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Deserialization issues also affect Ruby, not just Java, PHP, and .NET

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The Ruby programming language is impacted by a similar “deserialization issue” that has affected and wreaked havoc in the Java ecosystem in 2016; an issue that later also proved to be a problem for .NET and PHP applications as well.

The issue at the heart of this problem is how Ruby handles the process of serialization –and its counterpart, deserialization.

Serialization is the process of converting a data object into a binary format so it can be sent over a network, stored inside a database, or saved on disk. As you might imagine, deserialization is the opposite process, of reversing a binary blob back into its data object structure that can then be fed back into the programming language for further processing at a later date.

Almost all programming languages support serialization and deserialization operations. Some might use different names for these processes, but the concept is found in almost all. For example, in some Ruby documentation files, some developers refer to serialization and deserialization operations under the terms of marshaling and unmarshalling data.

Serializing and deserializing data is a common operation in many web or desktop applications, mainly because it’s an incredibly easy and fast way of moving data between apps or different programming mediums.

But security researchers have sounded the alarm about the improper usage of these two operations. It’s now been known for years that this process could be targeted to trick applications into running malicious commands, especially when user-supplied data is fed directly into a serializer without being sanitized first, and then deserialized into a chain of automated operations with no security safeguards.

The Java Apocalypse

This became painfully obvious in 2015 when two security researchers –Chris Frohoff and Gabriel Lawrence– discovered a dangerous flaw in the way data was deserialized via the Apache Commons Collection, a very popular Java library.

Researchers from Foxglove Security expanded on Frohoff and Lawrence’s original work, showing how an attacker could exploit the Apache Commons Collection library flaw to take over WebLogic, WebSphere, JBoss, Jenkins, and OpenNMS Java servers.

The proof-of-concept code released from these experiments was later used to confirm that over 70 other Java applications were also vulnerable to deserialization flaws. A ShiftLeft report also revealed numerous serialization/deserialization issues across many SaaS vendor SDKs.

These discoveries and the revelation that deserialization attacks could work in practice and weren’t just a theoretical attack rocked the Java ecosystem in 2016, and the issue became known as the Java Apocalypse.

Organizations such as Apache, Cisco, Red Hat, Cisco, VMWare, IBM, Intel, Adobe, HP, Jenkins, and SolarWinds, all issued security advisories and patches to fix affected products.

For the sake of security, Google allowed over 50 of its Java engineers to participate in a project named Operation Rosehub, where Google staffers submitted patches to Java libraries to prevent deserialization attacks.

Over 2,600 were patched in Operation Rosehub, but the message was heard loud and clear at Oracle’s offices, and the company announced this spring plans to drop serialization/deserialization support from the main body of the Java language.

.NET and PHP also affected

However, the issue didn’t stop with Java. In 2017, HPE security researchers also discovered that many .NET libraries for supporting serialization and deserialization operations were also vulnerable to similar attacks, which allowed hackers to take over apps and servers.

PHP followed suit a few months after that, and earlier this summer, a PHP deserialization issue was also found in WordPress, a content management system that’s being used to run more than 30 percent of the Internet’s sites.

And now, Ruby, too.

But, this week, security researchers from elttam, an Australian IT security firm, have also discovered that Ruby-based apps are also vulnerable to serialization/deserialization attacks.

Researchers published proof-of-concept code showing how to exploit serialization/deserialization operations supported by the built-in features of the Ruby programming language itself.

“Versions 2.0 to 2.5 are affected,” elttam researchers said.

“There is a lot of opportunity for future work including having the technique cover Ruby versions 1.8 and 1.9 as well as covering instances where the Ruby process is invoked with the command line argument –disable-all,” the elttam team added. “Alternate Ruby implementations such as JRuby and Rubinius could also be investigated.”

While the Java and .NET deserialization issues were limited to third-party libraries, having deserialization issues impact Ruby itself greatly increases a hacker’s attack surface.

With this week’s revelations, there is now proof-of-concept code available online for assembling serialization/deserialization attacks against four of the most popular programming ecosystems around —Java, .NET, PHP, and Ruby.

As the HPE researchers pointed out in their research paper about .NET’s serialization woes, the problem is not that simple to solve.

The serialization/deserialization issues –regardless of the programming language– are a combination of vulnerable code but also bad coding practices on behalf of developers, who fail to recognize that serialized data is not necessarily secure by default and should be trusted when deserialized.

