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SCOR Velogica Moves to AWS for Better Security, SOC2

While some large enterprises avoid moving to the cloud because of rigid security and compliance requirements, SCOR opted for the cloud for a key block of its business precisely because of the cloud’s rigid security and compliance offerings.

SCOR is a leader in the life reinsurance market in the Americas, offering broad capabilities in risk management, capital management and value-added services and solutions. A number of primary insurers use SCOR’s automated life underwriting system, Velogica, to market life insurance policies that can be delivered at the point of sale. Other companies use Velogica as a triage tool for their fully underwritten business.

“Through the Velogica system, we get thousands of life insurance applications a day from multiple clients,” explains Dave Dorans, Senior Vice President.  “Velogica is a significant part of our value proposition and is important to the future of our business.”

Data security has always been a priority for SCOR but the issue became even more critical as data breaches at some of the largest and most respected companies made headline news. SCOR decided to invest in a state of the art data security framework for Velogica.  “We wanted clients to have full confidence in the way Velogica stores and handles the sensitive personal data of individuals,” Dorans said.

SCOR’s goal was to have Velogica accredited as a Service Organization Control (SOC) 2 organization – a competitive advantage in the marketplace – by aligning with one of the more respected information security standards in the industry.  Determining what it would take to achieve that goal became the responsibility of Clarke Rodgers, Chief Information Security Officer with SCOR Velogica. “We quickly determined that SOC2 accreditation for SCOR’s traditional, on premise data center environment would be a monumental task, could cost millions of dollars and perhaps take years to complete.  Moreover, while SOC2 made sense for Velogica, it wasn’t necessary for other SCOR businesses.

Once it was determined that SOC2 was business critical for the company, Rodgers, analyzed the different ways of obtaining the security and compliance measure and determined that moving to the cloud was the most efficient path. SCOR Velogica turned to 2nd Watch to help it achieve SOC2 accreditation with AWS, figuring it would be easier than making the journey on its own.

On working with 2nd Watch, Rodgers commented, ““They came in and quickly understood our technical infrastructure and how to replicate it in AWS, which is a huge feat.” SCOR met significant benefits thanks to the migration, including:

Adherence to specific security needs: In addition to its SOC2 accreditation, 2nd Watch also implemented several security elements in the new AWS environment including; encryption at rest in Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) volumes leveraging the AWS Key Management System (KMS), Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) to establish a private network within AWS, security groups tuned for least privilege access, Security-Enhanced Linux, and AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA).

AWS optimization: 2nd Watch has helped SCOR identify opportunities for optimization and efficiencies on AWS, which will help down the road if the company wishes to expand the AWS-hosted application to regions outside of North America.  “With our SOC2 Type 1 behind us, we are now focused on optimizing our resources in the AWS Cloud so we can fully exploit AWS’s capabilities to our security and business benefit.” Rodgers explains. “We will rely on 2nd Watch for guidance and assistance during this optimization phase.”

Cost savings on AWS: Rodgers hasn’t done a full analysis yet of cost savings from running the infrastructure on AWS, but he’s confident the migration will eventually cut up to 30% off the price of hosting and supporting Velogica internally.

Hear from SCOR how it achieved better security with AWS on our live webinar April 7. Register Now


How to Achieve Redundancy for High Availability in the Cloud

In the last of our four-part blog series with our strategic partner, Alert Logic, we explore business resumption for cloud environments. Check out last week’s article on Free Tools and Tips for Testing the Security of Your Environment Against Attacks first.

Business resumption, also known as disaster recovery, has always been a challenge for organizations. Aside from those in the banking and investment industry, many businesses don’t take business resumption as seriously as they should.

I formerly worked at a financial institution that would send their teams to another city in another state where production data was backed up and could be restored in the event of a disaster. Employees would go to this location and use the systems in production to complete their daily workloads. This would the redundancy of a single site, but what if you could have many redundant sites? What if you could have a global backup option and have redundancy not only when you need it, but as a daily part of your business strategy?

To achieve true redundancy, I recommend understanding your service provider’s offerings. Each service provider has different facilities located in different regions that are spread between different telecom service providers.

