My new blog at sbin.cn

January 30, 2007

Due to the publicly known reasons, this blog at wordpress.com has been not accessible at China for a long time till last Spring festival (Feb.2006). It’s very difficult for me to update and manage this blog, while most of my readers from mainland can not read it since then. So I decide move it to a new site with good performance.

Hope you guys can change your bookmark and RSS feeds. I am sorry for the unconvenience for this move. Thanks for the great pleasure WP community gave me.


China telecom operators and Sarbanes Oxley Act Compliance

August 10, 2006

In recent 2 years in China, the main rhythm in telecom industry is the compliance journey of Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX). The four major telecom operators – China Mobile, China Telecom, China Netcom, China Unicom, all have public-list at USA stock market. In a similar time schedule, each of them has spent a lot of man power and money on SOX compliance, to organize, to plan, to build up internal control oriented processes, to buy consulting services and tools, to collect operation records.

  • Plan and Organize

Typically, inside an operator, a 404 team, headed by a vice general manager level executives, was assigned to lead the compliance activities. Specialists in each of the main IT departments, e.g. Management Information System Department, Billing Department, Network Department, were assigned to be responsible for the implementation and follow-ups. A series of education has been conducted to improve the awareness of compliance.
All provincial operators are required by their HQ to complete the self-assessment and corresponding remediation in the first half year of 2006, so that they can collect enough records for external auditors to testify the effectiveness of internal control measures. Three of the BIG FOUR accounting firms are external auditors of the four operators – KPMG for China Mobile and China Telecom, Deloitte for China Netcom, and PWC for China Unicom.

  • Acquire and Implement

In order to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of compliance controls, a series of nationwide security and governance projects are being undertaken, covering IAM (Identity and Access Management), auditing, ITSM (Information Technology Service Management) optimization and etc. Large amount of KPI (Key Performance Indicator) are setup and monitored to reflect the compliance status. Complete auditing systems are under continuous construction and improvement, while periodic and formal auditing processes for the compliance controls are designed and implemented.
We are glad to say that the enterprise governance structure and effectiveness has got unprecedented upgrade inside the four major telecom operators. There is no denying that SOX compliance journey is too expensive for mainland enterprises. The high cost of SOX has had many of enterprises to re-think their IPO plan to Nasdaq.

This page was also published at sbin.cn.

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What Hamachi brings?

July 28, 2006

Bill recommended one “new” application to me. That’s Hamachi. It gave me a very complicated feeling.

It’s a wonderful software application, which provides us a virtual LAN over Internet. It’s a typical overlay network application, which makes use of P2P technology and has the capability to tranverse the NAT/FW enterprise perimeter. Additionally, it brings us an interesting function – Web Proxy:

Built-in Web proxy
An option to use Hamachi as a simple web proxy. This way your Hamachi peers may configure their Web browsers to access the Internet via your computer and therefore protect their Web traffic while it is in transition between you and them.

This feature is typically used for securing Web surfing from untrusted locations including cybercafes, coffee houses, hotels, etc

Obviously, founders of Hamachi have learned the lesson from Skype. They has done a lot of effort to open their protocols and algorithm in the identity, authentication, and communications among system components. That will be a door-knocker to those enterprise IT managers, because there must be growing security and system management software to support Hamachi, as long as Hamachi’s installation get enough base. According to their website, Hamachi has over 3,000,000 users at June 17, while this number was merely 2,000,000 in April, growing 50% in two months.

It’s a wonderful remote collaboration tool, as well as a virtual networking platform, particularly in the current booming broadband world.

At the other hand, the overspreading of such kind of softwares (for others, see vnn.cn, softether.com) has been eroding and further eliminating the enterprises’ network perimeter, leading the compomise of security policy. It requires that firewalls and networking devices should support more and more layer-7 applications, in particular P2P overlay networking traffic. Morever, Traditional IDS and UTM won’t work in face of virtual LANs.

Let’s keep an eye on them together. See my comment in chinese.


Go Security 2.0

May 10, 2006

When I try to dig "Security 2.0" via Google, only one noticeable hit was found from CSOonline by Sarah. Sarah summarized the convergence at security area, and regarded "Security 2.0" as integration, convergence, holistic security and so on. Sarah reported a case study from Constellation Energy Group on convergence of physical security and IT security, where they assigned a new role named Chief Risk Officer, directly under CEO, who is responsible for control of what ever risks which might hurt the enterprise to an acceptable level. That's very interesting and with deep insight. However, my vision of "Security 2.0" is somewhat different.

At least in China, based on the about ten years of security practice, I would like to define the following two stages of security management and technology we are living with so far.

  • Security 0.1: security came from anti-virus capability
  • Security 1.0: security is PDR (Protection -> Detection -> Response), where in most cases at China, PDR was explained as firewall (protection), IDS (detection) and security emergency response services (Response)

But I begin to feel the emerging of a new pulse and inspiration at the industry, which I didn't hasitate to call it "Security 2.0", where I hope to borrow some concepts and feelings from Web2.0. The representative and definitive features of "Security 2.0" include:

  • Security 2.0.1: focus changed to internal control and security protection of applications and data, rather than simple virus/intrusion detection and attacks.
  • Security 2.0.2: "holistic security" synergizing the AAAA(Account, Authentication, Authorization, and Audit), from just stack/heap of firewalls, IDSs and other single point stuff.
  • Security 2.0.3: emphasizing the perception and experience of those security managers and administrators, ie. the real effectiveness and efficiency. along with the implementation of technologies of data mining and correlation.

The key difference between Security 2.0 and previous stages lies at that the later focuses on the security information production and corresponding accuracy from those single point security elements, while the former turns to effective and efficient usage of those information to direct the real operations. Security 2.0 just develops itself on the shoulder of Security 1.0, instead of replacing them.

