The UNSECURITY Podcast – Episode 45 Show Notes

Welcome back for another quick recap of the week and another dose of UNSECURITY Podcast show notes. Hope you all had a great week!

For last week’s show, Brad was in studio while I was calling in from Sofia, Bulgaria. Brad was joined by Ryan Cloutier, an awesome return guest. As far as I could tell, it was another great show. I had some connectivity issues, but who doesn’t have connectivity issues in Bulgaria? Brad did a great job holding things together while we chatted about issues such as liability and speaking information security with “humans”.

Catch episode 44 here.

I was in Bulgaria to visit members of our SecurityStudio development team, check out the new office, and spend some time planning future releases of the software. Bulgaria is eight hours ahead, so timing with U.S. resources was interesting.

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The trip was very successful and we made significant progress on a number of fronts. While I was halfway around the world, Brad held down the fort. He’s a really good leader and I’m sure he has a bunch of things going on. I didn’t get to check in with him last week, so we’ll ask how he’s doing on the podcast.

Lots of other really cool stuff to share, but I’ll do that in another post or on the show.

Let’s do some show notes now.


SHOW NOTES – Episode 45

Date: Monday, September 16th, 2019

Show Topics:

Our topics this week:

  • Catching Up
    • More Mentor Program success
    • Civic duty example
  • vCISO Revisited
  • Book Announcement

[Evan] – Hi folks, welcome to the UNSECURITY Podcast. This is episode 45 and I’m your host, Evan Francen. Brad’s joining me as usual. Hi Brad!

[Brad] Brad politely says hello to me and by proxy all of our listeners. Good Brad.

[Evan] Man, this is two shows in a row where I’m out of studio. Today I’m stuck in Washington, D.C. for a meeting. Only one day, so that’s good. What’s up with you?

[Brad] Stuff and things.

[Evan] We haven’t recorded together in person the last couple of weeks, and I haven’t even been able to catch up with you. You cool if we catchup quick?

[Brad] Brad will probably say “yes”.

[Evan] Alright, let’s start with your week. Tell us what you’ve been up to.

Catching up

  • What Brad’s up to.
  • What I’m up to.
  • We have more Mentor Program success to talk about
  • One of our listeners is setting a great example for all of us in holding his local government accountable for security.

[Evan] Alright, lots of good things. We’re all in this together and there’s a job and place for everyone.

[Brad] Brad’s words of wisdom.

[Evan] We’re always grateful for feedback that we get from listeners. If you’d got some, email us at unsecurity@protonmail.com. One of the more popular topics in the past few months has been that of the virtual Chief Information Security Officer (or vCISO). We’ve received some great questions about how to become a vCISO. A couple of episode ago, we talked about what a good vCISO is, but we didn’t really talk about how to become one. Let’s do that.

How to become a vCISO discussion

  • If you’re new (less experience).
  • If you’re experienced (even existing CISOs)
  • What are the benefits to being a vCISO versus being a FTE CISO?

[Evan] Alright. Good perspective and good discussion. Thank you Brad.

[Brad] Brad’s gotta say something or we’ll have an uncomfortable silence here.

[Evan] OK, last topic before we get into some news. I want to announce something that I’m VERY excited about. You and I are going to write a book, right?

[Brad] Brad confirms. See if you can notice any change in the tone of his voice when he responds.

New book announcement and discussion

There’s a tie in here with vCISO too.

[Evan] I’m pumped about writing with you Brad. What better time than 4th quarter to get started?

[Brad] He’s lived through multiple 4th quarters, so he’ll laugh/cry.

[Evan] Let’s close this thing out with some news, eh?

News

Here’s our news for this week:

Closing

[Evan] There you have it. Thank you for another great show Brad!

A special thank you to our loyal listeners. We love your feedback and sincerely appreciate the fact that you join us each week. Send your feedback to us at unsecurity@protonmail.com. If you’re the social type, socialize with us on Twitter, I’m @evanfrancen, and Brad’s @BradNigh.

Talk to you all again next week!

The UNSECURITY Podcast – Episode 44 Show Notes

Welcome back for another quick recap of the week and another dose of UNSECURITY Podcast show notes!

Last week, Brad and I were back in studio together to record episode 43. It was a good show, where we covered some relevant topics such as (more fricken) incident response, vCISO questions, and how we (the good guys) can’t possibly do all the things that they (the bad guys) do.

Quick words about vCISO

  • It’s the future of information security leadership.
  • There are good vCISOs and less good (maybe bad) vCISOs, you need to learn the differences.
  • We got some great feedback this week from people who aspire to be a vCISO, which was really cool!

Quick words about good guys and bad guys

  • There’s a gap between what we can do and what they can do.
  • We have rules, they don’t.
  • We have ideas about how to close some of the obvious gaps (didn’t cover in the episode 43, but we’ll cover this somewhere in the future).

If you missed episode 43, you can always go back and nab it here.

Hoping you all had a great week. It was a short week, but if you’re like me, it only meant that we crammed more stuff into less time.

Most of my time this week was spent working with SecurityStudio partners find success in serving their clients. This is a blast because we create situations where everyone wins, and we do it together.

This week I started exploring the possibility of helping an incredible organization combat sex trafficking in the United States. The organization is SHAREtogether, and they’re doing amazing work. The organization is run by Jaco Booyens, the director of the movie 8 Days. If you get a chance, check them out and watch the movie (it’s been watched more than 2,000,000 times). If you feel more inclined, do more to help. Right now, my involvement is more exploratory, but I’m sure there will be more to this story before it’s all said and done.

Anyway, on the the show! Brad is leading the show this week, and he’ll have another returning


SHOW NOTES – Episode 44

Date: Monday, September 9th, 2019

Show Topics:

Our topics this week:

  • The security expert’s take on liability.
  • Speaking information security for “humans”.
    • What’s the problem?
    • Ideas for solving the problem(s).
    • Consequences of the failure to solve the problem.
  • Industry News

[Brad] – Brad can choose any opening he’d like. This is his show to lead. The standard one sort of goes like this…

Welcome to the UNSECURITY Podcast, episode 44. Joining me is my co-host, Evan Francen. Say hi Evan.

