Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Why current IR models don't work, part deux

As a follow-up to my previous post, I thought of another way to (hopefully) shed some light on this issue.

Sometimes, we (forensics weenies such as myself) like to illustrate technical points with real/analog world analogies. As some of you may know, one of my favorites is the stabbing victim you find in an alleyway, and call 911...the EMTs (incident responders) arrive, triage the victim, stabilize and move him, etc. The cops are ultimately able to locate the perpetrator of the crime, and he can be convicted, even given the fact that the victim was moved, etc. Using the traditional, purist CF model, a doctor would have to kill the victim on the scene and perform an autopsy in order to catch the bad guy.

Let's take a look at a similar analogy for IR, using real-world crime as an example. Say that an office building is a network infrastructure, and within that building is are file cabinets that contains sensitive data. The office building has doors, windows, elevators, roof access, etc., just like a normal office building...these are akin to access points to the network infrastructure.

Let's say that during the night, someone breaks into the building and attempts to steal some of the sensitive data kept there. What happens in the real/analog world? Usually, if there were no alarms, then someone notices something when they get into work the next day (or you hope that they do, anyway) and alerts security, who calls the local police (ie, first responders). Access to the area is immediately restricted, and an "incident response" plan of some kind kicks in...eventually a report is produced, and the perpetrators may be caught. If the folks who owned the building or occupied the office spaces actually made it difficult for someone to break in (by locking doors, using additional levels of access control, etc.) or monitored the area (video cameras, etc.) then there would be more evidence available for the police to review, and it would be more likely that the bad guy would be caught.

So, what does this have to do with anything? Well, here are some of what usually happens in today's digital realm, mapped to the real world:

1. Many buildings have no restrictions to access...doors (front, loading dock, etc.) are all open and unmonitored. First and second floor windows are open for convenience, to make it easier for employees (users) to come and go (yes, I've actually seen employees climb out first floor windows to avoid being seen leaving by their boss). There is usually a back door that's propped open. Access via adjacent buildings and even the roof is very often unfettered.

2. Bad guys get into the building at all hours, even during regular working hours. They come in through the front door, loading dock entrance, etc. They aren't challenged or even noticed. They lock/unlock doors, clog toilets, and generally make a nuisance of themselves. Many times, they are there for several months, taking files, sitting at employee's workstations, etc., and no one seems to notice or even respond.

3. When someone does notice that a bad guy is or has been there, the usual approach is that one of the employees does not alert anyone, and tries to investigate the situation themselves. As they have no training in this sort of thing (or did receive training, but have not used it, or been required to keep that training current), their investigation misses a lot of very basic stuff, like footprints, fingerprints, etc., and a lot of obvious stuff (contents of file cabinets and storage closets thrown all over the room, etc.). This may go on for weeks or even months, and when someone finally does call the police, there's been no record of who did what, what was found and when, and there may even have been broken doors and windows replaced.

Does any of this make any sense in the real world? Probably not. So why do we see this so often in the digital realm?

So, I then have to ask, is there any reason why IT staffs cannot be trained in first response, providing a tier 1 response capability? Basically, tier 1 IR is akin to advanced troubleshooting. Corporations would pay a nominal fee to have experts come on-site and train their IT staff in basic IR procedures, raising the level of their awareness and expanding their skill sets. The IT staff would realize the benefit of things like network diagrams, troubleshooting and IR procedures, etc (which, by the way, are required by most regulatory bodies, including FISMA and Visa PCI). They would then be able to handle first level/tier 1 response. Then, if additional assistance is required, reach out to those experts for tier 2 and/or 3 response, but only when needed. The flip side is that corporations end up paying much, much more because the first responders are called for every apparent "incident" that occurs; they resolve the situation, provide a report, and go back to wait for the next call...but no knowledge transfer occurs and the "victim" is no better off than they were before the "incident" occurred.

Another benefit of having that on-site, functional, hands-on training and producing things like network diagrams is that the IT staff gets to "know" their network. By working through scenarios ahead of time, network administrators learn what the important pieces of network- and host-based information are that they are interested in when investigating an incident. Sometimes just asking the question of "what systems store or process sensitive data?" during training evolutions is much more beneficial than asking that same question after someone has p0wned the box and carted that data off.

Current IR models don't work because we don't spend enough time looking at what works in the real world and mapping that same sort of mechanism into the digital realm.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey you have really commented in very good fashion about the possible threat involved. I would also like to add something about risk assessment which I thing also might be useful to your visitors.

A risk assessment begins through discovering possible intimidation and vulnerabilities, and plan implemented controls to individual susceptibility. Individual after then decides risk by scheming the probability and influence of whichever known vulnerability being exploited, considering into account existing controls. The conclusion of the risk assessment demonstrates the intended risk for all vulnerabilities, and illustrate whether the risk is to be accepted or mitigated.