Archive for November, 2016

SIRAcon 2016 – STPA-Sec: stealing from safety engineering to improve threat modeling

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Last month I gave a talk at SIRAcon 2016, “STPA-Sec: stealing from safety engineering to improve threat modeling.” The talk was well received, and I want to thank both the organizers and attendees for an excellent conference.

The talk was the result of my attendance at the 2016 STAMP workshop. STAMP includes a couple of frameworks that are used within the safety profession, both for hazard analysis (STPA) and accident analysis (CAST). There are a handful of security researchers involved with the group (mainly from MIT Lincoln Labs) and they have developed a version that can be applied to security, STPA-Sec.

STPA has been shown to identify hazards more efficiently and effectively than traditional safety methods such as fault tree analysis, identifying more hazards in a shorter period of time, and I believe STPA-Sec can do the same for information risk analysis, by more effectively identifying and communicating risks than existing threat modeling techniques. Even so, STPA-Sec is still a work in progress, and I found gaps in the model when applying it to a simple banking application: it does not directly address confidentiality as that isn’t generally a safety concern.

You can download the slides from SIRAcon here.

This article originally appeared on

Written by JohnB

November 21st, 2016 at 12:40 am

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CyberSecureGov 2016: Practical Identity and Access Management

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Earlier this year, I spoke at CyberSecureGov 2016, after my proposed talk based on the two years I spent working on large government projects was accepted. Identity & Access Management has always been an interest of mine, ever since my days supporting a security administration team, and I learned quite a bit by working on projects setting up single sign-on for the public.

From the Abstract:

Building Identity & Access Management solutions can be difficult. This presentation reviews lessons learned from designing and building IAM solutions in multiple states, focusing on the unique challenges of IAM in government, which must serve the needs of three separate groups: the public, government agencies, and NGOs. Lessons drawn from real-world experiences will demonstrate what works, what doesn’t, and how to fix things when they go wrong.

Following the flow of a typical user’s experience, the presentation will cover the successes, and failures of designing an IAM solution: getting a user ID, logging in to the system, matching “me” as a public user to “my data,” and getting access to the system. Along the way, we will explore lessons about how design choices for each step can impact that experience.

Also covered are designs that were not implemented, sharing the vision of how automated user-driven access requests, changes, and reviews can both improve user experience and lower costs.

The key lesson for me was to understand that there are three key aspects of enrolling users in a public website, that should be handled separately: provisioning a user ID, identity matching, and identity proofing. Making these separate processes solves many potential problems and provides a better user experience.

One interesting thing I noticed in both talks is that there were a small core of very interested attendees – most security professionals don’t have to deal with Identity & Access Management, but those who do tend to be very passionate about the topic, and could easily relate to the problems we faced while building out large SSO solutions.

You can download a copy of the slides from the presentation here. A video of my talk at OWASP MSP is available here.

Written by JohnB

November 21st, 2016 at 12:39 am

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Site Updates

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Today I completed some long overdue maintenace for – a number of links were broken due to a prior migration, and general churning of the internet. All links have been fixed, except for links that have permanently broken, which were left as-is for posterity. All assets stored locally on the site are working, please contact me if you find issues.

Written by JohnB

November 20th, 2016 at 11:48 pm

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