In part 1, we explored the mind of a hacker, the kill chain approach he takes, and the many clues and vulnerabilities he uses to exploit systems. In part 2, we’ll look at tangible steps you can take to improve your development processes while minimizing risk in the systems you design. By the end of this article, you will be challenged to:
A comprehensive risk assessment of your entire environment, including development practices, is the first step. The NIST 800-53 documents outline a risk assessment approach that you can use. If NIST is too esoteric, you may try any number of industry approaches. At Anitian, we use our RiskNow® approach, which fuses interviews with technical assessments.
In general, use a risk assessment to guide your security efforts. The intent is to focus on the areas of your system(s) that have the most threats or highest risks.
You cannot wait to secure a system once it is designed or built. Instead, security must be integrated into every dimension of the development life cycle. To accomplish this, you should:
One of the more important items to integrate into your development is security testing. Test at every phase:
You will never build a wall high enough to stop all hackers, so focus on making your system(s) agile rather than tough. If your system underwent attack:
To turn potential weaknesses into strengths, take the following steps:
There is a reason that 97 percent of companies have some or all their infrastructure in the cloud. The cloud allows for agility, flexibility, and greater security. Use the cloud to gather logs, push updates, or publish APIs.
However, the greatest benefit of the cloud is automation. You can build entire environments as code, and destroy and re-create them at a whim. This allows for disposable infrastructure—that is, systems that can be destroyed and re-created from known good images. Automating this destruction and re-creation has huge security benefits. It is impossible for a hacker to establish persistence in an environment if the environment disappears every week. Disposable infrastructure is an ideal end state for any complex system.
Thinking like a hacker requires you to look at the systems you design differently, including observing the obvious, understanding human error and indifference, and understanding what a hacker seeks and the clues he uses (as discussed in part 1). Design engineers can and should take steps to improve development processes and minimize risk in systems design. Performing risk assessments, integrating security into the development process, testing, developing automated disposable infrastructure, and using the cloud are key steps that will improve your development processes and minimize risk in the systems you design.
Mouser is committed to helping engineers develop secure systems. Check out the Think Like a Hacker webinar (developed in partnership with Anitian) as well as our Data Security eZine.
Andrew Plato is a 20 year veteran of the information security industry. In 1995 while working at Microsoft supporting one of the first Internet e-commerce sites, Andrew inadvertently hacked the site using a SQL injection style attack. This incident inspired Andrew to start Anitian with a mission to help people understand the complexities of protecting data and systems. Since then, Andrew has participated in thousands of security projects, authored numerous articles, and given hundreds of presentations on all matters of IT security.
Andrew serves a brilliant team of security analysts. Andrew is committed to building collaborative, high-trust environments that cherish innovation, engagement, and accomplishment. Andrew’s forthright and pragmatic views on security, risk, and compliance have made him a highly sought speaker, author, and advisor.
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