Ditch One To Get The Other

In the INFOSEC realm, we often discuss the CIA Triad: Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability; this is the basis and end goal of information security efforts.

It occurred to me the other day that we could get rid of one of the legs of the Triad in order to perfect another.

Without Confidentiality, we could have perfect Integrity.

If I gave up all privacy, I could be protected from all fraud. If I were to livestream my entire life, it wouldn’t matter that you could see my credit card number and PIN and whatever other credentials/authentication techniques I used; you could not use my payment methods in order to make unauthorized purchases, because my bank would also be able to confirm whether or not I, myself, had conducted those transactions— by watching the same livestream you took my payment info from.

In fact, we could (theoretically) do away with all systems-based payment methods, and revert to an older, historical model: trust-based methods. I wouldn’t need a credit card (or even a credit card number)— I could just say, “I agree to pay you X amount,” and that would suffice for my bank to pay you that amount. Not too long ago (150 years back or so), this was very close to how money and debts were conveyed: I would write a note to you, and sign it, as an instrument of payment or promise; you could present this to my bank for payment, or transfer it to someone else who was willing to purchase it (perhaps your own bank, or another person) on the assumption that they, themselves, could collect it from my bank.

Manual confirmation (a bank teller watching my livestream to confirm I’d promised payment) would be time-intensive at the moment…but I get the feeling this could be automated very quickly.

This idea intrigues me.

CCSP How-To: A Legit Cheat-Sheet

A recent CCSP test-taker posted a blog entry (and made a related Reddit post) about their own experience in studying for/taking the exam…it is incredibly detailed and thorough, and reads very well. When I teach test-prep classes, I try to convey a list of “foot-stompers”: those elements of the material that are crucial and which candidates should really drill down on for the exam…this blog entry seems like a perfect list of foot-stompers to me. Enjoy!

“Preparation Guide for ISC2 Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP) Certification” by Stanislas Quastana


CCSP Feedback From Today

Got this from a former student today:

”I certainly don't want to scare anyone who hasn't taken it yet but I thought it was fairly difficult. Moreso than the CISSP in my opinion. Some of the questions seemed pretty out of left field based on the material we studied. And I think as we all know, the wording and phrasing of the question is super key so you have to pay very close attention to that or you'll get tripped up. Can't emphasize that enough. 180min duration and I wrapped with 7mins left but that was after I went through and reviewed EVERY answer a second time and some three times.”

Good to know.

Bank Shot

My primary bank has recently instituted a requirement for repeat-factor identification during online transactions (not multifactor; it’s just double entry of the same single factor). It’s an annoying interruption to the process, albeit a fairly small one. There is a cost of convenience for any amount of security.

I’ve said it before, though: this is not to protect me and my money: this is to protect the bank and the bank’s money. I am protected (because I live in the US, which is also where my bank is) by federal, which limits my damages from fraudulent charges. The bank, however, is on the hook to pay for anyone using my account in an unauthorized way. So the bank wants to protect itself.

By complicating my transaction.

CISSP Study Tips

A former student recently checked in and shared this. A darned good read.

“For some quick background, when we had our class I had been working in IT for about 15 years as a sort of jack of all trades at almost every level between help desk and IT Director. Every position I've held included some aspect or consideration of security so I had a decent background coming into the class and had already been studying the Pluralsight and Cybrary CISSP courses.

After the class, I was very intimidated by what I felt was my lack of depth of knowledge about some of the domains. I was so busy at work that I wasn't making time to study at first. Instead of dedicated study time, I had been studying ad-hoc on flights, in the evenings, on morning and evening commutes; basically, I tried to make CISSP my background noise. I think in the end this helped a little, but looking back, at the time it added to the anxiety since I wasn't spending dedicated time reviewing the material. My work slowed down a little in January around the time I needed to refresh my goals for our performance review process at work, so I took advantage of the opportunity to set a goal to study for 4 hours each week, take at least two practice tests per week, and sit for the exam by the end of June thinking it was far enough out.

