Tag Archives: incident

Fatal Half-measures in Incident Response

CSO Online writes about a rather sad list of security breaches at http://www.csoonline.com/article/721151/fatal-half-measures-in-incident-response, and the half-hearted approach companies take in dealing with the security on their networks and websites.

What I find most embarrassing is that it appears (judging by the actions) that many companies have their lawyers do some kind of borked risk assessment , and decide that they can just leave things as-is and yell foul when there’s a breach. After all, particularly in the US prosecutors are very heavy handed with breaches, even when the company has been totally negligent. That’s weird, because an insurance company wouldn’t pay out for a break-in when you’ve left your front door wide open! The problem is of course that the damage will have been done, generally data (such as personal details or credit card info) taken. The damage that does might be hidden and not even get tracked back to this cause. But it hurts individuals, potentially badly (and not just financially).

One example I know of… years ago, Commonwealth Bank Australia had an open mail relay. This means that outsiders could pass mail through CBA mail systems, thus send emails pretending to come from CBA addresses and looking 100% legit. When CBA was notified about this, somehow they decided to not do anything (lawyers again?). If it had been passed to a tech, it would have been about 10 minutes of work to rectify.

At Open Query we do security reviews for clients, naturally focusing on the externally facing sites with the back-end infrastructure including MySQL/MariaDB. We specifically added this offering because we happen to have the skillset in-house, our clients often have e-commerce or privacy sensitive data, and we regard this as very important.

We’re heartened by the introduction of more strict legislation in Australia that requires disclosure of breaches – that means that companies no longer have the option of not fessing up about an incident. Of course they could try and hide it, but these things tend to come out and apart from the public nature of that there are now legal consequences. It’s not perfect, I’d hope companies are smarter than even try to walk that line. Fessing up to a problem and dealing with it is much better, and that’s what we advise companies to do. But that’s about incident response policy, and while important in the overall picture that’s not our main focus.

Similar to our approach with reliability of infrastructure, we take a precautionary approach with security. We want to help prevent problems, rather than doing remedial work later. Of course there’s always a trade-off (law of diminished returns applies), but even small budgets can accommodate a decent level of security. And really, it’s not an optional extra. If you have a website or other publicly facing system as part of your business, you take on this responsibility. You can outsource the work, but not the responsibility.