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Normally, when EMC fails, it is worth a giggle. Companies are run by humans, and nobody is perfect. However, their latest one, failing to defend their RSA SecurID two-factor website, is no laughing matter. Breaches like this undermine the trust needed for business and commerce to be done with Information Technology, so it affects the entire IT industry.
(FTC Disclosure: I do not work or have any financial investments in either EMC nor ENC Security Systems. Neither EMC nor ENC Security Systems paid me to mention them on this blog. Their mention in this blog is not an endorsement of either company or their products. Information about EMC was based solely on publicly available information made available by EMC and others. My friends at ENC Security Systems provided me an evaluation license for their latest software release so that I could confirm the use cases posed in this post.)
Of course, EMC did the right thing by making this breach public in an [Open Letter to RSA Customers]. While this may affect their revenues, as clients question whether they should do business with EMC, or affect their stock price, as investors question whether they should invest in EMC, they were very clear and public that the breach occurred. As far as I know, none of the executives of the RSA security division have stepped down. The disclosure of the breach was the right thing to do, and required by law from the [US Securities Exchange Commission]. This law was created to prevent companies from trying to hide breaches that expose external client information.
The breach does not affect RSA public/private key pairs used by IBM and most every other large company. Rather, this breach was targeted to RSA SecurID two-factor authentication. I explained two-factor authentication in my blog post [Day 5 Grid, SOA and Cloud Computing - System x KVM solutions], but basically it is an added level of security, requiring something you know (your password) with something you have (such as a magnetic card or key fob). Both are required to gain access to the system.
Breaches happen. Recently, [Hackers found vulnerabilities in the McAfee.com website]. Last month, fellow blogger Chuck Hollis from EMC had a blog post on [Understanding Advanced Persistent Threats (APT)] in the week leading up to their RSA Conference. It was precisely an APT that hit RSA, so the irony of this breach was not lost on the blogosphere. Perhaps Chuck's blog post gave hackers the idea to do this, like saying "I hope terrorists don't bomb this building that hold all of our chemical weapons..." or "I hope bank robbers don't rob this repository where we keep all the cash..."
(The sinister counter-theory, that EMC staged this breach as a marketing stunt to undermine trust in hybrid or public cloud offerings, such as those offered by IBM, Amazon or Salesforce.com, offers an interesting twist. While computer breaches in general are fodder for [Luddites] to argue we should not use computers at all, this particular breach could be used by EMC salesmen to encourage their customers to choose private cloud over hybrid cloud or public cloud deployments. Given all the extra work that RSA SecurID customers have to now do to harden their environments, that would be in bad taste.)
Over on Mashable, Simon Crosby argues [Why the Cloud Is Actually the Safest Place for Your Data]. I am sure we have not heard the last of the implications of this RSA breach. For now, I have two recommendations for you.
Advanced Persistent Threats, viruses and other malware are no laughing matter. If you are concerned about security, contact IBM to help you assess your current environment and help you plan a robust protection strategy.
Continuing my saga regarding my [New Laptop], I managed on [Wednesday afternoon] to prepare my machine with separate partitions for programs and data. I was hoping to wrap things up on day 2 (Thursday), but nothing went smoothly.
Just before leaving late Wednesday evening, I thought I would try running the "Migration Assistant" overnight by connecting the two laptops with a REGULAR Ethernet cable. The instructions indicated that in "most" cases, two laptops can be connected using a regular "patch cord" cable. These are the kind everyone has, the connects their laptop to the wall socket for wired connection to the corporate intranet, or their personal computers to their LAN hubs at home. Unfortunately, the connection was not recognized, so I suspected that this was one of the exceptions not covered.
(There are two types of Ethernet cables. The ["patch cord"] connects computers to switches. The ["crossover" cable] connects like devices, such as computers to computers, or switches to switches. Four years ago, I used a crossover cable to transfer my files over, and assumed that I would need one this time as well.)
Thursday morning, I borrowed a crossover cable from a coworker. It was bright pink and only about 18 inches long, just enough to have the two laptops side by side. If the pink crossover cable were any shorter, the two laptops would be back to back. I kept the old workstation in the docking station, which allowed it to remain connected to my big flat screen, mouse, keyboard and use the docking stations RJ45 to connect to the corporate intranet. That left the RJ45 on the left side of the old system to connect via crossover cable to the new system. But that didn't work, of course, because the docking station overrides the side port, so we had to completely "undock" and go native laptop to laptop.
Restarting the Migration Assistant, I unplug the corporate intranet cable from the old laptop, put one end of the pink cable into each Ethernet port of each laptop. On the new system, Migration Assistant asks to setup a password and provides an IP address like 169.254.aa.bb with a netmask of 255.255.0.0 and I am supposed to type this IP address over on the old system for it to reach out and connect. It still didn't connect. We tried a different pink crossover cable, no luck. My colleague Harley brought over his favorite "red" crossover cable, that he has used successfully many times, but still didn't work. The helpful diagnostic advice was to disable all firewall programs from one or both systems.
I disabled Symantec Client Firewall on both systems. Still not working. I even tried booting both systems up in "safe" mode, using MSCONFIG to set the reboot mode as "safe with networking" as the key option. Still not working. At this point, I was afraid that I would have to use the alternate approach, which was to connect both systems to our corporate 100 Mbps system, which would be painfully slow. I only have one active LAN cable in my office, so the second computer would have to sit outside in the lobby.
Looking at the IP address on the old system, it was 9.11.xx.yy, assigned by our corporate DHCP, so not even in the same subnet of the new computer. So, I created profiles on ThinkVantage Access Connections on both systems, with 192.168.0.yy netmask 255.255.255.0 on the old system, and 192.168.0.bb on the new system. This worked, and a connection between the two systems was finally recognized.
Since I had 23GB of system files and programs on my old C: drive, and 80GB of data on my old D: drive, I didn't think I would run out of space on my new 40GB C: drive and 245GB D: drive, but it did! The Migration Assistant wanted to my D:\Documents on my new C: drive and refused to continue. I had to turn off D:\Documents from the list so that it could continue, processing only the programs and system settings on C: drive. It took 61 minutes to scan 23GB on my C: drive, identify 12,900 files to move, representing 794MB of data. Seriously? Less than 1GB of data moved!
It then scanned all of the programs I had on my old system, and decided that there were none that needed to be moved or installed on the new system. The closing instructions explained there might be a few programs that need to be manually installed, and some data that needed to be transferred manually.
Given the performance of Migration Assistant, I decided to just setup a direct Network Mapping of the new D: drive as Y: on my old system, and just drag and drop my entire folder over. Even at 1000 Mbps, this still took the rest of the day. I also backed up C:\Program Files using [System Rescue CD] to my external USB drive, and restored as D:\prog-files, just in case. In retrospect, I realize it would have been faster just to have dumped my D: drive to my USB drive, and restore it on the new system.
I'll leave the process of re-installing missing programs for Friday.
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Continuing my rant from Monday's post [Time for a New Laptop], I got my new laptop Wednesday afternoon. I was hoping the transition would be quick, but that was not the case. Here were my initial steps prior to connecting my two laptops together for the big file transfer:
The next step involved a cross-over Ethernet cable, which I don't have. So that will have to wait until Thursday morning.