Monday, February 20, 2017

What to Expect in 2017: Mobile Device Security

We are mobile, our devices are mobile, the networks we connect to are mobile and the applications we access are mobile. Mobility, in all its iterations, is a huge enabler and concern for enterprises and it'll only get worse as we start wearing our connected clothing to the office.

If the last 10 years wasn’t warning enough, 2017 will be a huge year for mobile…again. Every year, it seems, new security opportunities, challenges and questions surround the mobile landscape. And now it encompasses more than just the device that causes phantom vibration syndrome, it now involves the dizzying array of sensors, devices and automatons in our households, offices and municipalities. Mobile has infiltrated our society and our bodies along with it.

So the security stakes are high.

The more we become one with our mobile devices, the more they become targets. It holds our most precious secrets which can be very valuable. We need to use care when operating such a device since, in many ways, our lives depend on it. And with the increased automation, digitization and data gathering, there are always security concerns.

So how do we stay safe?

The consumerization of IT technologies has made us all administrators of our personal infrastructure of connected devices. Our digital self has become a life of its own. As individuals we need to stay vigilant about clicking suspicious links, updating software, changing passwords, backing up data, watching financial accounts, having AV/FW and generally locking down devices like we do the doors to our home. Even then, the smartphone enabled deadbolt can be a risk. And we haven’t even touched on mobile payment systems, IoT botnets or the untested, insecure apps on the mobile phone itself.

Cybersecurity is a social issue that impacts us all and we all need to be accountable.

For enterprises, mobile devices carry an increased risk, especially personal devices connecting to an internal network. From regulatory compliance to the disgruntled employee, keeping sensitive information secret is top concern. BYOD policies and MDM solutions help as does segmenting those devices away from critical info. And the issue isn’t so much seeing restricted information, especially if your job requires it, it is more about unauthorized access if the device is compromised or lost. Many organizations have policies in place to combat this, including a total device wipe…which may also blast your personal keepsakes. The endpoint security market is maturing but won’t fill the ever-present security gaps.

From your workforce to your customers, your mobile web applications are also a target. The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) reports a 250 percent jump in the number of detected phishing websites between October 2015 and March 2016. Around 230,000 unique phishing campaigns a month, many aimed at mobile devices arriving as worrisome text messages. Late 2016 saw mobile browsing overtake desktop for the first time and Google now favors mobile-friendly websites for its mobile search results. A double compatibility and SEO whammy.

And those two might not be the biggest risk to an organization since weakest link in the security ecosystem might be third-party vendors and suppliers.

On the industrial side, tractors, weather sensors, street lights, HVAC systems, your car and other critical infrastructure are now mobile devices with their own unique security implications. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) focuses on industrial control systems, device to network access and all the other connective sensor capabilities. These attacks are less frequent, at least today, but the consequences can be huge – taking out industrial plants, buildings, farms, and even entire cities.

The Digital Dress Code has emerged and with 5G on the way, mobile device security takes on a whole new meaning.



Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Shared Authentication Domains on BIG-IP APM

How to share an APM session across multiple access profiles.

A common question for someone new to BIG-IP Access Policy Manager (APM) is how do I configure BIG-IP APM so the user only logs in once.

By default, BIG-IP APM requires authentication for each access profile.

This can easily be changed by sending the domain cookie variable is the access profile’s SSO authentication domain menu.

Let’s walk through how to configure App1 and App2 to only require authentication once.

We’ll start with App1’s Access Profile.

Once you click through to App1’s settings, in the Top menu, select SSO/Auth Domains.

For the Domain Cookie, we’ll set the value to since App1 and App2 use this domain and it is a FQDN. Of course, click Update.

Next, we’ll select App2’s Access Profile. Like App1, we select SSO/Auth Domains and set the Domain Cookie value to

To make sure it works, we’ll launch App1 in our browser.

We’re prompted for authentication and enter our credentials and luckily, we have a successful login.

