In my last IoT blog, I talked about the history of IoT and the evolution of issues surrounding IoT devices. In this part of the series, we will expand on the issues around IoT and the data it collects.
The primary function of enterprise IT management is to empower end users with access to technology resources that will boost their productivity and job performance. However, this focus is at odds with the core precepts of IT security which are adopted to minimize the exposure of enterprise systems, applications, and data. I recall that in a number of IT operations management adventures throughout my career, I often joked with colleagues that the most effective way to create a secure environment is to simply shut down all computers in the data center. Naturally, management executives dependent on the IT infrastructure to generate revenue were not amused by my flippancy…and even less happy that their workers had to “jump through hoops” to gain access to IT resources.
Nearly every day another successful breach is reported. In 2016 alone, organizations from major governmental agencies such as the IRS and Department of Defense, to major retailers including Wendy’s, have succumbed to attack. These organizations are not alone; every major business and governmental sector has been compromised. Large tech companies such as LinkedIn and Oracle, healthcare providers including Premier Healthcare (as well as numerous hospitals), manufacturers, major educational institutions, and large financial organizations have all succumbed to either internal or external threats.
The Desperate Need for Accuracy and Efficiency in Security for Detecting Network Intruders and Other Threat Actors Quickly
According to 2015 research reports published by Ponemon, Mandiant, and others, median intruder dwell time in a target network prior to detection ranges from just under to just over 200 days. That is a little over six months and as everyone agrees, totally unacceptable.
In many organizations, endpoints see virtually constant change. Users access, download, and utilize applications, data, drivers, files, toolbars, widgets, etc., introducing both new security threats and undocumented changes in systems and processes. For better or for worse, all of these activities leave their mark on the endpoint.
One of the services that EMA provides to the tech industry is research. During the course of the year, numerous projects are launched to help IT consumers and vendors understand market perceptions. EMA then provides analysis and forecasts on trends based upon those perceptions.
Though cyber attacks have been around for years, in 2014 there was an explosion in the volume of attacks and a marked increase in the losses and damages they inflicted. In 2015, this does not seem to be lightening up.
Historically, many organizations and personnel have been concerned about user activity monitoring (UAM). Certain business cultures feel that these activities are an invasion of privacy or are distrustful. However, in today’s Internet connected, data driven world, having specific information or data means the difference in being a market leader and being out of business.
A few weeks ago, I briefed with a new company called PFP Cybersecurity, also known as Power Fingerprinting, Inc., and was so intrigued by the concept alone that I wrote a Vendor to Watch about them. They officially launched on January 26, , and currently their claim to fame is their physics-based scanning technology which monitors the electromagnetic frequency (EMF) emanations of a microchip while operating. It then compares those readings to either a previous reading or to an established manufacturer’s baseline to determine the state of the chip. There are numerous uses for the technology from supply chain chip counterfeit detection, to operational failure prediction, and most unique of all, malware detection. The scanners are useful in many environments, but especially those that are change and failure/fault intolerant like space vehicles, nuclear and other critical infrastructure environments, and multiple military and natural resource acquisitions environments because they are touchless. There is nothing to install on the system using the microchip, so no change control requests or outage windows are needed. The other interesting thing about their technology is it is disruptive to the current scanner market, costing significantly less than competing products. Their platform is that each model of chip has a different EMF/power signature. These also vary by manufacturer because of variances in raw materials sourcing and manufacturing processes. It is well known that under use conditions, especially when heat dissipation is not well implemented, the chips degrade over time until failure. (That’s the point when the ‘magic smoke’ comes out and it stops working.) The cool part for me was the concept of malware detection. Aside from the physical properties of the chip, the software running on the chip will change the output pattern because of register changes and associated changes in code execution. This means that if a probe is scanning a chip and malware installs itself, the scanner can detect it at the time of installation and alert an operator that it has happened, potentially avoiding larger impact failures and data exfiltration. This technique reminds me of classic side channel attacks on CPUs that perform encryption to attempt a key extraction based on how the various chip leads changed over time. (The key difference being those attacks required contact with the open leads.) In a sense, this technology is highly disruptive, in a positive way, to both the current scanning system suppliers because of the lower cost, and to the infrastructure and supply chains because of not only the cost, but also because of the reported accuracy. It will significantly improve supply chain verification, system reliability, and security. I am looking forward to see how they progress in the marketplace over the next few years. About PFP Cybersecurity Headquartered in Washington, D.C., PFP Cybersecurity provides a unique, anomaly-based cyber security threat detection technology that can instantly identify software and hardware intrusion including active and dormant attacks. With its innovative technology, PFP shortens the compromise detection gap to milliseconds by monitoring changes in electromagnetic frequencies and power usage. This physics-based technology can be applied to detect advanced malware and sophisticated threats in critical cyber systems. It can also detect hardware Trojans and counterfeits in the supply chain. For more information, please visit: www.pfpcyber.com