Setting up the goal to have dedicated study time and take practice tests made a huge difference for me. I realized that I knew a lot more of the content than I thought and taking the practice exams (I started with the questions in the books and then later caved and bought the Boson ExamSim so I could get through more questions) helped me gauge more accurately what I needed to work on. Around March, I was still sticking with my study schedule and had even shifted the time around to take a practice exam each morning before work so I could note anything I wasn't familiar with and look it up during those few minutes of down time between tasks during the day. Anything I didn't recognize or any questions I got wrong I would jot down, and I would go through the items I was interested in during the day. A key piece of advice I received: Don't carry a running list for stuff like that beyond one day, if you don't get to everything by the end of the day just scrap it and start again the next day. It helped relieve a lot of the stress I had in trying to cover everything before moving on.

Another concept that played into my approach a lot was absorptive capacity. I think it's applied more commonly to organizations than people, but basically: the more knowledge you have, the more effective you are at integrating new knowledge. Or, the more you already know, the better you are at learning new things. I figured out that I need to be able to contextualize a concept to really understand it, so when I was trying to learn a new concept or term I tried to find resources that related the term back to something I was already comfortable with. For example, when learning more about the different encryption ciphers, I had to get down to the fundamentals first since so much of that content is specific to encryption. But once I was able to contextualize and visualize the basic concepts the rest of it just became different variations and combinations of those base concepts. To help remember those variations, it helped me to look at the situations in which those ciphers and combinations of protocols would be most effective or optimized for a specific situation (encrypting data for transfer vs. storage, encrypting for strength vs. performance, etc.). That was more beneficial for me than rote memorization. Since I work as a consultant, I was able to put some of those concepts into play at work, which helped me further solidify the knowledge.

One of my friends was ribbing me about not having even taken the exam yet since so many of our colleagues had already passed, so on a whim I scheduled an exam for a few days later on May 11. I sat for the exam, was convinced as I was taking the exam that I did not know the content well enough, and was convinced when, immediately after question 100 when the screen told me I was done and I needed to go see the proctor to get my print out, that I had failed so badly that the system wasn't even going to let me try the last 50 questions. I walked to the proctor convinced I had wasted $699 and beating myself up for stressing so much about time that I rushed through the first 100 questions in about 55 minutes. I was resigned to going home, taking a break from studying for the weekend, then starting again with practice tests and Pluralsight videos on Monday. But I passed. The proctor handed me the print out saying I had provisionally passed the exam and that I would receive an email when they confirmed I had passed. Awesome! Cue awkward, involuntary smile.

After the fact, I remembered not being worried about failing going into the exam because I knew I had been putting in the time and effort and my manager and the people in my support system knew I had been putting in the time and effort. I wasn't confident that I would pass, but I was confident that I had prepared and would be able to adapt my approach if I needed to retake the exam. I was taking the adaptive exam, so I expected it to be more difficult and that I would need all 150 questions to pass. In my head this meant that I would likely need to take more time on later questions since I figured I would get questions on domains I had not done well on earlier, so I tried to push through the first 100 questions quickly and if I wasn't confident in a question I made a best guess and moved on without waiting. Since I was expecting to need the additional questions and time, when I hit question 100 just before the hour mark I felt pretty good that I would be able to take my time on the last 50 questions. When the exam told me I was done, it was a huge surprise and such a big turn against my expectations that I was convinced I had failed. Ultimately, going into the exam confident that I had put in good time and effort on an effective study plan and being confident in my strategy helped a lot. I know I have a tendency to over-analyze, so relying on my ability to understand the intent of the questions without allowing myself to over-analyze every aspect was an inadvertent but important effect of my strategy for taking the exam.

Last thing: treat the endorsement process seriously and expect it to take a long time. After waiting for 6+ weeks, they let me know that I had not entered enough information to show 60+ cumulative months in at least two of the domains so my first endorsement application was declined. They're re-reviewing now and I submitted more information going all the way back to 2003, so hopefully there are no issues this time. I'm still getting some of the jokes from my group since I'm technically not a CISSP yet, so not doing the endorsement application correctly the first time led to a facepalm on my part.

Lessons learned for me:
1. Using the study material as background noise can help as long as it doesn't add to the anxiety about the volume of content.
2. A dedicated study plan focused on the process of studying effectively - not focused on passing the exam - worked best for me.
3. Practice exams exposed me to concepts, terms, and perspectives that helped me to build context around content I wasn't fully familiar with.
4. Using a variety of sources (our class, the (ISC)2 books, the Sybex books, the Pluralsight courses, the Cybrary courses, and the various practice exams) gave me different angles for the content, which helped me build context around some topics I struggled with.
5. It's important to have confidence going into the exam as long as that confidence is the result of following through on a good study program and a strategy for the exam that emphasizes your strengths and helps compensate for your weaknesses.
6. Support from the people around me allowed me to integrate studying into my daily routine so that my time studying could be dedicated and effective.”