[Evan] I’ll say something here. Probably. Maybe I’ll stay silent to through Brad off, but now that it’s in the show notes, I think I let the cat out of the bag. Whatever.

[Brad] Also joining us today is a repeat guest. Ryan Cloutier is here in person. Ryan is an amazing information security expert with a noble mission. He was also on with us back in episode 27, back in May. Welcome Ryan.

[Ryan] Ryan’s a guy with something to say, so he’ll say something here.

[Brad] This week, Evan’s in Bulgaria. What’s going on over there, Evan?

[Evan] Stuff.

[Brad] It’s sort of funny. We’re beginning to think you don’t like Ryan all that much because last time he was on, you were in California. You got something against Ryan or what?

[Evan] Maybe.

[Brad] We brought Ryan on the show again because we love his perspectives on helping “normal” people, or as he likes to call them, “humans”, secure themselves better. Great mission, but before we cover that, let’s talk about some common questions we get about liability. Now, we’re not lawyers, so don’t think this is official legal advice, but we do work with lawyers pretty often when we investigate breaches.

Discussion about liability, from a security person’s perspective

[Brad] So, the key is to do the things that a “reasonable” person would do in your same circumstance. This leads to a whole bunch of questions that you should be asking yourself.

Now let’s switch gears a little bit. Ryan, you’ve got this deep desire to help “humans” secure themselves better, and this passion is shared with us here at FRSecure. You recently posted an open letter to the security community on Evan’s blog and you regularly speak to crowds all over the United States. Let’s talk about all this for a bit.

Discussion about Ryan’s mission and speaking “human”

  • What are some of the problems we’re facing when speaking “human”?
  • What ideas do we have for solving the problem(s)?
  • What are some of consequences of the failure to solve the problem?

[Brad] There’s so much we can do together, as a community, to do this better. Great discussion. What’s our one call to action?

[Brad] OK, on to this week’s security news.

News

Here’s our news for this week:

Closing

[Brad] Alright. Another great show. Thank you for joining me Ryan.

Evan, have a good time in Bulgaria. Bring me home a gift or something.

A special thank you to our loyal listeners. We love your feedback and sincerely appreciate the fact that you join us each week. Send your feedback to us at unsecurity@protonmail.com. If you’re the social type, socialize with us on Twitter, I’m @BradNigh and Evan’s @evanfrancen.

Talk to you all again next week!

The UNSECURITY Podcast – Episode 43 Show Notes

Crap. I had a good streak going for a bit. I was getting show notes published on Friday, but now I’m back to being consistently late with this. Oh well, it is what it is.

Did you catch last week’s show? It was a really good one, where Christophe Foulon joined the show again. He gave us an update on what he’s been up to and reinforced his mission of helping people get into the information security field. Great guy, great mission, and a great talk. Listen to it here.

This week was tough, filled with tough decisions, but the outcome was incredible. I won’t go too much into the details, but I’ll give you a quick recap.

  • My good friend Ryan Cloutier published his first article as a guest on my blog. Ryan’s a great advocate for helping “normal” people learn information security basics, and it’s a honor to have him write something for me/us to share.
  • I was off to New Jersey this week, spending time with a global company’s information security team, building some great information security processes. The two days was filled with some amazing working sessions. We left things much better off than where we found them.
  • Friday was filled with meetings, back to back to back to back. Each meeting was unique, and they all produced positive results. It’s sometimes crazy coming back to the office after a few days away. I love my team and I love being with them, even if it is in a meeting. 😉

OK, show notes. Here they are…


SHOW NOTES – Episode 43

Date: Monday, September 2nd, 2019

NOTE: We recorded this podcast on Friday, August 30th ahead of the Labor Day holiday.

Show Topics:

Our topics this week:

  • Incident Response (why not?)
  • What’s a vCISO?
  • Gaps between us and them
  • Industry News

[Evan] – Some sort of non-standard opening… The standard one is:
“Welcome to the UNSECURITY Podcast, this is episode 43 and the date is sometime in late August. I’m Evan Francen and joining me is my partner in crime, Brad Nigh. Hello Brad.”

[Brad] Brad does Brad.

[Evan] We have a packed show in store again today. We’re recording this episode on Friday because Monday is Labor Day. Summer is over. What the ?!?! Got plans?

[Brad] Brad still does Brad because Brad is Brad.

[Evan] Hopefully our listeners all had an enjoyable Labor Day and an enjoyable summer. Back to school and back to the grind. Speaking of “back to the grind”, let’s talk about a topic that we always seem to be talking about, Incident Response. I’ll be damned if we don’t have more lessons to share with our listeners. Let’s keep it short though, if we can.

Incident response discussion

  • Keep it sort of short.
  • Mention some recent lessons.
  • Mention the upcoming Hacks & Hops

[Evan] A topic came up this week when I was talking with an investor. He asked, “what is a vCISO?” The conversation got me thinking, do we just assume that people know what a vCISO is?

[Brad] Still doing the Brad thing.

[Evan] Let’s discuss this and be clear in our definition of a vCISO and what they do. I’d also like to discuss what makes a good vCISO and what makes a bad vCISO.

[Brad] Yep, still doing Brad. Life is good. 😊

vCISO discussion

  • Define vCISO
  • Why do we need vCISOs?
  • What makes a good vCISO?
  • If you’re looking for a vCISO, what should you demand from them?
  • Whatever else seems pertinent to the conversation.

[Evan] Alright, last topic for the show is something that came up in a recent vCISO engagement with a customer. It demonstrates the gaps between what good guys can do when they test something and what the bad guys can do. There’s always a gap. There’s a line that we can’t or won’t cross. Here’s a recent example:

From: Marty Wikle <mwikle@sygnosinc.com>

Sent: Sunday, August 25, 2019 9:46:59 PM

To: REDACTEDNAME <redacted@redacted.com> Subject: Respond ASAP

Someone ask me to kill you. For your information I am not sending this message with my email address and internet service provider just in case you want to proof smart and stubborn..any ways I like someone like that!because I will be so happy to put a bullet on your skull..My boys have been watching your steps for few days.

