|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.
Jul. 28, 2016 07:15 PM EDT Reads: 3,926
No matter how well-built your applications are, countless issues can cause performance problems, putting the platforms they are running on under scrutiny. If you've moved to Node.js to power your applications, you may be at risk of these issues calling your choice into question. How do you identify vulnerabilities and mitigate risk to take the focus off troubleshooting the technology and back where it belongs, on innovation? There is no doubt that Node.js is one of today's leading platforms of ...
Jul. 28, 2016 03:45 PM EDT Reads: 495
Adding public cloud resources to an existing application can be a daunting process. The tools that you currently use to manage the software and hardware outside the cloud aren’t always the best tools to efficiently grow into the cloud. All of the major configuration management tools have cloud orchestration plugins that can be leveraged, but there are also cloud-native tools that can dramatically improve the efficiency of managing your application lifecycle. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, ...
Jul. 28, 2016 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,159
Ovum, a leading technology analyst firm, has published an in-depth report, Ovum Decision Matrix: Selecting a DevOps Release Management Solution, 2016–17. The report focuses on the automation aspects of DevOps, Release Management and compares solutions from the leading vendors.
Jul. 28, 2016 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,798
SYS-CON Events announced today that LeaseWeb USA, a cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LeaseWeb is one of the world's largest hosting brands. The company helps customers define, develop and deploy IT infrastructure tailored to their exact business needs, by combining various kinds cloud solutions.
Jul. 28, 2016 10:45 AM EDT Reads: 1,292
SYS-CON Events announced today that Venafi, the Immune System for the Internet™ and the leading provider of Next Generation Trust Protection, will exhibit at @DevOpsSummit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Venafi is the Immune System for the Internet™ that protects the foundation of all cybersecurity – cryptographic keys and digital certificates – so they can’t be misused by bad guys in attacks...
Jul. 28, 2016 09:30 AM EDT Reads: 1,419
If you are within a stones throw of the DevOps marketplace you have undoubtably noticed the growing trend in Microservices. Whether you have been staying up to date with the latest articles and blogs or you just read the definition for the first time, these 5 Microservices Resources You Need In Your Life will guide you through the ins and outs of Microservices in today’s world.
Jul. 28, 2016 04:15 AM EDT Reads: 4,146
DevOps at Cloud Expo – being held November 1-3, 2016, 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 world's largest enterprises – and delivering real results. Am...
Jul. 28, 2016 03:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,349
The 19th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Digital Transformation, 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 opportuni...
Jul. 28, 2016 03:15 AM EDT Reads: 2,663
Before becoming a developer, I was in the high school band. I played several brass instruments - including French horn and cornet - as well as keyboards in the jazz stage band. A musician and a nerd, what can I say? I even dabbled in writing music for the band. Okay, mostly I wrote arrangements of pop music, so the band could keep the crowd entertained during Friday night football games. What struck me then was that, to write parts for all the instruments - brass, woodwind, percussion, even k...
Jul. 28, 2016 01:15 AM EDT Reads: 2,301
This digest provides an overview of good resources that are well worth reading. We’ll be updating this page as new content becomes available, so I suggest you bookmark it. Also, expect more digests to come on different topics that make all of our IT-hearts go boom!
Jul. 28, 2016 12:30 AM EDT Reads: 3,746
Keeping pace with advancements in software delivery processes and tooling is taxing even for the most proficient organizations. Point tools, platforms, open source and the increasing adoption of private and public cloud services requires strong engineering rigor – all in the face of developer demands to use the tools of choice. As Agile has settled in as a mainstream practice, now DevOps has emerged as the next wave to improve software delivery speed and output. To make DevOps work, organization...
Jul. 28, 2016 12:15 AM EDT Reads: 2,274
SYS-CON Events announced today that Isomorphic Software will exhibit at DevOps Summit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Isomorphic Software provides the SmartClient HTML5/AJAX platform, the most advanced technology for building rich, cutting-edge enterprise web applications for desktop and mobile. SmartClient combines the productivity and performance of traditional desktop software with the simp...
Jul. 27, 2016 10:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,189
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 19th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo Silicon Valley Call for Papers is now open.
Jul. 27, 2016 10:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,699
In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo, Yoseph Reuveni, Director of Software Engineering at Jet.com, will discuss Jet.com's journey into containerizing Microsoft-based technologies like C# and F# into Docker. He will talk about lessons learned and challenges faced, the Mono framework tryout and how they deployed everything into Azure cloud. Yoseph Reuveni is a technology leader with unique experience developing and running high throughput (over 1M tps) distributed systems with extre...
Jul. 27, 2016 09:45 PM EDT Reads: 2,214
Sharding has become a popular means of achieving scalability in application architectures in which read/write data separation is not only possible, but desirable to achieve new heights of concurrency. The premise is that by splitting up read and write duties, it is possible to get better overall performance at the cost of a slight delay in consistency. That is, it takes a bit of time to replicate changes initiated by a "write" to the read-only master database. It's eventually consistent, and it'...
Jul. 27, 2016 08:15 PM EDT Reads: 2,273
There's a lot of things we do to improve the performance of web and mobile applications. We use caching. We use compression. We offload security (SSL and TLS) to a proxy with greater compute capacity. We apply image optimization and minification to content. We do all that because performance is king. Failure to perform can be, for many businesses, equivalent to an outage with increased abandonment rates and angry customers taking to the Internet to express their extreme displeasure.
Jul. 27, 2016 03:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,640
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...
Jul. 27, 2016 02:30 PM EDT Reads: 9,770
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...
Jul. 27, 2016 04:30 AM EDT Reads: 3,638
This is a no-hype, pragmatic post about why I think you should consider architecting your next project the way SOA and/or microservices suggest. No matter if it’s a greenfield approach or if you’re in dire need of refactoring. Please note: considering still keeps open the option of not taking that approach. After reading this, you will have a better idea about whether building multiple small components instead of a single, large component makes sense for your project. This post assumes that you...
Jul. 27, 2016 03:45 AM EDT Reads: 4,241