Welcome!

Mobile IoT Authors: Liz McMillan, Shelly Palmer, Elizabeth White, Janakiram MSV, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: Mobile IoT

Mobile IoT: Article

IM at Work

IM at Work

IM (instant messaging) for the enterprise is being touted as something new. Don't you believe it. I recall using ICQ Corporate at an ISP in Cleveland in 1998. Is it news because Wall Street is starting to take it seriously? You bet!

Today, serious broadband speeds are omnipresent in the enterprise. Broadband delivers "instant," and everybody loves instant, not just the enterprise (anyone notice the markets that sprouted from TV dinners?). Instantaneous data delivery facilitates the most desirable instant of all ­ instant communication, or IM.

Instant communication ­ everywhere, all the time ­ is a definite advantage for an ever more mobile workforce. But then comes the rub, er, hack. Peer-to-peer applications like IM are prone to security issues. Veteran IM provider Yahoo! recently discovered a buffer overflow vulnerability in both its IM and chat programs. We've seen holes by the same name patched repeatedly in other software only to see them reappear. Suddenly we realize that we're in for the same ride with IM client software.

Swimming Upstream
Intrusion detection experience with IM is hard to come by. State-of-the-art security measures provide a foundation of protection. Enterprises implementing IM need to build on that foundation by targeting IM's port 5190 with intrusion detection so that they can quickly gain that experience.

Like 802.11 hotspots, IM "proliferates in homes and offices faster than it can be secured," says Gary Morse, president, Razorpoint Security Technologies. When you leave port 5190 closed you don't expect trouble (see sidebar). When you open it to IM traffic, unless you analyze and secure this traffic, you have opened a door to hackers, whose computers are often set up to perform automated scans of IP address ranges in search of ports to exploit. Until we have experience analyzing port 5190 like we do port 80 (Web surfing), we will be learning as we go, perhaps the hard way, upon being the victims of intrusions ourselves.

Crippling Clients
IM is exploited by taking advantage of holes in proprietary IM client software, examples being AOL IM, MSN IM, and Yahoo! IM. If there are holes in the software, such as Yahoo!'s recently reported buffer overflow, these can be exploited at length until they are discovered and patched. "There is also a DoS attack on the network component," says Morse. "If there is a DoS on those Internet IM servers, no one using the IM service can contact anyone else. If a company is relying on that IM service, I just took down the ability for that company to use it."

As with other holes, once access is attained, hackers can reach other systems, set up accounts, and ransack the company's data. How do you protect IM traffic? "Application intelligence products [intrusion detection] look deeper into the traffic before it goes through the specified port numbers to see if it really is instant messaging," says Morse.

Other Recommendations
Razorpoint recommends "comprehensive attack penetration tests" for networks. This will immediately determine success or failure in gaining unauthorized access through IM or anywhere else.

"One of the things we recommend is to either limit the use of IM with a product that keeps most of the traffic inside your network [good!], or to install and maintain one of the application intelligence systems that looks more closely at the packets going through to ensure it is only IM traffic and not next quarter's financial reports," says Morse.

Razorpoint also recommends security design reviews before rolling out massive new systems like IM. This includes assistance with the actual architectural design of the system.

Proliferation Speed = Exploitation Ease
IM is easier to set up than 802.11x. This makes users instant targets. "One of the attacks that we've heard about is where an attacker can run software on your machine from outside. They can do it even if your IM client isn't running. So if you installed it but it's just sitting there, not connected, they can send you a carefully crafted e-mail, and when you get that e-mail, that e-mail will invoke a component in your IM client and make you vulnerable without you knowing," says Morse.

Wireless IM
"If you're going to have people do remote access, then you're talking about firewall protection for the remote user and a VPN-type solution," says Morse. The products are here today to afford cellphones VPN and firewall protection. But..."You can give me the greatest firewall and the greatest network today, and three weeks from now there could be new vulnerabilities and you're going to have to re-secure it," says Morse.

What Would Razorpoint Have Done for Yahoo!?
"I think it could be as simple as testing. There are tools and techniques you can use to look for these buffer overflows, back doors, and DoS attacks. I know Yahoo! is doing that. But even if you have a large budget and this is your core competency in the company, you can still miss things [case in point]," says Morse.

Discussion
The traffic analysis is going to be the same for IM as for any other port or service. It's just the traffic that may be different because you're dealing with a different port and different traffic, which we don't have as much experience monitoring. "You're also now going from IM for your friends to IM for business purposes. This has to be looked at as a business solution and maintained and managed as such. Just because someone in an office can download free software and start using it doesn't mean the company doesn't need to have a policy like they do for everything else about technology ­ a policy for IM and how they monitor it," says Morse. If it's on their phones, companies are going to have to own the phones or otherwise have control over them even though employees may be taking them home with them every day (a whole other question).

IM Security ­ Direct, Simple Solutions
I have been talking with Ira Winkler, chief security strategist at Hewlett-Packard, about security issues of late. Here are Ira's thoughts on IM security:

"While IM is a great convenience, it can be a security nightmare. At the very least, companies have to make sure that IM doesn't go in or out of the firewall. IM allows for everything security efforts try to plug up. It allows file transfers in and out. It compromises personal privacy by letting people know where they are in theory.

Companies interested in using IM should purchase a more secure version of the software if they believe the benefits of IM outweigh the security issues. If companies don't want to pay for a commercial version, then they clearly don't think there will be a strong enough benefit."

