security

Whatsapp security dichttimmeren: stap voor stap (NL)

English version here: https://identityunderground.wordpress.com/2021/06/07/whatsapp-security-lockdown-step-by-step/

Gebruik je WhatsApp, of overweeg je om het te gebruiken (of ben je uitgenodigd door contacten)?

Dan kan de onderstaande checklist je stap-per-stap in detail uitleggen om

  • te evalueren of het de moeite waard is om WhatsApp te gebruiken, en
  • de beveiliging van je WhatsApp dicht te timmeren, om zo veilig mogelijk te blijven als je Whatsapp wil gebruiken.

Download dit article

At the end of this article, you can also find the download link for an offline version of this article.

Als je echt om privacy geeft en het is van het grootste belang…

Zoals hieronder uitgelegd, kun je WhatsApp zeker beveiligen, maar ze hebben nog steeds je gegevens en metadata en ze definiëren de regels waarmee WhatsApp de show uitvoert. En dat kan veranderen, wanneer ze maar willen.

En je moet weten dat WhatsApp eigendom is van en wordt beheerd door Facebook. En Facebook heeft al bewezen dat ze een echt slechte reputatie hebben als het gaat om privacy …

Als je echt niet wilt toegeven qua privacy, kijk dan eens naar alternatieven die niet zijn gebouwd door bedrijven die geld verdienen met je persoonlijke gegevens… (zie einde van dit artikel).

Het is aan jou om te beslissen welk risico je wilt nemen. Als je het gebruik van WhatsApp en je privacy wilt afwegen tegen de best mogelijke beveiliging, lees dan verder.

Als je om privacy geeft en toch Whatsapp wilt gebruiken

End-to-end encryptie

Het goede nieuws is dat WhatsApp een end-to-end encryptie gebruikt.

En hoewel Facebook of andere partijen mogelijk niet meeluisteren met uw gesprekken, kunnen de contactgegevens, de metagegevens (de gegevens over uw gesprekken) worden onderschept en eigendom zijn van / worden beheerd door Facebook / WhatsApp.

Verder is het belangrijk om te weten dat encryptie NIET van toepassing is op de WhatsApp back-ups.

Zoals hieronder wordt uitgelegd, kunt u dus overwegen whatsApp-back-up uit te schakelen om uw gegevens te beschermen.

En als je er toch voor wilt kiezen om WhatsApp te gebruiken, kun je de privacy en beveiliging in alle lagen van de applicatie beter vergrendelen.

Algemene beveiligingsregels

Minimaliseer uw gegevens

Over het algemeen is het altijd slim om uw gegevens in de applicatie te minimaliseren.

  • Geef geen persoonsgegevens weg
  • houd uw profielgegevens tot het minimum dat nodig is

Ga naar het WhatsApp status tabblad (rechts naast chats)

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en klik vervolgens op “Instellingen” (Settings)

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Ook, heel belangrijk, beperk het delen van persoonlijke gegevens, er is een specifieke set opties in het gedeelte Privacy.

  • uw profiel alleen delen met vertrouwde contactpersonen
  • De publicatie van
    • “laatst gezien” tijdstempel
    • profielfoto
    • status
    • groepen
    • live locatie

Stel voor elk van deze opties de juiste keuze in om delen uit te schakelen.

Kies “Alleen delen met…” (Only Share with…) > geen contactpersonen selecteren (of enkel een beperkte set vertrouwde contactpersonen)

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Resultaat

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Zorg er ook voor dat u het “Vingerafdrukslot” (Fingerprint lock) inschakelt, indien beschikbaar op uw smartphone.

Koperstip: voor de volgende smartphoneaankoop moet u rekening houden met de beschikbaarheid van een vingerafdrukscanner op uw telefoon.

Houd de app up-to-date

Werk uw apps continu bij, incl. WhatsApp, naar de nieuwste versie, om ervoor te zorgen dat alle beveiligingsfouten of beveiligingsproblemen meteen worden opgelost.

De meeste beveiligingsinbreuken of hacks richten zich specifiek op verouderde software.

