Welcome!

SOA & WOA Authors: Carmen Gonzalez, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Victoria Livschitz, Larry Dragich

Related Topics: Security, Wireless, SOA & WOA, Web 2.0, Cloud Expo

Security: Article

Online Holiday Sales Have Begun: Have You Secured Your Enterprise Network?

Do employees really need access to the corporate network via their smartphones?

It's that time of the year again. The flood of email alerts showcasing online holiday shopping deals fill the inbox at your office PC, laptops and wireless devices as merchants attempt to lure online shoppers to "click and save" while supplies last. In fact, reports show that this year's "holiday shopping" deals have already started as retailers attempt to stretch the holiday shopping season - to begin even earlier than Black Friday.

According to a recent report in Time, Booz & Co. chief retail strategist, Thom Blischok states. "We're not going to see a huge increase in sales growth for Black Friday this year....What we do expect is a lot of ‘showcasing' on Black Friday. Shoppers will check things out in stores, electronics especially, but then purchase online on the Monday after. Cyber Monday sales will explode this year."

While this is good news for merchants, it can become a virtual nightmare for corporate network administrators. With millions of online shoppers turning their office PCs, laptops, and wireless devices into online shopping carts, they hog valuable network bandwidth meant for corporate applications such as e-mail, SAP, Salesforce, and other business-critical applications.

The onslaught of personal smartphones and tablets connecting to corporate networks fully capable of performing browser-based shopping are further affecting normal business operations. According to ABI Research, more than 36 percent of consumers own at least three wireless devices. eCommerce merchants now alert wired consumers with daily deals almost instantly via mobile marketing. This surge has placed greater demands on network monitoring solutions as the mobile device market continues to grow at an astounding rate of five billion subscribers worldwide.

Most organizations allowing employee-owned devices onto their corporate networks (73% according to Aberdeen) find it not only drains their bandwidth, but also opens up severe internal security threats to proprietary information stored on the network. Employers assume this as increased productivity for employees armed with mobile devices and cost savings for hardware not purchased by the corporate office as most employees (54 percent, according to Yankee Group) demand to use their own devices at work.

According to IDC Research, however, 30-40 percent of Internet use in the workplace is non-business related. Vault.com found 37 percent of workers admit to surfing the Web constantly at work for personal interests. This underscores the need for mobile device traffic monitoring. How can network admins monitor employee internet usage and take corrective action?

Companies can easily set guidelines for network traffic monitoring to safeguard against employees armed with BYOD - especially during high traffic holiday shopping/sale months - in a few easy steps.

MAC Addresses and Mobile Devices
The old and sort of cumbersome way is to monitor the unique MAC addresses that are used by each smart mobile device that accesses an Ethernet network. The 6 byte (i.e., 48 bit) MAC address is generally in two parts: The first 3 bytes are the MAC Address vendor ID generally shared by hundreds or even tens of thousands of devices produced by the manufacturer; the second set of three bytes are unique to the device.

A 48-bit Ethernet MAC address has two components, each of which is 24 bits:

*24-bit Organizational Unique Identifier (OUIIEEE regulates the assignment of OUI numbers. Within the OUI, the two following bits have meaning only when used in the destination address:

  1. Broadcast or multicast bit - indicates to the receiving interface the frame is destined a group of end stations on the LAN segment.
  2. Locally administered address bit - normally combines OUI and a 24-bit station address. This is universally unique; however, if the address is modified locally, this bit should be set. Some vendors like Apple set this bit automatically.

Generally, the MAC address is not changed by the end user, thus dynamic IP addresses are often not used to track or report on mobile phone devices. Organizations using NetFlow and IPIX can in fact track these MAC addresses.

MAC Addresses and NetFlow
Traditional flow data (e.g., NetFlow v5) exports IP addresses, but not MAC addresses. NetFlow v9 and IPFIX introduce the ability to export any information on the router including MAC address.

A reliable Network Traffic Analyzer can be used to report to report on NetFlow and IPFIX. The NetFlow Analyzer should offer a filtering architecture to allow traffic analysts to include or exclude portions of MAC addresses. If the administrator wants to narrow a particular vendor (e.g., 00.00.0c) or the iPhone (e.g., 60:33:4b, 64.b9.38, etc.), a reporting tool can filter on these vendor IDs. Once vendor IDs are added to the report, the type can be changed to view different reports. For example, the top domains these mobile devices are visiting can be obtained if the router, switch, or firewall exporting the NetFlow or IPFIX includes URL information. The IT manager can often click on the domain (e.g. facebook.com) and look at URLs visited with mobile device.

Tracking BYOD
By forcing users to authenticate all devices onto the network and agreeing to an operating system scan, network administrators can maintain an active inventory of who (i.e., username) authenticated onto the network and with what type of device. Detailed reports can be run on the volume of iPhones, Androids, Blackberries, iPads, etc. that have authenticated onto the network. Since the MAC address is obtained from every authenticated device, it can be cross referenced with the NetFlow and IPFIX received to look at traffic patterns. This is a much more scalable solution and less error prone approach than the traditional track-down-all-the-mac-addresses approach.

