28 October 2014

Passing Comment on Passwords (Part Four)

A recent article in The Telegraph reported that this year 110 million pieces of data have already been illegally sold, representing a 300 percent rise since 2012. This data mostly consists of login credentials, essentially meaning username and password details.

Of course, the same advice is wheeled out, encouraging everyone to be more diligent and to change passwords more frequently. But personally, I do not have a free evening every two weeks that I can dedicate to changing every password on every online account I have! Meanwhile, Facebook is busy scouring the web to try and find out if our details have been compromised. But I would prefer it if efforts were focused on stopping it happen in the first place.

Asking people to regularly change passwords just isn’t feasible and we should have learnt by now that the majority of us just won’t do it. Even, if everyone did change their passwords regularly at best it would possibly reduce the ‘quality’ of the data being bought and sold.

Speaking at the Information Security Solutions Europe (ISSE) conference in Brussels last week the Head of European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), Troels Oerting, commented that most of the people who go online do not have a clue what they are getting in to and someone needs to protect them. Meanwhile, the former Cyber-Security Coordinator of the Obama Administration, Howard Schmidt, advised that we need better security to have less victims, but this makes it harder for people to do their jobs.

A recurring theme at the conference was the fact that still cybercrime has the potential to deliver high profit and at low risk of being caught, especially as much of it is conducted across national borders. So, all the while login credentials are easy pickings there is no reason to expect this to change. The positive feedback I can report is that there is much consensus among security professionals that we must move away from passwords, with recognition for initiatives such as the FIDO Alliance (of which Winfrasoft is a member) that is  working to balance improved security with user convenience. So, now the debate has moved on to how to achieve it.

 Adding layers of security is one approach and this week Google has been introducing its new security key, which is essentially a hard-token for 2FA. However, I suspect it won’t be on many peoples Christmas lists for two reasons. The first is that it is a token and that means I will need to carry it around with the other tokens I already have on my key ring. The second issue I have is that is it a USB and neither my smartphone or my tablet (the two devices that I tend to use the most for going online) have USB ports.

I agree that adding layers of complexity is important to thwart cybercriminals but if you make it more complex for the user then you end up with paralysis. So, as smartphones and tablets have become ubiquitous it is these devices that I strongly believe hold the key (as opposed to the key ring token!). Placing the token on to these devices adds convenience, as you always have it with you. Then, if you remove the need for the user to remember password and the requirement for the organisation to store it, in my book you have a winning solution.

To find out how this works in practice take a look at PINgrid: www.pingrid.com

Author: Alissa Lang, Winfrasoft

23 October 2014

Winfrasoft Appliance update for SSL 3.0 POODLE attack (CVE-2014-3566)

Winfrasoft is pleased to make available Winfrasoft Appliance Update 2.0 for all Winfrasoft appliances running Microsoft Forefront TMG, UAG and Winfrasoft AuthCentral. The update protects the appliance from the recently discovered vulnerability in the SSL 3.0 protocol and the POODLE attack (CVE-2014-3566) and further hardens the cryptographic configuration of the appliance.
Detailed information and the download location of Winfrasoft Appliance Update 2.0 is available here: http://www.winfrasoft.com/support/kb/kb-42.aspx
All support enquiries should be emailed to support@winfrasoft.com

The SSL 3.0 vulnerability is an industry wide issue and is not restricted to a single vendor. Further information about the vulnerability and the attack is available here:

10 October 2014

Passing comment on passwords (Part three)

The fallout from the celebrity iCloud hack continued this week with Apple announcing that it has added an extra layer of security. So, now if you are an Apple device user and have third party apps that connect to your iCloud (I suspect that will be many of you!) you now need to create a unique password for each app. However, we all know that if you have an Apple device you will have a lot of apps and many of these will be connected to your iCloud, so are we really going to create ‘unique’ passwords for each? I suspect what will happen is that people will use the same password for every app, and therein lies the big problem with passwords in general.

Today, passwords underpin security. Businesses use passwords in an attempt to add security, for those of us who use them (essentially everyone), security is of course important, but we typically put the emphasis on convenience. Meanwhile, the cybercriminal is on the hunt for them.

In an article published by Sky News, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in the US think that they have found the secret formula to creating and remembering up to 14 complex passwords. It suggest that you use a person an action and an object to create a password for example ‘Bill Gates rowing teacup’ or ‘Steve Jobs tasting cheese’ (these are all words that were used in the research). We have had fun playing around with the idea but I can’t see it catching on. I have more than 14 accounts that require passwords, many of them require the use of numbers and non-alphabet characters, and some have a specific character limit which means it simply wouldn’t work. But first and foremost I do not want to spending my day trying to remember if ‘Tiger Woods sheering hen’ or ‘Luke Skywalker juicing owl’ is my Facebook, Amazon or LinkedIn password! And then, if I get that bit right did I add an uppercase letter and exclamation at the end in order to satisfy the need to make it supposedly ‘strong’?

The truth is that until we address the imbalance between security and convenience all that is ever being done is papering over the cracks. The fact that academics at Carnegie Mellon University even deemed such research necessary highlights just how crazy the concept of password management has become in our modern lives. What is more, none of this takes in to account the fact that no matter how long and convoluted you make a password, if it is stored somewhere (and you can be sure an organisation has your password as you disclose it every time you logon or transact) then it is vulnerable to theft and abuse.

If you want to learn more about how passwords are past it then we will be demonstrating PINgrid, at GITEX Technology Week in Dubai next week. We will in hall 3 and on stand C3.

Author: Alissa Lang, Winfrasoft