The Real Need for Cybersecurity

According to the US Department of Homeland Security, “Our daily life, economic vitality, and national security depend on a stable, safe, and resilient cyberspace.” Digital infrastructure has infiltrated most aspects of our daily lives. When you start thinking about this in depth, it is easy to see how quickly things can turn s ugly.

Have you ever considered what would happen if our power grid was attacked? Beyond some of the domino effects the power grid itself has, think about the work to bring it back online. We are all accustomed to managing systems with other systems. A widespread power issue could create some very interesting chicken and egg problems.

Maybe some are smug enough to think they cannot be affected–with their resilient systems and diesel generators. Ever consider the likelihood of that fuel supply being available for the long term if there’s no utility power available at other places? The affected part of the world would be so challenged by such an event that everyone would be impacted, directly and indirectly. No power, no computers, no network and no ability to transact business in the ways that we are accustomed to. In other words, the possibility of impacting physiological layer of Maslow’s pyramid is real. Continue reading

Posted in Security, Technology | Tagged , | Comments Off on The Real Need for Cybersecurity

Three Issues of Being a Part-Time Security Professional

In Information Technology, we commonly hear the mantra of “doing more with less.” That may sound great, and in some cases it can actually be beneficial. It obviously drives the requirement of streamlining performance and the simplification of processes. It can drive innovators to innovate and the attrition of unnecessary systems. The predominate reason for this philosophy is cost cutting.

My argument would generally be that IT should NOT simply be keeping the lights on, it should be adding value by creating competitive differentiators for the business. Being able to execute on that effectively SHOULD change the perspective of IT as it is viewed by the rest of the leadership team. One particular concern I have in regards to those businesses that continue aggressively down this path of cost cutting (or don’t proper initially fund) IT, is in regards to Cybersecurity.

In many cases smaller shops, or shops that don’t fully understand the risks, tend to place their technical team members into split roles. Maybe the view is that someone should be a part-time security person and a part-time network or system administrator. This introduces several concerns and I wanted to quickly share three that are top of mind.

Issue One — What do I do in my spare time?

While issue three (below) may be the primary concern for many, I actually think issue one is the most important. Even the very disciplined in joint roles are conflicted. In our world, there is no such thing as spare time. We prioritize what we do and what we are never going to have time to do.

Spare time may be better defined as when we don’t have a fire to put out. In that case, the person in the split role might look at the capacity planning for the network or perhaps the WAN link that is throwing a considerable amount of CRC errors. The security person might look at recently reported exploits and consider how they would’ve leveraged their tools to defend against them. Are there deficits that need to be filled? Continue reading

Posted in Security, Technology | Tagged , | Comments Off on Three Issues of Being a Part-Time Security Professional

Using iTerm2 with Cisco VIRL

I love using VIRL to do quick self-check of a config, personal education, and learning the behavior of particular features. I also love using the iTerm2 Terminal Emulator on the Mac. Unfortunately, it isn’t obvious how to make the two play well together. I have had to re-educate myself on this over and over again as I get new computers, mess up my settings and do certain upgrades. I’m pretty sure I copied some of this configuration and the script that I will share from somewhere. So if this looks familiar, reach out to me and I will link back to the source.

This post meant to both share the config and caveats with others as well as to document the nuances for my future reference. In short, there is a standard configuration and a custom configuration for the terminal settings in VIRL’s VMMaestro. These are found in “VMMaestro -> Preferences.”


These settings control whether the built-in (VMMaestro’s client) is used or an external terminal client should be used. I much prefer an external client and iTerm2 is my current client of choice. To eliminate the need of manually launching and connecting, I have customized the Applescript code found below. This can be duplicated by opening the Applescript editor, copying the text and saving as virlterm.scpt. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Using iTerm2 with Cisco VIRL

Amazon Delivery, Not a Fully Implemented Process

Those of us who work in technology see the need to take expensive, time consuming and/or mundane activities and convert them to streamlined automated processes. Ideally we improve these to the point that they improve accuracy, provide a better experience and can [mostly] be forgotten about. However, not every process fits all of the intended use cases. Maybe a more accurate statement might be that every process isn’t developed to fit every use case. For those of us who are outliers and find ourselves in those process deficiencies, these incomplete processes can create a lot of frustration.

A Little Background

I’ve been an Amazon Prime user for some period of time. I have also been free of a home mailbox for about 18 months and only used a PO Box to receive general mail. As a Prime customer, I regularly place orders with Amazon. Anyone else that has had the experience I’m about to share can probably finish my story. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Comments Off on Amazon Delivery, Not a Fully Implemented Process

Packet Tracer in Firepower Threat Defense

I wanted to share a quick post on a feature that I have found incredibly useful on the ASA and has been extended to Firepower Threat Defense. The feature is called Packet Tracer and is an easy way to apply “packet walk” logic to a flow that would be initiated through the platform. Like most things FTD, the Firepower Management Console is the point of contact for initiating the process.

To initiate Packet Tracer in FTD, open the Firepower Management Console and choose ‘Devices‘ then ‘Device Management‘. Next, select the device that you want to perform the operation and select the icon that looks like a screwdriver and wrench.

DevDevMgmt Continue reading

Posted in Security | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Simple Python Script to Read from Device

There’s a lot of talk about network programmability and I recently had a simple use case that surfaced. The goal was locating a serial number in Cisco Devices. Basically, a script is required that will do the following.

