Welcome!

Machine Learning Authors: William Schmarzo, Kevin Jackson, Stackify Blog, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Cloud Security, @DXWorldExpo

@CloudExpo: Article

Equifax Is an Enron Moment | @CloudExpo #AI #DX #SDN #Cybersecurity

What makes this specific breach even more damaging is the type of the stolen data

Equifax Is an Enron Moment, But Not the Way You May Think

Enron changed how U.S. public companies audit and report their financial data. There is also an opportunity to use the Equifax data breach to create a framework for better protection of our data in future.

The credit reporting agency reported one of the largest data breaches in the history. Hackers were able to steal sensitive information from its internal servers. The stolen data include name, Social Security Number (SSN), date of birth, and also credit card numbers and driver license numbers in some cases. A massive breach like this can haunt the victims for years to come.

What makes this specific breach even more damaging is the type of the stolen data. If someone steals your credit card number, you call your bank and get a new card hopefully before the hacker is able to make use of the stolen card. But, if a hacker gets your date of birth, good luck trying to change it. In fact, thieves are known to sit idle for months waiting for increased awareness after the breach to subside before hitting the underground market with stolen SSN and dates of birth. If you are one of the 143 million people affected by this breach, get used to the feeling of being haunted. Hackers may use stolen data tomorrow or in multiple years from now. They have all the data needed to reset bank passwords, access health records, open credit card accounts on your behalf, etc. You will never know when or how they will misuse your data.

Equifax has been less than forthcoming in describing how the hackers were able to get to the most sensitive data. Baird Equity Research attributes the breach to a flaw in Apache Struts, one of the most popular software for developing Java-based web applications. A new vulnerability was reported recently in Apache Struts that allows hackers to remotely run arbitrary commands on the server. It's conceivable and even probable that either this vulnerability or another one like it was used for this hack. What's troubling is these vulnerabilities have existed for long time but were identified and mitigated only recently. Such vulnerabilities provide hackers enough time to target organizations with prized data and steal the data for nefarious use.

Albert Einstein is credited with the saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. If we, as a society, are to get better at protecting our most critical data, we have to try something new. Obviously, the law enforcement agencies will be spending a good amount of time reviewing Equifax's security processes, response, and the unfortunate timing of their executives trading stocks. However, this data breach is just one of the many, and while it looks pretty jarring, there is this uncanny feeling there is worse to come.

Some have argued for not using SSN as a means of identification. SSN was designed to track income and not a way to identify or authenticate people. However, such a move misses the big picture. SSN is one of the sensitive pieces of information we have, but as past breaches have taught us there are plenty more - date of birth, passwords, health record, employment history, etc. How are doing to protect them? We need a method to protect all sensitive data. Fortunately, technology can now offer such a required solution and with a little bit of public help, we can make meaningful progress in stopping the incessant data thefts.

One approach to preventing some of these mega breaches, including Equifax, is an innovative use of encryption. Encryption already secures data at rest. For example, if you use self-encrypting hard drives, or Microsoft Bitlocker, you are securing your data using encryption when it's sitting idle. Similarly, encryption secures your data in transit. When you connect to your bank website using your browser or mobile phone application, Transport Layer Security (TLS) protects data as it moves from you to the bank servers. When the banks provide the data to Equifax, they also use TLS. However, once the data is used by Equifax, it's decrypted and exposed. The exposed data works like a magnet for hackers and they try all possible vulnerabilities to find and steal the exposed data. In the case of Equifax, Apache Struts provided the path for the hackers to connect to the exposed data.

Encryption during runtime keeps data encrypted when applications are using the data. This allows organizations to limit access to data to the actual business logic running on the server. Had Equifax encrypted data during runtime, even with vulnerable Apache Struts hackers would have accessed only encrypted data which they wouldn't be able to decipher. Encryption during runtime understands that hackers will always be able to use vulnerable applications to connect to the servers. The best strategy is to ensure that even when this happens, the data we care about remains encrypted and therefore undecipherable to hackers.

Encryption during runtime is certainly not a panacea and cannot protect from all threats. For example, if the business logic itself is vulnerable, the data could still be compromised. However, it protects the data from all vulnerabilities that are found in code other than the business logic. An approach that combines encryption with best practices in developing secure applications can reach new limits in securing data.

When the Enron scandal was reported in 2001, the Congress legislated the Sarbanes-Oxley Act that increased audit requirements and made it harder for companies to fudge their financial numbers. It has been effective in avoiding another Enron-like scandal. If you don't want to see a repeat of the Equifax data breach, a good place to start may be with your congressman. Ask him or her to strengthen data breach laws and to require organizations to disclose how they protect your data in use. Disclosure of the internal security practices along with regulatory requirements can create a virtuous cycle where the most secure organizations are rewarded with more business. No bank would dare to operate their website without TLS today. Otherwise regulators, customers, security analysts, social media, etc., all will publicly punish and shame them. We need encryption during runtime for processing sensitive data.

