What Signs Are You Missing?

Published: 2015-12-12
Last Updated: 2015-12-12 13:02:40 UTC
by Russell Eubanks (Version: 1)
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While recently listening to a presentation, I found my attention drawn to a metal water container at the center of the conference room table. Condensation was all around it and without ever having to interact with the container, I found there were many properties that were easily observable to everyone nearby.

The container had not been used for hours

The liquid in the container was colder than the room temperature

The amount of liquid in the container could be observed from a distance

In a very unexpected and non-technical way, this container caused me to think about the effectiveness of information security controls. What follows are several non-traditional ideas that can help security professionals know when a change in status has occurred. These approaches, when employed, will serve to increase the confidence in many times very technical capabilities. 

Log file status - How long would it take to determine logs from a critical system are no longer being generated and sent to the syslog server? 

Baselines - How long would it take to recognize there was “configuration drift” on critical systems? 

Log file size - What is the average daily size of security logs on critical systems? 
Clipping levels - How would it take to recognize there is too much or too little of something very important has or has not occurred? An example is looking at the number of transactions an employee performed during a day to help answer the question of did they show up to work and how did their performance compare against others who perform the same job.
Without having to look at detailed technical information, there are signs that when not missed indicate something has changed. These signs will help a security professional know when security controls are no longer functioning as intended. Intentionally focusing on items like these that are often above and beyond a required compliance checkbox, provide assurance that security controls remain effective. Often at very little to no cost.
In what unexpected places have you found signs that you had previously missed? Please use the comments area to share what worked for you!
Russell Eubanks
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