I am giving you a chance to live simply because my oracle show me that you dont have a hand in what you were accused of

You are to pay me $10,000 and I shall terminate the operation,after that I will give you the info of the person that wants you dead

You can call the authority and have them do patrol in your area 24/7 that didn’t stop me from hunting you and your love ones down.We are invisible!!

Reply to this email addresse:

trinitybharath048@gmail.com

[Evan] This email demonstrates a gap between what we can test as the good guys and what the bad guys do. This gap will always exist because we play by rules and the bad guys don’t care.

[Brad] Still doing Brad…

Short discussion

[Evan] Alright, let’s wrap this thing up with some news.

News

Here’s our news for this week:

Closing

More great episodes to come.

If you’re the social type, socialize with us on Twitter, I’m @evanfrancen and Brad’s @BradNigh.

Talk to you all again next week!

Snake Oil Won’t Cure Your Security Illness

Part two in a three-part series about the information security industry money grab.

Introduction

NOTE: I covered some of these issues in my book; Unsecurity: Information Security Is Failing. Breaches Are Epidemic. How Can We Fix This Broken Industry?

In this series, I’ll focus on three types of money grabbers, those

  1. Who will do anything and everything for your money
  2. Those who sell snake oil
  3. Those who will sell you something regardless of it’s effects on your security.

There’s no doubt that the money grab is alive and well in the information security industry. Some companies and people in our industry will do everything they can to get their hands on your money. Some of them should get your money, while others should be put out of business because of their deceptive practices.

Clark Stanley’s Snake Oil

This stuff was amazing. A concoction, or “liniment” as Clark Stanley called it, that will cure just about anything; rheumatism, neuralgia, sciatica, “lame back”, lumbago, “contracted cords”, toothaches, sprains, swelling, etc. I don’t even know what half these ailments are, but I don’t know if I’d care either. This stuff will cure me of ailments I don’t even know I have, and it will protect me from future ailments. If I were alive in the 1890s, I might have bought some of this wonder juice.

When Clark Stanley started peddling his snake oil to the ignorant masses, there was nothing to stop him. There was no regulation to govern the safety and effectiveness of drugs until 1906. Nobody even knew what Mr. Stanley’s wonder-drug was made of until 1916, this was the year that the Bureau of Chemistry (later the Food and Drug Administration-FDA) tested Snake Oil and determined it was made from mineral oil, 1% fatty oil (assumed to be tallow), capsaicin from chili peppers, turpentine, and camphor.

People caught on, the jig was up, and Stanley eventually pled no contest to federal civil charges that were leveled against him.

Information security industry snake oil

There’s snake oil for sale in our industry. Don’t buy it. It doesn’t work (for you).

Thanks in large part to Clark Stanley, the term “snake oil” has become synonymous with products and services that provide little (if any) value, but are promoted as solutions to problems. The term is also used to refer to exaggerated claims made by salespeople.

You’d be naïve to think there aren’t products and services sold in our industry that don’t fit our definition of “snake oil”. There are two types of snake oil being peddled today, the kind that is overtly deceptive and the kind the covertly deceptive. Both are bad, and you need to watch out.

Overtly deceptive

Overtly deceptive snake oil is the kind that comes with claims that are so outrageous, you start to question everything you know about yourself. The claims seem so real, with seemingly genuine evidence, and fancy words, you ask yourself questions like “Could this possibly be true?” “Is everything I’ve known about these things been wrong?” “How could I be so wrong?” “Is my existence a joke?”

No, you’re not wrong. Your existence is not a joke. The claims are crazy.

Here are two recent examples.

World’s First Patented Unhackable Computer Ever

What?! Unhackable? This can’t possibly be true. Can it? Well, if we were to believe Pritam Nath, the CEO of MicrosafeX Company, then yes it is true. If you use your noggin and think about this for a minute, the answer is absolutely NOT! There is no “unhackable” computer. There is no “unhackable” anything. Mr. Nath is selling snake oil, and thankfully the jig was up before people fell for it.

You should read his claims on his Kickstarter fundraising page. The claims are laughable if they weren’t so sad and patently false. There were 36 reported “backers” of Mr. Nath’s snake oil before the campaign was cancelled. I’m guessing most of these people were in it for the fun, not because they took this thing seriously.

Time AI

Sounds cool. What is it?

AI is sexy, but if AI doesn’t get your juices flowing, how about “quasi-prime numbers”, “infinite wave conjugations,” and “non-factor based dynamic encryption and innovative new developments in AI”?

SOLD! Lots a big words solving cool problems that I don’t understand. Must be cutting edge stuff.

The company peddling this Time AI thingy is Crown Sterling out of Newport Beach, California. I’d never even heard of these guys before last week.

Last week, at Black Hat, Robert Edward Grant, the company’s Founder, Chairman, and CEO gave a talk titled “The 2019 Discovery of Quasi-Prime Numbers: What Does This Mean For Encryption?“. The talk was so overtly snake oilish that it prompted very strong reactions (outrage) from some people who were there.

Dan Guido, the CEO of Trail of Bits stood up during Mr. Grant’s snake oil pitch and shouted “Get off the stage, you shouldn’t be here!” “You should be ashamed of yourself!” Ballsy.

Here’s a video clip of the exchange.

Jean-Philippe Aumasson is a serious crypto guy, and the author of the book Serious Cryptography.

There was enough of an uproar to force changes at Black Hat, including removal of references to the talk from the conference website and a promise of better vetting of sponsored talks in the future.

More coverage:

These are two examples of obvious and overtly deceptive snake oil. There’s also the less obvious, covertly deceptive variety.

Covertly deceptive

Covertly deceptive snake oil is hard for the inexperienced and/or lazy security professional to identify. It’s the sort of snake oil where a salesperson or company claims that their product does something that it doesn’t or that it will solve a problem, but it won’t. This snake oil is hard to identify because you won’t know unless you know.

One tell for covertly deceptive snake oil is the prominent use of sexy buzzwords. Common sexy buzzwords/phrases include:

  • Artificial intelligence or “AI”
  • Blockchain
  • Digital transformation
  • Big data
  • Machine learning or “ML”
  • Nextgen
  • Data-driven

If someone uses a buzzword or phrase that you don’t understand, go find out what it means. Don’t just sit there and nod your head like you know. Discounting buzzwords and phrases won’t always work though. There are legitimate companies and products in the market using sexy buzzwords, but work as promised.