Fixing this would require having sanitizing user input before serializing it and then limiting a deserialized data’s access to certain functions to prevent malicious code from having its way with a server.

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Adventist Risk Management Data Protection Infrastructure

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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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Secure Insight: GigaOm Partners with the CISO Series

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Don’t look now, but GigaOm, the analyst firm that enables smart businesses to future-proof their decisions, is forging new partnerships to extend its reach and better inform busy IT decision makers. On Thursday, the company announced it was teaming with the CISO Series to share content and better support the community of chief information security officers, security practitioners, and security vendors.

“The CISO Series is one we have admired for a while because they have a very similar aim: They help security professionals become more knowledgeable and understand how their roles are changing,” said Ben Book, GigaOm founder and CEO. “We saw a clear common interest and are delighted to be working together.”

The CISO Series brand has built a formidable reputation through its podcasts, blogs, video chats, and live events for the security community. It has added the extremely popular CyberSecurity Headlines podcast to its stable this year, which joins the CISO/Security Vendor Relationship and Defense in Depth podcasts. Every Friday at 10am Pacific Time, the CISO Series hosts its highly engaging and fun weekly live CISO Series Video Chat, which viewers can register for here.

The channel partnership connects two of the strongest, fastest-growing brands in enterprise IT content production. The agreement enables the CISO Series to share exclusive GigaOm reports with its audience ahead of publication, while GigaOm is able to share insights from the CISO Series’ various publications through its social channels and newsletters. The CISO Series joins other media firms, such as The Register and SDXCentral, as official GigaOm Channel Partners.

“We are delighted to be working with GigaOm because we’re not only both addressing the same audience, but we’re also both trying to bring education and understanding to both the security vendor and practitioner communities,” said David Spark, managing editor and executive producer at the CISO Series. “GigaOm is providing some excellent reports that we’re leaning on for our discussions and reporting across all of our shows.”

Spark continued: “We are always tweaking our programming to bring the best and most up-to-date resources and we’re really impressed with both the volume and quality GigaOm is delivering. Not only are we impressed with their editorial work, but we also appreciate their business branding. It’s something we felt comfortable about aligning with the CISO Series brand as well.”

Check out the CISO Series schedule at http://crowdcast.io/cisoseries, or visit cisoseries.com for more information about the CISO Series and its weekly Video Chats.

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Key Criteria for Evaluating Vulnerability Management Tools

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Vulnerability management tools scan your IT estate to help identify and mitigate security risks and weaknesses. These tools can facilitate the development of a more comprehensive vulnerability management program. Leveraging people, processes, and technologies, successful initiatives effectively identify, classify, prioritize, and remediate security threats.

A security vulnerability is a weakness that can compromise the confidentiality, integrity, and availability (CIA) of information. Attackers are constantly looking to exploit defects in software code or insecure configurations. Vulnerabilities can exist anywhere in the software stack, from web applications and databases to infrastructure components such as load balancers, firewalls, machine and container images, operating systems, and libraries. This includes code used in the CI/CD pipeline as well as the infrastructure-as-code (IAC) that defines the compute, network, and storage infrastructure.

Recent cybersecurity events have exposed widespread vulnerabilities involving the exploitation of zero-day malware and unknown weaknesses. Threat actors continually discover new exploitation tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to take advantage of weaknesses throughout integrated systems. Moreover, identifying breach paths is increasingly complicated due to the widespread adoption of ephemeral services.

Vulnerability management solutions should provide end-to-end visibility of the protect-surface by aggregating both platform and application risks in a single pane of glass, while leveraging prioritized remediation based on business risk and threat context for efficiency. Containerized workloads deployed via DevOps pipelines have unique security requirements that demand a fully integrated vulnerability assessment to be automated into cloud platform services running containerized workloads.

The path to a mature security posture starts with the ability to identify vulnerabilities in software code, third-party libraries, and at runtime. In addition, the cloud platform used to host your applications should be scanned for misconfigurations. This requires the use of policy configuration baselines, benchmarks, and compliance standards that apply to both the infrastructure and the code used to build it. As organizations implement security guardrails early in the software development lifecycle (SDLC), they can take advantage of cloud-native culture to ensure network and security tools are used throughout all phases of the SDLC.

This GigaOm report explores the key criteria and emerging technologies that IT decision makers should evaluate when choosing a vulnerability management solution. The key criteria report, together with the GigaOm radar report that evaluates relevant products, provides a framework to help organizations assess the solutions currently available on the market and how these tools fit with their requirements.

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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