|By Jason Bloomberg||
|August 23, 2012 06:00 AM EDT||
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.
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.
Python is really a language which has swept the scene in recent years in terms of popularity, elegance, and functionality. Research shows that 8 out 10 computer science departments in the U.S. now teach their introductory courses with Python, surpassing Java. Top-ranked CS departments at MIT and UC Berkeley have switched their introductory courses to Python. And the top three MOOC providers (edX, Coursera, and Udacity) all offer introductory programming courses in Python. Not to mention, Python ...
May. 27, 2015 05:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,427
Let's just nip the conflation of these terms in the bud, shall we?
"MIcro" is big these days. Both microservices and microsegmentation are having and will continue to have an impact on data center architecture, but not necessarily for the same reasons. There's a growing trend in which folks - particularly those with a network background - conflate the two and use them to mean the same thing.
They are not.
One is about the application. The other, the network. T...
May. 27, 2015 04:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,606
After a couple of false starts, cloud-based desktop solutions are picking up steam, driven by trends such as BYOD and pervasive high-speed connectivity. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Seth Bostock, CEO of IndependenceIT, cut through the hype and the acronyms, and discussed the emergence of full-featured cloud workspaces that do for the desktop what cloud infrastructure did for the server. He also discussed VDI vs DaaS, implementation strategies and evaluation criteria.
May. 27, 2015 04:00 AM EDT Reads: 4,715
The stack is the hack, Jack. That's my takeaway from several events I attended over the past few weeks in Silicon Valley and Southeast Asia. I listened to and participated in discussions about everything from large datacenter management (think Facebook Open Compute) to enterprise-level cyberfraud (at a seminar in Manila attended by the US State Dept. and Philippine National Police) to the world of entrepreneurial startups, app deployment, and mobility (in a series of meetups and talks in bot...
May. 27, 2015 01:15 AM EDT Reads: 2,780
Containers Expo Blog covers the world of containers, as this lightweight alternative to virtual machines enables developers to work with identical dev environments and stacks. Containers Expo Blog offers top articles, news stories, and blog posts from the world's well-known experts and guarantees better exposure for its authors than any other publication. Bookmark Containers Expo Blog ▸ Here Follow new article posts on Twitter at @ContainersExpo
May. 26, 2015 11:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,175
Right off the bat, Newman advises that we should "think of microservices as a specific approach for SOA in the same way that XP or Scrum are specific approaches for Agile Software development". These analogies are very interesting because my expectation was that microservices is a pattern. So I might infer that microservices is a set of process techniques as opposed to an architectural approach. Yet in the book, Newman clearly includes some elements of concept model and architecture as well as p...
May. 26, 2015 09:00 PM EDT Reads: 3,662
Docker is an open platform for developers and sysadmins of distributed applications that enables them to build, ship, and run any app anywhere. Docker allows applications to run on any platform irrespective of what tools were used to build it making it easy to distribute, test, and run software. I found this 5 Minute Docker video, which is very helpful when you want to get a quick and digestible overview. If you want to learn more, you can go to Docker’s web page and start with this Docker intro...
May. 26, 2015 09:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,315
The 5th International DevOps Summit, co-located with 17th International Cloud Expo – being held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the...
May. 26, 2015 05:30 PM EDT Reads: 4,568
There’s a lot of discussion around managing outages in production via the likes of DevOps principles and the corresponding software development lifecycles that does enable higher quality output from development, however, one cannot lay all blame for “bugs” and failures at the feet of those responsible for coding and development. As developers incorporate features and benefits of these paradigm shift, there is a learning curve and a point of not-knowing-what-is-not-known. Sometimes, the only way ...
May. 26, 2015 05:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,760
You use an agile process; your goal is to make your organization more agile. But what about your data infrastructure? The truth is, today's databases are anything but agile - they are effectively static repositories that are cumbersome to work with, difficult to change, and cannot keep pace with application demands. Performance suffers as a result, and it takes far longer than it should to deliver new features and capabilities needed to make your organization competitive. As your application an...
