Real world face recognition and where paper beats the smartphone

01.04.2014 by Martin Kuppinger

A few days ago, I was I was travelling in a local train, together with a business partner, from my office in Germany to an event in another city. We both learned a lot about the real world challenges of face recognition.

While I already had a 24-hour ticket for travelling in and around that city, the business partner needed to extend his. He used his smartphone and the app of the railway company to do so. So far, so good.

A few minutes later, a conductor arrived. Verifying my printed ticket was a matter of seconds. Verifying the online ticket turned out to be far more complex. First, the conductor needed to scan the QR code of the online ticket displayed on the smartphone of my business partner. He did so using his own smartphone. It did not work with the original size, so he requested the business partner to enlarge the QR code display. Eventually that worked.

However, there was the need for a second factor, so to speak, to ensure that this was really a personal ticket of my business partner. The conductor ‘s app provided the name of the person with the ticket plus the detail that he was using a discounted pass, valid for one year. The business partner showed the annual pass, with the number and a photo of himself printed on the front page. It turned out that this was not sufficient – the face recognition simply failed.

My business partner had to take the discount card out of his wallet, display the backside with his name printed on it, and finally the ticket was validated.

Overall, this took more than a minute. Face plus number of the discount card plus the possession of a smartphone with the valid ticket was not sufficient. In sum, this was cumbersome, inefficient, and costly for the railway company. Imagine what it costs when you need approximately 10 times as long for verifying tickets. Either you check fewer tickets or you need more conductors. Both cost, either lost revenue for more people travelling without valid tickets or higher expenses for employing more conductors.

While the face recognition issue was new to me (but funny for the two identity people travelling), the other aspect is very worthy of consideration, because it appears to be a common challenge. I have observed this in other countries as well, where it takes far longer to verify online tickets than it takes to verify paper tickets. Maybe it is sometimes worthwhile to look at the real costs, before the “modern” (but less than perfect) online solution is put into place. Not that I am against online tickets etc. – but I definitely would prefer more efficient solutions. Another post on this topic is here.


Posted in Strong authentication | Comments Off

Real-time Security Intelligence – more than just “next generation SIEM”

14.03.2014 by Martin Kuppinger

Recently  a spotlight has been shed on the need for investing in Information Security solutions. The increase in cyber-attacks, the consistently high level of internal challenges, the appearance of more sophisticated types of long-running attacks (sometimes called Advanced Persistent Threats or APTs), the concerns regarding cyber-security following the Snowden revelations, the permanent challenge of dealing with Zero Day attacks leaving no time between becoming public and attacks happening: All this has led to an understanding for the need of better solutions.

Organizations have to assume that the attacker is already in their network. Every organization and every user is a potential target for attackers. On the other hand, with the increasing sophistication of attacks, it is becoming more difficult to identify the attackers. Finally, there is no such thing as the single perimeter anymore where organizations can place their security systems to prevent external attackers from entering the network. They might already have found their way via mobile devices, they might attack cloud services, etc. Complexity is increasing.

We see a new category of solutions evolving in the market that promise to help customers better solve these challenges. First, though, let’s look at current solutions which are not sufficient.

Standard IDS/IPS (Intrusion Prevention/Detection Systems) in their concept as edge devices are obviously limited when there is no such well-defined perimeter. They also are limited when it comes to complex attack scenarios, involving a number of systems.

SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) is still, typically, a tool-driven approach that requires heavy customization. Unless you are able to configure these systems correctly, they will not deliver on your expectations in the setup of, for example,  an SOC (Security Operations Centre). When it comes to taking more and more real-time information into account for the analysis, they might show limitations regarding their scalability.

Next Generation Firewalls again are an edge device, suffering from the conceptual limitations of such devices.

Services providing real-time security information  – regarding newly detected zero day attacks, for instance – deliver valuable information, but they don’t fix the problem. Furthermore, they do not provide the analysis of what is happening in the internal infrastructure.