The key to protecting against covertly deceptive snake oil is to follow the advice in the closing (below); research, educate, and/or ask. Don’t ever rely solely on the opinions and research provided by the company or salesperson who’s selling, it’s biased.

Buyer beware

It’s you who makes buying decisions for you. No pressure, but every dollar you spend on security is one less dollar your organization can spend on fulfilling its mission, so you should get it right.

Don’t ever buy anything without doing one (or all three) of the following:

  1. Conduct in-depth research into the product and how it works.
  2. Educate yourself on the technology the product claims to use.
  3. Ask an unbiased expert for his/her opinion.

If we all made good purchasing decisions, the snake oil will dry up. You will need to do more work, but in the end it will save you.

Beware of People Who Do Everything

Part one in a three-part series about the information security industry money grab.

Introduction

NOTE: I covered some of these issues in my book; Unsecurity: Information Security Is Failing. Breaches Are Epidemic. How Can We Fix This Broken Industry?

In this series, I’ll focus on three types of money grabbers:

  1. Those who will do anything and everything for your money,
  2. Those who sell snake oil, and
  3. Those who will sell you something regardless of its effects on your security.

Sometimes the money grabbers grab your money intentionally, but rarely do they do it with malicious intent.

There’s no doubt that the money grab is alive and well in the information security industry. We’re in the midst of the Cybersecurity gold rush, and there are thousands of companies fighting for their piece of your pie.

Cybersecurity gold rush

First, a quick comparison between the famous California gold rush and our cybersecurity gold rush.

The California gold rush looked like this: $10 million in 1849, $41 million in 1850, $75 million in 1851, and $81 million in 1852 (peak). After 1852, the rush gradually declined until 1857, then leveled to about $45 million per year.

The cybersecurity gold rush looks like this: $3.5 billion in 2004, $114 billion in 2018, $124 billion in 2019, and $170 billion by 2022. We haven’t exactly leveled off yet, but that day will come.

The truth about the cybersecurity gold rush; if you’re not one who’s making money, you’re probably one who’s spending it.

Spending well or not

Ask yourself these questions:

  • How confident am I that I’m spending my information security dollars wisely?
  • Am I getting the most value out of every dollar I spend?
  • Where do I get answers?

If you seek answers from a money grabber, you’re in for a rude awakening. Maybe not immediately, but soon. Money grabbers are biased, they’ll give you answers with a bias to sell you something.

So, how can you tell a money grabber from a trusted source of good information? It starts with understanding who the players are in our industry.

The Players

There are four players (or roles) in our industry; manufacturers, vendors, partners, and practitioners. Each of the players serve a very important role in making our industry function, and one player cannot effectively exist without the others. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that one player is any better than another, they’re all critical.

Let’s break them down.

Security Manufacturers

Security manufacturers provide innovative hardware and/or software designed to solve real-world information security problems. They are critical to the information security industry because they make the tools we all use to secure ourselves.

Security manufacturers have three responsibilities to our industry:

  1. Understand the problem they’re trying to solve enough to make an effective hardware and/or software solution.
  2. Make an effective hardware and/or software solution that solves a problem.
  3. Sell the hardware and/or software solution to people in order to make money.

The manufacturer obviously needs to make money in order to satisfy investors and stakeholders. They’ll also need the capital to make more products. Stop the cycle and the manufacturer dies.

All fine and dandy.

Problems arise when a manufacturer attempts to play other roles, like giving you non-product related advice. It only seems logical that the advice you’d receive would be biased by one of their primary motivations which is to sell you their products. A manufacturer wants to sell you things because they want your money. What they sell you might solve a problem, but if it doesn’t, that’s ultimately your problem. The worst practice is convincing you that you have a problem that in reality doesn’t exist.

Even if a manufacturer solves a problem for you, you need to ask yourself if it was the right problem to solve. Was the risk significant enough to warrant a reallocation of resources (personnel, time, money, etc.)?

A manufacturer is probably not the best place to ask your questions about where you should spend your next information security dollar. They’ll certainly have an answer, but it won’t be unbiased, and it may not be in your best interest.

Security Vendors

Security vendors are an interesting bunch. They don’t make products, they sell them. We need vendors though. We need them because they’re closer to our problems than most manufacturers, and they know products better than partners (up next). They give manufacturers a distribution and support channel, so the manufacturer can go back to what they do best, making things.

Vendors represent products made by the manufacturers, and probably provide support for the products too. Vendors are usually specialists in the products they represent and are the “go to” people for making sure your products operate the way their intended to operate.

Advice from a vendor might be closer to the truth, but it will still be significantly biased. Vendors get paid for selling products, and they only represent their suite of products. Vendors, like manufacturers, want to sell you something. Ultimately, they want your money. Solving problems will be limited to the products they carry and advice probably won’t take other creative possibilities into account. Security vendors usually don’t innovate much and are more likely to go with whatever the herd is doing.

Security vendors are the best place to go for advice about a specific suite of products, but are not the best place to go for unbiased expertise.

Security Partners

A true security partner is a consultant without bias, but someone without bias is a pipe dream.  The truth is, nobody is without bias, but good partners do their best to be a trusted advisor to clients with as little bias as possible. Good security partners who understand the importance of their role (in the industry and to their clients) are product agnostic. They strive to make recommendations based on what’s best for the client.

Partners also want your money, but they won’t make money if they betray your trust. Trust is what keeps them honest.

Advice from a security partner must be as unbiased and as objective as possible. Security partners are good at creating or finding innovative solutions to problems because they’re not tied to any specific product or suite of products. One problem with a security partner is they may not have the deep knowledge about any one particular product like a vendor or manufacturer may have. Partners try to compensate for this by establishing working (not selling) relationships with vendors and manufacturers.

Security partners are the best place to go for advice about solving your information security problems with as little bias as possible. A security partner would be the best place to start for answers to most information security questions.

Security Practitioners

The hard-working security people who bust their asses everyday to make their workplace and the world a better place. Security practitioners make (or influence) buying decisions and they’re the ones who live with the fruits (or consequences) of their decisions. Most security practitioners don’t have time to research everything and need others to assist them in fulfilling their own personal mission.

