Clear ROI for RedSeal Deployment to Support Vulnerability Assessment Program

An anonymous intelligence agency had a problem.

Their vulnerability assessment program was expensive and sub-optimal. The program was run by two internal employees and 16 contractors. Going to data center to data center, each assessment could take anywhere from 2 months to a full year to conduct.

First, they had to inventory each data center and find all the configuration files. Then they had to review each set up to make sure they were updated and had applied best security practices. At that point, they could create a network map.

Using the map, they could then begin to manually analyze the network for vulnerabilities. Given time and resource constraints, the team was forced to triage.  Ignoring medium and low level vulnerabilities, they focused on a short list of the most critical.

Of course, by the time they completed their analysis, the whole network had changed. The network map was merely a snapshot in time. Plus, the vulnerability assessment reports didn’t include leapfrogs to move deeper into the network.

The agency realized that getting one or two reports per year on a network that had already changed — at a cost of $5 million — was not a situation that could continue.

After researching various cybersecurity tools and getting a glowing review from other cyber teams in the government, the agency’s cybersecurity team realized that RedSeal was the solution they needed.  RedSeal’s continuous monitoring of the config files on the network means that the network map is never out of date. Experts at In-Q-Tel were brought to review RedSeal. Approval was quickly given. On a Monday, their engineers told RedSeal, “We want it on Friday!”

Now, after deploying RedSeal agency wide and setting up 14 instances, they conduct continuous assessments year round across all data centers.  After five years, customer feedback has been 100% positive, “We realize now that we can’t leverage the other cybersecurity tools unless we have RedSeal. RedSeal is core to our cybersecurity and vulnerability management operations.”

Do you have a problem with your time consuming manual vulnerability assessment program? Click here to set up a free trial of RedSeal and choose the better way.

RedSeal software is the best way to measure and manage the digital resilience of your network.

Get a PDF of this article. US Intelligence Agency: Clear ROI


RedSeal Platform Named Most Innovative Cybersecurity Product — USA

RedSeal’s cybersecurity analytics platform has been named: Most Innovative Cybersecurity Product – USA as part of Corporate Vision Magazine’s 2016 Technology Innovator Awards.

Corporate Vision is a quarterly publication for CEOs, directors and other top-level professionals looking to improve the way they manage their operations, staff, technology, business partnerships, and supply chains. Readers use the awards to find the best business partners to help and assist with their future ventures.

The publication is headquartered in the UK, but has readers throughout Europe, the United States, Africa, Asia and Australia.

Award winners appear on Corporate Vision’s site for a year.

Getting Federal Agencies Cyber Ready for CSIP

This blog post first appeared in Signal on April 6, 2016

Federal agencies clamor for industry best practices to implement findings resulting from last year’s 30-day “Cybersecurity Sprint,” part of the administration’s broader effort to bolster federal cybersecurity. A new mandatory directive for all civilian government agencies, the Cybersecurity Strategy Implementation Plan (CSIP), provides a series of actions to further secure federal information systems.
To shore up cybersecurity and work toward ensuring network resiliency, the CSIP addresses issues through a number of points, including prioritized identification and protection of high-value assets (HVAs), timely detection and rapid response to incidents, rapid recovery from breaches, recruitment and retention of a highly qualified cyber workforce, and effective acquisition and deployment of technologies.
However, the CSIP does not address other issues, such as how agencies should continuously measure, monitor and increase network resilience; how knowledge of network infrastructure increases the odds of a successful CSIP implementation; and how cyber incident training increases digital resilience.

Protecting high value information assets
The CSIP provides a clear definition of the HVAs that should be identified, prioritized and protected, and because of the dynamic nature of cybersecurity risks, recommends the efforts to safeguard that data be an ongoing activity. But it doesn’t pose a key question that agency officials must ask themselves: Do we need this data? In some cases, the answer is no. Agencies should eliminate unneeded data rather than spend resources protecting it. The nonessential data can be consolidated and isolated, with agencies continuously verifying that the data segmentation is implemented as intended.

Know your network terrain
Under the CSIP, it’s not enough to identify HVAs—the document also requires identification and knowledge of the agency’s network terrain. An agency’s HVAs probably will have hundreds of thousands of endpoints and vulnerabilities, which means agencies should create checklists to understand detailed impacts of cyber incidents on the assets, and ensure appropriate cybersecurity protections are in place. Checklist questions could include: Where are the vulnerable hosts? Is the network configured for security? What if defenses fail? And how resilient is my network? Answers will determine how prepared teams are to handle a cyberthreat.
The only way to effectively address these questions and really understand a network is to create a model and war game it, which can identify perimeter weaknesses; verify assets are segmented and protected; show where intruders can gain access; and pinpoint how to cut them off. Simulated model approaches help cybersecurity teams understand their entire, as-built network, including cloud and virtual networks, and achieve digital resilience to fight cybersecurity attacks.