And then we’ll try to login to App2. And when we click it, we’re not prompted again for authentication information and gain access without prompts.

Granted this was a single login request for two simple applications but it can be scaled for hundreds of applications. If you‘d like to see a working demo of this, check it out here.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Lightboard Lessons: IoT on BIG-IP

As more organizations deploy IoT applications in their data centers and clouds, they're going to need their ADC to understand the unique protocols these devices use to communicate.

In this Lightboard Lesson, I light up how IoT protocol MQTT (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport) works on BIG-IP v13. iRules allow you to do Topic based load balancing along with sensor authentication. And if you missed it, here is the #LBL on What is MQTT?



Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Security Trends in 2016: Securing the Internet of Things

Whenever you connect anything to the internet, there is risk involved. Just ask the millions of IoT zombies infected with Mirai. Sure, there have been various stories over the years about hacking thermostats, refrigerators, cameras, pacemakers, insulin pumps and other medical devices along with cars, homes and hotel rooms…but Mirai took it to a new level.

And it’s not the only IoT botnet out there nor are these nasty botnets going away anytime soon. There’s a gold mine of unprotected devices out there waiting to either have their/your info stolen or be used to flood another website with traffic.

This is bound to compound in the years to come.

A recent Ponemon Institute report noted that an incredible 80% of IoT applications are not tested for vulnerabilities. Let’s try that again – only 20% of the IoT applications that we use daily are tested for vulnerabilities. There’s probably no indication or guarantee that the one you are using now has been tested.

Clearly a trend we saw in 2016, and seems to continue into 2017, is that people are focusing too much on the ‘things’ themselves and the coolness factor rather than the fact that anytime you connect something to the internet, you are potentially exposing yourself to thieves. There has been such a rush to get products to market and make some money off a new trend yet these same companies ignore or simply do not understand the potential security threats. This somewhat mimics the early days of internet connectivity when insecure PCs dialed up and were instantly inundated with worms, viruses and email spam. AV/FW software soon came along and intended to reduce those threats.

Today it’s a bit different but the cycle continues.

Back then you’d probably notice that your computer was acting funky, slowing down or malfunctioning since we interacted with it daily. Today, we typically do not spend every waking hour working with our IoT devices. They’re meant to function independently to grab data, make adjustments and alert us on a mobile app with limited human interaction. That’s the ‘smart’ part everyone talks about. But these botnets are smart themselves. With that, you may never know that your DVR is infected and allowing someone across the globe (or waiting at the nearest street corner) watch your every move.

Typical precautions we usually hear are actions like changing default passwords, not connecting it directly to the internet and updating the firmware to reduce the exposure. Software developers, too, need to plan and build in security from the onset rather than an afterthought. The security vs. usability conundrum that plagues many web applications extends to IoT applications also. But you wouldn’t, or I should say, shouldn’t deploy a financial application without properly testing it for vulnerabilities. There the risk is financial loss but with IoT and particularly medical/health devices the result can be deadly.

Mirai was just the beginning of the next wave of vulnerability exploitation. More chaos to come.



Thursday, February 2, 2017

What is DNS?

What is the Domain Name System (DNS)?

Imagine how difficult it would be to use the Internet if you had to remember dozens of number combinations to do anything. The Domain Name System (DNS) was created in 1983 to enable humans to easily identify all the computers, services, and resources connected to the Internet by name—instead of by Internet Protocol (IP) address, an increasingly difficult-to-memorize string of information. Think of all the website domain names you know off the top of your head and how hard it would be to memorize specific IP addresses for all those domain names. Think of DNS as the Internet's phone book. A DNS server translates the domain names you type into a browser, like, into an IP address (, which allows your device to find the resource you're looking for on the Internet.

DNS is a hierarchical distributed naming system for computers, services, or other resources connected to the Internet. It associates various information with domain names that are assigned to each of the participating DNS entries.

