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  2007-09-06

Countermeasures That Can't Be Modeled

  21:53, by Hagai Bar-El   , 800 words
Categories: Security Policies

A couple of nights ago I drove back from some family event and got pulled over by a cop. Okay, I agree that this for itself is not worth a blog post. The cop asked me to open the window, he looked at me, asked me where I come from and where I am going to, and sent me off my way, without even bothering to carry out the standard papers check. The entire event took no longer than two minutes.

What took more than two minutes was my discussion with my wife about whether or not this sort of “examination” is worth anything. She believes it is probably a waste of tax payers money, to stop people just to ask them how they're doing. I happen to think that not only that this is not a waste of money, but it's probably one of the most effective uses for this money; at least for the money that is devoted to security.

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  2007-05-10

Rights Management Systems Versus "Simple" Data Encryption

  21:47, by Hagai Bar-El   , 156 words
Categories: Security Engineering

Here is a question that was raised in a discussion forum, along with my response to it. I figured it is interesting enough to post it here.

Question:
Why not just deploy a Enterprise Right Management solution instead of using various encryption tools to prevent data leaks?


Answer:
The “encryption tools” function according to simple, well understood, and more-or-less enforceable security models. Their assumptions are well understood and, most importantly, match the environments they run on. They solve a simple problem, and solve it effectively.

Rights management solutions have complex security models, and run in environments that do not always satisfy the assumptions. They aim at providing complex functionality, but they often (always?) fail to deliver due to their over-complexity and unrealistic assumptions.

If your security needs can be met by the simple functional model of the “encryption tools”, then you will prefer to enjoy the assurance and thereasonable robustness they provide, which is the most desirable feature after all.

  2007-04-05

DHS wants DNSSEC keys -- so what?

  21:43, by Hagai Bar-El   , 369 words
Categories: Security Policies

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wants to have the root master keys of DNSSEC. This will allow them to fake DNS responses at will. Read all about it at:

Homeland Security grabs for net's master keys
Department of Homeland and Security wants master key for DNS

It caused quite a lot of fuss. I agree with the political feeling of discomfort, but I somehow cannot understand the threat that some people attribute to this.

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  2007-01-06

Is more security always better?

  21:41, by Hagai Bar-El   , 932 words
Categories: Security Policies

This depends on who you ask. Some people think that the more secure a system is, the better; with no exceptions. This school of thought is often attributed to product vendors. This approach helps them believe (and thus convince) that their product is a great buy, regardless of the situation. This approach is also common among information security newbies who believe that an additional requirement or mechanism can only make you more resistant, not less, and thus is always worth adding. The fancier of these guys call it an additional “layer”, so they sound more confident.

I guess it can be told by my tone so far that I disagree. Making a system or a network more secure is sometimes worthwhile and sometimes it is not.

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  2006-09-11

PDAs in highly classified environments

  21:40, by Hagai Bar-El   , 820 words
Categories: IT Security

For a while IT security professionals are warning against the impacts of Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) on corporate security. A PDA can be lost or stolen and lead to undesired disclosure of the information that is on it. The emerging of micro-drives leads to these tiny devices having gigabytes of storage. Due to the high storage capacity of the PDA and the reduced file formats it uses (resulting in smaller files), a modern PDA can easily store the entire document repository of its owner. This document repository may contain masses of sensitive corporate information in a physical size that is way too easy to lose or to have stolen. This poses a real threat to organizations, as also pointed out by Bruce Schneier in an essay called “Risks of Losing Portable Devices”.

Information security officers are not unaware of the risk and attempt at finding solutions. The most immediate solution that comes to mind is password-protecting the PDA. Realizing that these mechanisms can be hacked, encryption is put to use, enciphering all or some of the PDA databases using a key that is entered by the user. This method carries notable inconvenience for the user, who is forced to enter a key each time he is looking for a phone number, an e-mail address, or a meeting time. It is clumsy, but it solves the problem. However, does it solve all problems?

No; at least not for everyone, to my opinion.

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  2006-07-28

The toughest part of designing secure products

  21:37, by Hagai Bar-El   , 928 words
Categories: Security Engineering

It is already obvious that security is hard to do right. Bruce Schneier has written a good essay called: Why Cryptography Is Harder Than It Looks. This essay refers to cryptography, but touches on the subject as a whole. It is still not always clear, however, where the hard-core of security analysis work is, and where exactly the difference from QA, and from other system engineering domains, lies.

I would like to take a shot at explaining the fundamental difference between assuring functionality and assuring security, and pinpoint the toughest part of security analysis.

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  2006-05-07

Is E-mail encryption really too complex?

  21:32, by Hagai Bar-El   , 567 words
Categories: IT Security

Every once in a while we read yet another article revealing the level to which e-mail encryption is uncommon. The last one I saw is here. Whenever the debate is raised about how come e-mail encryption is so seldom used, we hear the common opinion that e-mail encryption is just not easy enough for the commons; yet. It is not intuitive enough, it is not user-friendly, it is too intrusive to the typical work-flow, and so forth. Indeed, e-mail encryption for the masses is with us for more than a decade already, and other than a few geeks and a few privacy-savvy individuals, people just don't use it.

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