Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Ad-Tech Industry Must Finally Admit That Their Product (Ads) is Dangerous

How would you react if I told you that computer security experts are six times more likely to run just an ad blocking software on their PCs, over just anti-malware? Would you be surprised?



That was the result from a Twitter poll I conducted last year, in which more than 1,000 self-identified computer security experts shared that they are more concerned about ads than malware. While social media polls are admittedly unscientific, I’d argue these numbers are actually pretty close to reality, which means that roughly three-out-of-four computer security experts largely view ad-blocking as a more indispensable part of protection than anti-virus software by far. Let that sink in for a moment.

Malvertising, or malicious ads, are hurting people – a lot of people. Anyone who is familiar with the malware problem will tell you that. As just one example of many, last year ads appeared on the New York Times, BBC, AOL, NFL and other popular websites in a malicious campaign attempting to install “ransomware” on visitors’ computers. To put things into context, the chances are better that the average internet user - roughly 99 percent of the population - will be hacked via their own browser then they will by a nation-state. The reason for this? Online ads.



I understand the business model… really, I do. Publishers rely on their viewers seeing ads because that’s how they make their money. In return they provide all of us with free content and services. If ads are blocked, publishers make less money, and the free content and services dries up. On the other hand, these same ads are one of the leading threats to personal security and privacy. So, what we have here is an online version of a Mexican standoff. Neither side is able to proceed without exposing themselves to danger. 

So here we are without many technical options:  the only thing internet users can do to protect themselves is to install an ad blocker (like hundreds of million of users have already done); and the only thing a publisher can do is to use an ad blocker detector on their website(s). This allows them to decide to block content and/or issue a plea to whitelist their ads. Unfortunately, the technology model for publishers to ‘safely’ include third-party content such as ads into their pages is also lacking. There just isn’t a comprehensive and scalable way to check billions of ads daily to see if they’re safe to distribute – or if the origin of an ad is reputable. Of course, publishers can also supplement or replace advertising revenue streams with a paid-for-content model, hosting conferences, asking for donations, and so on.

Let's also be very clear— neither the publisher, advertisers, or the ad-tech industry that binds everything together takes on any liability for malvertising, infecting a user with malware, or the resultant damage. This also means that they have zero incentives to meaningfully address the problem, and never ever seem to want to talk about the security concerns that make ad blocking an essential security practice. They only want to talk about the money their side is losing, or how to make ads more visually tolerable. But even if ads magically become less obnoxious and less costly in terms of bandwidth, we still have the security problem. Until the advertising technology industry admits that their product - the ads themselves -  are simply dangerous, there can be no real resolution.

Monday, February 20, 2017

InfoSec warranties and guarantees

This is a living list of InfoSec companies who offer warranties and guarantees on their various products and services. If you know of others that should be on the list, please comment. 
  1. Cymmetria
  2. KnowBe4
  3. AsTech Consulting
  4. Waratek
  5. SentinelOne
  6. Trusona
  7. WhiteHat Security
  8. Symantec & Norton (money-back)
  9. McAfee (money-back)
  10. Trustwave 
  11. HIPAA Secure New
  12. Forcepoint
  13. Avira
  14. Proofpoint
  15. DigiCert 
  16. Comodo
  17. Armor

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

InfoSec Start-up Advising and Product Recommendations

As a long-time InfoSec veteran and entrepreneur, I’m often asked by company founders to join their advisory board and lend a hand. Sometimes the founders need someone with experience they can trust to bounce ideas off of, provide guidance on how to scale their business, point out the many pitfalls to avoid, make key introductions, and so on. I’ve been in this advisor role for many years, as well as mentoring more than fifty young businesses over the last five years alone through a startup incubator. Making this contribution has been highly rewarding, both personally and professionally. It leverages the many successes and mistakes I’ve made in my career to help others. Advising and mentoring is something I plan to continue doing for the foreseeable future. The only downside is that due to time constraints, I have to be extremely selective. 

When I come across a hot new start-up, I fully research the company, try out the product, research their target market, meet the management team, speak with a handful of customers, and if I have something useful to offer, only then do I feel comfortable enough to get involved. Oh, another requirement is that none should be competitive with one another. Because I do my homework and have a deep understanding of the information security industry, I’m often asked by colleagues what companies I’d recommend in a particular space or a product to solve a particular enterprise problem. For those interested, below is where I’ve placed my bets and what I’m recommending.

Full Disclosure: I’ve a financial interest in most of these companies below, but not all of them. And if I don't have a stake, it doesn't mean I won't recommend them -- I can be just as impressed otherwise. I’ve also indicated where I serve in an official advisory capacity.


Anti-Bot

FunCAPTCHA (Advisory Board)
“FunCaptcha is the fastest and most effective way to protect your website from spam and abuse. We stop billions of spammers every year for clever brands that monetize their registrations and content.”


Anti-Virus / Endpoint Protection (Enterprise)

SentinelOne (Employed)
"SentinelOne unifies endpoint threat prevention, detection and response in a single platform driven by sophisticated machine learning and intelligent automation. With SentinelOne, organizations can detect malicious behavior across multiple vectors, rapidly eliminate threats with fully-automated, integrated response capabilities, and adapt their defenses against the most advanced cyber attacks."


Bug Bounty / Security Crowd-Sourcing

Bugcrowd (Advisory Board)
"The pioneer and innovator in crowdsourced security testing for the enterprise, Bugcrowd harnesses the power of tens of thousands security researchers to surface critical software vulnerabilities and level the playing field in cybersecurity. Bugcrowd also provides a range of responsible disclosure and managed service options that allow companies to commission a customized security testing program that fits their specific requirements. Bugcrowd’s proprietary vulnerability disclosure platform is deployed by Tesla, Pinterest, Western Union, Fitbit and many others."


Website Vulnerability Assessment 

"WhiteHat Security is the leading provider of website risk management solutions. Sentinel, WhiteHat's flagship product, is the most accurate, complete and cost-effective website vulnerability management solution available. It delivers the flexibility, simplicity and manageability that organizations need to take control of website security and prevent Web attacks. WhiteHat Sentinel is built on a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform designed from the ground up to scale massively, support the largest enterprises and offer the most compelling business efficiencies, lowering your overall cost of ownership."


Security Risk and Vulnerability Intelligence

Kenna Security (Advisory Board)
"Kenna is a software-as-a-service Risk and Vulnerability Intelligence platform that accurately measures risk and prioritizes remediation efforts before an attacker can exploit an organization’s weaknesses. Kenna automates the correlation of vulnerability data, threat data, and 0-day data, analyzing security vulnerabilities against active Internet breaches so that InfoSec teams can prioritize remediations and report on their overall risk posture."


Security-in-the-SDLC / Security Requirements 

SD Elements (Advisory Board)
"SD Elements automates software security requirements based on your project’s technology, business and compliance drivers. SD Elements eliminates security vulnerabilities in the most cost effective way, before scanning begins."



AppSec Vulnerability Remediation

"AsTech Consulting is a security consulting company which helps clients understand their risks and what to do about them. As independent security specialists, we employ very experienced security professionals, more than half of which have over 15 years of relevant experience."


Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP)

"Prevoty provides a new RASP (runtime application self-protection) capability, enabling applications to protect themselves. Unlike traditional security approaches that try to defend against hackers at the network layer, Prevoty works inside the application itself and the analysis engine is smart enough to actively prevent anything malicious from executing. "


Browser Security & Privacy

"We have a mission to save the web by increasing browsing speed and safety for users, while growing ad revenue share for content creators."