Tanium CEO’s Refreshingly Honest Take on the State of Internet Security

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On Tuesday, the wood-smoke air of California’s wildfires descended on the Bay Area as cybersecurity professionals gathered at the Palace Hotel for an industry event.

I spent the morning interviewing Orion Hindawi, CEO of Tanium, the world’s highest privately valued cyber startup (worth $ 3.75 billion at last appraisal in May), for a fireside chat at his company’s second annual conference, Converge 2017. Hindawi has a no-nonsense approach to business–a suffer-no-fools attitude that landed him in the sights of a couple of unflattering stories about his management style earlier this year. (He later apologized for being “hard-edged.”)

On stage the chief exec delivered his peculiarly unvarnished view of the state of Internet security. “The idea that we’re going to give you a black box and it auto-magically fixes everything, that’s a lie,” Hindawi told the audience. (One could almost hear a wince from part of the room seating his PR team.) “All I can tell you is we can give you better and better tooling every day. We can make it harder for the attackers to succeed. That’s the best I can offer.”

Hindawi is a realist through-and-through. His outlook is perhaps best summed up by his response to a question about whether he subscribes to a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty view of the cyber threatscape. His reply would become a running joke for the rest of the conference. He said simply, “It’s just a glass, dude.”

Other tidbits of wisdom from Hindawi: not all hackers are Russian spies (the majority are lowly criminals). Unsecured Internet of Things devices pose a risk to everyone. And sometimes cyber insurance is the way to go when old systems are all but impossible to patch; the decision boils down to managing “operational risk, like earthquakes,” he said.

Hacking is not a dark miasma that penetrates all things, although it can sometimes feel that way. Companies, like Tanium, that are building the tools to swing the balance back in defenders’ favor without over-promising provide hope. Enjoy the weekend; I will be heading north of San Francisco, visiting friends who, luckily, were unharmed by the area’s recent conflagrations.

Robert Hackett

@rhhackett

[email protected]

Welcome to the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter. Fortune reporter Robert Hackett here. You may reach me via Twitter, Cryptocat, Jabber (see OTR fingerprint on my about.me), PGP encrypted email (see public key on my Keybase.io), Wickr, Signal, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.

THREATS

Always use (advanced) protection. Google debuted an opt-in mode for high-risk users who wish to lock down their accounts on services such as Gmail, Google Drive, and YouTube with extra security. (Paging John Podesta.) The feature requires people to log-in using a special USB key (or Bluetooth dongle for mobile devices), it prevents third-party applications from accessing your Google data, and it adds beefed up malware-scanning of incoming documents. This author plans to sign up.

Gather ’round the good stuff. Pizza Hut warned customers that their personal information and payment card data may be at risk after hackers gained access to the company’s website and app for a 28-hour period starting on Oct. 1. An estimated 60,000 customers are thought to have been impacted. The company is offering victims free credit monitoring for a year.

Unicorn? More like Duo-corn. Duo Security, a Mich.-based cybersecurity startup whose tools help companies manage people’s digital identities, said it raised $ 70 million at a $ 1.17 billion valuation (including the capital raised) this week. Th round catapults the firm into “unicorn” territory, the swelling ranks of private firms occupied by young guns valued at $ 1 billion or more. Alex Stamos, Facebook’s security chief, recently praised Duo as the maker of his favorite cybersecurity product.

KRACKing Wi-Fi. A couple of Belgian researchers published a paper containing proof of concept code that exploits vulnerabilities in the way cryptographic keys are exchanged over Wi-Fi, allowing hackers to steal people’s data. Big tech companies like Microsoft issued a patch for the so-called KRACK bug on Oct. 10, Apple is in the middle of testing patches for iOS and macOS, and Google, whose Android 6.0 devices are the most vulnerable, said it would release a patch in early Nov.

Cyber insurers are going to get Mercked. Cyber insurers might be on the hook to cough up $ 275 million to cover damage to drugmaker Merck as a result of a June cyber attack, dubbed “NotPetya,” according to one firm’s forecast. The companies at issue have not yet disclosed figures themselves.

