3 Ways to Handle Pervasive Internet Monitoring

Andrew Froehlich, Network Engineer & IT Consultant | 3/18/2014 | 27 comments

Andrew Froehlich
At a recent South By Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Edward Snowden said the NSA is "setting fire to the future of the Internet." In light of this, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) are trying to get a handle on rampant monitoring.

On Feb. 28 and March 1, they hosted a joint workshop, STRINT: Strengthening the Internet Against Pervasive Monitoring, to identify possible solutions. As the meeting minutes for the two-day workshop show, much discussion centered on the inappropriate relationships among Internet service providers, security vendors, and other Internet-focused companies that created easy tap-in points to collect massive amounts of data.

Though interesting, this type of conversation has little to do with private businesses. But mixed in with the discussion of Prism and other NSA-type programs on pervasive monitoring, there were several key useful items proposed on how businesses can position themselves to prevent future pervasive Internet monitoring. Here are a few that I found to be most interesting.

For one thing, it's time to start encrypting all types of data transmissions -- not just the ones containing what is deemed sensitive information. So much of the traffic sent in clear text these days still contains a great deal of information that can be used to gain further access into a company's infrastructure. Encryption of all data should be considered a sound, low-hanging-fruit technique used to plug a gaping security hole. Forget about the fact that many encryption methods should no longer be considered safe. The idea right now is to get into the habit of encrypting all transmissions. More advanced encryption techniques will soon follow.

Another point made at the workshop: Pervasive monitoring is made much easier because security patches are applied far too slowly. When developers release OS and application patches, most recipients wait days, weeks, or even months before applying them on production systems. This delay often occurs so that IT staff members can perform patch testing in development environments to ensure the patches don't break application functionality when rolled out into production systems. However, this tactic is becoming a luxury that many enterprises can no longer afford if security is critical.

Lastly, a generally recurring theme at the workshop was that end users simply don't understand IT security and can't be counted on to protect themselves within an enterprise. Therefore, security protections must be separated from the user and placed on the shoulders of application developers and system administrators to implement behind the scenes. The idea when creating authentication and encryption systems should be to make them invisible to the end user. Password requirements are becoming harder for users to maintain, so other authentication methods that don't require users to remember dozens of complex passwords should be investigated.

Every enterprise leverages the Internet today in one way or another. Because of our reliance on the public Internet, we all have an interest in protecting against pervasive Internet monitoring to maintain the level of trust needed to conduct business. And though much of the work needed involves decoupling governments from their grip on encryption and Internet infrastructure backdoors, there are steps that can be made in each of our organizations today to get us closer to a more private Internet experience tomorrow.

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eethtworkz   3 Ways to Handle Pervasive Internet Monitoring   4/27/2014 12:32:53 PM
Re: Ours is not to reason why...
Henrisha,

Education.

That's the Major Key.

Keep educating your employees again and again and again until they get the right idea regarding security.

No Two Ways about it today.
stotheco   3 Ways to Handle Pervasive Internet Monitoring   3/28/2014 3:13:30 AM
Re: Re : 3 Ways to Handle Pervasive Internet Monitoring
That's unfortunately true. And it's the last priority--in this case, security--that comes back and bites everyone back in their bottoms.
stotheco   3 Ways to Handle Pervasive Internet Monitoring   3/28/2014 3:12:43 AM
Re: Re : 3 Ways to Handle Pervasive Internet Monitoring
Glad to hear you share my views. Until these options are made more affordable or at least easier to implement, then I don't see them going so far yet.
Anand   3 Ways to Handle Pervasive Internet Monitoring   3/27/2014 7:40:33 AM
Re : 3 Ways to Handle Pervasive Internet Monitoring
@ stotheco, I can't agree more with you. Biometrics, still vying for perfection, are good alternatives but with additional cost and certain problems of their own as you mentioned. Passwords are the best available solution. It connects well with the idea of a better collaboration with end users. At the end of the day, security is a combination of various different measures instead of one complete system.
Anand   3 Ways to Handle Pervasive Internet Monitoring   3/27/2014 7:39:06 AM
Re : 3 Ways to Handle Pervasive Internet Monitoring
All pervasive encryption is surely the way to counter all pervasive internet monitoring whether or not it is safe enough. Encryption makes it at least hard for the monitors to sneak the data if not makes it completely secure. With proper security alarms in place, it should give enough time to counter the breach attempt.
singlemud   3 Ways to Handle Pervasive Internet Monitoring   3/26/2014 4:36:11 PM
Re: Re : 3 Ways to Handle Pervasive Internet Monitoring
security is always the last thing end user cares. out of sight, out of mind.
Henrisha   3 Ways to Handle Pervasive Internet Monitoring   3/25/2014 3:23:36 PM
Re: Ours is not to reason why...
I wouldn't say that all non-IT people have that mindset. The problem seems to be a lack of awareness, and it's hard to fathom that this is still the case, considering how much press the effects of poor security has gotten. 
Andrew Froehlich   3 Ways to Handle Pervasive Internet Monitoring   3/25/2014 8:55:31 AM
Re: Re : 3 Ways to Handle Pervasive Internet Monitoring
Anand. Thanks for the comment. I agree that end users can't be 100% removed from the equation. But our goal should be to lessen their involvement and damage that can be done with human error.
User Ranking: Blogger
Anand   3 Ways to Handle Pervasive Internet Monitoring   3/25/2014 7:35:18 AM
Re : 3 Ways to Handle Pervasive Internet Monitoring
It might definitely be a mistake to count on users to protect themselves against more and more sophisticated monitoring and threats, but I still can't understand how they can be isolated altogether. It does come down to users at some point to do their bit. Better collaboration with users is a much better way than isolating them from the whole concept of security.
eethtworkz   3 Ways to Handle Pervasive Internet Monitoring   3/21/2014 10:57:27 AM
Re: Ours is not to reason why...
Lufu,

You are incorrect in your assumptions here.

Non-IT Folks don't consider Security a Serious issue unless they are Fined or forced to Comply by means of Other incentives.

That's primary where half the Battle lies.

The other half lies in convincing Business to release funds for Security.

You get both these parts through you win the Entire battle!

 
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