Friday, December 9, 2011

XML Security Gateway plugging holes for Public Clouds

Recently, there has been a flurry of news emanating from the XML security world related to researchers demonstrating an attack on Amazon's AWS cloud management interface. The attack takes advantage of a well known exploit known as XML signature wrapping or XML signature manipulation.

Amazon since the publication of this paper has plugged the security hole in its interface. It is a labor intensive effort to plug these holes that requires constant monitoring especially when cloud service interfaces are public facing. Risk can be more easily mitigated by a deployment of an XML security gateway without requiring custom code changes.

An XML security gateway prevents exploit like these in several ways. The XML gateway primary defense against this type of signature manipulation is via signed element verification. In the Amazon scenario, an XML gateway would verify that the soap:Body and wsu:Timestamp elements were processed during signature verification. A secure XML gateway verifies by checking the actual elements, not the Id attributes. This type of secure verification is the default behavior for XML gateways such as Forum Sentry.

XML security gateway's WSDL validation would also prevent the duplicate soap:Body and wsu:Timestamp elements used in this exploit. Such schema validation is important, but it is not a substitute for signed element verification, because there are alternate places to hide arbitrary content in most schema.

Amazon mistakenly assumed that ID attributes mapped to only one element without enforcing the ID uniqueness constraint. When Amazon verified that the soap:Body and wsu:Timestamp were signed, they only checked whether a matching ID was referenced in a signature, not whether signature verification actually processed all the intended elements, a subtle but important distinction. Amazon's use of signed ID verification instead of signed element verification could also allow additional exploits not mentioned here. Amazon also neglected to check for multiple soap:Body and wsu:Timestamp elements, but that is a lesser security flaw. These flaws could be the result of a misguided attempt to optimize performance by inspecting only initial portions of the document during certain security processing phases.

This specific signature exploit and other critical flaws are well-known and common in do-it-yourself security implementations, so it's essential for companies like Amazon to leverage proven security solutions and partners. These exploits indicate an apparent lack of gateway protection that could make Amazon a popular target for new exploits. Perhaps Amazon has already been the target of other undisclosed exploits. And just imagine how many other companies are hosting sensitive services without adequate gateway protection. Amazon and other web service providers need a viable commercial security strategy, and customers should expect real protection for their sensitive data and infrastructure.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Managed File Transfer belongs under SOA Governance umbrella.

Jack Vaughan's recent article covers an important emerging trend: convergence between SOA and MFT technologies. Managed File Transfer (MFT) is a baseline mechanism for information movement within and across corporations using legacy protocols such as FTP. However, with the emergence of modern SOA-related protocols, companies are now migrating away from less secure and less reliable MFT transport protocols. This trend is also driven by regulatory requirements including PCI, HIPPA, and GLB

Link to Jack's article: Updated XML gateway brings FTP under SOA Governance umbrella.

Excerpt from the article:
Despite SOAP and SOA inroads, the vaunted File Transfer Protocol (FTP) continues to flourish in organizations that - not surprisingly – need to transfer files. Finance and banking both represent FTP bastions – although both sectors are also on their way to becoming SOA strongholds of sorts.
Bringing FTP - originated in the 1970s - under the general umbrella of governance is an eventual goal for many of these companies. Forum Systems, a Crosscheck Networks' subsidiary, seeks to support such efforts with a recent update to the Forum Sentry Gateway.
The latest version of the gateway offers content-level security for structured and unstructured data for documents of unlimited size using the OpenPGP standard, while also enabling message transfers over a variety of secured and unsecured transport protocols. Moreover, the software allows organizations to plan migrations from batch FTP processing to SOAP with Attachments (SwA)(MIME, DIME, MTOM), while using existing centralized governance policies across both legacy and modern message formats.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Evolving from Static HTML to Dynamic Portals: Security Implications

Companies that deploy websites with static HTML content typically use Web Application Firewalls (WAFs) to protect their static HTML content. With the proliferation of social media-type interaction via browsers and mobile devices, corporate portals are evolving from a "Refresh-mode" to "Widget-mode" portals that integrate disparate company systems into a unified customer portal. Each widget may be an independent unit with its own data feeds and update intervals. The rapid evolution of static HTML websites to dynamic web portals that function as composite applications could not be more evident in the banking applications that we are are now accustomed to. The security implication of dynamic portals is primarily driven by the following factors:
  1. Content Complexity:  HTML, XML, SOAP, JSON, MTOM, SwA, PDFs, GIFS, JPEGS are a few of the content types that are generated and consumed by web portals.
  2. Identity Diversity:  From simple cookies to signed SAML tokens, web portals have to handle a plethora of token types and provide Federated Identity capabilities for single sign on.
  3. Malware Matrixing:  A matrixed set of channels via different content types are now available for malware to make its way into the enterprise.  For example, in the static HTML days, SQL Injection could come over HTML data, but now can readily move over XML.
Forum Systems, the only patented XML Gateway in the industry, has now extended its technology leadership by addressing security for dynamic web portals with the announcement of Forum Sentry WAF at Infosec UK, 2011.  For details, see Forum Sentry WAF.

For product announcement, see: Forum Systems delivers Industry's First Unified Content Firewall.