Surprise! It is depressingly easy for penetration testers to break into places where they are not supposed to be.

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ACCESS GRANTED

Boycotts are hardly an option: To opt out of a credit score is to opt out of modern financial life itself. As Equifax’s now former CEO Richard Smith testified in October, if consumers were allowed to abandon the credit system, it would be “devastating to the economy.” The better answer is systemic reform to the credit oligopoly.

–Fortune’s Jeff John Roberts and Jen Wieczner explain what practical recourse consumers and regulators have when it comes to dealing with the major credit bureaus in the wake of a massive data breach at Equifax.

ONE MORE THING

The adventures of John Titor. Namesake of a bygone Internet hoax, “John Titor” claimed to be a man sent from the future to retrieve a portable computer. Titor sent faxes to an eccentric radio program, Coast to Coast AM, that specialized in the paranormal. Here’s an oral history of that running joke; the pseudo-scientific explanations of time travel are delightful.

Tech

Security firm finds some Macs vulnerable to 'firmware' attacks

(Reuters) – Since 2015, Apple Inc (AAPL.O) has tried to protect its Mac line of computers from a form of hacking that is extremely hard to detect, but it has not been entirely successful in getting the fixes to its customers, according to research released on Friday by Duo Security.

Duo examined what is known as firmware in the Mac computers. Firmware is an in-built kind of software that is even more basic than an operating system like Microsoft Windows or macOS.

When a computer is first powered on — before the operating system has even booted up — firmware checks to make sure that basic components like a hard disk and processor are present and tells them what to do. That makes malicious code hiding in it hard to spot.

In most cases, firmware is a hassle to update with the latest security patches. Updates have to be carried out separately from the operating system updates that are more commonplace.

In 2015, Apple started bundling firmware updates along with operating system updates for Mac machines in an effort to ensure firmware on them stayed up to date.

But Duo surveyed 73,000 Mac computers operating in the real world and found that 4.2 percent of them were not running the firmware they should have been based on their operating system. In some models – such as the 21.5-inch iMac released in late 2015 – 43 percent of machines had out-of-date firmware.

That left many Macs open to hacks like the “Thunderstrike” attack, where hackers can control a Mac after plugging an Ethernet adapter into the machine’s so-called thunderbolt port.

Paradoxically, it was only possible to find the potentially vulnerable machines because Apple is the only computer maker that has sought to make firmware updates part of its regular software updates, making it both more trackable and the best in the industry for firmware updates, Rich Smith, director of research and development at Duo, told Reuters in an interview.

Duo said that it had informed Apple of its findings before making them public on Friday. In a statement, Apple said it was aware of the issue and is moving to address it.

”Apple continues to work diligently in the area of firmware security, and we’re always exploring ways to make our systems even more secure,“ the company said in a statement. ”In order to provide a safer and more secure experience in this area, macOS High Sierra automatically validates Mac firmware weekly.”

Reporting by Stephen Nellis; Editing by Leslie Adler

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tech

NY regulation aims to raise bank security standards

Next week, New York State will begin a 45-day public comment period on its new financial industry cybersecurity regulation — and, so far, security experts have a favorable view of the proposal.

Under the new regulations, banks and insurance companies doing business in New York State will need to establish a cybersecurity program, appoint a Chief Information Security Officer and monitor the cybersecurity policies of their business partners.

According to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, this is the first such regulation in the country. “This regulation helps guarantee the financial services industry upholds its obligation to protect consumers and ensure that its systems are sufficiently constructed to prevent cyber-attacks to the fullest extent possible,” he said in a statement.

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9 data security tips for cloud migration

New security challenges

New security challenges

Image by Les Haines

When migrating to a cloud-based environment, companies need to take a hard look at their needs and the security of their providers, as well as their own internal policies. Many companies don’t take time to consider the risks of simply sharing cloud space with other organizations, for example, or how to match cloud security policies to those of the data center.

