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Microsoft says Windows 10 passwords shouldn’t expire: Time for other companies to take note

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From passwords to biometrics: How far are we willing to go?
Getting rid of passwords is a good idea, but we need to think through the consequences of the most likely replacement, too. Read more: https://zd.net/2Oj7xvX

Making passwords expire is an obsolete way of protecting user accounts – and may even be doing more harm that good. Not only do passwords that expire every 30 or 60 days create a headache for users who have to dream up a new one, and remember it, they may not improve security at all.

Now Microsoft has changed its stance, removing the recommendation that passwords should expire after a particular period that was previously part of its security guidelines for Windows 10 and Windows Server. Microsoft announced its intention to dump password expiry when the draft guidance was published, which my colleague Liam Tung wrote about.

As Microsoft explains: “Periodic password expiration is a defense only against the probability that a password (or hash) will be stolen during its validity interval and will be used by an unauthorized entity. If a password is never stolen, there’s no need to expire it. And if you have evidence that a password has been stolen, you would presumably act immediately rather than wait for expiration to fix the problem.” It goes on: “Periodic password expiration is an ancient and obsolete mitigation of very low value.”

Rather than depend on users tweaking passwords (and then writing them on a post-it note) companies should have a broader approach to authentication and security, it says. And it’s not saying that we are not changing requirements for minimum password length, history, or complexity. Taking password expiry out of its baseline means that companies can make their own decisions without being penalised by auditors, the company said.

“By removing it from our baseline rather than recommending a particular value or no expiration, organizations can choose whatever best suits their perceived needs without contradicting our guidance. At the same time, we must reiterate that we strongly recommend additional protections even though they cannot be expressed in our baselines,” it said.

Microsoft has been predicting the death of the password for more than a decade, and recently has been ramping up its efforts to make that come true. It has long argued that passwords are inconvenient, insecure and expensive to businesses. It argues that they should be replaced with multi-form authentication and biometrics (although biometrics have their own issues, too).

Microsoft is hardly alone in making this leap. The UK’s National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) recently published a set of best practices for passwords – warning that a bad strategy for passwords that puts too much pressure on users can make your business less secure, not more.

“Inevitably, users will devise their own coping mechanisms to cope with ‘password overload’. This includes re-using the same password across different systems, using simple and predictable password creation strategies, or writing passwords down where they can be easily found,” it warns.

SEE: Cybersecurity in an IoT and mobile world (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

NCSC suggests that organisations reduce their reliance on passwords and use single sign-on or biometrics where available (although biometrics in particular come with their own risks). Monitoring password systems for unusual behaviour, using account throttling to defend against brute force attacks, and blacklisting common or guessable passwords are all good practice, it said. Multi-factor authentication for important or vulnerable accounts is good policy too.

But forcing regular password changes harms rather than improves security, it said. Users are likely to choose new passwords that are only minor variations of the old, and in any case a password that is stolen is generally used by hackers immediately, so resetting it up to 90 days later is rather a waste of time.

Despite security experts calling time on password expiration policies, it’s still common across many, if not most, organisations for passwords to expire after a relatively short period of time. Mostly that’s down to organisational inertia – there was a time when changing passwords regularly still seemed like a good idea, and the new approach hasn’t filtered down to the tech security team. There’s also a lot of caution around changing IT policies; nobody wants to be the one to change the status quo and then get blamed when it goes wrong. 

But there are lots of companies that rely on an aggressive password expiry policy as pretty much their only defence against accounts being hijacked, whereas in reality security has to go well beyond that. At least for now, passwords still have their place, but making us all come up with new variations every few weeks may soon be a thing of the past.

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Security Tools Help Bring Dev and Security Teams Together

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Software development teams are increasingly focused on identifying and mitigating any issues as quickly and completely as possible. This relates not only to software quality but also software security. Different organizations are at different levels when it comes to having their development teams and security teams working in concert, but the simple fact remains that there are far more developers out there than security engineers.

Those factors are leading organizations to consider security tooling and automation to proactively discover and resolve any software security issues throughout the development process. In the recent report, “GigaOm Radar for Developer Security Tools,” Shea Stewart examines a roundup of security tools aimed at software development teams.

Stewart identified three critical criteria to bear in mind when evaluating developer security tools. These include:

  • Vendors providing tools to improve application security can and should also enhance an organization’s overall security posture.
  • The prevailing “shift-left” mindset doesn’t necessarily mean the responsibility for reducing risk should shift to development, but instead focusing on security earlier in the process and continuing to do so throughout the development process will reduce risk and the need for extensive rework.
  • Security throughout the entire software development lifecycle (SDLC) is critical for any organization focused on reducing risk.