Casting Shadows

          I once worked in a corporate environment where I was told I could not install an open-source, free browser on the company-owned PC that sat on my desk. When I asked why, I was told, “We don’t want to support multiple browsers in our environment, so we chose [popular proprietary brand], and that’s what we’re going with.”

          At the time, both were equivalent in terms of vulnerabilities, and the open-source browser had more functionality. I asked, “Well, what if you don’t support it, and I won’t complain if I ever have a productivity problem. In fact, if there’s anything that doesn’t work right with my open-source browser, I’ll just switch over to the corporate browser, and use that for the specific task.”

          Nope. Corporate was dead-set against using this software.

          But I wasn’t the only one who seemed to have this urge-- someone had made a version of the browser that runs from a flashstick. I never even bothered unplugging the flashstick. I was willingly violating corporate policy in order to enhance my productivity.

          You want shadow IT? Because this is how you get shadow IT.


Paper Tiger

Why are newspapers somehow immune from littering laws? My local paper throws “free” samples on my lawn occassionally. If the publishers of advertising circulars did that with their content, they’d be run out of town on a rail. If online providers did that to my machine, it would be considered malware. In the US, our press freedoms allow anyone to publish just about anything they want; it does not give them license to forcibly distribute that content to others.

I guess what I’m saying is, literally: get off my lawn.

More CISSP Feedback

A former student offers this insight:

“ I just took the test this afternoon. Ended up with 101 questions, in  just under 95 minutes, and I passed (unless they decide they need to do  "psychometric" (lie detector?) or "forensic" evaluation). At that speed,  even if I had gotten the maximum number of questions I would have been  O.K. -- from what I've seen, many people report finishing with time to spare, so I would recommend not rushing. 

My experience was:  Lots of "BEST" and "MOST" questions. Definitely not a test to take just  based on knowing facts by rote. I did guess on some answers, but only  when I could eliminate some of the responses: and I found that often at  least one response would not make sense. I also tried to follow advice I  saw to "read the question, read the answers, and then read the question  again", since during practice tests I often picked the opposite of the  answer I knew to be right. 

I studied from the Chapple book, and the (ISC)2 flash cards, and by  taking lots of tests. For tests I had the companion book (which seemed  closest to the real test), and CCCure tests (which too often revealed  the answer in the question: but if taken with "Pro" mode and fill-in-the  blank answers was still useful (and gave easier statistics on which areas I needed further study in). It was important each time to go back  and understand my wrong answers -- that's where about 1/3 of my learning  happened. 

A note on CCCure tests & fill in the blank: unless you type the exact phrase in, it will count it as wrong, so review the results before you  decide how well you did. “

Great stuff!

Enhance Your Inner Luddite

So....I still run Win7. Mainly because I am a curmudgeon who refuses to evolve. A weird kind of nerd, I know-- not even a late adopter, I am a “maybe I’ll get around to adopting someday.” Luckily, I don’t feel the same way about dogs as I do tech.


Anyway, I often run into problems with the platform, and am stuck trying to puzzle out how to fix the thing by doing Web searches (as I am sure you do, too). I recently stumbled across this place, and it fixed one of my issues right up: www.sevenforums.com. Highly recommended.

CISSP Feedback

Got a detailed message from a former student I’d like to share…good insight for those studying the CISSP:

“I took your class last year (7/16-7/20), sat for the exam in late September, but did not passL. In that instance I know I incorrectly answered a drag and drop on controls and was surprised by the number of Cloud questions. That said, I spent the rest of the year and this spring internalizing all the material using the following resources:


·         CISSP All-in-One Exam Guide, 7th Edition

·         Official (ISC)2 Guide to the CISSP CBK ((ISC)2 Press)

·         (ISC)2 CISSP Information Systems Security Professional Official Study Guide

·         CISSP Official (ISC)2 Practice Tests

·         How To Pass Your INFOSEC Certification Test: A Guide To Passing The CISSP, CISA, CISM, Network+, Security+, and CCSP

·         CCSP (ISC)2 Certified Cloud Security Professional Official Study Guide


I read the (ISC)2 CISSP Information Systems Security Professional Official Study Guide, Reviewed and read CISSP All-in-One Exam Guide, 7th Edition, and took all the end of chapter tests as well as the CISSP Official (ISC)2 Practice Tests and also read your book, How To Pass Your INFOSEC Certification Test: A Guide To Passing The CISSP, CISA, CISM, Network+, Security+, and CCSP. In addition to all of that, I spent some time studying the Cloud Security basics contained in - CCSP (ISC)2 Certified Cloud Security Professional Official Study Guide and test questions.