Recently, though, we have observed a growing number of vendors moving towards integrated methods for Real-time Security Intelligence, combining various technologies and services:

  • Big Data analytics, enabling the analysis of large amounts of data, based on both rules and patterns;
  • Support for both real-time analytics and historical analysis, which can facilitate identifying new events as being related to those that occurred sometime in the past;
  • Integration to existing sources of information, including SIEM tools;
  • Integration with real-time security information services that provide up-to-date information about newly detected security challenges;
  • Services that provide automatic updated rules and patterns for analytics, i.e. configurations that reduce the need for customers to manually keep the configuration of the Real-time Security Intelligence systems up-to-date;
  • Services that support customers with analytics, i.e. expert services supporting the customer’s SOC;
  • Integration with IT GRC solutions, translating the identified challenges into risk information visible in dashboards for IT and business people.

Real-time Security Intelligence will become a mix of services and software. It will combine various offerings that exist today, but are separate from each other. It will allow customers to get a better insight into what already is happening in their networks and what currently is going on. Some vendors even provide the capability of changing network configurations, based on their analytical services.

We expect to see rapid evolution in this area, with further services to be added. A strong potential is in integrating network configuration management systems with Real-time Security Intelligence, allowing firewall settings, for example, to be changed on the fly. Another example is integration with SDCI (Software Defined Computing Infrastructures) to adapt the configuration of networks, storage, and virtual machines when new security challenges are identified, to automatically and dynamically minimize the attack surface.

This evolution towards Real-time Security Intelligence that we observe as of now, has some vendors focusing more on Big Data security analytics while others put more emphasis on online services, but this is just scratching the surface. There will be fundamental changes in the way we do security and we run SOCs, going well beyond just being “Next Generation SIEM”.

Learn more about Real-time Security Intelligence and how to successfully deal with your cyber security challenges at the upcoming EIC 2014. And don’t miss our upcoming webinar on “Mitigate targeted attacks with privileged account analytics” – not about Realtime Security Analytics primarily, but about one approach on mitigating the risks of becoming a victim of targeted attacks.


Posted in Information Security | Comments Off

The end of the Social Login begins: FIDO Alliance, Samsung, and PayPal to redefine authentication

06.03.2014 by Martin Kuppinger

Recently, the FIDO Alliance announced that PayPal and Samsung were enabling consumer payments with fingerprint authentication on the new Samsung Galaxy S5. My valued colleague Dave Kearns and I have written various posts about the FIDO Alliance and the impact we expect they will have on the market of strong authentication and BYOI (Bring Your Own Identity). Have a look here, here, and here.

What first reads like one of these unexciting press releases I receive in huge quantities daily is in fact about a groundbreaking paradigm shift that will have massive impact on device vendors, strong authentication technology providers, and – last but not least – on social networks.

FIDO is all about enabling users to rely on one personal digital identity, their “own identity” in BYOI, to access various services. Not only that, it is also about enabling BYOI with strong authentication and, finally, getting rid of username and password authentication. While the Samsung/PayPal case is the first large use case for the FIDO Alliance, this is just the beginning. Looking at the long list of members of the FIDO Alliance, others will follow. Users then can access various services, relying on strong authentication and a locally managed identity on their smartphone. In addition, Samsung will not remain the only device vendor delivering FIDO-enabled devices.

Obviously, that will affect many markets. Strong authentication vendors, device vendors, services acting as Identity Providers, etc.

It especially will have a massive impact on social networks. A significant part of their attractiveness is that many of these have become an Identity Provider, supporting the “social login”. This is part of the business model of social networks – users are bound to the networks and the social networks learn about user behavior, which is at the core of their business model. However, there is a downside to that from a marketing perspective, as I recently explained. Aside from that, social logins commonly lack support for strong authentication.

When the FIDO Alliance success continues, the need for social logins – the most common way for BYOI –will disappear. Why should users rely on social logins when they have a more secure way to authenticate, built into their devices of choice? With the beginning of the end of social logins, an important part of the business model of social networks start to crumble away. And that is the real big news behind the recent announcement of FIDO Alliance.


Posted in Social networks, Strong authentication | Comments Off

The Mt. Gox Bitcoin disaster and the need for innovation in the finance industry

05.03.2014 by Martin Kuppinger

A few days ago, Tokyo-based Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox appeared to be in trouble. When looking at their website Friday morning, I only found meaningless announcements. They are “working very hard to find a solution to our recent issues”. Looking at the situation realistically, chances are high that the owners of the Bitcoins have lost a significant part, if not all, of their money. Just a few hours later, the news spread that Mt. Gox has gone bankrupt. while it is still unclear what exactly happened and what will happen now with the Bitcoins and Mt. Gox, this sheds a light on the concept of Bitcoins. Bitcoins were claimed to be absolutely safe. However, when you cannot use them but instead lose your “money”, this obviously is not the case.