Train and practice
The need to practice, and then practice again, rings true within cybersecurity as with other industries, from the rigorous training for firefighters to specialized professional athletes. Practice sessions must develop proficiency and specific skill sets necessary for success. Proper training and practice will not happen without management support, which means agencies must allocate time and resources and provide training and education to retain a qualified workforce.
Overall, to achieve network resilience and make rapid response capabilities a part of a CSIP-approved cyber plan, agencies must identify the HVAs worth keeping, model networks to put those assets into context, use standardized metrics to track resiliency and set up continuous training schedules.

For more on this subject, listen to our RedSeal webinar, “Is Your Agency Ready for CSIP?”

You Think Your Network Diagram’s Right?

Federal agencies are clamoring for information about best practices about to implement the findings of last year’s cybersecurity “sprint.” This new directive, the Cybersecurity Implementation Plan, is mandatory for all federal civilian government agencies. It addresses five issues intended to shore up agency cybersecurity and ensure network resiliency.

So when agencies are done with their implementation, all their networks and assets will be secure, right?


Most of the time the reality of your network and the official network diagram have little to do with each other. You may think it’s accurate…but it’s not.

Recently, I sat down with Jeremy Conway, Chief Technology Officer at RedSeal partner MAD Security, to talk about this. He works with hundreds of clients and sees this issue constantly. Here’s his perspective.

Wayne: Can you give me an example of a client that, because of bad configuration management, had ineffective security and compliance plans?

Jeremy: Sure I can. A few months back, MAD Security was asked to perform an assessment for an agency with terrible configuration management. With multiple data centers, multiple network topologies, both static and dynamic addressing, and multiple network team members who were supposed to report up the hierarchy, we quickly realized that the main problem was that they didn’t know their own topology.  During our penetration test, we began compromising devices and reporting the findings in real time. The compromises were just way too simple and easy.  The client disputed several of the results.  After some investigation, we figured out that the client had reused private IP space identical to their production network for a staging lab network, something no one but a few engineers knew about.  Since we were plugged into the only router that had routes for this staging network, we were compromising all sorts of unhardened and misconfigured devices.  Interestingly enough, this staging network had access to the production network, since the ACLs were applied in the opposite direction — a whole other finding.  To them and their configuration management solution, everything looked secure and compliant. But in reality, they had some major vulnerabilities in a network only a few folks knew about, vulnerabilities that could have been exploited to compromise the production network.

The client was making a common mistake — looking at their network situation only from an outside in perspective, instead also looking at it from the inside out.  They didn’t have enough awareness of what was actually on their network and how it was accessed.

Wayne: That’s a powerful example. How about a situation where an agency’s use of software-defined or virtual infrastructure undermined their access control?

Jeremy:  One hundred percent software defined networks are still rare in our world. However, we had a situation where virtual environments were spun up by the apps team, not the network team, which caused all sorts of issues. Since the two teams weren’t communicating well, the network team referenced network diagrams and assumed compliance.  In reality, the apps team had set up the virtual environment with virtual switches that allowed unauthorized access to PCI data. Running a network mapping exercise with RedSeal would have identified the issue.

Wayne: I imagine that inaccurate network diagrams cause major issues when incident response teams realize that there hasn’t been any auto discovery and mapping of the network.

Jeremy: Yes, this is a must-have feature, in my opinion. When responding to an incident, you have to perform the network-to-host translations manually. Tracking down a single host behind multiple network segments with nothing but a public IP address can take a long time. In a recent incident with multiple site locations this took the client’s network team two working days — which really doesn’t help when you’re in an emergency incident response situation.

RedSeal makes it easy to find which host has been compromised and which path an intruder has taken almost instantaneously.

Moreover, conducting a security architecture review is much quicker and more comprehensive with RedSeal. This used to be a manual process for our team that typically took 2-4 weeks for the average client. RedSeal has cut that time in half for us.  Additionally, with RedSeal the business case for action is stronger and the result is a better overall remediation strategy. How? For one, given an accurate map of the network, HVAs can be prioritized and a triage process can be deployed that allows security teams to focus scarce time and resources on priority recommendations. This visibility into the severity of security issues also allows teams to develop mitigation strategies for patch issues.

Wayne: Jeremy, this has been a great discussion. I hope you’ll come back and do this again.

Continuous Monitoring + Policy Management Leads to Network Resilience and Successful Command Cyber Readiness Inspections

Over the past few years, DISA has been moving network infrastructure into Joint Regional Security Stacks.

DISA’s website says, “A joint regional security stack is a suite of equipment that performs firewall functions, intrusion detection and prevention, enterprise management, virtual routing and forwarding (VRF), and provides a host of network security capabilities…security of the network is centralized into regional architectures instead of locally distributed …JRSS allows information traversing DoD networks to be continuously monitored to ensure response time as well as throughput and performance standards. JRSS includes failover, diversity, and elimination of critical failure points as a means to assure timely delivery of critical information.”

RedSeal is the official continuous monitoring solution for the JRSS. We are actively working with our clients to deploy this feature to help them achieve network resilience.

