‘No society is more than three meals from revolution’ says the old adage. Updating the idea for the Information Age is a revealing, if somewhat worrying, exercise. How resilient are we as a society? Could your company function efficiently after a complete failure in IT? How effective would your employees be if forced to work from home following a collapse in the transport network?

If the Internet could no longer be accessed it would probably not even count as a calamity for us as individuals, merely an annoyance. After all, we seem to manage for a few hours after the aircraft’s doors have been closed. A few tweets and profile updates are missed, but, in general, humanity rolls on. But what if civic leaders at the national and international levels were denied the ability to deliver critical services? Will our (increasingly driverless) transport networks fail safely or be at all operable if they lose connectivity? How long would it be before faucet water became unsafe to drink? How would we talk to each other or organize any kind of response?

Living In The Future?

Like it or not, we have already built a world in which everything is connected via an unassured and fundamentally insecure platform. We may be in a new Information Age, but it is, for the time being at least, an age of Information Insecurity.  At AppSec 2015 in Santa Monica, Alex Stamos, Chief Security Officer at Facebook and previously CISO at Yahoo, countered the idea that we are living in the future. Rather, he suggested, we are only 3% into the information revolution and the days of dedicated hardware are over: everything is now a platform and application security is a topic more deserving of our attention.

Even our bodies are becoming sensors, with the advent of internal and in some cases digestible sensors. Many of us are already part of this new world, albeit at a very basic level, using technologies like Fitbit or Strava, for example. Sharing and collating our medical data, including our genetic make-up, can make healthcare much more pro-active and sustainable, improving the quality of our increasingly extended lives or broadening our attack surfaces, depending on your point of view. In 2011 Marc Andreessen, a Hewlett-Packard Board member, warned in a WSJ article, “software is eating the world”. Four years on are we more or less vulnerable?

Cyber Armageddon has been predicted on numerous occasions: from North Korean hackers destroying critical infrastructure, to a cyber Pearl Harbor “derailing trains loaded with lethal chemicals”.

Sure, there are hackers with malicious intent, operating, as Alex Stamos says, if not in a state-sponsored capacity, certainly in a state-looks-the-other-way capacity. To demonstrate the industrial scale of hacking out there, at XQ we maintain an Internet of Things Honey Pot. Over nine months there have been nearly a thousand successful log-ins. That’s three log-ins a day to a machine that should be anonymous, and that nobody should even be touching.

Automated Log-Ins

As we move from a world of network security to one of application security we need to embrace (and be comfortable with) the near-certainty of being hacked and design resilience into our systems, processes and mind-sets

What’s also interesting is that two-thirds of these log-ins are entirely automated. They are SSH scanners finding our machine and brute forcing the password.  They’re easy to spot – they try hundreds of passwords combinations a minute. Faster than a human being could possibly type. The remaining third – the human part of the attack – is more interesting. They don’t try to guess the password; that’s all done automatically. These are people who come back once their scanner has done the hard work and really take a look at you.

FireEye, a US firm specializing in network security, produced a survey in 2014 which examined 1216 organizations across 63 countries, covering over 20 industries. 97% reported a breach in the previous 12 months with 27% reporting persistence on the network. 75% had experienced command and control activity. The average time it took to detect a breach was 229 days, with two-thirds discovered by third parties.

Currently the situation is one of attackers using automation to focus on vulnerable targets, while we, as defenders, are reliant upon patches, bolt-ons and reacting to breaches that are usually spotted by third parties in the first instance. That’s a lot of clients losing confidence in our ability to protect their data. Hardly a sustainable business model.

Designing Secure Systems

So there is a problem, and it’s not going away. Instead as we become ever-more connected, we will become ever-more vulnerable; as individuals, businesses and communities. Perhaps even to the point of the doomsday scenarios painted previously.

If they are to build resilience, civic leaders (and individuals) need to assume a ‘when’, not ‘if’, approach to the shocks that will be caused, or at least made possible, by the very technologies that were supposed to make our lives better in the first place.

As cyber security consultants, we’ve yet to come across an energy production or transmission network that we couldn’t reach from the Internet

And it is a question of resilience, not disconnection. As cyber security consultants, we’ve yet to come across an energy production or transmission network that we couldn’t reach from the Internet, either directly or indirectly, from the corporate and supply chain networks that attach to it. The same applies for water, sanitation, emergency services, healthcare, welfare and so on. Modern industrial control and automation plants cannot operate in their ‘just in time’ world unless they are able to source materials in response to price and availability fluctuations. And to do this, they need the Internet. It is no longer sufficient to think solely of how easy it is to disrupt our energy supply via a cyber attack. It is now essential to design systems and think in terms of failing gracefully, in a controlled manner, before restoring services quickly and safely.

Creating Sustainable Environments

In the short term – say, the next fifteen to twenty years – it will be difficult to argue that billions of embedded devices that can’t be patched but are hooked to our networks, calling out into the darkness of the Internet is a bad thing. But we are not totally helpless.

As we move from a world of network security to one of application security we need to embrace (and be comfortable with) the near-certainty of being hacked and design resilience into our systems, processes and mind-sets. We cannot turn off the Internet. Nor do we want to. We have, collectively, decided that the Internet of things is worth the resilience trade-offs it demands – effort, thought and inconvenience. The opportunity to create a more sustainable, economically prosperous and environmentally friendly society is too enticing to turn away from. Remember, we’re only 3% down the road.