There are good reasons for having trusted parties in the Finance Industry. Despite all the turmoil that industry went through in recent years, but also back in the Big Recession and in other times, the concepts worked relatively well.

On the other hand, the initial success of the Bitcoin currency also demonstrated that there might be a need for other concepts, aside from traditional currencies and the way financial transactions are handled. Even while the concept of Bitcoin might have been the wrong answer, that discussion will continue. Aside from requiring a trustworthy provider and exchange infrastructure, there are other questions to answer. One is about security, with an increasing number of attacks. Overall, there is a strong trend towards crypto-currencies. We will see a lot of evolution, we most likely will see failures and disasters, but it is not likely that crypto-currencies disappear again.

It will be interesting to observe how the Finance Industry reacts to that pressure. While Bitcoins are the most prominent topic these days, PayPal and other new players in the mobile and online payment market probably are the bigger challenge to the Finance Industry. PayPal in fact is a specific new type of Financial Institution. PayPal is a bank that knows how to provide APIs and how to interact with other players. It knows how to support the supply chains. It knows how to find the balance of security and customer convenience.

On the other hand, Financial Institutions still are trusted, when it is about money. They know how to do security. The challenge is how to make the banking business fit for the changing landscape of the Computing Troika (of Cloud Computing, Mobile Computing, and Social Computing) and enable them to provide their proven services for a world of consumerized IT. It is about API-enabling that industry.

However, that is more of a technical perspective. In fact, it is about moving banking IT to a level that allows Finance Institutions to leverage their strengths while becoming agile enough to compete with new players in the market. There is a strong potential for trusted Financial Institutions to do so. However, that requires banks looking closely at API Management and Security, BYOI (Bring Your Own Identity), trust and privacy concepts such as the Life Management Platforms.

EIC 2014 will dive into this topic in the Finance Industry Roundtable on the “Future Model of Banking”. Discuss and learn how to enable business agility by doing the things right in IT.

I personally believe that classical financial institutions have a strong potential in the future Finance business, despite Bitcoins and other concepts. I also believe in regulations. There is a good reason for regulations in the Finance industry. Having such regulations in place might have avoided the situation Mt. Gox and Bitcoins are in today. That is where the established Finance Industry comes into play: Making crypto-currency more secure by providing professional services, complying with the regulations. Regulations will come for that field – and then, the Finance Industry has an advantage again, if it is agile enough to support these new models by then.

Clearly, you might argue that the main value of crypto-currency is not about having a regulated and safe method of payment but one that is not traceable. It was Silk Road that brought Bitcoin to prominence. The question is whether there is a need for crypto-currency aside from the dark side of the Internet. I think to, with crypto-currencies being the “cash” of the Internet. No transaction fees, no fees for exchanging into other currencies. There is a potential value in using that type of currencies.

However, regulation and anonymity do not necessarily exclude each other. Take the analog world as an example: cash money lets me buy whatever I like anonymously, but the place where I deposit my cash (bank) is regulated. Banks should try to be clever enough to provide the trust that is created by regulation to the crypto-currency world.


Posted in Security | 2 comments

The new ABC: Agile businesses – connected

05.03.2014 by Martin Kuppinger

Agility is a key capability of successful organizations. Agility is the ability to quickly adapt the organization and the business model to new customer demands, innovations, and a changing competitive landscape. We live in a time where virtually all business relies on IT. Whether this is retail, finance, or life sciences – business requires IT. The consequence is, that IT has to support business agility. No IT agility = no business agility.

One of the biggest changes we are currently observing is the evolution from stand-alone to connected businesses. New collaborative business models, tighter and more flexible integration of customers and business partners, and the upcoming IoEE (Internet of Everything and Everyone) are driving the evolution of businesses. Cloud Computing, Mobile Computing, and Social Computing, the so-called “Computing Troika”, are already consequences of the business demand for agile and connected IT.

