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Why is my keyboard connected to the cloud?

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(Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Everything is becoming a thing connected to the internet, but some things really shouldn’t be.

First cab off that rank should be input devices, because what sort of maniac thinks the advantages of a roaming cloud-based configuration outweighs the potential explosion in surface area to attack and compromise? That maniac is called Razer, and it has been connecting keyboards to its Synapse software for years.

At last week’s CES, Razer took it a step further when it announced it is adding support for users to use Alexa to control their peripherals.

“Alexa, ask Chroma to change my lighting profile to FPS mode,” Razer cheerily proclaims as an example of its upcoming functionality.

More from CES: CES 2019 Las Vegas (CNET) | CES 2019: A first look at the cool tech (TechRepublic)

For this to work, the software that usually controls keyboard and mice settings needs to be connected to Amazon Alexa.

It’s a 2-for-1 cloud connection, because once you embrace the idea of Razer’s servers being secure, then you’ve already accepted a more risky proposition than using just Amazon.

Last month, Razer faced blowback when it launched a cryptocurrency mining application called Cortex, where users would be rewarded with its Silver funny money.

“The new app to put[s] snoozing machines to work, solving blockchain puzzles in the background in exchange for sweet, sweet Silver,” Razer said at the time.

Enter Tavis Ormandy, security researcher for Google Project Zero and scourge of buggy software makers, who took a look at the software and was stunned.

“Holy moly, I just installed this. WHY IS CEF (chromium embedded) REMOTE DEBUGGING ENABLED AND LISTENING BY DEFAULT (!?!?!?!),” Ormandy tweeted.

“I don’t have any razer hardware to test, but they probably (like, *right now*) need to fix that.”

To Razer’s credit, the company fixed the issue within 24 hours; on the other hand, it allowed remote command execution in the first place.

Also in Razer’s favour is that it acknowledged it was responsible, which is more than can be said for Gigabyte.

On December 18, SecureAuth detailed an exchange of when it discovered that software utilities for Gigabyte and Aorus motherboards had privilege escalation vulnerabilities.

“There is ring0 memcpy-like functionality … allowing a local attacker to take complete control of the affected system,” SecureAuth said.

In trying to resolve what was clearly a serious issue, the security company could not locate a proper contact within Gigabyte, and headed over to its technical support team.

“Gigabyte is a hardware company and they are not specialized in software,” Gigabyte told SecureAuth on two different occasions in May.

In the end, SecureAuth said Gigabyte eventually responded by saying its products did not have any issues.

If a vendor with the experience and sales of Gigabyte responds by denying responsibility for its software, it doesn’t bode well for smaller players.

Gigabyte should stop distributing software as long as it keeps on throwing out the excuse that it is a hardware company.

And it is no small matter, because the utilities that the Taiwanese manufacturer puts out are built to manipulate hardware settings, and flash BIOSes.

If a bad actor was looking for a shortcut into a modern Windows system, trying to find your way in via Microsoft’s code will be time wasting when the camembert-like underbelly of a modern system is likely to be crap software from peripheral makers.

That tactic is not new, but with connectivity exploding, things are likely to get worse before it gets better, as with most things in the cyber realm.

ZDNET’S MONDAY MORNING OPENER:

The Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in tech. Since we run a global site, this editorial publishes on Monday at 8:00am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6:00pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US. It is written by a member of ZDNet’s global editorial board, which is comprised of our lead editors across Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America.

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Security

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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