Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Gordon Haff, Carmen Gonzalez, Ken Schwaber

Related Topics: Cloud Security, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Microsoft Cloud, Containers Expo Blog, @CloudExpo

Cloud Security: Article

Cybersecurity: A Human Problem

It seems that Cyberwar is no longer science fiction. It’s a reality, and we’re in the midst of one.

The latest Cyberattack to hit the news: a worm called Gauss, a relative of Stuxnet, targeted certain Lebanese banks. Kaspersky, a Russian security firm, discovered the attack. On their blog post, the Kaspersky researchers note that “after looking at Stuxnet…, we can say with a high degree of certainty that Gauss comes from the same ‘factory’ or ‘factories.’ All these attack toolkits represent the high end of nation-state sponsored cyber-espionage and cyberwar operations, pretty much defining the meaning of ‘sophisticated malware.’” They go on to say that “this is actually the first time we’ve observed a nation-state cyber-espionage campaign with a banking Trojan component.”

And this after a New York Times article exposed Stuxnet as being a joint US-Israeli covert operation targeting the Iranian nuclear industry, authorized by President G. W. Bush and further authorized by President Obama. The article further suggests that Iran is now mounting its own Cyberwar initiative, a result that the Obama administration understood and feared.

It seems that Cyberwar is no longer science fiction. It’s a reality, and we’re in the midst of one.

Whether you think the Stuxnet and Gauss worms were a good idea or not, this article is not the place to debate moral or ethical questions. Rather, we’re here to help you understand the reality of the situation in order to provide insight. And like it or not, we have a Cyberwar on our hands—and as with other wars, technology defines and constrains the rules of engagement. Yesterday we may have spoken about tanks or guns; today we speak of viruses and worms. But as with traditional machines of war, the human element is every bit as important as the technology, if not more so.

Problem between Keyboard and Chair
Here are some examples of what we’re talking about. When the press heard about the Gauss exploit, they asked the obvious question: who would benefit from attacking Lebanese banks? The obvious answer: anyone interested in the secret financial dealings of Hezbollah, the terrorist organization based in Lebanon. In other words, Israel and the US. The appearance of Gauss led many people across the world to come to a similar conclusion.

Assume for a moment, however, that someone wanted to make Israel and the US look bad, say the Iranians. Could the Iranians have come up with Gauss in order to gain political advantage against Israel and the US? Unlikely, perhaps, but possible. How would we know? After all, if the US and/or Israel were behind Gauss, they could have hidden their motivation simply by expanding the target to banks outside Lebanon. So maybe the fact that Gauss had such a narrow target should suggest that someone was trying to frame the US and Israel?

Here’s another twist: Kaspersky Lab was founded by Eugene Kaspersky, a Russian cryptography expert who learned his trade from the KGB’s cryptography school. Presumably he has substantial ties with Russia’s current secret police as well. Perhaps the Kaspersky report on Gauss was either fictitious or somehow skewed, a dastardly Russian plot of some sort? We have no reason to believe so, but again, how would we know for sure?

Sounds like a Robert Clancy spy novel, and for good reason—subterfuge has been a part of warfare (and in particular, espionage) since the Stone Age. But the problem is, the more we focus on the technology, the less we focus on the human aspects of the Cybersecurity problem. And that lack of focus both makes us more vulnerable, and prevents us from mounting efficacious attacks of our own.

Agile Architecture and Cyberwarfare
In a recent ZapFlash we recommended a “best defense is a good offense” approach: preventing future attacks with agile, self-innovating software. But even the most cutting-edge code is only a part of the story, because it still doesn’t address the human in the system. Targeting people is nothing new in the world of Cyberattacks, of course. Social engineering is becoming increasingly sophisticated as hackers plumb the weaknesses of our all-to-human personalities. Not a day goes by without a phishing attack arriving in our inboxes, not to mention how easy it is to talk people into giving up their passwords. But while social engineering works with individuals, Cyberwar is presumably between countries. How, then, might we go about what we might call political engineering: the analogue to social engineering, only taking place on the global stage? And how do we protect ourselves against such attacks?

The answer to both questions is to focus on how technology-centric actions will influence human beliefs and behavior. Creating a sophisticated computer virus and releasing it may achieve a technical end, the result of the software itself. But it will also likely achieve a variety of human ends, as well: it might arouse suspicion, cause people to shift their priorities or spend money, or it might make someone angry enough to retaliate, for example. Furthermore, these human ends may be more significant and desirable than the actual impact of the software itself.

ZapThink considers the focus on human issues as well as technology to be an aspect of Agile Architecture. We’ve spoken for years about the role governance plays in Agile Architectures like SOA, because governance is a best practice-driven approach for bringing human behavior in line with the goals of the organization. The big win for SOA governance, for example, was leveraging SOA for better organizational governance, rather than simple governance of the SOA initiative. The essential question, therefore, is what architectural practices apply to the human side of the Cybersecurity equation.