The challenge in this evolution is finding the balance between the business demand for agility and connectivity on the one hand and the IT and Information Security requirements on the other. Information Security can no longer think in terms of perimeters, devices, and system security. There is no closed perimeter anymore. Devices are under constant change. Systems might become Cloud services the next day.

The other part of the challenge is managing the users. Instead of focusing on the employees and a few business partners, there is a demand for rapid on-boarding and off-boarding of customers and business partners in changing business and collaboration models. And there is the need to on-board employees to business partner systems, to manage users in industry collaboration networks, and to manage user access to Cloud services.

Information Security in these days of the new ABC are primarily driven by two evolutions. First there is flexible user management that allows IT to manage the access of all types of users to all types of services – external users and internal users, on-premise IT and Cloud services. Having a (one!) user and access management infrastructure in place to support this change is a key success factor. This infrastructure commonly consists of a mix of on-premise and Cloud IAM.

The other fundamental shift is in what we protect. As the term “Information Security” implies, it is about securing information. In the new ABC, securing information is at the centre of attention. Technologies such as Information Rights Management allow for Secure Information Sharing.

IT that will succeed in supporting the business demand for agility and connectivity will have to move from traditional perimeter and device security towards information-centric approaches and a flexible user management for all types of users. Identity and Information are the new perimeters for security, not the firewall or the device. Rethink your IT and Information Security – get ready for the new ABC.

Sachar Paulus: Security Leadership in the Connected Enterprise


Secure Information Sharing: Which approach to choose?

28.02.2014 by Martin Kuppinger

There are various approaches to Secure Information Sharing (SIS), as I have explained in previous posts. However, which one is the best? As always, there is no simple answer. It depends on the requirements of the customers. Nevertheless, the various product categories have their strengths and limitations.

Let’s look at the categories within SIS first:

  • IRM: Information Rights Management is about technologies that encrypt documents and assign entitlements. Users can only open the documents if they are entitled. Applications enforce the entitlements such as limitations on printing, sharing, editing, etc.
  • Secure Data Rooms: This category provides secure data stores. These data stores can be accessed by various persons, allowing them to share information. A typical use case is sharing data in merger & acquisition processes. Typically, online editing is allowed but downloading is restricted, so that these solutions also can enforce restrictive entitlements on documents.
  • Collaborative Networks: These networks typically are focused on industry collaboration and provide environments that enable not only information sharing but also the management of the users and other functions. The obvious limitation is that they do not enforce entitlements on documents once these are downloaded. However, combination with IRM is potentially feasible.

When looking at these three concepts, IRM appears to be the best choice. The challenge for now has been, that IRM solutions had their challenges in managing (external) users, that they were lacking broad application support, and that most of them were rather complex to implement. As mentioned in a previous blog post, Microsoft has removed these barriers with its Azure RMS service. Thus, IRM is now an approach that any organization should consider to fulfill its need for SIS. Aside from Microsoft, there are some other players in the market, such as Nextlabs, Covertix, Watchful Software, or Seclore. They might work well for specific requirements.

The strength of Secure Data Rooms is primarily that they are “ready to use”. Instead of setting up an IRM infrastructure – which even based on Cloud offerings requires some planning – they can be used immediately. Thus they are a good solution for rapid deployment. However, IRM appears to be the more sustainable concept.

Collaborative Networks have a somewhat different role, because they provide value-add services for communities within industries. They are not only a tool but a service. The larger the community, the higher the value.

All approaches to SIS have their strengths and their weaknesses. However, there is good news: There are sufficient mature options now for SIS to finally start the SIS program in any organization. There is no argument anymore for collaborating with business partners without SIS in place.

Don’t miss EIC 2014 – it will be the place to learn more about Secure Information Sharing.


Posted in Information Rights Management | Comments Off

Why Apple’s culture of secrecy is your biggest risk in BYOD

27.02.2014 by Martin Kuppinger

The news of the bug in Apple operating systems has spread this week. As Seth Rosenblatt wrote on cnet, Apple’s culture of secrecy again has delayed a security response. While there is a patch available for iOS, the users of OS X still have to wait.

I have written before about the risks Apple’s culture of secrecy imposes for users. There are two major issues:

  • Apple does not inform either adequately or in a timely manner about security issues. Doing that is mandatory, including providing detailed information about workarounds and patches.
  • Apple still does not have an adequate patch policy in place.

