Privacy

Data Privacy Day 2016

Today is Data Privacy Day! It’s been taking place annually on the 28th of January since 2007, and this year is no different. As you may have worked out already, data privacy day is all about protecting and maintaining your privacy, especially in the online world. One of the main focuses of the day is raising awareness of data protection requirements and best practices, so we thought we’d talk about some organisations and laws that help to do so.

Summary

  • If you’re a UK business and store any customer information, you need to register with the ICO
  • If a user types payment card information into your website, you are required to be PCI DSS compliant

Data Controllers & The ICO

The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) is interested in upholding rights with regards to information and does so in the public interest. It keeps track of businesses that are storing personal information (data controllers), deals with enquiries and complaints, and encourages bodies to comply with particular laws such as the Freedom of Information Act and the Data Protection Act.

The Data Protection Act stipulates that “every organisation processing personal information” must register as a data controller with the ICO (unless you are exempt), so make sure you do so if this applies to you! The responsibilities of a data controller cover things such as making sure you’re not holding onto data for longer than necessary, and that you are only recording information for the reasons specified to the ICO upon registering as a data controller.

The ICO can also provide you with help and advice on ensuring you’re upholding your responsibilities as a data controller. We highly recommend filling out the self assessment provided by the ICO to help you determine if you need to register with them.

PCI DSS Compliance

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), and compliance is all about certifying that your company is handling payment card data in a safe and secure manner. It’s purpose is to try and improve the security of the online payment process, at the benefit of both the merchant and consumer.  If your website or application accepts, transmits or stores payment card information, then you must be PCI DSS compliant.

There are different levels of compliance which you must meet depending on how many payments you process and the way in which you do so. If you’re using a payment gateway, such as SagePay or PayPal, which redirects users to an external page, then you probably only need to to fill out a self-assessment questionnaire to gain compliance. You can find that questionnaire here.

If you don’t meet the standards, then you’re leaving yourself open to the possibility of very hefty fines and damage to your brand image. Setting up and securing your servers to aid in meeting the standards is something that we at Dogsbody Technology are perfectly suited to, so please get in touch if you have any questions or think that we can help!

Feature image by g4ll4is under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

CVE-2014-3566 – POODLE

What is POODLE

The POODLE (Padding Oracle On Downgraded Legacy Encryption) vulnerability allows an attacker to obtain data transferred with the SSL 3.0 protocol.  An attacker acting as a man in the middle can downgrade a TLS connection to SSL 3.0 and then use a padding-oracle attack to access sensitive information such as cookies.  Since stealing a user’s cookies will allow an attacker to login as that user, they are the most likely target of a POODLE attack.

Prevention

This vulnerability can be fixed either on the server or in the client.

Site owners can protect their users against POODLE attacks by disabling TLS fallback or SSL 3.0 (Note that disabling SSL 3.0 will break the site for IE6 users):

  • For Apache: SSLProtocol all -SSLv2 -SSLv3
  • For Nginx: ssl_protocols TLSv1 TLSv1.1 TLSv1.2;

Browsers are rolling out fixes but for users the quickest fix is to disable SSL 3.0:

  • In Firefox this is done by going to about:config and setting security.tls.version.min to 1
  • Chrome users have to use the command line flag --ssl-version-min=tls1

Going deeper

This attack is possible because SSL pads requests to fill the last block before encryption.  SSL 3.0 only requires the last byte to be checked by the server; it must have a value equal to the number of bytes that have been used for padding.  The values of the other padding bytes are not validated, this allows an attacker to move the block they want to decrypt to the the last block and try all 256 possible values until the server accepts the request, allowing them to decode one byte of the cookie.  An attacker in a privileged network position (or sharing public WiFi) just needs to downgrade the SSL connection from TLS to SSL 3.0 and then use JavaScript to quickly obtain a cookie one byte at a time.

For more technical information I would recommend this article by ImperialViolet.

Feature image made by Koji Ishii licensed CC BY 2.0

CVE-2014-6271 – Shellshock

Shellshock is a bug in the bash shell.  The main issue comes from the fact that commands can be executed if they are crafted into environment variables.  This means anyone who can send a user agent to Apache can run commands as the user running Apache.

Am I affected?

You can test if your server is vulnerable by logging in and running

env x='() { :;}; echo vulnerable' bash -c "echo this is a test"

If it outputs vulnerable there are a few steps you can take to try to prevent it being exploited.

Prevention for website owners

The easiest solution is to update to a version of bash that isn’t vulnerable however if one has not yet been released on your distribution you will have to consider other prevention methods.

Since an attacker needs to exploit a vulnerable service two likely targets being SSH and Apache you can mitigate most attack vectors by stopping these services.
As long as you have another way to login it is worth stopping SSH since it is likely to be running as root it could allow an attacker to gain root access to the server.
Stopping Apache is a more difficult decision since it will prevent customers from accessing your site however if you are very concerned then it may be the best cause of action.

A more complex solution is to switch to a different shell instead of bash but this is more complex and may have unexpected consequences to how applications run so we don’t recommend doing this blindly.

If you have a maintenance agreement with us then you don’t need to worry because we are updating bash whenever possible.

Feel free to get in touch if we can help with this.

Feature image – “Shellshock” by Linux Screenshots is licensed under CC BY 2.0

CVE-2014-0160 – Heartbleed

A vulnerability has been discovered that allows anyone over the internet to read data straight off of your server.

“Catastrophic” is the right word. On the scale of 1 to 10, this is an 11.
– Bruce Schneier

Labelled “Heartbleed” this vulnerability leaves your servers memory vulnerable and accessible to be read by anyone. A lot of private information is at risk, everything from passwords to SSL certificate keys are loaded into memory so often it is only a matter of time until a malicious user gets them.

