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Security clashes with cloud: Offensive Security CEO talks cultural mindsets, leadership challenges

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Ning Wang, Offensive Security CEO

Taking on the chief executive position at any company can be a daunting prospect. Every organization has a different culture, processes, and people, and in the world of cybersecurity, board leaders not only have to deal with internal management but also the ever-changing face of threats their customers face.

Offensive Security, known for the development of the Linux Kali penetration testing suite and security certification courses including OSCP Certified Professional, OSEE Exploitation Expert, and the new OSWE Web Expert qualification, became the responsibility of the new CEO Ning Wang three months ago.

Wang’s journey began in China, where she grew up. After studying physics at the University of California, Berkeley, she kickstarted her career at McKinsey & Company before making the shift to startups during the .com bubble, Lynda.com, and finally serving as chief financial officer (CFO) and chief operations officer (COO) of bug bounty platform HackerOne.

The executive then joined Offensive Security, founded in 2000, as its chief executive officer after the cybersecurity firm received a capital investment from Spectrum Equity. 

In an interview with ZDNet, Wang told us that her career has been based on problem-solving, whether practical or business-related, and this is an area of expertise which she has now brought to the table with her latest role at Offensive Security.

One of the first goals, Wang says, is to make sure that communication lines between board levels and general staff are improved and expanded upon, an ongoing trend which the executive has observed during her time in cybersecurity.

“Cybersecurity is no longer just the job of some security director in the company or an afterthought,” Wang says. “In fact, it is on the agenda of the CEO and on the mind of the CEO and board. At HackerOne, a lot of times those initiatives were [issued] directly from the CEO and the board.”

It is not just about making sure executives communicate and drive the company forward by involving staff at all levels — Wang believes that the heart of Offensive Security’s future success is also reliant on the implementation of a “try harder” mindset; not only for employees, but also for the cybersecurity industry and students at large.

Try harder, encourage, and communicate are therefore the recipe ingredients for Wang’s new role.

“When I first started there was a lot of anxiety around all the change that’s going to happen — is the company culture going to vanish? Is the company and the new leader only going to worry about financial numbers and not going to care about the culture and people?,” Wang explained. “But you can’t grow a company, you can’t grow a business, [when] you don’t have people who are really motivated and really are behind your mission.” 

“As a CEO I try to really communicate and listen, and and I don’t have the answers to all the questions but at least I can listen and facilitate more discussions.”

With any change in leadership, however, there will always be resistance to some ideas. In Offensive Security’s case, cloud computing has shown itself to be one such challenge.

See also: FireEye debuts Windows Commando VM as Linux Kali rival

Offensive Security, like many other organizations, relied mainly on in-house applications and systems hooked up to their own data centers. One change that Wang wanted to implement was the increased use of cloud-based services and resources. (There are still some times when on-premise solutions are most suitable than full cloud systems, however.)

“As a security company, this company has — in the past — hardly used any cloud-based tools,” the CEO said. “Any tool we use, whether it’s a conference call system, a ticketing system, or a chat system — it’s all either homegrown or it’s all on-premise where we host the software.”

Given the simplicity, ease of access, and resources available through cloud services such as Salesforce apps or AWS, Wang wanted to bring her new charge up to speed through modern technologies. The idea was originally “met with resistance,” Wang says, but eventually, her team came around to the idea.

TechRepublic: 90% of large tech companies vulnerable to email spoofing

“Initially the idea was, ‘What? no, that’s not how we do things — we are a security company,” Wang explained. “The change is happening and was met with some initial resistance and fear but now people are embracing it.”

Upon taking up the role, Wang says there was not a single full-time sales or marketing employee. Another personal mission was to make sure Offensive Security became well-known not just with practitioners but also the public at large.

In order to do so, the company has increased its focus on advertising and has expanded its range of online certificates including OSWE Web Expert. So far, the feedback has been positive from alumni testing out the new qualification.

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Three months in, there are many changes yet to be made in the organization, with a pivot to the cloud only one of many planned. However, Wang believes that modernization and getting the firm’s name out there is the key to future success. 