From a customer’s perspective, this creates a good opportunity to build out an infrastructure that has fully redundant load balances, giving your business a regional presence in almost every part of the world. In addition, you are able to deliver application speed and efficiency to your regional consumers.

Look closely at your provider’s services like hardware health monitoring, log management, security monitoring and all the management services that accompany those solutions.  If you need to conform to certain compliance regulations, you also need to make sure the services and technologies meet each regulation.

Organize your vendors and managed service providers so that you can get your data centralized based on service across all providers and all layers of the stack. This is when you need to make sure that your partners share data, have the ability to ingest logs, and exchange APIs with each other to effectively secure your environment.

Additionally, centralize the notification process so you are getting one call per incident versus multiple calls across providers. This means that API connectivity or log collection needs to happen between technologies that are correlating triggered events across multiple platforms. This will centralize your notification and increase the efficiency and decrease detection time to mitigate risks introduced into your environment by outside and inside influences.

Lastly, to find incidents as quickly as possible, you need to find a managed services provider that will be able to ingest and correlate all events and logs across all infrastructures. There are also cloud migration services that will help you with all these decisions as they help move you to the cloud.

Learn more about 2W Managed Cloud Security and how our partnership with Alert Logic can ensure your environment’s security

Article contributed by Alert Logic



Ahead of the Hackers: Free Tools and Tips for Testing the Security of Your Environment Against Attacks

There are several open source (aka free) tools that you can use to the security of your applications and servers like a hacker. One of the best is Kali Linux, a free tool that s almost every layer of you environment (Application, Network, Host, Foundation).

About Kali Linux

Kali Linux was a creation of Offensive Security in an effort to achieve effective defensive security through an offensive mindset. Kali is supported not only by Offensive Security, but also a very impressive community of people who contribute content and software to the project. Kali is preinstalled with over 600 penetration ing scripts and programs (http://tools.kali.org/tools-listing). Formerly known as Backtrack, it’s been used by security professionals and hackers alike for years. This is one of the best tools that you can use to your security.

Kali has just recently released version 2.0 of its open source penetration ing kit. It can be downloaded here.

Steps for ing your security with Kali Linux

Step 1: First you want to do some information gathering on your servers:

  • Run a python script called the harvester to query google, Bing, Linkedin, and PGP to find information related to your domain. It will include email addresses, IP addresses, and server configurations.
  • OS fingerprinting will give you the versions of operating systems you may be running, which will allow you to look up any outstanding vulnerabilities.
  • Run fragroute, which has a simple rule set language to delay, duplicate fragment, and analyze any intrusion detection that you might have in place.
  • Finally, run NMAP, which will simply scan your IP address to find what TCP/UDP ports are open. You want to make sure that the only ports open are what you need to conduct business—nothing more and nothing less.

Step 2: Nessus is a tool used by auditors and analysts to assess vulnerabilities in systems, networks, and applications. While this doesn’t replace the auditors who certify you for compliance, it does make you more secure by giving you a better understanding of the risks within your environment. It has configuration and vulnerabilities scanning capabilities, as well as malware detection and sensitive data searches. You can also utilize particular cloud services that will conduct the same scans and auditing in a way that is built for the cloud.

Step 3: WPScan is a great tool if you are utilizing wordpress in your infrastructure. WPScan looks for vulnerabilities that might have been installed in your environment through vulnerable plugins and themes. The capabilities of this tool include brute forcing your passwords, finding vulnerable themes/plugins, and enumerating user lists to focus a password dictionary brute force. This is a very efficient tool and is maintained by the community and the WPScan team.

Step 4: The automater is a script that will scan various blacklists to verify if your IP addresses have ever been involved in any botnet activity—if the previous or current users of that IP address were compromised and used to attack others, they would appear on one of those lists. This will ensure your public IP address won’t be blocked when you launch your live site.  The automater checks IPvoid.com, Robtex.com, Fortiguard.com, unshorten.me, Urlvoid.com, Labs.alienvault.com, ThreatExpert, VxVault, and VirusTotal.