More Stories By Ambuj Kumar

Ambuj Kumar is CEO and Co-founder of Fortanix. Prior to founding Fortanix, he was lead architect at Cryptography Research Inc. where he led and developed many of the company's security technologies that go into millions of devices every year. Previously, he worked for NVIDIA where he designed the world's most advanced computer chips including the world's fastest memory controller. He has a Bachelor of Technology from IIT Kanpur and an MS from Stanford University, both in EE.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@CloudExpo Stories
"ZeroStack is a startup in Silicon Valley. We're solving a very interesting problem around bringing public cloud convenience with private cloud control for enterprises and mid-size companies," explained Kamesh Pemmaraju, VP of Product Management at ZeroStack, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...
"Codigm is based on the cloud and we are here to explore marketing opportunities in America. Our mission is to make an ecosystem of the SW environment that anyone can understand, learn, teach, and develop the SW on the cloud," explained Sung Tae Ryu, CEO of Codigm, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
High-velocity engineering teams are applying not only continuous delivery processes, but also lessons in experimentation from established leaders like Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook. These companies have made experimentation a foundation for their release processes, allowing them to try out major feature releases and redesigns within smaller groups before making them broadly available. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Lucas, Senior Staff Engineer at Optimizely, discussed how by using ne...
"There's plenty of bandwidth out there but it's never in the right place. So what Cedexis does is uses data to work out the best pathways to get data from the origin to the person who wants to get it," explained Simon Jones, Evangelist and Head of Marketing at Cedexis, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Large industrial manufacturing organizations are adopting the agile principles of cloud software companies. The industrial manufacturing development process has not scaled over time. Now that design CAD teams are geographically distributed, centralizing their work is key. With large multi-gigabyte projects, outdated tools have stifled industrial team agility, time-to-market milestones, and impacted P&L stakeholders.
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...
Enterprises are moving to the cloud faster than most of us in security expected. CIOs are going from 0 to 100 in cloud adoption and leaving security teams in the dust. Once cloud is part of an enterprise stack, it’s unclear who has responsibility for the protection of applications, services, and data. When cloud breaches occur, whether active compromise or a publicly accessible database, the blame must fall on both service providers and users. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ben Johnson, C...
"Infoblox does DNS, DHCP and IP address management for not only enterprise networks but cloud networks as well. Customers are looking for a single platform that can extend not only in their private enterprise environment but private cloud, public cloud, tracking all the IP space and everything that is going on in that environment," explained Steve Salo, Principal Systems Engineer at Infoblox, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventio...
Data scientists must access high-performance computing resources across a wide-area network. To achieve cloud-based HPC visualization, researchers must transfer datasets and visualization results efficiently. HPC clusters now compute GPU-accelerated visualization in the cloud cluster. To efficiently display results remotely, a high-performance, low-latency protocol transfers the display from the cluster to a remote desktop. Further, tools to easily mount remote datasets and efficiently transfer...
"MobiDev is a software development company and we do complex, custom software development for everybody from entrepreneurs to large enterprises," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"We're developing a software that is based on the cloud environment and we are providing those services to corporations and the general public," explained Seungmin Kim, CEO/CTO of SM Systems Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Agile has finally jumped the technology shark, expanding outside the software world. Enterprises are now increasingly adopting Agile practices across their organizations in order to successfully navigate the disruptive waters that threaten to drown them. In our quest for establishing change as a core competency in our organizations, this business-centric notion of Agile is an essential component of Agile Digital Transformation. In the years since the publication of the Agile Manifesto, the conn...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...
The question before companies today is not whether to become intelligent, it’s a question of how and how fast. The key is to adopt and deploy an intelligent application strategy while simultaneously preparing to scale that intelligence. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sangeeta Chakraborty, Chief Customer Officer at Ayasdi, provided a tactical framework to become a truly intelligent enterprise, including how to identify the right applications for AI, how to build a Center of Excellence to oper...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Telecom Reseller has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, James Henry, Co-CEO/CTO of Calgary Scientific Inc., introduced you to the challenges, solutions and benefits of training AI systems to solve visual problems with an emphasis on improving AIs with continuous training in the field. He explored applications in several industries and discussed technologies that allow the deployment of advanced visualization solutions to the cloud.
While some developers care passionately about how data centers and clouds are architected, for most, it is only the end result that matters. To the majority of companies, technology exists to solve a business problem, and only delivers value when it is solving that problem. 2017 brings the mainstream adoption of containers for production workloads. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ben McCormack, VP of Operations at Evernote, discussed how data centers of the future will be managed, how the p...