I then sat and passed the exam on 4/30/2019. I was fed a completely different exam questions and again had quite a few Cloud based questions which I felt prepared for after studying the CCSP material. It’s been a long road, the test always looks deceptively easy, and I am pleased to have provisionally passed. I must say the practice exam application that came with the SHON Harris book most closely represented the actual exam experience. “

Hope that helps— seems like useful stuff!

Traveling Time

                We’ve all heard of the Butterfly Effect: one small action somewhere can be traced to larger effects somewhere else. The idea is that everything touches everything else, because we’re basically living in a soup of molecules (on the planet, anyway-- space is more like a thin broth, not because of absence of stuff --there is, in fact, a lot of stuff in space-- but because that stuff is spread out over a very large volume). Molecules bump into each other all the time, causing reactions to those bumps.          

                Right now, we can reconstruct causes from their effects at a macro level-- after two cars collide, we can looked at the smashed vehicles and determine which one struck the other, estimating the speed each were traveling, etc. But the ability to do that on the micro-micro-micro-micro level --the quantum level-- is only a matter of sufficient computing capacity. By capturing a model of what is happening right at this moment, it is possible to reach backwards into all the possible combinations of molecular and subatomic collisions, and tell what occurred prior, leading up to the moment.

                Not time travel-- there’s no way to go back and modify what occurred. But close-to-perfect time vision. The ability to see everything that happened prior to right now. Everywhere.

                The math is staggering. We’d have to account for every atom, worldwide. And there would be some variables, as space introduces externalities to the (not-closed) system-- dust and rock and energy is constantly bombarding the planet, in non-negligible amounts.

                But once we nail the formula...nothing that ever happened before would be unobservable.

                Forget the end to privacy-- that’s already underway. But the end of ignorance...the end of not knowing. The end of mystery. We will always know exactly what happened.

                It won’t be predictive-- human beings are the reason; free will is the chaos in the soup. We add too much randomness to the formula, because we act from motivations other than instinct or reason.

                But nothing that has already happened will be shrouded from anyone. We will all know what happened, everywhere, always. The applications and implications are vast-- the ways in which this will change how we behave, interact, and function are almost unimaginable and incalculable.


My Impressions of RSA 2019

Multi mega edge cloud defense time perimeter virtual securi secura securahhh trans service auth train policy force intel synch remote filter.

What staggered me more than the products and services were the hackneyed and trite methods for seducing tradeshow passersby; the food, toys, barkers, tchotchkes, crap, celebrities, clothes, stickers, pins, bric-a-brac, come-ons, and flat-out bribes were overwhelming and underwhelming at the same time. There must (MUST) be a better way to get information out to the people who need and want it.

My favorite booth? Two people sitting at an empty desk, with no posters, background, or other frippery. I got their marketing info and card, and will post the name of the company when I get it out of my luggage.

…follow up…this was the company I was talking about: https://www.openiam.com/

I don’t know what they do. I don’t know if their product/service is any good. But I appreciated the approach enough that I’m going to find out.

Million-Dollar App Idea


You can have this idea, for free. If you make it, I wanna get a free account, though.


Whenever someone calls my cell phone, unless they’re in my Contacts list or otherwise approved, they get a recording that says, “The person you’re trying to reach is rejecting automated calls. To prove you’re a human, press these three numbers now:”....then it speaks three random numbers.


Because call spammers will quickly adapt to this new screening technique, the numbers will be read in three wildly different voices, pulled from hundreds of different voiceprints, with varying pitch, speed, and intonation, perhaps with different sounds/music playing in the background of each...like an audio CAPTCHA.


It will be slightly annoying for people trying to call me for the first time, but when I’m done with the call, the app should give me the option to add them to the allowed callers list.