Security practitioners deserve, and should demand respect at all times.

OK, now you know the roles/players. Where’s the money grab?

Beware of People Who Do Everything

I’m speaking to the security practitioners now.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could go one place for everything? A one-stop shop. Seems like a great idea and a real benefit, but it’s ignorant to think that there wouldn’t be an undercurrent of bias that could hurt you and your organization.

  • A manufacturer is biased to sell you their products.
  • A vendor is biased to sell you something out of their suite of products.
  • A partner couldn’t even sell you products if they wanted to. A partner cannot be a one-stop shop even if they want to be.

If you’re comfortable with the bias and you’re comfortable with the inevitable waste of resources, you’ll be comfortable with the one-stop shop approach. It’s lazy and wasteful, but it’s your security program.

If you’re not comfortable with the bias and wasted resources, you might have a little more work cut out for you. The right thing is to use each player for what they were designed for. A manufacturer for buying their products, a vendor for buying from their suite of products and product support, and a partner for the best advice.

Problems come when a player doesn’t understand their own role. When a vendor tries to be a partner too or when a partner tries to be a vendor too. Worse yet is the player who tries to be manufacturer, vendor, and partner. If you didn’t know any better, the “we do everything” player has you by the neck.

In my experience, the most common offender of their role, almost like an identity problem, is a vendor. Many vendors grew their business through other means, maybe selling printers and copiers, maybe doing information technology (IT) work, or maybe reselling networking equipment. The vendor resells things, but as a matter of survival and as margins decrease, they look for new streams of revenue. One common stream of revenue is security consulting services where the market is relatively immature and where a vendor can realize more significant margins.

Two problems with the vendor who plays partner:

  1. The bias problem. I’ve already covered this, but it’s a significant problem. I’ve witnessed many occasions where a vendor has sold things to a client that were clearly biased by the fact that the vendor sells those products. It’s only natural that a vendor would sell products, but it’s the practitioner who pays the price.
  2. Good at some things, but an expert in no things. Nobody can be the best at everything, you can only be the best at one thing or maybe a few things. A vendor who sells copiers, installs Cisco networks, builds data centers, and recycles old equipment, is not likely to be an expert in information security. Information security requires a specialized skill set, and you will get what you pay for. Unfortunately, it’s the practitioner again who pays the price.

Vendors aren’t bad. Partners aren’t bad. Manufacturers aren’t bad. Things can get bad when one player tries to play multiple roles. These multi-role players do it because it’s in their best interest, not necessarily because it’s in your best interest.

Things can get bad for you when you play into a multi-role player’s hand. You wouldn’t know the difference unless you were paying attention. Spend every information security dollar like it’s precious, because it is. One wasted dollar is one less dollar to spend on other more productive and enjoyable things.

Before I close, and one last time, there is nothing wrong with manufacturers, vendors, or partners. They’re all critical. It just helps if you know who they are, and better yet, if they know who they are.

The UNSECURITY Podcast – Episode 39 Show Notes

HAPPY FRIDAY! You made it through another week. Did you survive or did you thrive? Hmm. Something to think about, I suppose.

Good week here for me, the folks at FRSecure and the folks at SecurityStudio. Most weeks are good weeks really.

I was in town all week, but not in the office too much. Came in for meetings, then excused myself for more writing. Most of my days are consumed by writing lately. Writing a few blog posts, a few articles, and working on the upcoming book.

I’ll leave it at that for now. Many exciting things to share, but we’ll be patient and let them take a little more shape before sharing.

Did you catch episode 38 of the UNSECURITY Podcast? John Harmon, the president of SecurityStudio was in studio and we had a great chat. John and I are working well and working closely together. It’s a blast!

This week’s show, episode 39, is a real treat. “Ben” comes back in studio to give us the lowdown on what he’s been up to. I’m excited for you to hear what he’s got to say. This show is released on Monday (8/5), so be sure to look for it!

On to the show notes…


SHOW NOTES – Episode 39

Date: Monday, August 5th, 2019

Today’s Topics:

Our topics for the week include:

  • Conversation with “Ben”
    • Research
    • Responsible Disclosure
    • Social Engineering (SE) Things
    • Team Ambush
    • DEF CON
  • Industry News

[Evan] – Hello listeners, and welcome to episode 39 of the UNSECURITY Podcast. My name, for those of you who don’t know, if Evan Francen. I’m your host for today’s show, again. Scheduling stuff for security people is always a pain in the ass, and this week is no different. We’re recording this show on Friday because I’m out of the office next week. This is still Brad’s vacation, so he’s out of hand for hosting. All this means that I get to host again! That’s cool, right?!

Brad will be back next week, and he’ll have a great show planned I’m sure.

Now, you don’t want to sit there and listen to this voice for an entire show, so I invited someone last minute to join me. I found “Ben”! Want to say hi to the listeners Ben?

[Ben] Ben does Ben.

[Evan] Ben, thank you for agreeing to join me, especially last minute like this.

[Ben] Ben does Ben.

[Evan] Ben’s not your real name, right? So why do we call you “Ben”?

[Ben] Ben does Ben.

[Evan] You were here back in episode 14 (February 11). It was a great talk then, and this one will certainly be as good or better. Ben, you live a damn cool life, at least as it goes for security people. You cool if we talk about some of the things going on with you?

[Ben] Ben does Ben.

Conversation with “Ben”

Topics to discuss with Ben include:

  • Research
  • Responsible Disclosure
  • Social Engineering (SE) Things
  • Team Ambush
  • DEF CON

[Evan] See, I told you. Ben does cool stuff, and a lot of it! We could have talked for hours, but we can’t do that here. Let’s close with some news.

Industry News

Plenty of news this week, but arguably the most talked about is the Capital One breach. Instead of what’s in your wallet, now the joke is “who’s” in your wallet. Seriously though, this was big news this week.

Here’s our news to discuss in this week’s show.

Closing

[Evan] – So, there you go. That’s how it is. Ben, a huge thank you for joining me this week. Best of luck to you and all of Team Ambush this week at DEF CON. You’re going to have a great time and I can’t wait to hear how things went. Also, as always, thank you to our listeners. The podcast continues to grow and we’re grateful. Keep the awesome feedback coming, send it to unsecurity@protonmail.com. If you give us something real cool, we’ll mention it. Without your approval of course. Wait. That’s not right. I mean WITH your approval.