It is well worth reading Ropsenblatt’s article, as it provides a number of examples for the consequences Apple’s culture of secrecy has from a security perspective. I can wholeheartedly agree with his final paragraph:

“With its history of lengthy response times to critical security problems, Apple is equally long overdue for a serious re-evaluation of how they handle their insecurities.”

However, the culture of secrecy is just a consequence of Apple’s “we are the best and don’t make errors” hubris – a long tradition of Apple. They positioned themselves as the counterpoint to the error-prone Microsoft Windows products a long time ago. While Microsoft has learned its lessons in software quality, patch management, and security response and patching, Apple did not. Apple has to learn that continuous improvement and a good approach to security response and patching is required for any vendor, even Apple.

This attitude of Apple also impacts the risk evaluation of BYOD strategies. If you can’t trust the vendor, you have to protect yourself. So what can you do, if you do not want to simply ban Apple devices until Apple provides an enterprise-class approach on security responses and patching?

The simple yet expensive answer is: Invest in additional BYOD security measures. There are various options out there, none of them being the “holy grail” for mobile security. However, if you combine information- and identity-centric approaches for security with mobile security, you should be able to better know and mitigate your risks. Unfortunately, doing that means spending even more money to secure expensive hardware without an added value. That’s a high price to pay for the users being allowed to use Apple devices.

There will be a price to pay in terms of restricted use. This might be by limiting access from insecure apps (and there are some that are affected by the current bug) or by temporary access restrictions in case of newly detected bugs, unless these are fixed. There might be a need for relying on other, more secure apps, for instance for accessing e-mail, instead of the built-in apps. As always: there is a price to pay. If you don’t want to carry the risk Apple puts on you with its inadequate security policy, you have to invest in security and you will have to restrict use of these devices, impacting user’s convenience.

Unless Apple changes its security culture and overall attitude of “we are the best and don’t make errors”, the advice must be: don‘t trust any organization that relies on a culture of secrecy. And care for security yourself.


Posted in Information Security | Comments Off

Is there still a need for keeping Identity Provisioning and Access Governance separate?

25.02.2014 by Martin Kuppinger

When looking at the core IAM (Identity and Access Management) market with its main product categories of Identity Provisioning and Access Governance, some customers and vendors currently raise the question of whether there is still a need to keep these product categories separate or whether a single, combined view on these is the better choice.

Looking at the vendor landscape, some vendors such as CA Technologies or Beta Systems still have two distinct offerings. Others merged their product line from either Access Governance towards integrated Identity Provisioning, such as SailPoint did, or the other way, by adding more and more Access Governance features to Identity Provisioning products. Dell is a good example of that. Oracle, as another example, focuses on increasingly integrating its product portfolio into one suite. Aside from that, there are various vendors that, for instance, have strong Access Governance capabilities with some Identity Provisioning, but also the opportunity to still integrate well with existing Identity Provisioning solutions of other vendors. Examples for that strategy include RSA/Aveksa and CrossIdeas.

But that is only the vendor view on what is happening in the market. The more important question is: What serves the customer’s needs best? There is not a single right answer on that question.

It depends, perhaps, on where these customers are today. Customers that have already successfully deployed an Identity Provisioning solution might opt for a separate Access Governance tool for various reasons, such as reducing vendor lock-in or just because the Access Governance capabilities of their Identity Provisioning solution are not good enough. However, replacing an established Identity Provisioning tool might be too huge an effort to be considered economically feasible.

I also see many organizations, including large organizations, that want to proceed step by step and feel that they should first do the Identity Provisioning basics right. On the other hand, there are many organizations that need a rapid solution for Access Governance, without all the overhead that the technical elements of Identity Provisioning might cost.

There are various other scenarios I have described in detail in a report on Access Governance architectures. My perspective and experience is that there are varying customer requirements. While some need only Identity Provisioning (for instance to replace existing products, having Access Governance already deployed), while others need integrated solutions or only Access Governance (for rapid deployment or to integrate with existing provisioning tools).