Somebody smart go make this.

Privately Bruce

One of my former students, the amazing Catherine Thiallier, was recently lucky enough to attend a fascinating event (one I wanted to go to, but was busy teaching, unfortunately): https://it-security-munich.net/event/talking-heads-bruce-schneier-alex-stamos/. She was also kind enough to write up a distillation of the event, and has agreed to let me share it here. So I will post her impressions, then offer my own comment on the topics discussed.

Full disclosure: I am a total Bruce Schneier fanboy. Even when I disagree with him. And I made some minor edits for translation/clarity.

“Hope you are well. I forgot to give you the update on the conference. Bruce Schneier is an amazing talker.. Unfortunately he had to leave early and couldn’t stay very long but still made a speech and answered at least 10 questions.

Content of his speech, basically (and I guess those are the topics he develops in his books):

- The Internet was not conceived to be secure

- We always think confidentiality is the most important of the CIA triad, but now it’s actually availability and integrity (I’m more concerned the brakes would fail on my car or somebody at the hospital changes my blood type than somebody reading information about me).

- Three big IT security fails:  patching (example: it’s not easily possible for your router at home). Authentication  (no scalable solution for IoT). And supply chain processes. And the keys are policies/regulations; can't blame the users for choosing the cheapest option.  The free market won’t reward the secure solution, it has to come from government/laws. He made the analogy that when he gets on a plane he doesn’t check the engines and go to the pilot and ask him to show him his degrees. Or a restaurant, he doesn’t check the kitchen. We are trusting the law. Key is trust in applied law.

That was in about the content of his speech. Then the second planned guest was sick, and instead they invited an amazing woman, Katie Moussouris, who created the bug bounty program at Microsoft, and gave a speech about vulnerability disclosure /pentest /bug bounties. She has an amazing and very inspiring personality. As (shame on me, but am still new in the field!) I never heard the term Bug Bounty I was a bit lost - now I know - so all in one, great event!!

I found some other stuff I noted and forgot to write: 

Last century the fundamental question was how much of my life is governed by the market and how much by the state. Now the question is how much of my life is governed by technology and with which rules.

Question from the audience: Whose fault is this? => the market rewards insecure solutions  (cheaper). Companies want security as long as they can spy on you.  But security OR surveillance by design=> can't be both!

Ok now I think that's all. I definitely want to read one of his books. Have you read "click here to kill everybody"? I loove the title already :)”

Fantastic stuff! And I’m very jealous she got to attend.

My quick comments on Bruce’s points:

- I think legislation/regulation are the worst mechanisms for enforcement...especially when it comes to IT. Mainly because government (especially the American government) has demonstrated, time and again, that it doesn’t care about privacy, and knows nothing about IT. And Bruce has been the one demonstrating this, to great effect (and some hilarity). Just one example: https://www.schneier.com/crypto-gram/archives/2003/0815.html#6. He’s also been one of the most vocal critics of TSA...which is a perfect example of what happens when you let the government do security.

- The market doesn’t reward secure solutions because the market doesn’t care. People say they care about their personal privacy...but then go ahead and refute the statement every chance they get. People will respond on a survey that they value security of their private data...but those same people will give up their passwords for a candy bar, and won’t stop shopping at a vendor who has demonstrated a complete lack of ability to secure that information.

- When the market does care, there are excellent mechanisms for making it much, much more efficient and effective than a government solution. Let’s use the food example Bruce mentioned: the US federal government is in charge of making sure our food is safe...and American citizens still die from eating poison lettuce. Conversely, a private, cooperative, voluntary, market-drive solution has been implemented (and paid for) by a small, interested group of citizens: the kosher inspection and markings on American food products. Without any government involvement at all, the American Jewish community has installed their own quality control/assurance process into food production, and it is trusted (as far as I know) by every member of that community (and also serves to protect nonmembers, who get the benefit of food inspection/approval even though they don’t pay for it, and probably don’t know it exists). When people do start to care about their information, they will demonstrate their caring by withholding money from entities that violate privacy, and reward entities that offer privacy protection. Until then, adding a law to protect something people only claim to care about is worse than useless: it’s harmful and dangerous and expensive.


But I’m still a giant fanboy. heh.

Thanks again, Catherine, for excellent summary of what seems to have been a great event!