  • Process a list of IP Addresses and/or hostnames
  • SSH into each device
  • Determine if the device has a given SN

There are many ways this can be accomplished, but the method I am using utilizes SSH. This example requires the use of Paramiko to implement SSHv2. The script can match other items in the output of show version and can easily be modified to have multiple matches and return additional information. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Latest Ransomware Techniques Show Need for Layered Security

I think everyone that touches security has had multiple conversations about the hardened edge and soft center, commonly found in networks. This usually accompanies some discussion around the overlapping concepts of difference in depth, layered security and security ecosystems. It seems like many of the recent exploits have used a C2 connection for instructions. In those cases, assuming a perfect NGFW product and configuration actually existed that caught 100% of the malicious traffic, it would have the capability to impact those attacks.

However on June 27, Cisco Talos published an article about a ransomware variant known as Nyetya. As of today, Talos has been able to find no evidence of the more common initial infection vehicles. Both Cisco and Microsoft have cited the upgrade process for a tax accounting package as the initial point of infection.

Per Cisco Talos:

The identification of the initial vector is still under investigation. We have observed no use of email or Office documents as a delivery mechanism for this malware. We believe that infections are associated with software update systems for a Ukrainian tax accounting package called MeDoc. Talos is investigating this currently.

So what does this mean to the majority of the world that doesn’t use MeDoc? Can they be affected too? And if so, how could defenders prevent the rampant distribution into their environments?

Expanding on these questions: Continue reading

Posted in Security, Technology | Tagged , | Comments Off on Latest Ransomware Techniques Show Need for Layered Security

New Podcast for the Podcatcher – The Network Collective

I am giving a great big shout out to a new community podcast. The Network Collective is only five session in, AND it is a great podcast. I’m looking forward to catching many future episodes.

Episode 1 – Top 10 Ways To Break Your Network Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on New Podcast for the Podcatcher – The Network Collective

Security as an Enabler?

I have often wondered why the “security as an enabler” model is as unique as unicorns in the wild. I think the logic works in a vacuum and it would be great if it held true. However when humans and politics (layer 8 stuff) come into the mix, it seems that the cybersecurity team tend to be viewed as the  naysayers that block progress. Quite honestly, the “security as an enabler” mantra only seems to work for those organizations that are directly profiting from the sale of cybersecurity. Those that understand the role cybersecurity plays in a typical organization realize that this is unfortunate.

With this thought in mind, I was reading through an article about the traits of CEO’s and found points that I think contribute to these challenges for information security:

  • Bias toward action
  • Forward Thinking

By no means am I criticizing CEO’s for these traits—they are primary contributors to keeping a given business relevant in its industry. I’m just using these to help explain the fallacy of the existence of a “security as an enabler” mindset within a typical organization. Continue reading

Posted in Security, Technology | Tagged , | Comments Off on Security as an Enabler?

The First Question in Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity professionals know that security cannot be a bolt on process or technology. Likewise, I also believe that that the thought of including the security team rarely goes far enough. To be effective, security should be ingrained and it should be pervasive. With a this commitment, there is at least one primary question that every organization should be asking in regards to Cybersecurity. That question is simply “Why?

Not only should this question be asked organizationally, it should also be asked by individuals that are assuming security related roles within an organization. Some would think that the answer is simple or obvious. In many cases it is, but the complete answer WILL differ from organization to organization and differ based on the type of organization. What is important is that the organization itself agree upon the answer to this question.

Relevant answers to the Why question might be any or all of the following: Continue reading

Posted in Security, Technology | Tagged , | Comments Off on The First Question in Cybersecurity

Defining Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “measures taken to protect a computer or computer system (as on the Internet) against unauthorized access or attack.”

The true importance of cybersecurity can only be understood if our dependence on “computer systems” is understood. It is difficult to imagine a day using nothing that is actively dependent on technology. We depend on connected systems to purchase groceries, perform medical procedures, manage the delivery of utilities and facilitate communications. These systems facilitate safe travel and alert us of impending dangers. It is conceivable that a cyberattack could take the power grid offline making it difficult or impossible to fill a car with fuel, purchase groceries, receive healthcare and even gain access to the typical procedures to restore the grid itself.

In our world today, unless we are primitive camping, we are using products of computer systems continually. To state it differently, our lives would change drastically if these systems became under widespread compromise. Considering Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, most individuals in a civilized society depend on computer systems for most of the elements defined in the critical first two layers. Since we have built this dependence, we must also protect these systems that we depend on.

Continue reading

Posted in Security, Technology | Tagged , | Comments Off on Defining Cybersecurity

Better Security Conversations – Thoughts for a Series

As many PacketU readers know, I have held the role as a vendor SE for a couple of years. In this role, a primary function is to correctly position our products into customer environments. What I’ve come to realize is that many of our conversations actually start incorrectly. I think we need to change that. I will be sharing, as well as structuring, my own thoughts with an upcoming series of posts on security.

I firmly believe that products are only tools and we need to back up to better understand the problems we are trying to solve. One analogy I use on a regular basis when talking about autonomous vehicles is that “no one needs a car [they only need the transportation].” So if technology can provide autonomous cars, transportation can become a service instead of a depreciating asset in our garage.  Continue reading

Posted in Security, Technology | Tagged , | 2 Comments