Hoe u uw WhatsApp-beveiliging kunt vergrendelen, de controlelijst

Zonder beveiligingsconfiguratie is het vrij eenvoudig om een WhatsApp-account te kapen, omdat de eerste registratie alleen is gebaseerd op mobiele nummerregistratie en / of sms (kort bericht).

Dit maakt de eerste WhatsApp-gebruiker extreem gevoelig voor accountovername. Wees niet het volgende slachtoffer en vergrendel WhatsApp vanaf het eerste gebruik.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is whatsapp_settings_account-2.png

Whatsapp tweestapsverificatie (2FA) of multifactorauthenticatie (MFA) inschakelen

Allereerst moet je MFA inschakelen, het is een must.

Wanneer je 2FA / MFA inschakelt op de WhatsApp-instellingen, voorkom je dat iemand anders gewoon je telefoonnummer of WhatsApp-account kan overnemen.

Gebruik de sterke authenticatie van je telefoon

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is whatsapp_settings_2fa.png

E-mailadres registreren voor je account

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Een pincode instellen

Houd er rekening mee dat de pincode in WhatsApp geen inlogmethode is, maar een herstel- / herinstallatiefunctie.

Meer info: https://faq.whatsapp.com/android/security-and-privacy/adding-a-password/?lang=en

Maar u kunt de smartphonebeveiliging gebruiken om toegang tot toepassingen in te schakelen.

Het wordt sterk aangeraden om 2FA of MFA (multifactorauthenticatie, zoals uitgelegd in eerdere paragrafen) in te schakelen.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is whatsapp_settings_2fa_pin.png

Whatsapp-tweestaps- of multifactorauthenticatie inschakelen

Gebruik telefoon sterke authenticatie

Vingerafdruk

Binnen de privacy-instellingen vindt u de optie “Vingerafdrukvergrendeling” (als uw smartphone de vingerafdrukscanner aan boord heeft).

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Ga naar Instellingen > Account > Privacy om de vingerafdrukvergrendeling in te schakelen

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Selecteer vervolgens de laatste optie (Vingerafdrukvergrendeling)

In dit vingerafdrukvergrendelingsmenu kunt u de ontgrendeling inschakelen en de time-outperiode kiezen. Hou het kort.

(Misschien is “meteen”/”immediately” een beetje lastig, zet ‘m dan op 1 minuut bijvoorbeeld…)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is whatsapp_privacy_fingerprint.png

De beveiligingsmeldingen inschakelen

In de account settings

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er is een beveiligingsoptie

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Zorg ervoor dat u de optie “Beveiligingsmeldingen weergeven” inschakelt.

Dit zorgt ervoor dat u meldingen ontvangt wanneer de beveiligingscode van uw contacten verandert.

De privacy-instellingen vergrendelen

Verwijder overbodige persoonsgegevens uit uw profiel

Er is niet veel informatie die u zelf aan uw profiel kunt toevoegen.

Houd het tot het strikte minimum, en ik stel ook voor om geen persoonlijke foto toe te voegen, maar eerder een algemene foto.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is whatsapp_settings_account-1.png

Schakel in de privacyinstellingen alle publicatie van uw profielgegevens uit.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is whatsapp_settings_privacy-1.png

Locatietracking stoppen

Een belangrijke optie in de vorige lijst is ook het uitschakelen van locatietracking (“Live locatie”).

Back-up uitschakelen

Hoewel WhatsApp end-to-end-codering gebruikt voor zijn berichten, wordt de codering niet gehandhaafd wanneer de gegevens in de back-up worden opgeslagen

Als u zich echt zorgen maakt over privacy en beveiliging, schakelt u de back-up uit.

Trouwens, als u het verlopen van het bericht activeert, is de back-up toch overbodig…

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Select de “Chats” optie

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Kies in de chatoptie de optie “Chat back-up”

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In de Google drive settings (tenminste voor Android devices), selecteer “Backup to Google Drive” en selecteer dan “Nooit/Never”.

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Berichtvervaltijd inschakelen (berichten verdwijnen)

Als u het verlopen van berichten wilt inschakelen, moet u dit instellen op accountniveau van uw contactpersoon of op groepsniveau

Er is geen algemene beveiligingsinstelling en u kunt deze ook niet instellen op berichtniveau.

