Welcome!

Cloud Security Authors: Zakia Bouachraoui, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Cloud Security

@CloudExpo: Blog Feed Post

Security as Code By @LMacVittie | @CloudExpo [#Cloud #Microservices]

One of the most difficult things to do today is to identify a legitimate user

Security as Code

One of the most difficult things to do today, given the automated environments in which we operate, is to identify a legitimate user. Part of the problem is that the definition of a legitimate users depends greatly on the application. Your public facing website, for example, may loosely define legitimate as "can open a TCP connection and send HTTP request" while a business facing ERP or CRM system requires valid credentials and group membership as well as device or even network restrictions.

This task is made more difficult by the growing intelligence of bots. It's not just that they're masquerading as users of IE or Mozilla or Chrome, they're beginning to act like they're users of IE and Mozilla and Chrome. Impersonators are able to fool systems into believing they are "real" users; human beings, if you will, and not merely computerized artifacts. They are, in effect, attempting to (and in many cases do) pass the Turing Test.

In the case of bots, particularly the impersonating kind, they are passing. With flying colors.

Now, wait a minute, you might say. They're passing by fooling other systems, which was not necessarily the test devised by Turing in the first place which required fooling a human being.

True, but the concept of a system being able to determine the humanness (or lack thereof) of a connected system in the realm of security may be more valuable than the traditional Turing Test. After all, this is security we're talking about. Corporate assets, resources, access... this is no game, this is the real world where bonuses and paychecks are relying on getting it right.

So let's just move along then, shall we?

The problem is that bots are getting smarter and more "human" over time. They're evolving and adapting their behavior to be like the users they know will be allowed to access sites and applications and resources. That  means that the systems responsible for detecting and blocking bot activity (or at least restricting it) have to evolve and get smarter too. They need to get more "human like" and be able to adapt. They have to evaluate a connection and request within the context it is made, which includes all the "normal" factors like agent and device and application but also includes a broader set of variables that can best be described as "behavioral."

This includes factors like pulling data from an application more slowly than their network connection allows. Yes, systems are capable of determining this situation and that's a good thing, as it's a red flag for a slow-and-low application DDoS attack. It also includes factors like making requests too close together, which is a red flag for a flood-based application DDoS attack.

Another indicator, perhaps, is time of day.

Yes, that's right. Bots are apparently more time-sensitive than even we are, according to research that shows very specific patterns of bot attacks during different time intervals:

According to Distil Networks, the United States accounted for 46.58 percent, with Great Britain and Germany coming in second or third with 19.43 percent and 9.65 percent, respectively.

Distil Networks' findings are based on activity that occurred between January and December of 2013.  Among its customers in the United States, bot attacks occurred most between 6 pm and 9 pm EST, when nearly 50 percent of all bad bot traffic hit sites. The period between 6pm and 2 am EST was home to 79 percent of all attacks. By comparison, the 14-hour time span from 3 am to 5 pm EST saw just 13.8 percent of all malicious bot traffic.

-- Bad Bot Percentage of Web Traffic Nearly Doubled in 2013: Report

So what does that mean for you, Security Pro? That means you may want to be more discriminating after official business hours than you are during the work day. Tightening up bot-detection policies during these known, bot-dense hours may help detect and prevent an attack from succeeding. So all you have to do is implement policies based on date and time of day.

What? That's not that hard if you're relying on programmability.

Security as Code: Programmability

We make a big deal of programmability of APIs and in the data path as a means to achieve greater service velocity but we don't always talk about how that same automation and programmability is also good for enabling a more adaptive infrastructure.

Consider that if you can automatically provision and configure a security service you should be able to repeat that process again and again and again. And if you're treating infrastructure like code, well, you can use simple programmatic techniques to pull the appropriate piece of code (like a template or a different configuration script)  and deploy it on a schedule. Like at the end of business hours or over the weekend.

By codifying the policy into a template or configuration script you ensure consistency and by using automation to deploy automatically at pre-determined times of the day you don't have to task someone with manually pushing buttons to get it done. That means no chance to "forget" or scrambling to find someone to push the buttons when Bob is out sick or on vacation or leaves the organization.

Consistent, repeatable and predictable deployments is as much a part of automation as speed and time to market. In fact, if you look at the origins of lean manufacturing - upon which agile is based - the goal wasn't faster, it was better. It was to reduce defects and variation in the end product. It was about quality.

