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Cisco tells Nexus switch owners to disable POAP feature for security reasons



In a security alert published today, Cisco has advised owners of Nexus switches to disable a feature called PowerOn Auto Provisioning (POAP) for security reasons.

POAP is currently enabled by default in NX-OS, the operating system running on Nexus –Cisco’s line of data center and traffic-heavy switches.

POAP is an automatic provisioning and zero-touch deployment feature that assists device owners in the initial deployment and configuration of Nexus switches.

The feature works by checking for a local configuration script. If the script has been deleted, the switch has been reset to factory settings, or this is the first boot-up, the POAP daemon will connect to a preset list of servers to download an initial configuration file.

To perform this operation, the switch must first obtain an IP address from a local DHCP server. POAP configuration settings can also be passed through the DHCP response.

This is where the problem lies, according to Cisco. The company says that the POAP feature on Nexus devices will accept the first DHCP response it receives.

An attacker present on the local network can send malformed DHCP responses to Nexus switches to hijack their POAP settings and trick switches into downloading and executing configuration scripts from an attacker’s servers.

This “bug” doesn’t allow hackers to take over devices by direct exploitation, but it can be immensely helpful for attackers who’ve already compromised a system on an internal network and would like to escalate their access to other devices.

Because of this, Cisco is now recommending that Nexus owners disable the POAP feature if they’re not using it.

The company has released NX-OS updates for all Nexus models that include a new terminal command to disable the feature. Details on how to use the new terminal command, along with a list of affected Nexus models are included in Cisco’s security alert.

The alert is eerily similar to the one the company issued about another automatic provisioning feature last year. Back in March 2018, Cisco told customers to disable the antiquated Smart Install feature because attackers could abuse it to take over devices. The feature did come under active exploitation a month later, in April 2018, being abused by both hacktivists and nation-state hacking groups.

Cisco also releases 30 other security fixes

Besides the POAP-related security alert, Cisco today also released patches for 30 vulnerabilities, seven of which can allow attackers to execute code with root-level privileges.

None of the fixed vulnerabilities were exploited by attackers in the wild, according to Cisco’s security team.

Last but not least, the networking giant also warned device owners of a new wave of attacks targeting CVE-2018-0296, a vulnerability impacting Cisco ASA routers that the company patched last June.

After the first wave of attacks last year, hackers are back at targeting ASA devices through CVE-2018-0296 again. Reasons for the new attacks might be a new proof-of-concept script that was published on GitHub last fall and updated last month.

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Work from Home Security



Spin Master is a leading global children’s entertainment company that invents toys and games, produces dozens of television and studio series that are distributed in 160 countries, and creates a variety of digital games played by more than 30 million children. What was once a small private company founded by childhood friends is now a public global supply chain with over 1,500 employees and 28 offices around the world.

Like most organizations in 2020, Spin Master had to adapt quickly to the new normal of remote work, shifting most of its production from cubicles in regional and head offices to hundreds of employees working from home and other remote locations.

This dramatic shift created potential security risks, as most employees were no longer behind the firewall on the corporate network. Without the implementation of hardened endpoint security, the door would be open for bad actors to infiltrate the organization, acquire intellectual property, and ransom customer information. Additionally, the potential downtime caused by a security breach could harm the global supply chain. With that in mind, Spin Master created a self-imposed 30-day deadline to extend its network protection capabilities to the edge.

Key Findings:

  • Think Long Term: The initial goal of establishing a stop-gap work-from-home (WFH) and work-from-anywhere (WFA) strategy has since morphed into a permanent strategy, requiring long-term solutions.
  • Gather Skills: The real urgency posed by the global pandemic made forging partnerships with providers that could fill all the required skill sets a top priority.
  • Build Momentum: The compressed timeline left no room for delay or error. The Board of Directors threw its support behind the implementation team and gave it broad budget authority to ensure rapid action, while providing active guidance to align strategy with action.
  • Deliver Value: The team established two key requirements that the selected partner must deliver: implementation support and establishing an ongoing managed security operations center (SOC).
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Key Criteria for Evaluating Privileged Access Management



Privileged Access Management (PAM) enables administrative access to critical IT systems while minimizing the chances of security compromises through monitoring, policy enforcement, and credential management.

A key operating principle of all PAM systems is the separation of user credentials for individual staff members from the system administration credentials they are permitted to use. PAM solutions store and manage all of the privileged credentials, providing system access without requiring users to remember, or even know, the privileged password. Of course, all staff have their own unique user ID and password that they use to complete everyday tasks such as accessing email and writing documents. Users who are permitted to handle system administration tasks that require privileged credentials log into the PAM solution, which provides and controls such access according to predefined security policies. These policies control who is allowed to use which privileged credentials when, where, and for what tasks. An organization’s policy may also require logging and recording of the actions undertaken with the privileged credentials.

Once implemented, PAM will improve your security posture in several ways. The first is by segregating day-to-day duties from duties that require elevated access, reducing the risk of accidental privileged actions. Secondly, automated password management reduces the possibility that credentials will be shared while also lowering the risk if credentials are accidentally exposed. Finally, extensive logging and activity recording in PAM solutions aids audits of critical system access for both preventative and forensic security.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Vendor Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

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Adventist Risk Management Data Protection Infrastructure



Companies always want to enhance their ability to quickly address pressing business needs. Toward that end, they look for new ways to make their IT infrastructures more efficient—and more cost effective. Today, those pressing needs often center around data protection and regulatory compliance, which was certainly the case for Adventist Risk Management. What they wanted was an end-to-end, best-in-class solution to meet their needs. After trying several others, they found the perfect combination with HYCU and Nutanix, which provided:

  • Ease of deployment
  • Outstanding ROI
  • Overall TCO improvement

Nutanix Cloud Platform provides a software-defined hyperconverged infrastructure, while HYCU offers purpose-built backup and recovery for Nutanix. Compared to the previous traditional infrastructure and data protection solutions in use at Adventist Risk Management, Nutanix and HYCU simplified processes, speeding day-to-day operations up to 75%. Now, migration and update activities typically scheduled for weekends can be performed during working hours and help to increase IT staff and management quality of life. HYCU further increased savings by providing faster and more frequent points of recovery as well as better DR Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) by increasing the ability to do daily backups from one to four per day.

Furthermore, the recent adoption of Nutanix Objects, which provides secure and performant S3 storage capabilities, enhanced the infrastructure by:

    • Improving overall performance for backups
    • Adding security against potential ransomware attacks
    • Replacing components difficult to manage and support

In the end, Nutanix and HYCU enabled their customer to save money, improve the existing environment, and, above all, meet regulatory compliance requirements without any struggle.

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