

“This focus area has just been combined with Mobility as we believe the overall category is merging as part of the shift we are seeing among customers to a modern end-user productivity model which merges Identity, Mobiltiy and Information Protection together to enable workers to get their jobs done wherever they are. So don’t let the merger fool you! We have more engineers working on Identity and Access Managemebt today (600+ across the cloud and on-premises) than we have ever had before at Microsoft!”

Apparently, due to some technical issues, an important comment of David Steadman never got posted to that thread. And probably for that reason, it got disconnected.
But it’s a damn important insider-note or add-on to Alex’ message.

“Identity within Microsoft not Dead!!”

“/../ this is not the end to identity platform. It simply transforming to what customers are demanding, just like MIIS changed and ILM. Merging the assets makes sense, As we have seen with this product and others. If you do not change you will be left behind it is a strategic change that meets the demand of our Azure Customers and On-premise Customers. Also the MIM product group has release a few new additions to MIM CTP4 /../”

“… Because Microsoft is the Identity platform and as this merger of Identity, Mobility and Information Protection continues you will see great add to the story and services.”

A few days later, , posts an interesting reply to the discussion. To jump to his conclusion: “ Success in the cloud is underpinned by a well-engineered Identity and Access infrastructure – and that is usually a hybrid on-premises/cloud infrastructure involving MIM, AD, Azure AD and much more. You can call it what you like, but rumours of its death have been greatly exaggerated.

And to close the discussion, you might want to get up to speed on what Microsoft Identity and Access aka Enterprise Mobility is heading to… with another post by Hugh.
It’s the essence of the whole story: Identity and Acces, now Enterpise mobility is not limited to the ‘identity technology’ anymore: consider”Advanced Threat Analytics, Secure Islands, Adallom, hybrid identity, devices and enterprise mobility management, Microsoft Identity Manager (MIM) including Privileged Access Management (PAM), new features in Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility Suite, including changes in Azure Active Directory, Rights Management, and Intune… and more.

It’s damn clear that a specialist in Microsoft Identity & Access (eh sorry, Enterprise Mobility), will have plenty of work in the future.

That being said, here’s the short list.

References list of LinkedIn articles:

But that’s not all.
Recheck the Microsoft support lifecycle for the various products and save it for future reference:

 

*EDIT – 13/may/2016 … the discussion continues*
Above was the customer friendly version, as I’ve got quite some queries for details.
So it allows to explain that the pronounced dead essentially was a hoax.

On the FIM/MIM FB group, there was a very pertinent remark by Gil Kirkpatrick which I’m allowed to share here:

I’ve been utterly baffled at the public reaction to all of this… I’ve had probably a dozen people (a Kuppinger-Cole guy for chrissakes) tell me how MSFT has failed to crack the IAM market and how they’ve given up and EOL’d FIM/MIM, and now its a free-for-all and tha datacenter is on fire, and …, well you get the idea. It’s like nobody even bothered to read the announcement, and I don’t know, maybe look up some of the words in the dictionary if they were having trouble understanding it.”

+1

I personally think this is exactly the reason that David, Hugh and others (including me) have been fighting this hoax.

And I’ll not go into the view and recent reports of the market watchers, like Kuppinger-Cole and Gartner on Identity and Access, Identity Governance, .. whatever.
These are valuable if the reports are built on current, solid data.
But if a vendor does not participate in the survey for a year, or two, because their product stack is been overhauled and set ready for the future.. and therefore the ‘product suite’ does not fit to the market watchers categories (so it drops from the reports), it’s no reason to burry a product/vendor.

And certainly if these reports are published one year later… 
Things are moving fast, very fast.

Updated: 2020-12-30

Note-to-self: Normalization of deviance in security: how broken practices become standard [must read]

If you would search the internet you’ll quickly find the original quote… “Normalization of deviance in software: how broken practices become standard”

All credits go to the original post: http://danluu.com/wat/

And to honor the truth completely, the hint was posted by Joe Richards at http://blog.joeware.net/2016/01/04/5683/
Joe has highlighted some important remarks in his blog post. But there is more…

What reasons do people or companies have NOT to implement best practices or ‘forget’ to implement them.
What easily becomes accepted as normal, why not speak up if you think something is wrong…

Just replace the ‘software’ in the article and title by ‘security’ …

Simply must read!
[Or actually, simply must implement, every day.]