Unlike fine wine or cheese, old software doesn’t get better with age, it just starts to smell bad. Certainly it can “mature” as upgrades and patches are applied but if you simply “install it and forget it” then you could be setting yourself up for a world of trouble.

Recently Microsoft withdrew support for an old standby, Windows XP, and, as a result, pushed many to upgrade or face the risk of exposure to an increasing list of unpatched security vulnerabilities. Many grumbled about having to make the change but it was not unexpected. It costs vendors lots of money to support any operating system so it behooves them to support the fewest number they can or risk draining precious resources that could be spent developing newer versions with even better features demanded by the marketplace.

Windows XP is old in OS terms — nearly 13 years old, in fact. So, the end of the ride was inevitable, even if not fully appreciated by everyone.

But what about, say, Windows 95? It would be hard to feel a lot of sympathy for a user still running that moldy oldie if their system got hacked. After all, that was essentially 8 generations ago as a desktop OS. There are tons of security bugs that have been discovered in it since its introduction and, while most of been fixed, there are plenty that never will be since it was withdrawn from support a long time ago. Therefore, anyone still running Win95 isn’t likely to get a lot of sympathy given the known risks of doing so, right?

What about someone doing essentially the same thing on their mobile phone? Smart phones have very complex operating systems and we are finding more and more security holes in them every day. What would you say to someone still running the Win95 equivalent of Android? Good luck!

Well, it turns out that about 20% of Android devices world wide are essentially doing just that. That’s roughly what Android 2.x matches up to if you compare its generations to those of Windows. How many bugs do you think are sitting around on those aging handsets just waiting to be exploited? A lot more than their owners are aware of, I suspect.

To be fair, mobile OS generations have been rolling out faster than desktop OSs lately so the time lines won’t match up perfectly, but the truth is that there are a scary number of mobile devices that are wide open to attack because they are running old software.

Why not simply update the OS on these devices? Because, in many cases you can’t. Unlike the PC world where a single vendor (i.e. Microsoft) can push out a new OS when they like and users can update whenever they choose (for the most part), the Android world involves a sometimes unholy trinity of handset makers, Google (who makes the Android OS) and the carriers. If you want to update your phone you have to get the sun, moon and stars to align so that all three parties allow it and that has proven much harder and slower than most people would like. Since change is happening so rapidly in the mobile space, it is hard for old handsets to keep up with the demands of new OS versions plus handset makers have a stronger incentive to get you to upgrade than they do to keep you on an old device.

What all this adds up to is a lot of handsets with OS levels that have long since passed from stale to downright rotten and since hackers are drawn to vulnerable systems like ants to a picnic, it would not at all be unreasonable to expect a buggy mess as a result.

The Apple/iOS ecosystem is a little less complicated because you have only a two-headed monster (Apple and the carrier) to deal with. This results is fewer options for users but considerably less software rot.

More freedom/choice or more security? I actually use both but hope that whichever one you choose, you at least do so with your eyes wide open…

Toilet-My SATISSo, you thought IoT stood for “Internet of Things,” right? A reference to the instrumentation of all sorts of previously stand alone devices like refrigerators, washers, dryers, thermostats, implantable medical devices, cars, etc., in such a way as to make them accessible from via the Internet. Cool stuff … when it works. When it doesn’t? Not so much …

How about a high tech toilet that lets you use your Bluetooth enabled phone to as a remote control to:

  • raise and lower the seat
  • flush
  • turn on the bidet feature (for the uninitiated, this means a stream of water is sprayed at your private parts)
  • and who knows what else?

I guess it could be interesting if you really get bored in the bathroom but, even as someone who loves technology, I’m just not sure that this sort of confluence of water, electricity and sensitive body parts should be brought that close together, if you know what I mean.

What if said toilet had a security flaw that allowed essentially anyone within Bluetooth range (which is supposed to be about 10 meters but can be extended substantially if you know what you’re doing) to control all these functions remotely without your permission?

And what if robo-potty also kept records of all your, let’s say, “activity” for reasons I’m not sure I even want to know?

Well, that’s the case with the My SATIS “luxury” toilet, where it turns out that the Bluetooth code for all the devices is hardcoded as “0000” and can’t be changed, according to a report from the BBC. That means that anyone with an Android phone can download the app, connect to your porcelain convenience and have a grand ole time at your expense.

Take it all one step further and make it part of a “connected home” ecosystem, which, thankfully, hasn’t been done yet and you could imagine the range for these attacks going global.

Brave new world? I certainly hope not …

Recycling great, except for when it isn’t. To see what I mean, take a look at my post on securityintelligence.com.

It’s all about speed these days — quicker deployment, shorter time to value, instant gratification. Historically, though, one of the friction points in IT has been the invisible wall between Development, who writes the code, and Operations, who supports the real world implementation. DevOps is concerned with knocking down that wall and greasing the skids, as it were, in order to achieve a more agile and responsive software development and deployment cycle.

But what is sacrificed in the process? What risks are introduced by this amped up mode of operation?

If you aren’t careful, the answer is security.

So, some of my colleagues and I put together a brief overview on the Security considerations for DevOps adoption which was just published over on the IBM developerWorks web site. In the paper we discuss some of the issues that need to remain top of mind so that you can still realize the benefits of DevOps without killing security in the process.

By now one would hope that the worst of the Heartbleed crisis is behind us. All the servers should be patched, new certificates generated and passwords changed, right? The answers are: probably, hopefully and unlikely, respectively. Compromised passwords are still floating around in the ether so if you haven’t fixed them, do so.

But what about the next Heartbleed? One thing that is about as sure as death and taxes is that there will be another massive vulnerability that will, no doubt, expose millions of user accounts. So, do we just sit tight and wait for the oncoming storm or is there a preemptive strike you can make now to less the likelihood it will impact you in a big way?

I think there is and it’s the subject of my recent post to the IBM Security Intelligence blog. Take a read through it and stay safe.

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a link to a posting I did for IBM’s Security Intelligence Blog on the perils of ignoring the whole Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend. Enjoy …

http://securityintelligence.com/byod-why-you-better-not-ignored-it/

 

 

A quick “heads up” that I will be presenting on the topic of Social Media Threats on Friday, March 7, at the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Information Systems Security Association. Here’s a link for more info:

www.issa-dv.org/meetings

Also, I’ll be presenting on Access Management and Federated Identity Management on Thursday, March 20, at the Harrisburg (PA) Chapter of ISACA (previously known as Information Systems Audit and Control Association). Link below:

www.isaca-harrisburg.org

So if you’re looking for some CPE’s and will be in the area, please drop by and say “hi.”