How DNS Works

The user types the address of the site ( as an example) into the web browser. The browser has no clue where is, so it sends a request to the Local DNS Server (LDNS) to ask if it has a record for If the LDNS does not have a record for that particular site, it begins a recursive search of the Internet domains to find out who owns

First, the LDNS contacts one of the Root DNS Servers, and the Root Server responds by telling the LDNS to contact the .com DNS Server. The LDNS then asks the .com DNS Server if it has a record for, and the .com DNS Server determines the owner of and returns a Name Server (NS) record for Check out the diagram below:

Next, the LDNS queries the DNS Server NS record. The DNS Server looks up the name: If it finds the name, it returns an Address (A) record to the LDNS. The A record contains the name, IP address, and Time to Live (TTL). The TTL (measured in seconds) tells the LDNS how long to maintain the A record before it asks the DNS Server again.

When the LDNS receives the A record, it caches the IP address for the time specified in the TTL. Now that the LDNS had the A record for, it can answer future requests from its own cache rather than completing the entire recursive search again. LDNS returns the IP address of to the host computer, and the local browser caches the IP address on the computer for the time specified in the TTL. After all, if it can hold on to the info locally, it won't need to keep asking the LDNS.

The browser then uses the IP address to open a connection to and sends a GET /... and the web server returns the web page response.

DNS can get a lot more complicated than what this simple example shows, but this gives you an idea of how it works.

DNS Importance

As arguably the primary technology enabling the Internet, DNS is also one of the most important components in networking infrastructure. In addition to delivering content and applications, DNS also manages a distributed and redundant architecture to ensure high availability and quality user response time—so it is critical to have an available, intelligent, secure, and scalable DNS infrastructure. If DNS fails, most web applications will fail to function properly. And DNS is a prime target for attack.

The importance of a strong DNS foundation cannot be overstated. Without one, your customers may not be able to access your content and applications when they want to—and if they can't get what they want from you, they'll likely turn elsewhere.

Growing Pains

DNS is growing especially with mobile apps and IoT devices requiring name resolution.  Add to that, organizations are experiencing rapid growth in terms of applications as well as the volume of traffic accessing those applications.

In the last five years, the volume of DNS queries on for .com and .net addresses has more than doubled. More than 10 million domain names were added to the Internet in 2016 and future growth is expected to occur at an even faster pace as more cloud, mobile and IoT implementations are deployed.

Security Issues

If DNS is the backbone of the Internet—answering all the queries and resolving all the numbers so you can find your favorite sites—it is also one of the most vulnerable points in your network. Due to the crucial role it plays, DNS is a high-value security target. DNS DDoS attacks can flood your DNS servers to the point of failure or hijack the request and redirect requests to a malicious server. To prevent this, a distributed high-performing, secure DNS architecture and DNS offload capabilities must be integrated into the network.

Generally, DNS servers and DNS cloud services can handle varying amounts of requests per second with the costs increasing as the queries-per-second increase.

To address DNS surges and DNS DDoS attacks, companies add more DNS servers, which are not really needed during normal business operations. This costly solution also often requires manual intervention for changes. In addition, traditional DNS servers require frequent maintenance and patching, primarily for new vulnerabilities.

The Traditional Solution

When looking for DNS solutions, many organizations select BIND (Berkeley Internet Naming Daemon), the Internet's original DNS resolver. Installed on approximately 80 percent of the world's DNS servers, BIND is an open-source project maintained by Internet Systems Consortium (ISC).

Despite its popularity, BIND requires significant maintenance multiple times a year primarily due to vulnerabilities, patches, and upgrades. It can be downloaded freely, but needs servers (an additional cost, including support contracts) and an operating system. In addition, BIND typically scales to only 50,000 responses per second (RPS), making it vulnerable to both legitimate and malicious DNS surges.

Next Step

If you're ready to learn more or dig deeper into DNS, check out these more advanced articles
  • DNS - DevCentral Wiki
  • Application Layer DNS Firewall
  • Lightboard Lessons: DNS Scalability & Security
  • DNS Express and Zone Transfers

  • DNS Does the Job