Our Cybersecurity example is analogous to SOA governance, although it turns governance inside out: we’re no longer trying to influence human behavior inside our organization, but rather within the world as a whole or some large parts of it. But the lesson is the same: the technology influences human behavior, and furthermore, the human behavior may be more important than the technology behavior. Protecting ourselves from such attacks also places us in the greater context of the political sphere as well.

Playing Defense

Education is the key to protecting yourself and your organization from human-targeted Cyberattacks. Take for example a phishing attack. You receive an email that looks like it’s from your bank. It tells you that, say, a large withdrawal was just made from your account. If you don’t realize it’s a phishing email, you might click on the login link in the email to check your account to see what the problem is. The link takes you to a page that looks just like your bank’s login page. But if you attempt to log in, you’re only giving your credentials to the hackers.

There are automated anti-phishing technologies out there, of course, but the hackers are always looking for ways around them, so you can’t rely upon them. Instead, you must proactively influence the behavior of your employees by educating them on how to recognize phishing attacks, and how to avoid them even when you don’t recognize them. Still not foolproof, but it may be the best you can do.

Protecting against political Cyberattacks would follow the same pattern, but would be far more difficult to implement, as educating a populace is far more difficult than educating your employees. Instead, the most effective course of action may once again be a good offense: you can use the same techniques as your opponent to influence beliefs and behavior.

Let’s use the hacker group Anonymous as an example. Any member of this loose association of hackers can propose an action—from taking down the MasterCard Web site to finding the location of a fast food worker who stepped on the lettuce, to name two real examples—and any member can vote to take that action. There’s no central control or consistent strategy. Now, let’s say you worked for a government Cyberwar department, and you were responsible for creating a Gauss-like worm with a narrow target, only you didn’t want anyone suspecting it was your country who created it. Could you make it look like Anonymous created it? Even the members of Anonymous might not realize their group wasn’t actually responsible.

The ZapThink Take

Your sphere of concern might not involve international espionage, but there are important lessons here for every architect. All too often, techies get techie tunnel vision, thinking that technology problems have technology solutions, and furthermore, the only interesting (or important) problems are technology problems. Architects, however, must also consider the human in the equation, whether you’re fooling the Iranians, making sure interface specifications are properly followed, and everything in between.

This principle is no truer than when you’re protecting against Cyberattacks. No password scheme will prevent people from writing their passwords on Post-It notes and sticking them to their computers. No firewall will prevent all phishing attacks or stop people from visiting all malware-infected sites. Education is one technique, but there’s more to governance than education. And whatever you do, always cast a skeptical eye toward any conclusions people draw from news about Cyberattacks. The technology is never the whole story.

If your job, however, is mounting Cyberattacks, understanding the human in the equation is a critically important tool—and often far less expensive and time-consuming than a purely technical attack. As any good poker player will tell you, the secret to winning isn’t having good hands, it’s knowing how to bluff, and even more importantly, knowing how to tell when the other guy is bluffing.

More Stories By Jason Bloomberg

Jason Bloomberg is the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise. As president of Intellyx, Mr. Bloomberg brings his years of thought leadership in the areas of Cloud Computing, Enterprise Architecture, and Service-Oriented Architecture to a global clientele of business executives, architects, software vendors, and Cloud service providers looking to achieve technology-enabled business agility across their organizations and for their customers. His latest book, The Agile Architecture Revolution (John Wiley & Sons, 2013), sets the stage for Mr. Bloomberg’s groundbreaking Agile Architecture vision.

Mr. Bloomberg is perhaps best known for his twelve years at ZapThink, where he created and delivered the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) SOA course and associated credential, certifying over 1,700 professionals worldwide. He is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, the leading SOA advisory and analysis firm, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in 2011. He now runs the successor to the LZA program, the Bloomberg Agile Architecture Course, around the world.

Mr. Bloomberg is a frequent conference speaker and prolific writer. He has published over 500 articles, spoken at over 300 conferences, Webinars, and other events, and has been quoted in the press over 1,400 times as the leading expert on agile approaches to architecture in the enterprise.

Mr. Bloomberg’s previous book, Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (John Wiley & Sons, 2006, coauthored with Ron Schmelzer), is recognized as the leading business book on Service Orientation. He also co-authored the books XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996).

Prior to ZapThink, Mr. Bloomberg built a diverse background in eBusiness technology management and industry analysis, including serving as a senior analyst in IDC’s eBusiness Advisory group, as well as holding eBusiness management positions at USWeb/CKS (later marchFIRST) and WaveBend Solutions (now Hitachi Consulting).