May. 26, 2015 05:00 PM EDT Reads: 3,676
Over the years, a variety of methodologies have emerged in order to overcome the challenges related to project constraints. The successful use of each methodology seems highly context-dependent. However, communication seems to be the common denominator of the many challenges that project management methodologies intend to resolve. In this respect, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can be viewed as powerful tools for managing projects. Few research papers have focused on the way...
May. 26, 2015 05:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,114
As the world moves from DevOps to NoOps, application deployment to the cloud ought to become a lot simpler. However, applications have been architected with a much tighter coupling than it needs to be which makes deployment in different environments and migration between them harder. The microservices architecture, which is the basis of many new age distributed systems such as OpenStack, Netflix and so on is at the heart of CloudFoundry – a complete developer-oriented Platform as a Service (PaaS...
May. 26, 2015 05:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,004
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 development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential. The DevOps Summit at Cloud Expo – to be held June 3-5, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City – will expand the DevOps community, enable a wide...
May. 26, 2015 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,673
How can you compare one technology or tool to its competitors? Usually, there is no objective comparison available. So how do you know which is better? Eclipse or IntelliJ IDEA? Java EE or Spring? C# or Java? All you can usually find is a holy war and biased comparisons on vendor sites. But luckily, sometimes, you can find a fair comparison. How does this come to be? By having it co-authored by the stakeholders. The binary repository comparison matrix is one of those rare resources. It is edite...
May. 26, 2015 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,994
Cloud Expo, Inc. has announced today that Andi Mann returns to DevOps Summit 2015 as Conference Chair. The 4th International DevOps Summit will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City. "DevOps is set to be one of the most profound disruptions to hit IT in decades," said Andi Mann. "It is a natural extension of cloud computing, and I have seen both firsthand and in independent research the fantastic results DevOps delivers. So I am excited to help the great team at ...
May. 26, 2015 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,229
Enterprises are fast realizing the importance of integrating SaaS/Cloud applications, API and on-premises data and processes, to unleash hidden value. This webinar explores how managers can use a Microservice-centric approach to aggressively tackle the unexpected new integration challenges posed by proliferation of cloud, mobile, social and big data projects. Industry analyst and SOA expert Jason Bloomberg will strip away the hype from microservices, and clearly identify their advantages and d...
May. 26, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,424
Amazon, Google and Facebook are household names in part because of their mastery of Big Data. But what about organizations without billions of dollars to spend on Big Data tools - how can they extract value from their data? In his session at 6th Big Data Expo®, Ali Ghodsi, Co-Founder and Head of Engineering at Databricks, discussed how the zero management cost and scalability of the cloud is addressing the challenges and pain points that data engineers face when working with Big Data. He also s...
May. 26, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 4,547
Container frameworks, such as Docker, provide a variety of benefits, including density of deployment across infrastructure, convenience for application developers to push updates with low operational hand-holding, and a fairly well-defined deployment workflow that can be orchestrated. Container frameworks also enable a DevOps approach to application development by cleanly separating concerns between operations and development teams. But running multi-container, multi-server apps with containers ...
May. 26, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,484
Software development, like manufacturing, is a craft that requires the application of creative approaches to solve problems given a wide range of constraints. However, while engineering design may be craftwork, the production of most designed objects relies on a standardized and automated manufacturing process. By contrast, much of moving an application from prototype to production and, indeed, maintaining the application through its lifecycle has often remained craftwork. In his session at Dev...
May. 26, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,947
SYS-CON Events announced today that EnterpriseDB (EDB), the leading worldwide provider of enterprise-class Postgres products and database compatibility solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. EDB is the largest provider of Postgres software and services that provides enterprise-class performance and scalability and the open source freedom to divert budget from more costly traditiona...
May. 26, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,024