Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Carmen Gonzalez, Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz

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
When people aren’t talking about VMs and containers, they’re talking about serverless architecture. Serverless is about no maintenance. It means you are not worried about low-level infrastructural and operational details. An event-driven serverless platform is a great use case for IoT. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Animesh Singh, an STSM and Lead for IBM Cloud Platform and Infrastructure, will detail how to build a distributed serverless, polyglot, microservices framework using open source tec...
More and more companies are looking to microservices as an architectural pattern for breaking apart applications into more manageable pieces so that agile teams can deliver new features quicker and more effectively. What this pattern has done more than anything to date is spark organizational transformations, setting the foundation for future application development. In practice, however, there are a number of considerations to make that go beyond simply “build, ship, and run,” which changes ho...
Gartner is now treating algorithms like they are some kind of innovative addition to the modern digital discussion. Presumably the brilliant minds there have some novel insight into algorithms and, yes, the Algorithm Economy that CIOs should sit up and take notice of. Not only are algorithms nothing new, but much of what Gartner is saying about them is obvious. The bigger picture here is that software continues to improve, and enterprises are becoming increasingly software-driven, in part bec...
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data...
NHK, Japan Broadcasting, will feature the upcoming @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley in a special 'Internet of Things' and smart technology documentary that will be filmed on the expo floor between November 3 to 5, 2015, in Santa Clara. NHK is the sole public TV network in Japan equivalent to the BBC in the UK and the largest in Asia with many award-winning science and technology programs. Japanese TV is producing a documentary about IoT and Smart technology and will be covering @ThingsExpo Silicon Val...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 7-9, 2016 at Javits Center, New York City and Nov 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 18th International @CloudExpo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Catchpoint Systems, Inc., a provider of innovative web and infrastructure monitoring solutions, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's DevOps Summit at 18th Cloud Expo New York, which will take place June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Catchpoint is a leading Digital Performance Analytics company that provides unparalleled insight into customer-critical services to help consistently deliver an amazing customer experience. Designed...
@DevOpsSummit taking place June 7-9, 2016 at Javits Center, New York City, and Nov 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 18th International @CloudExpo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world.
Cloud Expo, Inc. has announced today that Andi Mann returns to 'DevOps at Cloud Expo 2016' as Conference Chair The @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. "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 g...
Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) will feature the upcoming 18th Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo in a New York news documentary about the "New IT for the Future." The documentary will cover how big companies are transmitting or adopting the new IT for the future and will be filmed on the expo floor between June 7-June 9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. KBS has long been a leader in the development of the broadcasting culture of Korea. As the key public service broadcaster of Korea...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Addteq will exhibit at SYS-CON's @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo New York, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Addteq is one of the top 10 Platinum Atlassian Experts who specialize in DevOps, custom and continuous integration, automation, plugin development, and consulting for midsize and global firms. Addteq firmly believes that automation is essential for successful software releases. Addteq centers its products a...
In the rush to compete in the digital age, a successful digital transformation is essential, but many organizations are setting themselves up for failure. There’s a common misconception that the process is just about technology, but it’s not. It’s about your business. It shouldn’t be treated as an isolated IT project; it should be driven by business needs with the committed involvement of a range of stakeholders.
SYS-CON Events announced today that FalconStor Software® Inc., a 15-year innovator of software-defined storage solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. FalconStor Software®, Inc. (NASDAQ: FALC) is a leading software-defined storage company offering a converged, hardware-agnostic, software-defined storage and data services platform. Its flagship solution FreeStor®, utilizes a horizonta...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York and Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Column Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Established in 1998, Column Technologies is a global technology solutions provider with over 400 employees, headquartered in the United States with offices in Canada, India, and the United Kingdom. Column Technologies provides “Best of Breed” technology solutions that automate the key DevOps principal...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM Cloud Data Services has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. IBM Cloud Data Services offers a portfolio of integrated, best-of-breed cloud data services for developers focused on mobile computing and analytics use cases.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Anexia will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Anexia offers high-quality customized managed hosting solutions for SaaS and IaaS companies. The company was founded in 2006 in Klagenfurt, Austria. Today, it has additional offices in Vienna, Graz, Munich, Cologne and New York City to serve numerous international customers.