“[Linux Kali / OS certifications] are really well-known among the practitioners, whether it is penetration testers or hackers, [but] it is not yet as well-known among the people,” Wang added. “We are a very good brand when it comes to training security people so in order to do that we have to make sure we have the infrastructure in the company to be able to support that growth, and we have to make sure our products will be cutting edge.”

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Defeating Distributed Denial of Service Attacks

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It seems like every day the news brings new stories of cyberattacks. Whether ransomware, malware, crippling viruses, or more frequently of late—distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. According to Infosec magazine, in the first half of 2020, there was a 151% increase in the number of DDoS attacks compared to the same period the previous year. That same report states experts predict as many as 15.4 million DDoS attacks within the next two years.

These attacks can be difficult to detect until it’s too late, and then they can be challenging to defend against. There are solutions available, but there is no one magic bullet. As Alastair Cooke points out in his recent “GigaOm Radar for DDoS Protection” report, there are different categories of DDoS attacks.

And different types of attacks require different types of defenses. You’ll want to adopt each of these three defense strategies against DDoS attacks to a certain degree, as attackers are never going to limit themselves to a single attack vector:

Network Defense: Attacks targeting the OS and network operate at either Layer 3 or Layer 4 of the OSI stack. These attacks don’t flood the servers with application requests but attempt to exhaust TCP/IP resources on the supporting infrastructure. DDoS protection solutions defending against network attacks identify the attack behavior and absorb it into the platform.

Application Defense: Other DDoS attacks target the actual website itself or the web server application by overwhelming the site with random data and wasting resources. DDoS protection against these attacks might handle SSL decryption with hardware-based cryptography and prevent invalid data from reaching web servers.

Defense by Scale: There have been massive DDoS attacks, and they show no signs of stopping. The key to successfully defending against a DDoS attack is to have a scalable platform capable of deflecting an attack led by a million bots with hundreds of gigabits per second of network throughput.

Table 1. Impact of Features on Metrics
[chart id=”1001387″ show=”table”]

DDoS attacks are growing more frequent and more powerful and sophisticated. Amazon reports mitigating a massive DDoS attack a couple of years ago in which peak traffic volume reached 2.3 Tbps. Deploying DDoS protection across the spectrum of attack vectors is no longer a “nice to have,” but a necessity.

In his report, Cooke concludes that “Any DDoS protection product is only part of an overall strategy, not a silver bullet for denial-of-service hazards.” Evaluate your organization and your needs, read more about each solution evaluated in the Radar report, and carefully match the right DDoS solutions to best suit your needs.

Learn More About the Reports: Gigaom Key Criteria for DDoS, and Gigaom Radar for DDoS

The post Defeating Distributed Denial of Service Attacks appeared first on GigaOm.

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Assessing Providers of Low-Power Wide Area Networks

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Blog Title: Assessing Providers of Low-Power Wide Area Network Technology

Companies are taking note of how Low-Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) can provide long-distance communications for certain use cases. While its slow data transfer rates and high latency aren’t going to be driving any high intensity video streaming or other bandwidth-hungry situations, it can provide inexpensive, low power, long-distance communication.

According to Chris Grundemann and Logan Andrew Green’s recent report “GigaOm Radar for LPWAN Technology Providers (Unlicensed Spectrum) v1.0,” this growing communications technology is suitable for use cases with the following characteristics:

  • Requirement for long-distance transmission—10 km/6 miles or more wireless connectivity from sensor to gateway
  • Low power consumption, with battery life lasting up to 10 years
  • Terrain and building penetration to circumvent line-of-sight issues
  • Low operational costs (device management or connection subscription cost)
  • Low data transfer rate of roughly 20kbps

These use cases could include large-scale IoT deployments within heavy industry, manufacturing, government, and retail. The LPWAN technology providers evaluated in this Radar report are currently filling a gap in the IoT market. They are certainly poised to benefit from the anticipated rapid adoption of LPWAN solutions.

Depending on the use case you’re looking to fulfill, you can select from four basic deployment models from these LPWAN providers:

  • Physical Appliance: This option would require a network server on-premises to receive sensor data from gateways.
  • Virtual Appliance: Network servers could also be deployed as virtual appliances, running either on-premises or in the cloud.
  • Network Stack as a Service: With this option, the LPWAN provider fully manages your network stack and provides you with the service. You only need devices and gateways to satisfy your requirements.
  • Network as a Service: This option is provided by mobile network operators, with the provider operating the network stack and gateways. You would only need to connect to the LPWAN provider.