These are just a few of the tools that are offered in Kali Linux, but they will get you started down the right path, by exploring the distribution of Kali and ing your environment to see how secure you really are.

Learn more about 2W Managed Cloud Security and how our partnership with Alert Logic can ensure your environment’s security

Article contributed by Alert Logic


If you missed the last article in our four-part blog series with our strategic partner, Alert Logic, check out the guide to help digital businesses prepare for—and respond to—cyber incidents here.


Bridging the gap between DevOps and Security

Security should be baked into the DevOps process, from tools to skills to collaboration. DevOps and security are not mutually exclusive.

The problem with digital innovation is that considerations for compliance come later, after the product or service is on the market. From public cloud infrastructure to Internet of Things to mobile apps and even to DevOps, tough requirements like security aren’t built into innovators’ plans. Entrepreneurs are thinking primarily about shiny, new, fast and disruptive. Yet for the CIO and other chief executives accountable to customers, laws and financial markets, managing risk around sensitive data is top priority.

DevOps processes are at the heart of business innovation: think Netflix, Facebook, Etsy and Nordstrom, all leaders in their sectors. Yet many of the popular DevOps tools and methodologies, whether commercial or open source, haven’t been optimized for the needs of enterprise security. An application running in a container, for instance, will still require attention around configuration to ensure application security.

As well, many security professionals haven’t yet made the leap to understanding the changing best practices for security in this new world of cloud/agile/mobile IT. Some security experts have imposed barriers to DevOps, by resisting the switch to faster, more iterative development along with the public cloud.

On the surface, the speed at which DevOps teams are approving and releasing code would suggest an increase in security risks to end users by eliminating rigorous security review phases. Yet managing security, as with ing, is in fact optimal when performed side-by-side with developers as code is being written. By integrating security, people and processes tightly within the continuous delivery cycle, DevOps can do a better job of eliminating loopholes and gaps in the code before production. DevOps tools emphasize the use of frequent and automated processes to improve software quality: also an ideal model for handling security ing and fixes. Determining the best way to merge security with DevOps is a work in progress. The following concepts can provide a framework for getting started:

  1. Use the best of DevOps for security: DevOps, with its focus on automation and continuous integration, provides a more holistic framework for security management. Start by considering security through every step of the development and production cycle. Security professionals can help developers root out design problems in the beginning – such as ensuring all data transport is encrypted. Integrate automated security checks into development, ing and deployment phases, and educate all team members about the importance of incorporating security thinking in their specific job roles. Security should no longer be the last process before committing the code to production.
  2. Investigate new DevOps and Cloud security tools: Fortunately, the security technology industry is ramping up quickly to the needs of DevOps security. Static Application Security (SAS) tools for security when code is being written while Dynamic Application Security (DAS) tools for interface risks. A few of the reputable systems include Checkmarx, Veracode and Parasoft. The third area of security automation tools covers penetration vulnerability ing, such as Nessus, developed by Tenable. Other contenders in this area include Qualys and OpenVAS. These tools can integrate smoothly into the software development lifecycle, such as by plugging into Jenkins. By adding automation, security is not only built-in, but doesn’t slow down the DevOps process.
  3. Getting buy-in from security teams: This might just be the hardest part. While developers are incentivized to go faster and do more, security professionals are incentivized to control, monitor and reduce risk. Meeting in the middle is definitely possible – but it will require some opinion shifting on both sides. Developers and product managers will need to understand the importance of working collaboratively with the security team, and in an accountable way. Security people can benefit from a more comprehensive understanding of security in the cloud. This should include continuous education on the new tools and services available today to manage risk and to deliver even higher levels of security than in the past – from better reporting, to API-based security and easier encryption at rest.\
  1. Manage tool sprawl: The concept of self-organization is an important one in DevOps, because it fosters a spirit of flexibility and rapid collaboration. Yet this same principle can also lead to environments of dozens or even hundreds of different tools in use to manage deployment, configuration, QA and orchestration. That creates risks for visibility and monitoring as well as standardizing around security controls and access. Engineering leads should help strike a balance between too much and too little governance when it comes to tools and workflows by providing guidelines for tool selection. The DevOps automation infrastructure itself can introduce risks. If a hacker gains access to a tool like Puppet or Chef, he can modify any number of configurations and add new user accounts. Configuration and change management tools must be adequately secured and governed, lest they become a new attack plane.\

With the advent of DevOps, there’s an opportunity at last for security to become an integral and seamless aspect of innovation. We think it’s not only possible but critical to give security the attention it demands in the world of fast IT.

