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Microsoft sees 25 percent rise in US law enforcement requests

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Statistics regarding user data requests Microsoft received from US law enforcement in H2 2017 and H1 2018


Image: Microsoft [edited by ZDNet]

Microsoft today published its biannual digital trust reports containing information on the number of law enforcement requests, national security orders, and content removal requests the company received in the first half of the year.

While globally, law enforcement requests for user data remained the same, Microsoft reported a 25 percent rise in legal requests received from US law enforcement for data on its users and enterprise customers.

Between January and June 2018, Microsoft says it received 4,948 legal requests from US law enforcement, a significant increase from the 3,984 legal requests it received in the previous six months, in the second half of 2017.

US law enforcement sought data on 14,015 accounts, compared to the 10,138 accounts it wanted to unmask in H2 2017.

Globally, the numbers remained the same, with 23,222 requests received in H1 2018, compared to 22,939 legal requests received in H2 2017, suggesting an escalation in data demand from US authorities.

Microsoft said the bulk of the 23,222 law enforcement demands it received in the first six months of the year came from only a handful of countries, such as France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The vast majority of requests inquired about “non-content” user data, which Microsoft says normally includes details such as an email address, name, state, country, ZIP code, IP address at the time of registration, IP connection history, Xbox gamertag, and credit card or other billing information.

Worldwide, 61.41 percent of law enforcement requests sought non-content user data, while only 4.60 percent of legal demands asked for user content, which includes far more sensitive information such as the content of an email, photographs or documents stored in OneDrive or other cloud services.

The reason why Microsoft received more requests for non-content data is that this type of data is easier to obtain, only requiring a subpoena or court order, while user content data requires a warrant or other legal equivalent.

Below are summaries from the different Microsoft biannual digital trust reports.

Requests for consumer data (full report here):

  • During the first half of 2018, Microsoft received a total number of 23,222 legal requests related to our consumer services from law enforcement agencies around the world, which is a slight increase from the previous six-month period of 22,939 legal requests.
  • A majority of the law enforcement demands Microsoft received during this period continued to come from a handful of countries, including France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.
  • Specific to United States law enforcement, Microsoft received 4,948 legal demands for data related to our consumer services. A small fraction of those demands, 133 court-issued warrants, sought content data stored in data centers outside of the United States. In only one case did Microsoft disclose enterprise content data stored outside the United States.

Requests for enterprise customer data (full report here):

  • In the first half of 2018, Microsoft received 50 requests from law enforcement (U.S. and international) for data associated with enterprise cloud customers (defined as customers who purchased more than 50 seats).
  • Of these requests, 34 were from U.S. law enforcement and 16 were from other countries.
  • In 32 cases, these requests were rejected, withdrawn or law enforcement was successfully redirected to the customer to obtain the information they are seeking.
  • In 18 cases, Microsoft was compelled to provide some information in response to the order: 10 cases required the disclosure of some customer content and in eight of the cases we were compelled to disclose non-content information only.
  • As noted above, in only one case was Microsoft compelled to disclose to U.S. law enforcement enterprise content data stored outside the United States.

National security orders (full report here):

  • The US National Security Orders Report contains data for H2 2017, not H1 2018.
  • Microsoft says it received 0 – 499 FISA orders seeking content disclosures affecting 12,500 – 12,999 accounts, which is unchanged from the previous period (H1 2017). FISA orders are used for electronic surveillance and collection of “foreign intelligence information” between “foreign powers” and “agents of foreign powers” suspected of espionage or terrorism.
  • Microsoft also received 0 – 499 National Security Letters in the latest reporting period, which is also unchanged from the previous period. A national security letter is similar to a FISA order, but used for US internal “national security” issues.

Content removal requests report (full report here):

  • Microsoft received 732 government-issued requests for content removal in the first half of 2018. “Government requests for content removal” are requests from governments to remove content based on various criteria, such as claims of violations of local laws, from Microsoft-owned online sites, such as Bing, OneDrive, Bing Ads, and MSN.
  • Microsoft honored 586 of the 732 government-issued requests, also closing 20 accounts in the process.
  • Microsoft also says it received 38,000,000 copyright removal requests for 171,738,000 URLs from Bing search results.
  • The OS maker says it removed roughly 171,000,000 URLs.
  • The report’s data includes more than 95 percent of the copyright removal requests for Bing for the six-month reporting period.
  • Removal requests for Bing represent about 99% of all copyright removal requests Microsoft received.
  • Microsoft also received 2,780 “Right to be forgotten” requests for 9,132 URLs. Microsoft removed 5,043 URLs based on these requests.
  • Most “Right to be forgotten” requests came from France (896), the UK (541), and Germany (411).
  • Microsoft also says it received 362 requests for removal of nonconsensual pornography (“revenge porn”). The company acted and removed content on 242 of these requests.
  • Requests to remove “revenge port” were received for Bing, OneDrive, and Xbox Live.

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Phish Fight: Securing Enterprise Communications

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Yes, much of the world may have moved on from email to social media and culturally dubious TikTok dances, yet traditional electronic mail remains a foundation of business communication. And sadly, it remains a prime vector for malware, data leakage, and phishing attacks that can undermine enterprise protections. It doesn’t have to be that way.

In a just released report titled “GigaOm Radar for Phishing Prevention and Detection,” GigaOm Analyst Simon Gibson surveyed more than a dozen enterprise-focused email security solutions. He found a range of approaches to securing communications that often can be fitted together to provide critical, defense-in-depth protection against even determined attackers.