Waarschuwing

Houd er rekening mee dat het verdwijnen van berichten in WhatsApp enkele problemen kan hebben: https://www.androidauthority.com/whatsapp-disappearing-messages-feature-1173692/

Op contactniveau

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Berichtvervaltijd op groepsniveau inschakelen

You can set the same options on group level too.

It’s highly suggested to enable these group options, and make sure information is not kept longer as needed.

Andere operationele beveiligingstaken

Verouderde leden uit groepen verwijderen

Het is heel belangrijk om groepen die u beheert te bewaken en overbodige leden zo snel mogelijk te verwijderen.

Zo voorkom je dat er gegevens ‘lekken’ naar deelnemers die die informatie niet nodig hebben.

Groepen verlaten die u niet meer gebruikt

Controleer groepen waarvan u lid bent en sluit deze groepen af/afsluit deze groepen als u ze niet meer nodig hebt, als u geen informatie meer wilt delen of als u niet wilt dat leden uw informatie/berichten zien.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is whatsapp_leave-group.png

Zo voorkomt u dat u gegevens ‘lekt’ naar deelnemers om u te zien of te volgen.

Verzoek om toegang tot gegevens

Als je de informatie wilt controleren die WhatsApp over je weet, kun je een kopie van die infromation aanvragen

Ga naar je accountinstellingen

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En klik vervolgens op de optie “Informatie aanvragen”

Overweeg om andere tools te gebruiken, enkele alternatieven

Source:

Als je echt niet wilt toegeven aan privacy, kijk dan eens naar alternatieven die niet zijn gebouwd door bedrijven die geld verdienen met je persoonlijke gegevens…

Referenties

Whatsapp

Jezelf beschermen tegen WhatsApp-hacks

Uw gestolen account herstellen

Andere bronnen – aanvullende referenties die je kan raadplegen

Download

Dit artikel in het Nederlands kan je in PDF downloaden via deze link:

https://identityunderground.files.wordpress.com/2021/06/whatsapp-security-lockdown-step-by-step-nl-v1.pdf

Whatsapp security lockdown step-by-step

(NL versie vind je hier: https://identityunderground.wordpress.com/2021/06/07/whatsapp-security-dichttimmeren-stap-voor-stapnl/)

Are you using WhatsApp, or considering (or invited to, by contacts)?

Then the checklist below should provide you with detailed steps to

  • consider if it’s worth using WhatsApp
  • lock down the security of your WhatsApp to keep as secure as possible

Download this article

At the end of this article, you can also find the download link for an offline version of this article.

If you really care about privacy and it’s paramount…

As explained below you surely can lockdown WhatsApp, but they still have your data and metadata and they define the rules by which WhatsApp runs the show. And that can change, whenever they want.

And you should know that WhatsApp is owned and managed by Facebook.
And Facebook already has proven to maintain a really bad reputation when it comes down to privacy…

If you really do not want to give in on privacy, better check for alternatives that are not built by companies that make money with your personal data… (see end of this article).

It’s up to you to decide what risk you want to take. If you want to balance the use of WhatsApp and your privacy with the best possible security, continue to read.

If you care about privacy and still want to use Whatsapp

End-to-end encryption

The good news is, WhatsApp is using an end-to-end encryption.

And although Facebook or other parties might not listen in on your conversations, the contact data, the meta data (the data about your conversations) might be intercepted, and is owned/managed by Facebook/WhatsApp.

Furthermore it’s important to know that encryption DOES NOT apply to the WhatsApp backups.

So, as explained below, you might consider disabling WhatsApp backup to protect your data.

And if you still want to choose to use WhatsApp, better lock down the privacy and security in all layers of the application.

General security rules

Minimize your data

In general it’s always smart, to minimize your data in the application.

  • Don’t give away personal data
  • keep your profile data to the minimum needed

Go to the WhatsApp status tab

then click “Settings”

Also, very important, limit personal data sharing, there is a specific set of options in the Privacy section.

  • only share your profile with trusted contacts
  • Disable the publication of
    • “last seen” time stamp
    • profile photo
    • status
    • groups
    • live location

For each of these options set the right choice to disable sharing.

Choose “Only Share with…” > do not select any contacts (or a limited set of trusted contacts)

Result

Also make sure to enable the “Fingerprint lock” if available on your smartphone.