If you’d like to be a guest on the show or if you want to nominate someone to be a guest, send us that information too.

Ben, how can people reach out to you? Or do you even want people to reach out to you?

[Ben] People can reach me through Twitter. My Twitter handle is @M1ndFl4y. I don’t post much, but you can reach me through a DM there.

[Evan] OK. Thanks again. Find us on Twitter for daily chatter. I’m @evanfrancen and Brad’s @BradNigh. Have another great week everybody!

Robocalls Are Dumb, You’re Not

Your cell phone buzzes, you look down and see “No Caller ID”, “Unknown” or maybe a weird number you don’t recognize. Do you answer, or do you just let the call go to voicemail?

Some people, myself included, will let these calls go to voicemail. It’s not a bad idea to ignore calls from numbers you don’t recognize.

Some people answer, they listen, and they follow the caller’s instructions, even if the caller is nothing more than a machine.

So, let’s say you’re one of the people who answers. The machine with a human voice tells you some urgent and potentially bad news. The machine tells you if you don’t want things to get worse, you’d better “press one” or call the phone number provided. Your mind starts to race, and you begin this internal dialog with yourself:

Oh crap!

Wait. Maybe this is a scam.

But what if it’s not? What if I really am in trouble?

It couldn’t hurt to press one, could it?

Ah hell, I can’t chance it. I don’t need any trouble. I should take care of this right now.

I’ve got to find out what’s going on.

After pressing one, a man, a real one this time, gets on the phone and tells you it was smart for you to take this seriously. The conversation goes something like this:

Man: This is John, from the Department of Social Security Administration. May I ask who’s on the line?

You: This is Jane Doe, and I got this call that something is wrong or something about criminal charges.

Man: Yes, thank God you took this matter seriously ma’am.

You: So, what happened?

Man: It looks like your identity is being used to commit felonious acts. These acts are tied to you, and you will be charged with a crime if you don’t act.

You: What do I need to do?

Man: We need to file your paperwork right away to stop the charges. We can mail the paperwork in, but I fear that the courts won’t get it in time. Our other option is to file your paperwork over the phone. This is the best way to make sure this matter gets squared away fast, before you get hauled into court.

You: OK, what do you need?

Man: We need to verify your identity.

You agree, so he proceeds to ask you questions about you. He asks for your name, your address, your age, where you work, and of course, your Social Security number. You give him everything he asks for, and the call ends with some mysterious, but official sounding close.

You’ve been scammed. Sometimes the crooks are targeting your identity (like this example), and sometimes they’re targeting your money directly. Sometime both.

Robocalls are dumb, but they must be working, at least some of the time. There are real victims, or the scammers wouldn’t waste their time. In 2018, there were more than 26 billion robocalls placed to phones in the United States, a 46% year-over-year increased volume. (Hiya Robocall Radar 2018 Report)

This got me thinking, why? The reasons are simple, because it’s cheap for the scammers and it works. People must be falling for these dumb scams. Attackers wouldn’t go through the trouble if these scams weren’t effective, right?

People take the bait, either through ignorance or through a moment of weakness.

Just this week, the FCC adopted new rules to combat robocalls. You might think, “great, let’s shut these sumbiches down!“. Hold your enthusiasm just a minute. Do you really expect the Feds to protect you? Actions by the FCC might help curb the problem, but at the end of the day, this falls on you. Only you can prevent yourself from being scammed.

It’s baffling to think that someone would fall for a robocall scam, but rather than sitting here shaking my head, let’s go through some examples and try to help someone.

Call Number One – Social Security Number Suspension

Here’s the text of the call:

We found some suspicious activity, so if you want to know about this case just press one thank you. This call is from the Department of Social Security Administration. The reason you have received this phone call from our department is to inform you that we just suspend your Social Security number because we found some suspicious activity, so if you want to know about this case just press one thank you.

The message continues and repeats.

Here’s the audio:

Here’s the skinny.

  1. You will NEVER receive a call from the “Department of Social Security Administration”. Besides, the actual name of the agency is just “Social Security Administration” not the “Department of Social Security Administration”.
  2. The Social Security Administration DOES NOT monitor your number for “suspicious activity”.
  3. The Social Security Administration DOES NOT suspend your Social Security number.

DO NOT PRESS ONE.

Call Number Two – Legal Consequences

Here’s the text of the call:

Social Security number the (unintelligible) received this message, you need to get back to us to avoid legal consequences. To connect call immediately, press one.

The message ends.

Here’s the audio:

Here’s the skinny on this one.

I don’t even know what the hell the message says really. All I know is that I don’t like legal consequences. Guessing you don’t either. The fact is, you are not facing any legal consequences, and even if you were you’d be served in writing and probably in person. Nobody calls you to tell you that you’re going to suffer legal consequences on a voicemail, at least nobody who’s legitimate.

DO NOT PRESS ONE.

Call Number Three – Legal Proceedings

Here’s the text of the call:

legal enforcement action filed on your Social Security number for criminal activities. So, when you get this message, kindly (unintelligible) as soon as possible on our number that is 210-361-9633 before we begin with the legal proceedings. Thank you.

Here’s the audio:

The skinny.

A “legal enforcement action filed on your Social Security number for criminal activities”?! This is so preposterous, I’m having trouble thinking of something to write in response. You will NOT receive a recorded call telling you of impending legal proceedings because of criminal activities using your Social Security number. If there were such a crazy thing, you’d be notified in person and in writing.

DO NOT CALL THEM BACK. (Side note: I did. Got a busy signal, so I’m guessing they already got taken down by the carrier/law enforcement).

Call Number Four – Chinese

The text of this call is all in Chinese, and I don’t speak Chinese. So, I did some translation work*. Here’s what I think it says:

这里是中国领事馆文件通知您有一封重要文件尚未领取中有任何疑问请按铃 查询

in English:

Here is the Chinese Consulate Document to inform you that there is an important document that has not been received. Please feel free to ring your query.

Here’s the audio:

The skinny.