That's the goal with this type of system - consistent and repeatable results.  Quality results.

Now, you could also certainly achieve similar results with data path programmability by simply basing policy enforcement off a single time-based conditional statement (if time > 5pm and time < 8am then [block of code] else [block of code]). A data path programmatic approach means no need to worry about the command and control center losing connectivity or crashing or rebooting at the wrong time; and no need to worry about the repository being offline or disk degradation causing data integrity issues. But changing the policy directly in the data path also has potential impacts, especially if you need to change it. It's in the data path, after all.

Your vehicle of implementation is really up to you.

The concept is really what's important - and that's using programmability (in all its forms) to improve agility without compromising on stability, even in the security realm. Because when it comes to networks and security, the blast radius when you get something wrong is really, really big. And not being able to adapt in the realm of security means you're fall further and further behind the attackers who are adapter every single day.

More Stories By Lori MacVittie

Lori MacVittie is responsible for education and evangelism of application services available across F5’s entire product suite. Her role includes authorship of technical materials and participation in a number of community-based forums and industry standards organizations, among other efforts. MacVittie has extensive programming experience as an application architect, as well as network and systems development and administration expertise. Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing Magazine, where she conducted product research and evaluation focused on integration with application and network architectures, and authored articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. Her most recent area of focus included SOA-related products and architectures. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
The challenges of aggregating data from consumer-oriented devices, such as wearable technologies and smart thermostats, are fairly well-understood. However, there are a new set of challenges for IoT devices that generate megabytes or gigabytes of data per second. Certainly, the infrastructure will have to change, as those volumes of data will likely overwhelm the available bandwidth for aggregating the data into a central repository. Ochandarena discusses a whole new way to think about your next...
CloudEXPO | DevOpsSUMMIT | DXWorldEXPO are the world's most influential, independent events where Cloud Computing was coined and where technology buyers and vendors meet to experience and discuss the big picture of Digital Transformation and all of the strategies, tactics, and tools they need to realize their goals. Sponsors of DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities.
All in Mobile is a place where we continually maximize their impact by fostering understanding, empathy, insights, creativity and joy. They believe that a truly useful and desirable mobile app doesn't need the brightest idea or the most advanced technology. A great product begins with understanding people. It's easy to think that customers will love your app, but can you justify it? They make sure your final app is something that users truly want and need. The only way to do this is by ...
Digital Transformation and Disruption, Amazon Style - What You Can Learn. Chris Kocher is a co-founder of Grey Heron, a management and strategic marketing consulting firm. He has 25+ years in both strategic and hands-on operating experience helping executives and investors build revenues and shareholder value. He has consulted with over 130 companies on innovating with new business models, product strategies and monetization. Chris has held management positions at HP and Symantec in addition to ...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that Big Data Federation to Exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO, colocated with DevOpsSUMMIT and DXWorldEXPO, November 12-13, 2018 in New York City. Big Data Federation, Inc. develops and applies artificial intelligence to predict financial and economic events that matter. The company uncovers patterns and precise drivers of performance and outcomes with the aid of machine-learning algorithms, big data, and fundamental analysis. Their products are deployed...
Dynatrace is an application performance management software company with products for the information technology departments and digital business owners of medium and large businesses. Building the Future of Monitoring with Artificial Intelligence. Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more busine...
Cell networks have the advantage of long-range communications, reaching an estimated 90% of the world. But cell networks such as 2G, 3G and LTE consume lots of power and were designed for connecting people. They are not optimized for low- or battery-powered devices or for IoT applications with infrequently transmitted data. Cell IoT modules that support narrow-band IoT and 4G cell networks will enable cell connectivity, device management, and app enablement for low-power wide-area network IoT. B...
The hierarchical architecture that distributes "compute" within the network specially at the edge can enable new services by harnessing emerging technologies. But Edge-Compute comes at increased cost that needs to be managed and potentially augmented by creative architecture solutions as there will always a catching-up with the capacity demands. Processing power in smartphones has enhanced YoY and there is increasingly spare compute capacity that can be potentially pooled. Uber has successfully ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things'). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing. IoT is not about the devices, its about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. This paper discusses the considerations when dealing with the...