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Exploring the science and magic of Identity and Access Management

You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind. — Mahatma Gandhi

Friday, October 31, 2014

McAfee Labs Threats Report – Fourth Quarter 2013

Information Security
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, March 21, 2014
8:05 am


This morning, I read the recently-released McAfee Labs Threats Report – Fourth Quarter 2013   The lead story was entitled “The cybercrime industry and its role in POS attacks.”  To introduce a timeline chart that includes successful attacks on well known retailers, the report states:

In December, we began to hear of a series of point-of-sale (POS) attacks on multiple retail chains across the United States. The first story to break was specific to Target; this attack has been ranked among the largest data-loss incidents of all time. Soon we learned of more retail chains affected by POS attacks. Neiman Marcus, White Lodging, Harbor Freight Tools, Easton-Bell Sports, Michaels Stores, and ‘wichcraft all suffered similar POS breaches in 2013. Although there has been no public acknowledgment that the attacks are related or carried out by the same actor, many of them leveraged off-the-shelf malware to execute the attacks.


Two themes in the article particularly stood out:

  • Many attacks leveraged “off-the-shelf malware”
  • The attacks were executed by a “healthy and growing cybercrime industry”

The article concluded:

We believe these breaches will have long-lasting repercussions. We expect to see changes to security approaches and compliance mandates and, of course, lawsuits. But the big lesson is that we face a healthy and growing cybercrime industry which played a key role in enabling and monetizing the results of these attacks.

Intruders are better prepared, more organized and better equipped than ever.  It’s a crazy world out there.  


KuppingerCole: Information Security Predictions and Recommendations 2014

Cloud Computing, Identity, Information Security, Internet of Things
Author: Mark Dixon
Thursday, December 19, 2013
2:53 pm



Kuppinger Cole just released an insightful Advisory Note: “Information Security Predictions and Recommendations 2014.”  The introduction stated:

Information Security is in constant flux. With the changing threat landscape, as well as a steary stream of new innovations, demand for Information Security solutions is both growing and re-focusing.

I like both the predictions and recommendations in this report.  Here are a few excerpts from my favorite recommendations:

Cloud IAM (Identity and Access Management)

Define an IAM strategy for dealing with all types of users, devices, and deployment models that integrates new Cloud IAM solutions and existing on-premise IAM seamlessly.

API Economy

Before entering this brave, new world of the API “Economy”, define your security concept first and invest in API Security solutions. Security can’t be an afterthought in this critical area.

IoEE (Internet of Everything and Everyone)

Before starting with IoEE, start with IoEE security. IoEE requires new security concepts, beyond traditional and limited approaches.

Ubiquitous Encryption

Encryption only helps when it is done consistently, without leaving severe gaps.

The whole paper is well worth reading.  Hopefully, this post whetted your appetite a little bit.


$1,000 per Record?

Information Security, Privacy
Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
5:49 pm


One Thousand Dollars

Today, I read of at three separate instances where class-action lawsuits have been filed on behalf of people whose personal information had been breached at a healthcare company.  The largest lawsuit, filed against TRICARE, represents 4.9 million affected individuals and is seeking damages of $1,000 per record – a total of $4.9 BILLION. Wow!

This action or other similar lawsuits have yet to be reach court or settlement. Depending on the outcomes, potential costs of litigation and resulting awards to victims may emerge as the single most powerful financial driver to implement good information security in the healthcare industry. 


Video: Ann Cavoukian – Privacy and Security by Design: An Enterprise Architecture Approach

Information Security, Privacy
Author: Mark Dixon
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
4:17 pm


The following video features Ann Cavoukian, Ph.D., Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ontario, Canada, discussing the paper I co-authored with her, “Privacy and Security by Design: An Enterprise Architecture Approach.”


Privacy and Security by Design: Foundational Principles

Information Security, Privacy
Author: Mark Dixon
Thursday, September 26, 2013
1:08 pm


To prepare for my first meeting with Ann Cavoukian earlier this year, I drafted a brief table which proposed a set of principles for Security by Design that aligned with the well-know foundational principles for Privacy by Design. It seemed to me that this would provide a starting point for exploring how security both supported and benefited from Privacy by Design principles.  I published that draft table on my blog back in March of this year.

After reviewing the draft table, Ann asked me to work with her on a paper to amplify this alignment concept.  The result was the paper, “Privacy and Security by Design: An Enterprise Architecture Approach” which was published earlier this week.

The table I originally drafted became the following table published in the final paper:



Video: Privacy and Security by Design: An Enterprise Architecture Approach

Information Security, Privacy
Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
3:45 am


In the following video, Dr. Ann Cavoukian describes the paper I was privileged to co-author with her.

More information and a download link is available here.


Privacy and Security by Design: An Enterprise Architecture Approach

Information Security, Privacy
Author: Mark Dixon
Monday, September 23, 2013
6:28 am


PDBToday, we are pleased to announce publication of a paper entitled “Privacy and Security by Design: An Enterprise Architecture Approach,” which I co-authored with Ann Cavoukian, Ph.D., Information & Privacy Commissioner, Ontario, Canada.