Buyers tip: for next smartphone purchase you must consider the availability of a fingerprint scanner on your phone.

Keep the app up to date

Continuously update your apps, incl. WhatsApp, to the latest version, to make sure that all security bugs or security issues are fixed right away.

Most of security breaches or hacks do specifically target outdated software.

How to lock down your WhatsApp security, the check list

Without security configuration it’s fairly easy to hijack a WhatsApp account, as the initial registration is only based on mobile number registration and/or SMS (short message).

This makes the initial WhatsApp user extremely sensitive to account take over. Don’t be the next victim, and lock down WhatsApp from the first use.

Enable Whatsapp Two-step (2FA) or multifactor authentication (MFA)

First of all you need to enable MFA, it’s a must.

When you enable 2FA/MFA on the WhatsApp settings, you avoid that someone else simply can take over your phone number or WhatsApp account.

Use phone strong authentication

Register email address to the account

Set a pin/password

Be aware that the PIN in WhatsApp is not a login method but a recovery/reinstallation feature.

More info: https://faq.whatsapp.com/android/security-and-privacy/adding-a-password/?lang=en

But you can use the smartphone security to enable application access security.

It’s strongly suggested to enable 2FA or MFA (multifactor authentication, as explained in previous paragraphs.

Enable Whatsapp Two-step or multifactor authentication

Use phone strong authentication

Finger print

Within the privacy settings, you can find the option “Fingerprint lock” (if your smartphone has the fingerprint scanner on board).

To enable the fingerprint lock, Go to Settings > Account > Privacy

Then select the last option (Fingerprint lock)

In this Fingerprint lock menu, you can enable the unlock and choose the time-out period. Keep it short.

(Maybe immediately is a bit inconvenient…)

Enable the security notifications

In the account settings

there is a security option

Make sure to enable the “Show Security notifications” option.

This will make sure you get notifications when the security code of your contacts change.

Lock down the privacy settings

Remove redundant personal data from your profile

There is not a lot of info you can add to your profile yourself.

Keep it to the strict minimum, and I also would suggest not to add a personal photo, but rather a general photo.

In the privacy settings, disable all publication of your profile data.

Stop location tracking

An important option in previous list is also to disable location tracking (“Live location”).

Disable backup

Although WhatsApp is using end-to-end encryption for it’s messaging, the encryption is not maintained when the data is stored in the backup

If you really are concerned about privacy and security, you disable the backup.

By the way, if you activate message expiration, the backup is redundant anyway…

Select the “Chats” option

In the chats option, choose the “Chat backup” option

In the Google drive settings (at least for Android devices), select “Backup to Google Drive” and then select “‘Never”.

Enable message expiration (disappearing messages)

To enable message expiration, you’ll need to set it on the account level of your contact or on group level

There is no general security setting, nor can you set it on the message level.

Warning

Please be aware that disappearing messages in WhatsApp might have some issues: https://www.androidauthority.com/whatsapp-disappearing-messages-feature-1173692/

On contact level

Enable message expiration on group level

You can set the same options on group level too.

It’s highly suggested to enable these group options, and make sure information is not kept longer as needed.

Other operational security tasks

Remove obsolete members from groups

It’s quite important to monitor groups you manage and remove redundant members as soon as possible.

This way you avoid ‘leaking’ data to participants who do not need that information.

Leave groups you don’t use anymore

Monitor groups you are member of, and you should quit/exit these groups if you do not need them anymore, or you do not want to share information anymore, or if you don’t want members to see your information/messages.

This way you avoid ‘leaking’ data to participants to see you or track you.

Data access request

If you want to check the information that WhatsApp knows about you, you can request a copy of that infromation

Go to your account settings

And then click the “Request Information option”

Consider to use other tools, some alternatives

Source:

If you really do not want to give in on privacy, better check for alternatives that are not built by companies that make money with your personal data…, like

Reference

Whatsapp

Protecting yourself from WhatsApp hacking

Recover your stolen account

Other sources – additional references you can check

Download

The current article is available for download here: https://identityunderground.files.wordpress.com/2021/06/whatsapp-security-lockdown-step-by-step.pdf

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