Figure 1. GigaOm Radar for Email Phishing Prevention and Detection

“When evaluating these vendors and their solutions, it is important to consider your own business and workflow,” Gibson writes in the report, stressing the need to deploy solutions that best address your organization’s business workflow and email traffic. “For some it may be preferable to settle on one comprehensive solution, while for others building a best-of-breed architecture from multiple vendors may be preferable.”

In a field of competent solutions, Gibson found that Forcepoint, purchased recently by Raytheon, stood apart thanks to the layered protections provided by its Advanced Classification Engine. Area 1 and Zimperium, meanwhile, are both leaders that exhibit significant momentum, with Area 1 boosted by its recent solution partnership with Virtru, and Zimperium excelling in its deep commitment to mobile message security.

A mobile focus is timely, Gibson says in a video interview for GigaOm. He says companies are “tuning the spigot on” and enabling unprecedented access and reliance on mobile devices, which is creating an urgent need to get ahead of threats.

Gibson’s conclusion in the report? He singles out three things: Defense in depth, awareness of existing patterns and infrastructure, and a healthy respect for the “human factor” that can make security so hard to lock down.

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When Is a DevSecOps Vendor Not a DevSecOps Vendor?

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DevOps’ general aim is to enable a more efficient process for producing software and technology solutions and bringing stakeholders together to speed up delivery. But we know from experience that this inherently creative, outcome-driven approach often forgets about one thing until too late in the process—security. Too often, security is brought into the timeline just before deployment, risking last minute headaches and major delays. The security team is pushed into being the Greek chorus of the process, “ruining everyone’s fun” by demanding changes and slowing things down.

But as we know, in the complex, multi-cloud and containerized environment we find ourselves in, security is becoming more important and challenging than ever. And the costs of security failure are not only measured in slower deployment, but in compliance breaches and reputational damage.

The term “DevSecOps” has been coined to characterize how security needs to be at the heart of the DevOps process. This is in part principle and part tools. As a principle, DevSecOps fits with the concept of “shifting left,” that is, ensuring that security is treated as early as possible in the development process. So far, so simple.

From a tooling perspective, however, things get more complicated, not least because the market has seen a number of platforms marketing themselves as DevSecOps. As we have been writing our Key Criteria report on the subject, we have learned that not all DevSecOps vendors are necessarily DevSecOps vendors. Specifically, we have learned to distinguish capabilities that directly enable the goals of DevSecOps from a process perspective, from those designed to support DevSecOps practices. We could define them as: “Those that do, and those that help.”

This is how to tell the two types of vendor apart and how to use them.

Vendors Enabling DevSecOps: “Tools That Do”

A number of tools work to facilitate the DevSecOps process -– let’s bite the bullet and call them DevSecOps tools. They help teams set out each stage of software development, bringing siloed teams together behind a unified vision that allows fast, high-quality development, with security considerations at its core. DevSecOps tools work across the development process, for example:

  • Create: Help to set and implement policy
  • Develop: Apply guidance to the process and aid its implementation
  • Test: Facilitate and guide security testing procedures
  • Deploy: Provide reports to assure confidence to deploy the application

The key element that sets these tool sets apart is the ability to automate and reduce friction within the development process. They will prompt action, stop a team from moving from one stage to another if the process has not adequately addressed security concerns, and guide the roadmap for the development from start to finish.

Supporting DevSecOps: “Tools That Help”

In this category we place those tools which aid the execution, and monitoring, of good DevSecOps principles. Security scanning and application/infrastructure hardening tools are a key element of these processes: Software composition analysis (SCA) forms a part of the development stage, static/dynamic application security testing (SAST/DAST) is integral to the test stage and runtime app protection (RASP) is a key to the Deploy stage.

Tools like this are a vital part of the security layer of security tooling, especially just before deployment – and they often come with APIs so they can be plugged into the CI/CD process. However, while these capabilities are very important to DevSecOps, they can be seen in more of a supporting role, rather than being DevSecOps tools per se.

DevSecOps-washing is not a good idea for the enterprise

While one might argue that security should never have been shifted right, DevSecOps exists to ensure that security best practices take place across the development lifecycle. A corollary exists to the idea of “tools that help,” namely that organizations implementing these tools are not “doing DevSecOps,” any more than vendors providing these tools are DevSecOps vendors.

The only way to “do” DevSecOps is to fully embrace security at a process management and governance level: This means assessing risk, defining policy, setting review gates, and disallowing progress for insecure deliverables. Organizations that embrace DevSecOps can get help from what we are calling DevSecOps tools, as well as from scanning and hardening tools that help support its goals.

At the end of the day, all security and governance boils down to risk: If you buy a scanning tool so you can check a box that says “DevSecOps,” you are potentially adding to your risk posture, rather than mitigating it. So, get your DevSecOps strategy fixed first, then consider how you can add automation, visibility, and control using “tools that do,” as well as benefit from “tools that help.”

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High Performance Application Security Testing

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This free 1-hour webinar from GigaOm Research. It is hosted by an expert in Application and API testing, and GigaOm analyst, Jake Dolezal. His presentation will focus on the results of high performance testing we completed against two security mechanisms: ModSecurity on NGINX and NGINX App Protect. Additionally, we tested the AWS Web Application Firewall (WAF) as a fully managed security offering.

While performance is important, it is only one criterion for a Web Application Firewall selection. The results of the report are revealing about these platforms. The methodology will be shown with clarity and transparency on how you might replicate these tests to mimic your own workloads and requirements.

Register now to join GigaOm and sponsor NGINX for this free expert webinar.

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