In the foreword to the paper, Dr. Cavoukian wrote:

In an earlier paper with Oracle, we discussed the convergence of paradigms between the approach to privacy I have long championed called Privacy by Design, and a similar approach to security called ‘Security by Design.’ The current and future challenges to security and privacy oblige us to revisit this convergence and delve deeper. As privacy and security professionals, we must come together and develop a proactive approach to security – one that is indeed “by design.” To this end, I am delighted to be partnering with Mark Dixon, Enterprise Architect, Information Security, at Oracle Corporation, on this joint paper.

This paper has two key objectives:

  • Define a set of foundational “Security by Design” principles that are modelled upon and support the 7 foundational principles of Privacy by Design.
  • Illustrate an enterprise-level process for defining and governing the strategic journey of Security by Design through an enterprise architecture approach.

To achieve these objectives, the paper includes the following major sections:

  • Foundational Principles of Privacy by Design
  • Foundational Principles of Security by Design
  • The Enterprise Security Journey
  • Conclusion

The conclusion states:

“In this paper, we explored the strong synergy that exists between the related disciplines of privacy and security. While on the one hand, strong security is essential to meet the objectives of privacy, on the other hand, well-known privacy principles are valuable in guiding the implementation of security systems. On the basis of this synergy, we defined a set of foundational principles for Security by Design that are modeled upon and support the foundational principles of Privacy by Design. …

“On the basis of this new Security by Design approach, we then developed an enterprise-level process for defining, governing and realizing a ‘by design’ approach to security. In order to become a reality for enterprises, Security by Design requires strong leadership and continuous goal-setting. However, Enterprise Architecture is an ongoing journey, not a single project or disjointed set of loosely related projects. Our discussion found that if an EA framework is followed to define an EA security strategy in harmony with the holistic, interdisciplinary principles of Privacy by Design and Security by Design, and if a formal governance process is implemented to guide and govern the journey, then an enterprise can be proactive, rather than reactive, in addressing any security concerns.

We hope this paper will assist enterprises to deliver stronger security and better privacy, for all of their stakeholders – a win/win proposition.




Privacy by Design Ambassador

Information Security, Privacy
Author: Mark Dixon
Monday, September 9, 2013
9:12 am


Coe pbd

It was an honor today to be announced as a Privacy by Design Ambassador by the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, Canada:

Privacy by Design Ambassadors are an exclusive, but growing, group of privacy thought-leaders committed to ensuring the ongoing protection of personal information by following the Principles of PbD.  Ambassadors advance the case for embedding privacy protective measures in technology, processes and physical design. …

The Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC) is an independent officer of the Legislature whose mandate is to oversee compliance with public sector access and privacy legislation and health sector privacy legislation in the province of Ontario.

The IPC recognizes ambassadors based on their attestations that they apply the principles of Privacy by Design. The IPC does not endorse any company or product of any recognized ambassador.

It was humbling to be listed among others whom I admire and respect for their contributions to the industry we serve.

I have deeply appreciated the opportunity to work closely with Dr. Ann Cavoukian and her staff on a soon to be announced joint paper on principles of privacy and security.  I look forward to announcing and discussing this paper soon.


IoT: A Market Landscape

Identity, Information Security, Internet of Things, Privacy
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, August 9, 2013
12:14 pm



Today I read an informative paper published by GigaOM Research entitled, “The Internet of Things: A Market Landscape.”  I find The Internet of Things to be the most interesting area of technology and business in my professional world today.  This paper did an excellent job of providing an overview of the IoT landscape and highlighting both opportunities and challenges.

A few things that I found intriguing:

IoT is not just new technology:

The internet of things is not a single technology trend. Rather, it is a way of thinking about how the physical world at large and the objects, devices, and structures within it are becoming increasingly interconnected.

The market is moving rapidly to mind-boggling scale:

  1. Some 31 billion internet-connected devices will exist by 2020, according to Intel.
  2. A family of four will move from having 10 connected devices in 2012 to 25 in 2017 to 50 in 2022.
  3. Mobile subscriptions will exceed the number of people in the world by early 2014.

Identity is first on the list of important characteristics:

For things to be manageable, they need to be identifiable either in terms of type or as a unique entity. … Identification by type or by instance is fundamental to the internet of things.

The power of IoT comes from connectivity, not just individual components:

The internet of things is an ultra-connected environment of capabilities and services, enabling interaction with and among physical objects and their virtual representations, based on supporting technologies such as sensors, controllers, or low-powered wireless as well as services available from the wider internet.

The biggest challenges?  Security, monitoring and surveillance:

Computer security, say the experts, boils down to protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of both data and services. With the internet of things looking set to create all manner of data, from heart rate and baby monitors to building management systems, there is clearly going to be a great deal to protect. …

The internet of things enables the whole world to be monitored. …  the potential for the inappropriate use of such technologies — for example, to spy on partners or offspring — will grow. In the business context as well, the role of the internet of things offers a wealth of opportunity but also of abuse.