Figure 1. How Cybersecurity Applies Across Each Stage of the Software Development Lifecycle *Note: This report focuses only on the Developer Security Tooling area

Individual vendors have made varying levels of progress and innovation toward enhancing developer security. Following several acquisitions, Red Hat, Palo Alto Networks, and Rapid7 have all added tooling for developer security to their platforms. Stewart sees a couple of the smaller vendors like JFrog and Sonatype as continuing to innovate to remain ahead of the market.

Vendors delving into this category and moving deeper into “DevSecOps” all seem to be taking different approaches to their enhanced security tooling. While they are involving security in every aspect of the development process, some tend to be moving more quickly to match the pace of the SDLC. Others are trying to shore up existing platforms by adding functionality through acquisition. Both infrastructure and software developers are now sharing toolsets and processes, so these development security tools must account for the requirements of both groups.

While none of the 12 vendors evaluated in this report can provide comprehensive security throughout the entire SDLC, they all have their particular strengths and areas of focus. It is therefore incumbent upon the organization to fully and accurately assess its SDLC, involve the development and security teams, and match the unique requirements with the functionality provided by these tools. Even if it involves using more than one at different points throughout the process, focus on striking a balance between stringent security and simplifying the development process.

Read more: Key Criteria for Evaluating Developer Security Tools, and the Gigaom Radar for Developer Security Tool Companies.

The post Security Tools Help Bring Dev and Security Teams Together appeared first on Gigaom.

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Key Criteria for Evaluating User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA)

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Cybersecurity is a multidisciplinary practice that not only grows in complexity annually but evolves nearly as quickly. A survey of the security landscape today would reveal concerns ranging from the classic compromised servers to the relatively new DevSecOps practices aimed at securing the rapid deployment of new code and infrastructure. However, some things remain constant no matter how much change is introduced. While technology evolves and complexity varies, there is almost always a human component in
risks presented to an organization.

User Behavior Analysis (UBA) was designed to analyze the actions of users in an organization and attempt to identify normal and abnormal behaviors. From this analysis, malicious or risky behaviors can be detected. UBA solutions identify events that are not detectable using other methods because, unlike classic security tools (an IDS or SIEM for example), UBA does not simply pattern match or apply rule sets to data to identify security events. Instead, it looks for any and all deviations from baseline user activity.

As technology advanced and evolved, and the scope of what is connected to the network grew, the need to analyze entities other than users emerged. In response, entity analysis has been added to UBA to create UEBA or User and Entity Behavior Analysis. The strategy remains the same, but the scope of analysis has expanded to include entities involving things like daemons, processes, infrastructure, and so on.

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.

Solution 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.

The post Key Criteria for Evaluating User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) appeared first on Gigaom.

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GigaOm Radar for Developer Security Tools

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As we learned in the associated GigaOm report, “Key Criteria for Evaluating Developer Security Tools,” the most cost-effective method for reducing risk in software development is to identify and fix issues as close to the developer as possible. As the number of software developers continues to vastly outnumber the number of security professionals allocated to any software project, organizations need to invest in security tooling and automation that can help software developers consider and mitigate security risks in a proactive manner.

Add to this situation an appreciation for how the role of the developer has changed vastly over the last few years: Developers aren’t just responsible for software components; they can write infrastructure components, security controls, automations/integrations, and so forth. This has blended the worlds of the traditional software developers and the infrastructure and operations teams responsible for the environments that software components are deployed to. A much wider range of job titles can be incorporated into the developer role now, which requires the same security tooling and process oversight as does traditional software development.

As we consider how to evaluate vendors for developer security tools, we need to take these points into account:

  • All vendors involved in improving application security can contribute to an organization’s overall enhanced security posture.
  • “Shift-left” mindsets do not imply that the work of reducing risk is simply shifted to the developer, but rather that adding a focus on security early in the process will reduce risk and rework as software moves through the delivery pipeline.
  • Security throughout the entire software development lifecycle (SDLC) is key for any organization that is focused on reducing risk.

In this report we have identified a number of vendors that address the specific need to catch and remediate security issues earlier in the software development lifecycle, which we articulate in the report as table stakes, key criteria, and evaluation metrics. While we review 12 vendor solutions here, we ruled out many more, including several offering capabilities focused on runtime protection, which merit review in upcoming GigaOm Key Criteria and Radar Reports.

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.

Solution 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.

The post GigaOm Radar for Developer Security Tools appeared first on Gigaom.

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