I don’t speak or understand Chinese, so there was no real chance of this one working on me. This is an automated caller though, and there are an estimated 2.9 million people in the United States who do speak Chinese and as many as 1.2 billion people worldwide who also speak Chinese.

One joy of the robocall for scammers is they can reach thousands of phones automatically. It’s no skin off their back if they reach someone who doesn’t understand. Eventually, they will.

Not sure how effective this sort of call is with the Chinese speaking community, but like I said earlier, they wouldn’t do it if it didn’t work (at all).

(Another side note: Now that I think a little more, maybe this last one wasn’t a scam. My wife is travelling to China next month. WAIT. See, here’s rationalization. Irrational rationalization. No, it’s a scam and I will ignore it.)

TIPS

The first tip is the most important one, so I’m going to shout it. Ready?

  1. NEVER, EVER GIVE OUT ANY SENSITIVE INFORMATION THROUGH ANY COMMUNICATION CHANNEL WHERE YOU DIDN’T INITIATE THE COMMUNICATION.

You get that? I’m going to shout it again. This time I want you to really think about it.

  1. NEVER, EVER GIVE OUT ANY SENSITIVE INFORMATION THROUGH ANY COMMUNICATION CHANNEL WHERE YOU DIDN’T INITIATE THE COMMUNICATION.

Communication channels include phone calls, emails, popups, text messages, and even in-person. If you initiate the phone call, not at the prompting of someone else giving you the phone number to call, you are most of the way there in protecting yourself from scams.

2. Ignore phone calls that originate from phone numbers you don’t recognize. Ignore them, and get on with your day. If it’s important, they’ll leave a message.

3. Be skeptical. You don’t need to be paranoid, but be skeptical.

4. Slow down. Don’t react without giving your mind time to think and process what’s going on. Taking 10 minutes to think things through will not put you in danger, but just the opposite.

5. Ask someone you trust. If you’re not sure whether a phone call or message is legit, ask someone. They’re not tied to the events emotionally in the same way you are. Don’t be embarrassed to ask questions.

There you have it. You can probably come up with some additional tips along the way, but these are the basics. Master the basics people.

 

 

The UNSECURITY Podcast – Episode 38 Show Notes

YES! I’m on time again. If I get good at this, I won’t need to make this comment anymore. Odds of that?

As usual, I’ll give a quick review of the week, then we’ll jump right into the show notes.

It was another good and productive week. Gooder and more productiver than I probably deserve, but this is what you get when you are surrounded by awesome people all the time. 

  • Monday started with UNSECURITY Podcast (episode 37). Our guest was the one and only MN State Representative Jim Nash. If you missed it, you should give it a listen. We call BS on some things, then chat about some other things. All in all it was a great show. After that, it was coffee with a friend and a lot of writing.
  • Tuesday started with coffee with SecurityStudio’s VP of Software Development, Ivan Peev. After coffee it was an executive leadership meeting (all executives rated it a 10, which is always good), more writing, and a global information security strategy meeting with an awesome vCISO client.
  • Wednesday was great. An FRSecure Customer Advisory Board (CAB) meeting, coffee with Peter Vinge (Director of Operations – FRSecure), more writing, a few more meetings, more writing, and a meeting with legal counsel.
  • Thursday started with a SecurityStudio User Advisory Group meeting, then the rest of the day was spent writing.
  • Friday (today) started with a coffee meeting with my good friend and SecurityStudio’s president, John Harmon. We had a cool discussion about family, health, and some security strategy stuff. After coffee came a SecurityStudio product strategy meeting, and now I’m writing again.

What’s with all the writing?

It’s been a while since I’ve updated people on the status of this second book. The first book (Unsecurity: Information security is failing. Breaches are epidemic. How can we fix this broken industry?) was published this year, and it’s been really well-received. This first book was written to information security professionals. This second book is an information security book written to information security amateurs, or common everyday people. The book’s parts are (for now):

  • Introduction
  • Part 1 – Current State of Affairs (nation-state, cyberwarfare, businesses, attackers, security, privacy, and safety)
  • Part 2 – Motivation (find your motivation to act, family, friends, community, country, and business)
  • Part 3 –  Application (applying the basics and building habits)
  • Part 4 – Introducing and Using S2Me (the assessment, recommendations, and conclusions)
  • Closing

If you read my first book, you might remember where I said that writing a book is a bitch. It still is. The amazingness of the experience is more than worth it though. More to come in the coming weeks and months.

Let’s get to the show…


SHOW NOTES – Episode 38

Date: Monday, July 29th, 2019

Today’s Topics:

We’re going to touch on the following topics this week:

  • Civic Ransomware Awareness Project update
  • The #100DaysofTruth follow-up
  • Project Bacon
  • Industry News

[Evan] – Hi everybody! Holy buckets, we’ve got a good show planned today. Good morning, and in case you don’t know the voice yet, this is Evan and this is episode 38 of the UNSECURITY Podcast. No Brad joining me today. He’s got a “vacation”. Who does that?! Anyway, in his place is my good friend and SecurityStudio’s president John Harmon. This is where you say “hi” John.

[John] He’s a quick thinker with a sharp tongue, so I’ll need to be on my toes with his response (probably).

[Evan] So, Brad’s on vacation. I joked a little about that, but I can hardly think of someone who deserves it as much as he does. Kudos to him for taking some time off to be with his family. Before we get into talking more about our guest and some cool things, I just want to give our listeners a quick update on our Civic Ransomware Awareness Project and an idea for a follow-up to the #100DaysOfTruth thing.

Quick Civic Ransomware Awareness Project Update and New Idea Discussion

John can talk here too, I just don’t have anything specific for him yet.

[Evan] This is our 38th episode of the podcast, and we finally have you on the show. Sorry it took so long. Now, I know you pretty well because we’ve been working together for quite some time now, but the listeners may not know who you are. Tell us about yourself.

[John] Tells us a story about himself

Talking About John

[Evan] I gotta tell you man, I love working with you every day. You’re a guy that truly gets what we’re trying to do and you’re absolutely sold out on our mission. Later this year, like October, you and I are embarking on a new journey. We affectionately call it Project Bacon. Where did the name come from?

[John] The name was John’s idea, but let’s hear him out.