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@MicroservicesExpo Stories
Docker containers have brought great opportunities to shorten the deployment process through continuous integration and the delivery of applications and microservices. This applies equally to enterprise data centers as well as the cloud. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Jari Kolehmainen, founder and CTO of Kontena, will discuss solutions and benefits of a deeply integrated deployment pipeline using technologies such as container management platforms, Docker containers, and the drone.io Cl tool...
We call it DevOps but much of the time there’s a lot more discussion about the needs and concerns of developers than there is about other groups. There’s a focus on improved and less isolated developer workflows. There are many discussions around collaboration, continuous integration and delivery, issue tracking, source code control, code review, IDEs, and xPaaS – and all the tools that enable those things. Changes in developer practices may come up – such as developers taking ownership of code ...
"We provide DevOps solutions. We also partner with some key players in the DevOps space and we use the technology that we partner with to engineer custom solutions for different organizations," stated Himanshu Chhetri, CTO of Addteq, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
DevOps tends to focus on the relationship between Dev and Ops, putting an emphasis on the ops and application infrastructure. But that’s changing with microservices architectures. In her session at DevOps Summit, Lori MacVittie, Evangelist for F5 Networks, will focus on how microservices are changing the underlying architectures needed to scale, secure and deliver applications based on highly distributed (micro) services and why that means an expansion into “the network” for DevOps.
All organizations that did not originate this moment have a pre-existing culture as well as legacy technology and processes that can be more or less amenable to DevOps implementation. That organizational culture is influenced by the personalities and management styles of Executive Management, the wider culture in which the organization is situated, and the personalities of key team members at all levels of the organization. This culture and entrenched interests usually throw a wrench in the work...
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud taking place June 6-8, 2017, at Javits Center, New York City, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long developm...
"We're bringing out a new application monitoring system to the DevOps space. It manages large enterprise applications that are distributed throughout a node in many enterprises and we manage them as one collective," explained Kevin Barnes, President of eCube Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
I’m told that it has been 21 years since Scrum became public when Jeff Sutherland and I presented it at an Object-Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages & Applications (OOPSLA) workshop in Austin, TX, in October of 1995. Time sure does fly. Things mature. I’m still in the same building and at the same company where I first formulated Scrum.[1] Initially nobody knew of Scrum, yet it is now an open source body of knowledge translated into more than 30 languages[2] People use Scrum worldwide for ...
Thanks to Docker, it becomes very easy to leverage containers to build, ship, and run any Linux application on any kind of infrastructure. Docker is particularly helpful for microservice architectures because their successful implementation relies on a fast, efficient deployment mechanism – which is precisely one of the features of Docker. Microservice architectures are therefore becoming more popular, and are increasingly seen as an interesting option even for smaller projects, instead of being...
As the race for the presidency heats up, IT leaders would do well to recall the famous catchphrase from Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 campaign against George H. W. Bush: “It’s the economy, stupid.” That catchphrase is important, because IT economics are important. Especially when it comes to cloud. Application performance management (APM) for the cloud may turn out to be as much about those economics as it is about customer experience.
When you focus on a journey from up-close, you look at your own technical and cultural history and how you changed it for the benefit of the customer. This was our starting point: too many integration issues, 13 SWP days and very long cycles. It was evident that in this fast-paced industry we could no longer afford this reality. We needed something that would take us beyond reducing the development lifecycles, CI and Agile methodologies. We made a fundamental difference, even changed our culture...
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
@DevOpsSummit taking place June 6-8, 2017 at Javits Center, New York City, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo New York Call for Papers is now open.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dataloop.IO, an innovator in cloud IT-monitoring whose products help organizations save time and money, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Dataloop.IO is an emerging software company on the cutting edge of major IT-infrastructure trends including cloud computing and microservices. The company, founded in the UK but now based in San Fran...
Synthetic monitoring is hardly a new technology. It’s been around almost as long as the commercial World Wide Web has. But the importance of monitoring the performance and availability of a web application by simulating users’ interactions with that application, from around the globe, has never been more important. We’ve seen prominent vendors in the broad APM space add this technology with new development or partnerships just in the last 18 months.
Updating DevOps to the latest production data slows down your development cycle. Probably it is due to slow, inefficient conventional storage and associated copy data management practices. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Dhiraj Sehgal, in Product and Solution at Tintri, will talk about DevOps and cloud-focused storage to update hundreds of child VMs (different flavors) with updates from a master VM in minutes, saving hours or even days in each development cycle. He will also...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Linux Academy, the foremost online Linux and cloud training platform and community, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Linux Academy was founded on the belief that providing high-quality, in-depth training should be available at an affordable price. Industry leaders in quality training, provided services, and student certification passes, its goal is to c...
The unique combination of Amazon Web Services and Cloud Raxak, a Gartner Cool Vendor in IT Automation, provides a seamless and cost-effective way of securely moving on-premise IT workloads to Amazon Web Services. Any enterprise can now leverage the cloud, manage risk, and maintain continuous security compliance. Forrester's analysis shows that enterprises need automated security to lower security risk and decrease IT operational costs. Through the seamless integration into Amazon Web Services, ...
A lot of time, resources and energy has been invested over the past few years on de-siloing development and operations. And with good reason. DevOps is enabling organizations to more aggressively increase their digital agility, while at the same time reducing digital costs and risks. But as 2017 approaches, the hottest trends in DevOps aren’t specifically about dev or ops. They’re about testing, security, and metrics.
2016 has been an amazing year for Docker and the container industry. We had 3 major releases of Docker engine this year , and tremendous increase in usage. The community has been following along and contributing amazing Docker resources to help you learn and get hands-on experience. Here’s some of the top read and viewed content for the year. Of course releases are always really popular, particularly when they fit requests we had from the community.