If you don't want it bad enough to pay for it, you don't really want it. That makes sense. Even more quick, slick, and sensible is the solution that doesn't poke holes in your firewall. Pay for secure IM and keep it on the network, inside the firewall, and you don't need to open ports, perform intrusion detection on those ports, study the traffic, or anything like that. ­ DG

More Stories By David Geer

David Geer is a contributing writer to WBT, a journalist, and a computer technician. He graduated from Lake Erie College in 1993 with a BA in psychology and has worked in the computer industry and in the media since 1998.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Enterprises have taken advantage of IoT to achieve important revenue and cost advantages. What is less apparent is how incumbent enterprises operating at scale have, following success with IoT, built analytic, operations management and software development capabilities – ranging from autonomous vehicles to manageable robotics installations. They have embraced these capabilities as if they were Silicon Valley startups. As a result, many firms employ new business models that place enormous impor...
Amazon is pursuing new markets and disrupting industries at an incredible pace. Almost every industry seems to be in its crosshairs. Companies and industries that once thought they were safe are now worried about being “Amazoned.”. The new watch word should be “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” In his session 21st Cloud Expo, Chris Kocher, a co-founder of Grey Heron, will address questions such as: What new areas is Amazon disrupting? How are they doing this? Where are they likely to go? What are th...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MIRAI Inc. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MIRAI Inc. are IT consultants from the public sector whose mission is to solve social issues by technology and innovation and to create a meaningful future for people.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dasher Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Dasher Technologies, Inc. ® is a premier IT solution provider that delivers expert technical resources along with trusted account executives to architect and deliver complete IT solutions and services to help our clients execute their goals, plans and objectives. Since 1999, we'v...
SYS-CON Events announced today that NetApp has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. NetApp is the data authority for hybrid cloud. NetApp provides a full range of hybrid cloud data services that simplify management of applications and data across cloud and on-premises environments to accelerate digital transformation. Together with their partners, NetApp emp...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM has been named “Diamond Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st Cloud Expo, which will take place on October 31 through November 2nd 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.
SYS-CON Events announced today that TidalScale, a leading provider of systems and services, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TidalScale has been involved in shaping the computing landscape. They've designed, developed and deployed some of the most important and successful systems and services in the history of the computing industry - internet, Ethernet, operating s...
Infoblox delivers Actionable Network Intelligence to enterprise, government, and service provider customers around the world. They are the industry leader in DNS, DHCP, and IP address management, the category known as DDI. We empower thousands of organizations to control and secure their networks from the core-enabling them to increase efficiency and visibility, improve customer service, and meet compliance requirements.
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM has been named “Diamond Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st Cloud Expo, which will take place on October 31 through November 2nd 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.
Join IBM November 1 at 21st Cloud Expo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, and learn how IBM Watson can bring cognitive services and AI to intelligent, unmanned systems. Cognitive analysis impacts today’s systems with unparalleled ability that were previously available only to manned, back-end operations. Thanks to cloud processing, IBM Watson can bring cognitive services and AI to intelligent, unmanned systems. Imagine a robot vacuum that becomes your personal assistant tha...
In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, will lead you through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He'll look at this major disruption from the perspective of technology, business models, and what this means for enterprises of all sizes. John Considine is General Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services at IBM. In that role he is responsible for leading IBM’s public cloud infrastructure including strategy, development, and offering ...
In a recent survey, Sumo Logic surveyed 1,500 customers who employ cloud services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). According to the survey, a quarter of the respondents have already deployed Docker containers and nearly as many (23 percent) are employing the AWS Lambda serverless computing framework. It’s clear: serverless is here to stay. The adoption does come with some needed changes, within both application development and operations. Tha...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Avere Systems, a leading provider of enterprise storage for the hybrid cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Avere delivers a more modern architectural approach to storage that doesn't require the overprovisioning of storage capacity to achieve performance, overspending on expensive storage media for inactive data or the overbui...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
SYS-CON Events announced today that TidalScale will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TidalScale is the leading provider of Software-Defined Servers that bring flexibility to modern data centers by right-sizing servers on the fly to fit any data set or workload. TidalScale’s award-winning inverse hypervisor technology combines multiple commodity servers (including their ass...
SYS-CON Events announced today that N3N will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. N3N’s solutions increase the effectiveness of operations and control centers, increase the value of IoT investments, and facilitate real-time operational decision making. N3N enables operations teams with a four dimensional digital “big board” that consolidates real-time live video feeds alongside IoT sensor data a...
As hybrid cloud becomes the de-facto standard mode of operation for most enterprises, new challenges arise on how to efficiently and economically share data across environments. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Dr. Allon Cohen, VP of Product at Elastifile, will explore new techniques and best practices that help enterprise IT benefit from the advantages of hybrid cloud environments by enabling data availability for both legacy enterprise and cloud-native mission critical applications. By rev...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend 21st Cloud Expo October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
Join IBM November 1 at 21st Cloud Expo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, and learn how IBM Watson can bring cognitive services and AI to intelligent, unmanned systems. Cognitive analysis impacts today’s systems with unparalleled ability that were previously available only to manned, back-end operations. Thanks to cloud processing, IBM Watson can bring cognitive services and AI to intelligent, unmanned systems. Imagine a robot vacuum that becomes your personal assistant th...
Digital transformation is changing the face of business. The IDC predicts that enterprises will commit to a massive new scale of digital transformation, to stake out leadership positions in the "digital transformation economy." Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, Oct 31-Nov 2, will find fresh new content in a new track called Enterprise Cloud & Digital Transformation.