Posts Tagged ‘phishing’

Who can you trust?

Posted: June 11, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

That’s a difficult question to answer — especially when you’re dealing with organizations you know only over opposite ends of a wire. This issue lies at the heart of an article quoting me in today’s Raleigh News & Observer “Stump the Geeks” column.


First of all, let me state for the record that I have no firsthand knowledge of the service offering discussed in that column of this blog post or how well their service works. It could be perfect in every way, for all I know, but the issues I’m focusing on here remain the same so please read this in the spirit in which it was intended — as an example of how some of the critical thinking that needs to be employed when dealing with security issues.

With that bit of disclaimer out of the way let’s consider the case of OpenDNS. Typically the translation of that web site name (e.g. into it’s numeric IP address equivalent, which is necessary in order to actually route your request through the network, is handled by a Domain Name Server (DNS) that is provided by your ISP. OpenDNS, however, offers to do this for you instead if you are willing to configure your system to use its services in lieu of the one your ISP provides.

Why would you want to do this? Well, it’s because OpenDNS claims to be able to offer additional controls and security protections that most ISPs don’t. For instance, you can configure OpenDNS to block access to harmful sites based upon objectionable content or security risks by redirecting traffic to a safe landing page rather than the actual site.

Sounds good, right? But who determines what is risky and what isn’t? Do their definitions coincide with yours? With the way “bad” sites pop up and disappear on the Internet on an hour-by-hour basis, can any system based upon reputation (such as OpenDNS) ever hope to keep up with the perpetual game of Wack-a-Mole?

Further, even if all this does work perfectly well, who do I trust more — OpenDNS of my ISP? The reason this last question is important is that one or the other is going to have access to all my web surfing history. If that bothers you then you need to decide which of the two choices in this example, do you trust more with that information? Either could be compelled to turn over such information if directed to do so by the Courts but what about turning it over to other companies who use it to market to you based upon your browsing habits?

I have no idea how to answer that question for you since my sensitivity to risk in this area is bound to differ from yours. It’s the same reason you choose to bank or invent with different companies than I do as well. It’s a very personal choice but, in the end, it all comes down to … “who can you trust?”

IBM’s X-Force researchers have released their 2011 year end Trend and Risk Report and there’s good news and bad news for those of us trying to defend the castle, so to speak. First the good …

  • spam is down compared to last year (although you wouldn’t know if from my inbox),
  • software vendors are doing a better job of patching their products in a more timely manner,
  • and one of the long-standing threats to web server security, cross site scripting vulnerabilities are down (but not out, I might add).

But don’t pop the corks just yet …

  • attacks focused on mobile devices (i.e. smart phones, tablets, etc.) are on the up tick,
  • and so are automated password guessing and phishing attacks.

Also, bear in mind that some of these statistics are cyclical in nature with a down year typically proceeding an increase in the following year.

All in all, though, some great info to have at your disposal and to factor into the way your organization views IT risk.

For more info including access to the free report and an overview video go to