However, many clients don’t realize that combining continuous monitoring with policy management solves another actual problem: preparing for and passing Command Cyber Readiness Inspections (CCRIs).  Teams have to nearly shut down operations for weeks at a time to prepare for these important events. Failure can affect careers.

CCRIs take place on annual cycles and information networks get wildly out of compliance.  To keep networks operationally compliant, RedSeal monitors configurations daily and send alerts when actions have been taken that violate policy.  Plus, RedSeal is the only platform that allows its customers to verify STIG compliance on all of their Layer 2 & 3 devices as part of their continuous monitoring practice. This, in turn, allows for less prep time needed for CCRIs.

At a recent Centcom briefing by RedSeal, a DISA representative noticed that “it would make more sense if you import PPSMs [ports, protocols and services management] into RedSeal.” This would reduce the time to identify new, daily activity that created non-compliant configurations.  A number of RedSeal customers have successfully deployed the combination of PPSM policies with RedSeal’s continuous monitoring capability.  RedSeal automatically conducts scheduled analysis of the platform to check compliance with PPSMs and alerts on any failures, no matter how small.

Customers have found that automated continuous monitoring plus policy management equals network resilience.   CCRIs can now become a byproduct of daily network and security operations.  Successful real time policy management means more successful, less taxing CCRIs and higher network overall resilience.

President Obama’s $19 Billion Cyber-Defense Budget and Plan is a Bold and Necessary Step

“The federal government is finally taking bold steps to fulfill what the Constitution says in its preamble – ‘to provide for the common defense,’ in this case, the common cyber defense.

The actions and budget announced today are an important recognition and investment in the defense of the critical information infrastructure of the United States, and provides an example for governments, businesses, and NGOs worldwide.

The plan recognizes that it is critical to implement platforms with analytics and capabilities to understand complex networks and assist in prioritizing what needs to be done first to improve resilience.

As the president writes in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, ‘we are still in the early days of this challenge.’ Networks will only grow more complex, creating opportunities for hackers and challenges for defenders.

The federal government’s new Chief Information Security Officer should be asking talented agency teams, ‘how are we measuring our cyber results and defenses? How are we thinking about resilience? And how are we determining the first step to take to make our digital infrastructure more resilient?’

Networks were not designed with cyberattacks in mind, so they are not resilient to them.  But it’s not too late. Building digital resilience into networks before attacks is the only way to get ahead of the ongoing, automated, and ever more sophisticated attacks.

The proposal by the President can be an excellent step in leading the world to a more cyber resilient future.”

Closing (and bolting) the back door in ScreenOS

by Dr. Mike Lloyd, CTO RedSeal

The recently disclosed back door in Juniper’s ScreenOS software for NetScreen firewalls is an excellent reminder that in security, the first and foremost need is to do the basics well.  The details of the vulnerability are complex and interesting (who implanted this, how, and what exactly is involved?), but that is not what matters for defenders.  What matters is knowing whether or not you have basic network segmentation in place.  This may sound counterintuitive – how can something as routine as segmentation solve a sophisticated problem like this?  But this is a textbook example of the benefits of defense in layers – if you think too much about only one method of protection, then complex things at that layer have to be dealt with in complex ways, but if you have layers of defense, you can often solve very complex problems at one layer with very simple controls at another.

The vulnerability in this instance involves a burned-in “skeleton key” password – a password capable of giving anyone who can use it potentially catastrophic levels of control of the firewall.  To compromise your defenses when you have this particular version of software installed, an attacker needs only two things – 1) the magic password string itself, which is widely available, and 2) ability to talk to your firewall.  For point 1, the cat (saber-toothed in this instance) is long since out of the bag, but point 2 remains.  If someone can talk to your firewall and present a credential, they can present the magic one, and in they go, with full privilege to do whatever they want (for example, disabling all the protections you bought the firewall for in the first place).  No amount of configuration hardening can prevent this, since the issue is burned in to the OS itself.  But what if the attacker cannot talk to the firewall at all?  Then the magic password does no good – they cannot present a credential if they cannot talk to the firewall in the first place.

So note that someone who relies on strong password policies has a real problem here.  If you think “it’s OK to allow basic access to my firewalls, nobody can get in unless I give them a credential”, well, that’s clearly not true.  Unfortunately, many network defenses are set up in this way.  If you think about this problem at the password or credential layer, the situation is a disaster.  But if you think about multiple layers, something more obvious and more basic emerges – why do you need to allow anyone, coming from anywhere, to talk to you firewalls at all?  You should only ever need to administer your infrastructure from a well-defined command and control location (using “C&C” in the positive sense used by the military), and you can lock down access so that only people in this special zone can say anything AT ALL to your firewalls and the rest of your infrastructure – you can effectively reduce the attack surface for an attack, directly mitigating the huge risk of this kind of vulnerability.  Thinking in layers moves the question from “how do I prevent someone using the magic password?” (Answer: if you have the vulnerable software, you can’t), over to the easier and better question, “How do I limit access to the management plane of the firewall, to only the zone I run management from?”