The affected software, OpenSSL is a library that provides tools for encryption. OpenSSL is installed by default on many Linux systems as many core tools depend on it for SSL. It is widely used by servers for web, email, remote shell, VPN, file transfer and much more…

Test your website for the Heartbleed vulnerability.

The following command lists all services using libssl:

sudo lsof | grep libssl

The only fix is to upgrade OpenSSL to a non-vulnerable version and restart all services using it. Since it is used by so many services it can quickly become a large job to restart each process, especially in the correct order. The quickest way of doing this is by rebooting your server.

For more reading see the official Heartbleed website.

Our advice regarding this matter is:

  1. Ensure a fixed OpenSSL package is installed.
  2. Reboot your server (or restart all processes that use OpenSSL)

Feel free to get in touch if we can help with this.

Feature image by Alan O’Rourke under the CC 2.0 license.

Sponsoring Project Honey Pot

Dogsbody Technology is a proud sponsor of Project Honey Pot with the donation of over 40 mail server addresses and some raw cash to the project.

Project Honey Pot allows us to track the reputation of all of our customers servers.  They would do this without donations from us but it’s the least we can do to support such a great service.

To quote their website…

Project Honey Pot is the first and only distributed system for identifying spammers and the spambots they use to scrape addresses from your website. Using the Project Honey Pot system you can install addresses that are custom-tagged to the time and IP address of a visitor to your site. If one of these addresses begins receiving email we not only can tell that the messages are spam, but also the exact moment when the address was harvested and the IP address that gathered it.

If you run servers yourself, we encourage you to signup to the project, monitor your IP addresses and donate an MX record or a link from your site.

Feature image – “Storage Servers” by grover_net is licensed under CC BY ND 2.0

ISO27001 Certification

 

We are often asked to make sure we source servers or products from companies that are ISO27001 (or ISO9001) certified.  While it’s good to have a stamp to prove that a company has attained a level of standard I feel there is often confusion over what this certification means.

Luckily, Alec Muffett, a friend of mine wrote a lovely piece on his blog about Google receiving ISO27001 certification for their Google Apps products…

ISO27001 is good to see stamped upon a vendor’s product and business processes – however it is emphatically not a “seal of security approval” – not at all.

The promise of 27001 certification is that a vendor has considered and documented various security risks and threats which would impact their offering – and has established a process to continue this in an ongoing fashion – and then has had the documentation of that understanding cross-checked and validated by an external agency.

In sporting metaphor: a vendor (in this case, Google) gets to design their own high-jump bar, document how tall it is and what it is made of, how they intend to jump over it; and then they jump over it and the certification agency simply attests that they have successfully performed a high-jump over a bar of their own design. The design documents and jump technique do not need to be made public.

So what would be really interesting would be if Google publishes their security requirements, their standards, their policies and risk assessments, so everyone else can see what kind of high-jump they have just performed – how high, how hard, and landing upon what kind of mat?

It would be that which would inform me of how far I would trust Google Apps with sensitive data, most especially with regard to the provisions they must make for “lawful access” to data by government actors.

Dogsbody Technology helps you cut through all the layers of sourcing new infrastructure. Talk to us to find out how.

Security and The Cloud

Don’t worry this isn’t going to be another post on how security is holding up cloud adoption or how the cloud is destroying security.  There is already too much negativity regarding the reporting of security news (some would say all news).  I do however want to discuss how security is changing due to the cloud and cloud technologies.  In my opinion cloud computing is actually good for security.

What’s in a word

I probably use the word “cloud” too much, I realise it’s an industry buzzword for something that has been around for ages but it works.  Call it Outsourcing, Virtulisation, SaaS or Utility computing, they are all variations of Internet computing by machines that you do not directly own and have just licensed for the time that you need.

The ring of steel

For years security experts have been saying that companies should stop using the idea of a ring of steel around their internal network. The concept that you are either connected to the internal (trusted) network or the external (untrusted) network is very outdated and just doesn’t work with today’s computing use but companies still insist on using it.

While people tried to adopt this topology to greater granularity with “Chinese firewalls” (lets separate accounts from development) people will continue to have to move data around between areas of the business to do their work and it quickly becomes an IT vs Business battle.

With more companies needing to get company data outside the building either to access it from a smartphone or share the data with another company the whole procedure falls down altogether.

Smaller rings

One solution is to adapt the model to it’s ultimate conclusion.  A ring of steel for each machine/job/task.  Until now this has been an impossible task, from a practice standpoint but now that companies are moving to cloud and virtual environments resources can be configured in any way needed.  No longer are you required to physically move cables in the patch room to change a networks topology.  Instead of one server with one operating system running web and email and any number of other tasks you can have that same server with many operating systems all locked down to do their one job well.  Most servers in the cloud and virtual environment come with their own firewall and authentication mechanism that can be easily managed on mass.  How many hardware server rooms can say that?

Outside is inside

Given this new model there is no need to have a “corporate firewall” on the edge of your network at all.  Why not let the internet in?  This is in fact what we do at Dogsbody Technology. Every machine on the network is public and even internal switching is treated as public.  If we want to move a private file from one machine to another it needs to be done in a secure/encrypted way.  While that sounds like a lot of work it really isn’t.  You save on a lot of infrastructure from not having to worry about a locked down network and while it does take a while to setup safe transfer methods, once you are set up there is no difference between transferring a private file to the computer next to you or a computer the other side of the world.

Not the end of the story

Of course, like all security, this is not the end of the story and will not fix all your issues.  Monitoring and company policy are still required to stop, find and block exceptions but we’ll discuss that in a separate blog post.

If you have any questions or comments reading this post them please do leave a comment below or contact Dogsbody Technology for more information.