Figure 1. LPWAN Connectivity

The LPWAN providers evaluated in this report are well-positioned from both a business and technical perspective, as they can function as a single point of contact for building IoT solutions. Instead of cobbling together other solutions to satisfy connectivity protocols, these providers can set up your organization with a packaged IoT solution, reducing time to market and virtually eliminating any compatibility issues.

The unlicensed spectrum aspect is also significant. The LPWAN technology providers evaluated in this Radar report use at least one protocol in the unlicensed electromagnetic spectrum bands. There’s no need to buy FCC licenses for specific frequency bands, which also lowers costs.

Learn More: Gigaom Enterprise Radar for LPWAN

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The Benefits of a Price Benchmark for Data Storage

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Why Price Benchmark Data Storage?

Customers, understandably, are highly driven by budget when it comes to data storage solutions. The cost of switching, upkeep and upgrades are high risk factors for businesses, and therefore, decision makers need to look for longevity in their chosen solution. Many factors influence how data needs to be handled within storage, including data that is frequently accessed, or storing rarely-accessed legacy data. 

Storage performance may also be shaped by geographic location, from remote work or global enterprises that need to access and share data instantly, or by the necessity of automation. Each element presents a new price-point that needs to be considered, by customers and by vendors.

A benchmark gives a comparison of system performance based on a key performance indicator, such as latency, capacity, or throughput. Competitor systems are analyzed in like-for-like situations that optimize the solution, allowing a clear representation of the performance. Price benchmarks for data storage are ideal for marketing, showing customers exactly how much value for money a solution has against competitor vendors.

Benchmark tests reinforce marketing collateral and tenders with verifiable evidence of performance capabilities and how the transactional costs relate to them. Customers are more likely to invest in long-term solutions with demonstrable evidence that can be corroborated. Fully disclosed testing environments, processes, and results, give customers the proof they need and help vendors stand out from the crowd.

The Difficulty in Choosing

Storage solutions vary greatly, from cloud options to those that utilize on-premises software. Data warehouses have different focuses which impact the overall performance, and they can vary in their pricing and licensing models. Customers find it difficult to compare vendors when the basic data storage configurations differ and price plans vary. With so many storage structures available, it’s hard to explain to customers how output relates to price, appeal to their budget, and maintain integrity, all at the same time.

Switching storage solutions is also a costly, high-risk decision that requires careful consideration. Vendors need to create compelling and honest arguments that provide reassurance of ROI and high quality performance.

Vendors should begin by pitching their costs at the right level; they need to be profitable but also appealing to the customer. Benchmarking can give an indication of how competitor cost models are calculated, allowing vendors to make judgements on their own price plans to keep ahead of the competition. 

Outshining the Competition

Benchmark testing gives an authentic overview of storage transaction-based price-performance, carrying out the test in environments that imitate real-life. Customers can gain a higher understanding of how the product works in terms of transactions per second, and how competitors process storage data in comparison.

The industry-standard for benchmarking is the TPC Benchmark E (TPC-E), a recognized standard for storage vendors. Tests need to be performed in credible environments; by giving full transparency on their construction, vendors and customers can understand how the results are derived. This can also prove systems have been configured to offer the best performance of each platform.

A step-by-step account allows tests to be recreated by external parties given the information provided. This transparency in reporting provides more trustworthy and reliable outcomes that offer a higher level of insight to vendors. Readers can also examine the testing and results themselves, to draw independent conclusions.

Next Steps

Price is the driving factor for business decisions and the selection for data storage is no different. Businesses often look towards low-cost solutions that offer high capacity, and current trends have pushed customers towards cloud solutions which are often cheaper and flexible. The marketplace is full in regard to options: new start-ups are continually emerging, and long serving vendors are needing to reinvent and upgrade their systems to keep pace. 

Vendors need evidence of price-performance, so customers can be reassured that their choice will offer longevity and functionality at an affordable price point. Industry-standard benchmarking identifies how performance is impacted by price and which vendors are best in the market – the confirmation customers need to invest.

 

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