BTW, I am sorry I don't have time to translate other parts of this post from Chinese to English. If you are interested, please check the full version in Chinese.


Best practice on password management

April 29, 2006

This morning I read a good essay named "Security Myths and Passwords" by Prof. Eugene Spafford. Prof. Eugene told us his doubt on  those  best practices on password management policy, like "monthyly change", based on the interesting origin of this "best practice".

The defects and even failures in most of enterprise security defense systems can be root caused into problems in "security execution", ie. the discrepancy between the policy and the real environment. The security manager just book those best practices into their "policy", while not considering their staff, their skills, the data to protect, the threats to contain/mitigate…


SMA, VoIP and Identity

April 25, 2006

There was an interesting description on SMA (Secure Mobile Architecture) by another Richard from Boeing :). SMA is expected to address security issues in VoIP and identity for those enterprise networks with some sample implementation inside Boeing


There have to be some fundamental changes in the way the Internet operates. One way is through a framework and architecture called the Secure Mobile Architecture (SMA). This architecture is published by The Open Group and is available at the following URL:
http://www.opengroup.org/bookstore/catalog/select.tpl?text=secure+mobile+arch The architecture addresses many of the issues you have been talking about. Until we actually address the issues of basing security on the MAC and IP addresses, all of your approaches will not address the basic problem.

I have an example of the issues hiding our heads in the sand can lead to. I have been a member of IEEE 802.11 since about 1995. Boeing got involved in 802.11 because of the potential solutions 802.11 provided for both Internet access onboard airplanes and for the mobile enterprise communications. So I got involved early in the security provided for the Wireless LANs. The initial group of 802.11 standards developers felt, as I did, that the WEP was sufficient (good enough) to get the standard rolling. It wasn't! The work around was VPNs for any wireless connections, but it definitely slowed and inhibited the growth of WLANs. It took six years to provide a WEP replacement that was cryptographically secure.

If IEEE 802.11i is any example, the VOIP growth and viability is inexorably tied to how secure our telephone calls are. I have always been incredulous that we never cared very much how vulnerable our telephone conversations are. The wire makes us seem less vulnerable, but in fact, backbone communications links are sometimes over major microwave links. Many of the Fortune 500 contractually stipulate that none of their business communications are sent over microwave links. In addition to the microwave links, we have wholly trusted our telephony companies to protect us and they have done quite a good job in that most of the connections are in central offices that have not been broken into. This is all changing now and this mailing list is at the forefront of the discussion. What do we do about voice security now that our telephone conversations are riding over the Internet and have all the Internet vulnerabilities of viruses, MAC address spoofing, IP address spoofing, replay, spamming, etc?

In the big picture, end-to-end secure sessions with cryptographically based mechanisms to identify people and machines are the only way to assure secure VOIP communications. In our work with the Secure Mobile Architecture (SMA), we have been exposed to all the regulatory requirements for privacy and legality. These requirements include Sorbannes-Oxley, HIPPA, and many others. They are quite extensive and demanding, especially of privacy and protection from exposure on the Internet. Without addressing the requirement of an end-to-end cryptographically secure infrastructure, we are not addressing the problem and those of us responsible for unleashing VOIP on the world have a responsibility to address this problem in a big picture way.

The core of the problem comes from the relationship of security and identity. When I first heard and participated in discussions on identity management, I was very skeptical that this was a required discipline at all. In fact, I still think that identity management is not the right term for what we need to address in Internet VOIP and WLAN infrastructure contexts. We do not need to manage the identities. In reality, the people, organizations, and enterprises need to be assured that their identities are protected when they use the Internet. So, the identity of a person or machine must be protected in a business context or in an individual context. By the way, this identity of a machine is an imperative one to address. We are still not doing a good job of identifying a computer or intelligent machine's identity. In fact, as VOIP gets more integrated into the business processes and telephony becomes more versatile and VOIP applications are used for event notification, the validity of such processes is dependent on getting the cryptographically validated sources of the VOIP information you get.

The architecture The Open Group developed called the Secure Mobile Architecture (SMA) deals with these issues through the use of four elements (Boeing deployment); 1. Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) access, 2. use of the Host Identity Protocol (HIP), 3. a Network Directory Service (NDS), and 4. use of a Location Enabled Network Service (LENS). I will treat each of these and their relationship to VOIP and VOIP security in the following four paragraphs. Read the rest of this entry »


Identity is the foundation for everything we do

March 24, 2006

Sarbanes Oxley is bring blossoming business opportunities not only to the big 4 accounting firms, but also to a lot of software vendors, Among those technologies and products involved in SOX compliance programs, identity management is the focal point that a lot of giant vendors fight for, Microsoft, IBM, CA, BMC, HP, Oracle, Novell, Sun and …. I am very happy to see the following diagram:

GM Director of software

where John Jackson from GM said "Identity is the foundation for everything we do".

"Ten years ago, the prevailing assumption was that if you were on the GM network, then you were a GM employee," says Jackson, who is on the board of the Liberty Alliance, a consortium developing protocols for sharing identities.

"Today, we have dealers and suppliers [on the network] that are not a part of GM. Add the fact that we are completely outsourced, and it becomes critical to track who you are and what rights you have so we can make sure that people only get to the information they are allowed to get to. Identity is the foundation for everything we do," he adds.

So important is this that GM has a 12-person identity group within the security team. The group continues to consolidate internal directories while expanding its identity federation deployment and building out virtual directories and SSO capabilities.

Users and analysts agree that identity is seeping into corporate infrastructure.

"In five years, what we talk about today as identity and access management will just be another part of the infrastructure, and it won't be sold separately. It will be part of your security foundation," says Sally Hudson, a security research manager at IDC.

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