Smartphones: Network Security Challenge
Allowing smartphone access to corporate resources often requires adapting new corporate mobile strategies and policies. Many companies provide VPN access to the corporate network from computers when working remotely. While VPNs offer a secure connection by encapsulating data, many smartphones don't support them (e.g., iPhone). This is partly because the hardware doesn't have the processing power to keep up with encryption processes on-the-fly. Due to pressure from management and remote users, VPN enforcement is often lax. Most employees obtain corporate access from any public network, which includes public places like local coffee shops. This opens Pandora's Box when it comes to security threats.

Smartphones are an ideal tool for cybercriminals to push their malware, viruses, worms and other threats onto corporate networks. With many important titles, email addresses and phone numbers sitting on just about every network-capable mobile phone, stealing confidential emails or pushing botnets onto the company network is easier with traditional security measures put aside in favor of easy remote access. With smartphone synchronization, infection can easily migrate onto a PC - a Trojan horse method that infects the PC could provide access to the corporate network. On the other hand, the data carried on smartphones can be targeted through malware on PCs.

Direct Attacks on the Mobile Phone
Some employees try to increase the security of their phone with special anti-theft software or by encrypting their memory card. These solutions are aimed at making data protected from physical attacks. However, those are done by pickpockets, who are less interested in the mobile phone content than reusing or reselling the device.

Cybercriminals do care about sensitive information stored on smartphones, but they don't need physical access to the phone to retrieve it. Rather, they will exploit any vulnerability - for instance in the phone's Web browser (such as the WebKit vulnerabilities on Android phones) - or use social engineering tricks to install malware on the phone. Once the phone is infected, it's easy for the cybercriminal to access any data on the device. In those cases, the locks are useless and the memory card is dynamically decrypted when used.

Businesses must add employees to the corporate network easily and cost-effectively while maintaining desired security levels and remote management capabilities. Traditionally, the RIM BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) has been the gold standard among organizations with corporate-liable policies, providing sophisticated security and management capabilities.

However, smartphones like Androids and iPhones are becoming more popular, and some organizations feel obligated to embrace these as part of the employee-owned smartphone strategy. These are also supporting minimum security requirements, like timed-lock and remote wipe in the case of a lost or stolen handset. Some mobile apps, like Touchdown for Android, provide Exchange ActiveSync capabilities that support security policies to ensure security of the corporate data on the smartphone. Clearly, organizations need to rethink their mobile Smartphone strategies and take into account the proliferation of employee-owned smartphones.

Setting up single sign-on is another strategy that could be implemented on corporate networks. However, as of today, it's not supported on the iPhone. Whatever the decision, a careful evaluation of mobile devices accessing the network needs to be executed.

Ultimately, the question is: Do employees really need access to the corporate network via their smartphones? If they are provided access, then IT must secure the network to make sure the onslaught of online holiday shopping and sales offerings don't turn the season to "nightmare" before Christmas for the network bandwidth.

So, this holiday season, stay safe out there and don't forget to drive safe - on the road and in cyberspace.

More Stories By Michael Patterson

Michael Patterson, is the founder & CEO of Plixer and the product manager for Scrutinizer NetFlow and sFlow Analyzer. Prior to starting Somix and Plixer, Mike worked in a technical support role at Cabletron Systems, acquired his Novell CNE and then moved to the training department for a few years. While in training he finished his Masters in Computer Information Systems from Southern New Hampshire University and then left technical training to pursue a new skill set in Professional Services. In 1998 he left the 'Tron' to start Somix and Plixer.

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.


@ThingsExpo Stories
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water, are pursuing SmartGrid initiatives that represent one of the more mature examples of SAE. We have s...
The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, and physical persons. In the IoT vision, every new "thing" - sensor, actuator, data source, data con...
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrategies, will examine why IT must finally fulfill its role in support of its SBUs or face a new round of...
One of the biggest challenges when developing connected devices is identifying user value and delivering it through successful user experiences. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kuniavsky, Principal Scientist, Innovation Services at PARC, described an IoT-specific approach to user experience design that combines approaches from interaction design, industrial design and service design to create experiences that go beyond simple connected gadgets to create lasting, multi-device experiences grounded in people's real needs and desires.
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With "smart" appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user's habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps, abiding by privacy concerns and making the concept a reality. These challenges can't be addressed w...
The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of the most important components in networking infrastructure, enabling users and services to access applications by translating URLs (names) into IP addresses (numbers). Because every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS queries. In addition, as more internet-enabled ‘Things' get connected, people will rely on DNS to name and find their fridges, toasters and toilets. According to a recent IDG Research Services Survey this rate of traffic will only grow. What's driving t...
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC, and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) i...
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services ...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, described how to revolutioniz...
Bit6 today issued a challenge to the technology community implementing Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC). To leap beyond WebRTC’s significant limitations and fully leverage its underlying value to accelerate innovation, application developers need to consider the entire communications ecosystem.
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from hardware to software, or as we like to say, it’s an Internet of many different things. The difference ...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.