-Kris Bliesner, CTO

This article was first published on DevOps.com on 12/3/15.


What’s the Plan? A How-To Guide for Preparing Your Cyber Incident Response Program

Last week, we kicked off a four-part blog series with our strategic partner, Alert Logic, that has a focus on the importance of cloud security for Digital Businesses.  This week, Alert Logic has contributed the following blog post as a guide to help digital businesses prepare for—and respond to—cyber incidents.

Evaluating your organization’s cyber security incident response readiness is an important part of your overall security program. But responding to a cyber security incident effectively and efficiently can be a tremendous challenge for most. In most cases, the struggle to keep up during an incident is due to either of the following:

  • The cyber incident response plan has been “shelf-ware” for too long
  • The plan hasn’t been practiced by the incident response team.

Unfortunately, most organizations view cyber incident response as a technical issue—they assume that if a cyber incident response plan is in place and has been reviewed by the “techies,” then the plan is complete. In reality, all these organizations have is a theoretical cyber incident response plan, one with no ing or validation. Cyber incident response plans are much more than a technical issue. In the end, they are about people, process, communication, and even brand protection.

How to ensure your cyber incident response plan works

The key to ensuring your cyber incident response plan works is to practice your plan. You must dedicate time and resources to properly the plan. Cyber incident response is a “use or lose” skill that requires practice. It’s similar to an athlete mastering a specific skill; the athlete must complete numerous repetitions to develop muscle memory to enhance performance. In the same way, the practice (repetitions) of ing your cyber incident response plan will enhance our team’s performance during a real incident.

Steps for ing your plan effectively

 Step 1: Self-Assessment and Basic Walk-Through

An effective methodology to your cyber incident response plan begins with a self-assessment and simple walk-through of the plan with limited team members.  Steps should include:

  1. The incident response manager reads through the plan, using the details of a recent data breach to follow the plan. The manager also identifies how the incident was discovered as well as notification processes.
  2. The team follows the triage, containment, eradication, and forensics stages of the plan, identifying any gaps.
  3. The incident response manager walks through the communications process along the way, including recovery and steady-state operations.
  4. The team documents possible modifications, follow-up questions, and clarifications that should be added to the plan.

Step 2: All Hands Walk-Through

The next step to a self-assessment is the walk-through with the entire incident response team. This requires an organized meeting in a conference room and can take between 2-4 hours, in which a scenario (recent breach) is used to walk through the incident response document. These working sessions are ideal to fill in the gaps and clarify expectations for things like detection, analysis, required tools, and resources.  Organizations with successful incident response plans will also include their executive teams during this type of .  The executive team participation highlights priorities from a business and resource perspective and is less focused on the technical aspects of the incident.

Step 3: Live Exercise

The most important step in evaluating your incident response plan is to conduct a live exercise.  A live exercise is a customized training event for the purpose of sharpening your incident response teams’ skills in a safe, non-production environment. It isn’t a penetration ; it’s an incident response exercise designed to your team’s ability to adapt and execute the plan during a live cyber attack.  It’s essentially the equivalent to a pre-season game—the team participates, but it doesn’t count in the win/loss column.  The value of a live exercise is the plan evaluation and team experience. The lessons learned usually prove to be the most valuable to the maturation of your cyber incident response plan.

Ultimately, preparedness is not just about having an incident response plan; it’s about knowing the plan, practicing the plan, and understanding it’s a work in progress. The development of an excellent incident response plan includes involvement and validation from the incident response team as well as a commitment to a repetitive cycle of practice and refinement.

Learn more about 2W Managed Cloud Security and how our partnership with Alert Logic can ensure your environment’s security.

Article contributed by Alert Logic