The bottom line?  The possibilities are vast, the challenges daunting, but IoT is happening.  It will be great to go along for the ride.


Intellectual Property Espionage: Huge Impact, No Easy Solutions

Information Security
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, May 24, 2013
10:32 am



Yesterday, I was introduced to a recently-published 90+ page report, “The Report of the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property.”

The Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property is an independent and bipartisan initiative of leading Americans from the private sector, public service in national security and foreign affairs, academe, and politics. The three purposes of the Commission are to:

  1. Document and assess the causes, scale, and other major dimensions of international intellectual property theft as they affect the United States
  2. Document and assess the role of China in international intellectual property theft
  3. Propose appropriate U. S. policy responses that would mitigate ongoing and future damage and obtain greater enforcement of intellectual property rights by China and other infringers

The members of this commission represent an interesting cross section of private and public sector leaders:

  • Dennis C. Blair (co-chair), former Director of National Intelligence and Commander in Chief of the U. S. Pacific Command
  • Jon M. Huntsman, Jr. (co-chair), former Ambassador to China, Governor of the state of Utah, and Deputy U. S. Trade Representative
  • Craig R. Barrett, former Chairman and CEO of Intel Corporation
  • Slade Gorton, former U. S. Senator from the state of Washington, Washington Attorney General, and member of the 9-11 Commission
  • William J. Lynn III, CEO of DRS Technologies and former Deputy Secretary of Defense
  • Deborah Wince-Smith, President and CEO of the Council on Competitiveness
  • Michael K. Young, President of the University of Washington and former Deputy Under Secretary of State

The report addresses the huge scale of intellectual property theft – involving hundreds of billions of dollars and huge impact on ongoing innovation:

The scale of international theft of American intellectual property (IP) is unprecedented—hundreds of billions of dollars per year, on the order of the size of U. S. exports to Asia. The effects of this theft are twofold. The first is the tremendous loss of revenue and reward for those who made the inventions or who have purchased licenses to provide goods and services based on them, as well as of the jobs associated with those losses. American companies of all sizes are victimized. The second and even more pernicious effect is that illegal theft of intellectual property is undermining both the means and the incentive for entrepreneurs to innovate, which will slow the development of new inventions and industries that can further expand the world economy and continue to raise the prosperity and quality of life for everyone. Unless current trends are reversed, there is a risk of stifling innovation, with adverse consequences for both developed and still developing countries. The American response to date of hectoring governments and prosecuting individuals has been utterly inadequate to deal with the problem.

The report recommends several short, medium and long term remedies, including public policy, legislation, public/private cooperation and advances in cyber security technology and processes.

In the last category, I was interested to read the following observation (emphasis mine):

Even the best security systems using vulnerability-mitigation measures, including those with full-time dedicated operations centers, cannot be relied on for protection against the most highly skilled targeted hackers. A network exists in order to share information with authorized users, and a targeted hacker, given enough time, will always be able to penetrate even the best network defenses.

Effective security concepts against targeted attacks must be based on the reality that a perfect defense against intrusion is impossible. The security concept of threat-based deterrence is designed to introduce countermeasures against targeted hackers to the point that they decide it is no longer worth making the attacks in the first place. In short, it reverses the time, opportunity, and resource advantage of the targeted attacker by reducing his incentives and raising his costs without raising costs for the defender. Conceptual thinking about and effective tools for threat-based deterrence are in their infancy, but their development is a very high priority both for the U. S. government and for private companies.

The observation that “a perfect defense against intrusion is impossible,” is chilling.  What is to be done?

The report’s recommendation to battle this challenge:

Encourage adherence to best-in-class vulnerability-mitigation measures by companies and governments in the face of an evolving cybersecurity environment. Despite their limited utility against skilled and persistent targeted hackers, computer security systems still need to maintain not only the most up-to-date vulnerability-mitigation measures, such as firewalls, password-protection systems, and other passive measures.

They should also install active systems that monitor activity on the network, detect anomalous behavior, and trigger intrusion alarms that initiate both network and physical actions immediately. This is a full-time effort. Organizations need network operators “standing watch” who are prepared to take actions based on the indications provided by their systems, and who keep a “man in the loop” to ensure that machine responses cannot be manipulated.

Organizations need to have systems—software, hardware, and staff—to take real-time action to shut down free movement around the house, lock inside doors, and immobilize attackers once the alarms indicate that an intrusion has started. Some government agencies and a few corporations have comprehensive security systems like this, but most do not.

The bottom line is that Intellectual Property espionage is a huge problem with no simple solutions.  Technology alone cannot solve the problem.  There are major social, political, economic and cultural challenges that must be addressed. But we in the information security business have our work cut out for us.

Copyright © 2005-2013, Mark G. Dixon. All Rights Reserved.
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