[Evan] The name is awesome. Besides, who doesn’t like Bacon? So, we have this Project Bacon thing. What is it?

[John] Tells us what Project Bacon is.

[Evan] OK, I think I get it (of course I do, but I need to act like I don’t so the show is more interesting or something). Why are we doing this?

[John] Oh yeah! The “why” is the best part.

More Project Bacon Discussion

[Evan] I’m pumped about Project Bacon. It’s going to be a blast and we’re doing good things all along the way. John, you’ve listened to our podcast before. We always close this thing out with a few news stories. You game?

[John] John is always game.

Industry News

Here’s our news to discuss in this week’s show. The depth of the discussion will depend on our time.

Closing

[Evan] – OK. That’s how it is. So many cool things going on and too many things to talk about. Thank you John for filling in for Brad this week. Project Bacon is going to be great! Also, a special thank you to our listeners. Each week, the number of listeners to our podcast continues to grow, and each week we received great feedback from you. Please keep it coming. If we haven’t had a chance to respond, it isn’t because we don’t care, we just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

If you want to keep up with the haps, be sure to follow me, Brad, and/or John on Twitter. I’m @evanfrancen, Brad’s @BradNigh, and John is @HarmonJohn. Email the show at unsecurity@protonmail.com. Have a great week everybody!

The UNSECURITY Podcast – Episode 37 Show Notes

On time this week? Absolutely! We take these things seriously around here, you know that!

Happy Friday UNSECURITY Podcast listeners! It was a great week for us, hope yours was good (or better).

Weeks like this one at FRSecure and SecurityStudio are always special. We held our end of quarter meeting at our Minnetonka, MN headquarters. Our people fly in from all over the country to celebrate, collaborate, and have fun. It’s AWESOME to see everyone and spend time catching up.

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We are all family here, and it’s an amazing experience when everyone gets to come home. We have people fly in for the week from Florida, Nevada, Kentucky, and soon to be Missouri. It’s magical when everyone gets together. One of our core values is “work hard, play hard”, and it’s fun to see everyone collaborating then going out and having fun afterwards. Seriously amazing people doing incredible things.

I love these people!

Like almost every quarter, the team killed it again. It was another record quarter revenue and profit-wise, but this is secondary to the impact this team is making in our industry.

The mood was awesome. Blessings everywhere.

On to the show notes, eh? (What am I Canadian now?)

Originally, we were planning to cover a new SecurityStudio initiative we affectionately call “Project Bacon”. We’re going to put that off until next week because we have a special guest joining us for this show. Our special guest is Jim Nash, who represents District 47A in the Minnesota State House of Representatives.


SHOW NOTES – Episode 37

Date: Monday, July 22nd, 2019

Today’s Topics:

We’re going to touch on the following topics this week:

  • Civic Ransomware Awareness Project update
  • The #100DaysofTruth update
  • Calling BS on BS
  • Industry News

[Evan] – Hey oh. Good morning everyone. My name is Evan Francen. My show to host this week, so if you don’t like it, blame Brad. Speaking of Brad, he’s here. Hi Brad.

[Brad] Hi (or something similar)

[Evan] Also joining us this morning is Mr. Jim Nash. Now, I’ve got a special affinity for Jim. He’s a good friend, and he also represents my home district in the Minnesota State House of Representatives. Hi Jim.

[Jim] He also says “hi” or something of the like.

[Evan] Jim, I’m grateful for the work you do for the people of our district and I’m also very thankful for advocating like you do for information security. You’re a tremendous advocate for FRSecure, for the State, and for the US as a whole. Thank you.

[Jim] Graciously accepts my gratitude and says something wisdomy that will awe his constituents. I’ll probably have to cut him short because politicians sometimes like to talk.

[Evan] Let’s jump right in, shall we? We have a lot to cover in this week’s show. Real quick, like real real quick, what did you think about last week?

[ALL] Stuff.

[Evan] Yeah, it was a great week for sure. Quick update on the civic ransomware call to action stuff. I actually gave this thing a real name now, “Civic Ransomware Awareness Project”. We received a few more updates; a couple from our backyard here in Minnesota and one as far away as Idaho.

Civic Ransomware Awareness Project discussion

[Evan] I hope we’ll continue the efforts to work together, people from all walks and backgrounds, including the private and public sector, to make information security better for everybody.

[ALL] Maybe they say something maybe they don’t. It’s early Monday morning for crying out loud.

[Evan] Another thing from last week. Don’t know if you guys noticed, but I finished my #100DaysofTruth series. What did you think?

#100DaysofTruth discussion

[Evan] It was a fun exercise. People have been asking me “now what”? Here’s the plan, and you heard it here first. The FRSecure Marketing Team is summarizing all one hundred days into a single blog post, we’re going to produce an ebook out of the content, we’re going to create an audiobook, and I’m thinking about doing #100DaysofLies.

[ALL] Maybe some more comments, maybe I need to kick them under the table to wake them up.

[Evan] Alright, next thing I wanted to talk about was something that you, Jim, brought to my attention last week. This should be a good discussion. Jim came to me an told me that there’s this guy (he didn’t recall his name at the time) who is out there preaching that there are companies in the United States that are unhackable. As you can probably imagine, I’m not buying it. So I wrote a blog post here at evanfrancen.comblog post here at evanfrancen.com, and I’d like to talk about it. Whatya say guys? Game?

[ALL] Of course they’re game!

Calling BS on BS discussion

NOTE: Go into the background some more, then talk about the BS.

[Evan] Alright. Good spirited discussion. Let’s wrap this thing up with some news, then get on with what is sure to be another great week!

Industry News

Here’s the news to discuss, just two this week because we covered so much other stuff and we’re running out of time:

Closing

[Evan] – Well, damn. That’s how it is. We do a ton of things around here and we talk about a lot of stuff. Special thanks to Jim Nash for joining us this week. Jim, you’re a good man. Also, a special thanks to our listeners. You guys give us awesome feedback every week and tips about what you’d like us to talk about. Be sure to follow me, Brad, and/or Jim on Twitter. I’m @evanfrancen, Brad’s @BradNigh, and Jim’s  @JimNashMN. Email the show at unsecurity@protonmail.com. Have a great week everybody!