Aside from the different customer requirements, there are pros and cons of integrated solutions. On the positive side there is that customers only need one tool and that the potential complex integration of Identity Provisioning and Access Governance is already done. On the other hand, there are scenarios where it is about integrating with existing Identity Provisioning tools. Aside from that, solutions that try to cover everything have a tendency to become more complex, while sometimes lacking the depth of features specialized solutions provide. Some vendors manage that well, while others are not as perfect.

Beyond that, there is another argument that speaks for keeping Access Governance and Identity Provisioning separate. While Access Governance focuses on business users and bridging the gap between business and IT, Identity Provisioning is far more a technical solution for interfacing with target systems. There might be different owners; there are definitely different user requirements.

These are just some of the reasons why we still keep these segments separate. We are currently updating our Leadership Compass on Identity Provisioning and will do so for the one on Access Governance. We are also working on a Leadership Compass on IAM Suites, looking at the overall IAM market well beyond Provisioning and Access Governance.

Importantly, in both our Identity Provisioning and our Access Governance Leadership Compass, we already evaluate the strength of Identity Provisioning products to support Access Governance requirements and vice versa. However, that is just one view that is kept separate, allowing customers to make their own decisions, depending on their requirements. Putting everything into one basket appears, from our perspective, to be inadequate for that complex market.


Posted in Access Governance, Provisioning | Comments Off

The need for Secure Information Sharing

24.02.2014 by Martin Kuppinger

A while ago, I wrote about the changing market for Secure Information Sharing. I also recently published a report on Microsoft Azure RMS, one of the most important products in that market segment, and further reports will follow.

The first question is: What is Secure Information Sharing (SIS) about? It is about technologies that allow sharing information across the boundaries of an organization in a secure manner. Such technologies ensure encryption of the document both in motion and at rest. Furthermore, they apply and enforce access control, restricting access to the documents and (ideally) enforcing entitlements for editing, printing, forwarding, etc.

SIS has been a requirement of many organizations for years now, especially organizations that need to share information with a broad number of business partners and have complex supply chains. Some, such as the automotive industry, aerospace & defense, or life sciences, have been looking for such solutions for several years. In some of these industries, collaboration networks that enable SIS are established. These industries also are the ones who have been most active in demanding improved IRM (Information Rights Management) solutions.

So why do we need SIS? There are some reasons:

  • Agile, connected businesses lead to new requirements for collaboration. A good example is the life sciences industry, where success and time-to-market frequently depend on efficient collaboration with various external parties. Such collaboration, especially in a competitive environment with strong regulatory requirements and tough competition, requires the ability to securely share information.
  • Regulatory compliance is a strong driver for SIS. The ever-increasing requirements push the demand for SIS in various industries – again life sciences is a great example.
  • The fear of organizations regarding industrial espionage also increases the demand for solutions that seamlessly protect information at rest, in motion, and in use – and that’s where SIS comes into play.
  • Finally, traditional IT security such as firewalls and Data Leakage Prevention (DLP) are not sufficient to fulfill these requirements. New types of solutions are required.

From my perspective, the potential for Secure Information Sharing (SIS) technologies is based on these considerations and the fact that SIS focuses on the right perimeter. This perimeter is not the server system, it is not the end user’s device, and it is not the firewall. It is the information. Information Security, as the name implies, is about securing information – and that is what SIS does.

My next post on this topic will dive a little deeper into the strengths and weaknesses of various approaches.


Posted in Information Rights Management | Comments Off

Microsoft RMS Security and Confidentiality

21.02.2014 by Martin Kuppinger

Microsoft Rights Management Services (RMS) is a solution that might help Secure Information Sharing become a topic for the masses, at least at the enterprise level. I just recently wrote a report on the product. However, as with any Information Security technology – especially ones that are Cloud-based – there are questions about security details.

For Microsoft Azure RMS specifically, it is worthwhile to look at this post. It describes in detail how RMS protects and consumes documents. The other document worth having a look at is a whitepaper Microsoft published a while ago. That whitepaper goes (among other topics) into detail regarding two important aspects:

  • The various deployment options from fully Cloud to “pretty much on premises”
  • The BYOK (Bring Your Own Key) approach that allows doing a lot of things based on local HSMs (Hardware Security Modules)

These might answer some of the questions you might have concerning security and confidentiality of Microsoft RMS.


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