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InfoWorld Cloud Computing


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Google is giving a big boost to Gmail security

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Google is amping up security and protections for Gmail users, giving people a more noticeable warning if there’s a chance the government is trying to steal their password, giving warnings for dangerous links and proposing a more secure email-sending standard.

Google announced on its blog that it is expanding upon Safe Browsing to alert Gmail users about the possibility of suspicious government activity. Since 2012, Google has put a banner on top of users’ Gmail pages that had a warning about state-sponsored attackers if Google believed they were in danger, but starting today people will get a full-page warning about it — very hard to miss. Read more…

More about Google, Security, Gmail, Tech, and Apps Software


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NSA director just admitted that government copies of encryption keys are a big security risk

NSA chief Michael S. Rogers speaks at Fort Meade.

The director of the NSA, Admiral Michael Rogers, just admitted at a Senate hearing that when Internet companies provide copies of encryption keys to law enforcement, the risk of hacks and data theft goes way up.

The government has been pressuring technology companies to provide the encryption keys that it can use to access data from suspected bad actors. The keys allow the government “front door access,” as Rogers has termed it, to secure data on any device, including cell phones and tablets.

Rogers made the statement in answer to a question from Senator Ron Wyden at the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Thursday.

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 2.06.46 PMWyden:  “As a general matter, is it correct that anytime there are copies of an encryption key — and they exist in multiple places — that also creates more opportunities for malicious actors or foreign hackers to get access to the keys?

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 2.07.12 PMRogers: Again, it depends on the circumstances, but if you want to paint it very broadly like that for a yes and no, then i would probably say yes.”

View the exchange in this video.

Security researchers have been saying for some time that the existence of multiple copies of encryption keys creates huge security vulnerabilities. But instead of heeding the advice and abandoning the idea, Rogers has suggested that tech companies deliver the encryption key copies in multiple pieces that must be reassembled.

From VentureBeat

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“The NSA chief Admiral Rogers today confirmed what encryption experts and data scientists have been saying all along: if the government requires companies to provide copies of encryption keys, that will only weaken data protection and open the door for malicious actors and hackers,” said Morgan Reed of the App Association in a note to VentureBeat.

Cybersecurity has taken center stage in the halls of power this week, as Chinese president Xi Jinping is in the U.S. meeting with tech leaders and President Obama.

The Chinese government itself has been linked with various large data hacks on U.S. corporations and on U.S. government agencies. By some estimates, U.S. businesses lose $ 300 billion a year from Chinese intellectual property theft.

One June 2nd, the Senate approved a bill called the USA Freedom Act, meant to reform the government surveillance authorizations in the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act expired at midnight on June 1st.

But the NSA has continued to push for increased latitude to access the data of private citizens, both foreign and domestic.



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IDG Contributor Network: IoT security will soon be common in the enterprise, Gartner says

A fifth of all businesses will have deployed IoT-related security by the end of 2017, analyst Gartner thinks.

Dedicated digital security services that are committed to “protecting business initiatives using devices and services in the Internet of Things” will be in place by then, the research and advisory company says.

Gartner made the statement in a press release on its website in relation to a security and risk management summit earlier this month in Mumbai.

‘Reshape IT’

“The IoT redefines security,” Ganesh Ramamoorthy, research vice president at Gartner, said in the press release.

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Are your biggest security threats on the inside?

The now infamous Ashley Madison website has had a pretty successful run at helping its clientele be disloyal. So perhaps some would view it as poetic justice if the website became one of the most scandalous breaches in history at the hands of one of its own. 

At least that is the conclusion of IT security analyst John McAfee, who noted recently “yes, it is true. Ashley Madison was not hacked – the data was stolen by a woman operating on her own who worked for Avid Life Media.” 

If true, the fact that the Ashley Madison breach was due to an internal, and not external, threat shouldn’t come as too big a surprise. Many IT security studies this year have pointed to the growing threat of insider data theft and corporate breaches. 

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