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Top 10: What Were Security Professionals Reading About In 2017?
Top 10: What Were Security Professionals Reading About In 2017?

Our most popular articles in 2017 reflected changing trends in the U.S. security market, from deep learning to protection of mobile workers, from building automation to robotics. Again in 2017, the most read articles tended to be those that addressed timely and important issues in the security marketplace. In the world of digital publishing, it’s easy to know what content resonates with the market: Our readers tell us with their actions; i.e., where they click.   Let’s look back at the Top 10 most-clicked articles we posted in 2017. They are listed in order here with the author’s name and a brief excerpt.  1. Las Vegas Massacre Demands Reevaluation of Hospitality Sector Security The Oct. 1, 2017, sniper attack from a 32nd-floor room at Mandalay Bay, overlooking 22,000 people attending a country music festival, has been compared to “shooting fish in a barrel.” When the bullets rained down, there was nowhere to hide. 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New Security Technologies Driving Excitement on Busy ISC West Day One [Larry Anderson] ISC West in Las Vegas kicked off April 5 with an expanding focus on new technologies and new applications, including some that go beyond any narrow definition of security. “Technology is disrupting the market and executives are taking our solutions beyond security,” says Moti Shabtai, CEO and President of Qognify. “They are starting with security and quickly moving to other risk and business continuity issues in the organizations. They want a clear return on investment (ROI), which we can deliver if we move from covering a limited island of ‘security’ issues and give them the value of also managing risk, safety, and operations.” 7. Optimizing Building Automation for Good Return on Investment [Minu Youngkin] Smart buildings are on the rise around the world, not only because a growing number of companies are considering their environmental impact, but also because of the dramatic cost savings that can be realized through integration. In every building that has an integrated security and access control system, an opportunity awaits to also integrate the building’s energy use, water use, ventilation and more. The key is to effectively convey the tremendous potential of this new technology to the end user. 8. ISC West 2017: How Will IT and Consumer Electronics Influence the Secuirty Industry? [Fredrik Nilsson] A good way to predict trends [at the upcoming ISC West show] is to look at what’s happening in some larger, adjacent technology industries, such as IT and consumer electronics. Major trends on these fronts are the most likely to influence what new products will be launched in the electronic security industry. 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Robot Revolution: Uncovering the Real Value of Security Robots [Steve Reinharz] The security coverage that a robot offers in the case of a shopping mall can be easily overshadowed by the fact that the machines seem to serve to entertain the population. Instead, security robots can best be utilized for more high-level roles, such as in critical infrastructure sites, corporate campuses and educational facilities, where wide, expansive spaces require continuous protection. In these locales, security can be difficult to achieve, as cost, location and lack of resources make the logistics of deployment difficult.

How To Prepare For Active Shooter Incidents | Infographic
How To Prepare For Active Shooter Incidents | Infographic

This Active Shooter infographic summarises information about trends among active shooter incidents, and outlines how an organization can develop a plan before tragedy occurs, including:   Statistics on the numbers and types of recent active shooter incidents. A profile of common traits among active shooters. How to prepare beforehand, and what to do when the police arrive. How organizational planning ensures maximum preparedness. Pre-attack indicators to look for. Be sure to share this information with coworkers and managers. Awareness is key to preventing active shooter incidents, and to minimising their tragic consequences. When sharing this infographic on your website, please include attribution to  SecurityInformed.com More resources for active shooter preparedness: How hospitals can prepare for active shooter attacks Six steps to survive a mass shooting Technologies to manage emergency lockdowns  How robots can check for active shooters  Background checks to minimise insider threats Gunfire detection technologies for hospitals, retail and office buildings 21 ways to prevent workplace violence in your organisation Non-invasive security strategies for public spaces    

Intelligent Surveillance: AI For Police Body-worn Cameras
Intelligent Surveillance: AI For Police Body-worn Cameras

Working together to develop an intelligent body-worn camera for public safety users, Motorola Solutions and artificial intelligence (AI) company Neurala are demonstrating how AI can be added to everyday devices such as smart phones using existing hardware platforms.  AI software, working at the “edge,” provides the capability to add AI functionality to existing cameras, such as Motorola’s Si500 body-worn camera. An agreement to develop the products follows Motorola’s strategic investment in Neurala in January 2017. “The technology is real, as our prototypes have demonstrated,” says Massimiliano “Max” Versace, Neurala CEO. “The technology will mature dramatically by the end of the year.” A final, marketable product from Motorola might be a year or more away, and the timing will depend on extensive testing in the meantime, he says. The goal is to enable police officers to more efficiently search for objects or persons of interest, such as missing children or suspects. 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Versace expects the first applications of AI on existing products, including cameras and drones, before it is applied to robotics and other new applications. In effect, Neurala provides a “brain plug-in” that can add AI to change an existing solution from a passive sensor to a device that is “active in its thinking,” he adds. AI is here to stay, says Versace. “The market should know that AI has reached a point of no return. Companies that don’t use AI will be left behind. It’s the way to go to amplify your output.” Does Artificial Intelligence Threaten Humans? However, the technology isn’t perfect and shouldn’t be expected to be. “It’s still a growing technology, so you can’t expect 100 percent correct performance, especially if you deploy it in a constrained environment such as a cell phone,” says Versace. “AI can approximate 90 percent of a human’s ability to detect an object, and it’s tireless and can work 24 hours a day. 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