CyberSecurity – A History of Services
As you know your face of IT has changed more in the last 5 years that is has in the last 30. Being the old guy in the room I can remember when it was all magic, of it just working- really we were amazed that stuff would actually work, not for long but it would work. But now we are being hit in so many ways that were unseen back then, and we need to pursue new methods and tactics that will keep our customer’s data safe and secure. So let me bring you up to speed.
In the beginning:
We had a PC: The trick was the install and getting the needed devices to connect. This was a major challenge to perform, shared buses, IRQ, memory ranges. You were considered a “star” if you understood drivers and .ini files, and if you could create a modified config.sys, staff would believe you were truly a genius.
Then came connectivity: Now you had to have a vision as to what was going on with this unit as well as the other units that were now connected. You had to add the knowledge of cabling and protocols to the mix. So now you had to take care of the mix of units and the challenge were increased but you know the number of devices that were now on your LAN. Still, your network was a static environment and you were able to reach out and touch the units you were protecting. With the occupational need to add a modem to pull specific items from a vendor, the network was a static environment.
Then the Internet was available: This started as a small select group of “want to see”, the adventurous ones on your network. The tinkers, the gamers and the curious, and the noisy. But when requests started to come in that an additional modem was being connected to your network things started to change. Now the added threat was viruses. So we had to add additional software to protect against these threats. Which also brought vendors updates that had to install on each unit, one at a time. Or if you were creative from a shared resource. These updates were a, “when I have free time” item. In fact, most of the time these updates broke more stuff than they fixed. Then there was an update to the update. And so on Teks got really good on knowing the order of events and what worked well with what, the gathering of knowledge grew and most shared their knowledge with other “geeks” on electronic bulletin boards, yes there was a time before Google search.
It’s no longer the DARPA net: Once this information had grown to the level people believed they were missing out if their company didn’t connect to the “World Wide Web”. It was all about them better services allowing them to achieve cheaper service contracts with their vendors for updates, instead of media through the mail. And “Yes” then we all need to have an email address craze. All the while security was still the locks on the doors and the cameras in the hallways.
Everyone so had an “AOL account” or if you were a rebel a “CompuServe account”, this started to be the new Tek frontier. We were having to install modem banks and manage things like CHAP, PAP and NetBIOS over TCP, and dial back applications-so clients didn’t have to pay for long distance charges. But as the deployments grew, the need for faster than 56k dial-up was being requested.
Enter the High-Speed Race: Internet protocols started to be an issue, as customers started to want things like “Remote access, and not to have a dedicated modem line at the house. And was no wanting to wait for the lines on the screen to refresh. And was in possible to work out of the office and still be productive, and not go insane waiting. As with all things time is money, and carriers started to offer services to the public with faster speeds in the flavor of ISDN. A whopping 128k, with an analog phone line for free. This was all that was available in rural areas and in small offices that could afford the frame relay circuits that could give speeds in increments of 56k. Several installs I performed for the mainframe to mainframe connections that successfully transferred full day’s production to the failover site on a 128k connection that cost them $5,000 a month. And everyone was happy and amazed. And then months later could get an option for faster speed, 256k link for a couple thousand more, a month. These lines were point to point and were considered secure. Soon to be replaced by WAN links provided by AT&T with would give you an IP address that would allow you to be a Class IP address. And the monster was released. There were no rules, and devices were live to each other for the first time, with no nets. It was one big happy ping party. It was cool to see who was out there, realizing it was cool to ping a device that was on the other side of the world and has it reply in less than 5 seconds. Living large was to be in a chat room with others watching the text being typed live in chat rooms from all over the world. But as all parties do, it started to get out of control. People were creating programs and were posting them online for all to distribute “free-ware” on BBS’s that contained stuff that you were not aware was included. And the early software programmers jumped into the dance, by providing counter software like “Nortons PCtools” and other small one man companies that would protect you from Trojans, and Yankee Doodle pranks. As the bugs grew, people started to refer to the problem as I think my PC has a bug, I think it has a virus. Hence the tag, you have a virus. The viruses at that time spread to other units on the network, as most people didn’t know those bad things happen with you are sharing space with groups of other people. Soon the small one man shops that created anti-virus programs became all the rage, and you only cool if you had the latest AV products that could protect you. And that is pretty much how computer security was till maybe the mid 90’s. Then as size data grew and the speeds became faster the ability to copy a company’s entire data was ever more possible. Think of this, in the days of the past to copy a 100mg of data, you would have to use several reels of tape (not to mention have a like reel unit somewhere), or a huge stack of 360K 5 ½ floppies, of 11 9GB full height hard drives, and the time to do it- days. Now you can copy gigs of data in minutes, on a device the size of your pocket knife.
Back to security, so as the data became larger and the speeds faster the Teks had to take more into account when working with networked devices. And so they created a certification that proved that once completed you were tested that you knew what the application did, and was able to troubleshoot the abilities of the specific application to perform. Just one problem there were new applications coming out so fast that most Teks once certified lost interest as they had to cover all the certifications, each software vendor certification, and every hardware vendors certification. But when there was a problem, each pointed to the other and said: “its there issue, we have never seen that before”. So the value of Teks rose quickly as a good Tek, was worth his weight to the company. This soon brought another problem to what was now being called Information Systems, only to get quickly be shortened to “IS”, but that sounded to mainframe-ish and was commonly renamed Information Technologies, and since we all enjoy another acronym “IT” was found. Soon there were IT specialists everywhere, loaded with certifications and wanting high salaries to show their skills, one problem you may be hiring a “paper cert”, which was a person that only knew the material that was on the test, and had done no real hands on. The paper mills or test crams, bloomed up everywhere, stating real exam questions.
Exciting news for those that had no experience, take a few tests and make a great career in the world of high Tech. One big problem, they had nothing to back up the salary that was being demanded. The “come off the roof, and get a job in IT” left both the IT industry lacking real skilled employees and those that came off the roof, no job only a debt to pay for the classes taken.
IT jobs grew like crazy as new skills were needed to keep the networks running as ever more people were being added to more complex environments. So many companies started to farm (self-grow) their staff into taking care of the systems themselves. This was viewed as safe, and a long-term plan for the larger firms that hired high skilled staff. But the small companies were left using a neighbor’s kid who was really sharp on computers and was a genius with technology. Many of those that were trained in the larger shops like me realized that there was a huge market that was in the small business IT.
Here come the bad guys: So like I said before the networks on the upper end were becoming more muddled with application complexity and heavier demand on the performance needs of the users and the stuff. Security was all about keeping users from seeing stuff that was above their pay grade. And making sure that physical hardware was not misplaced. And while all this was going on, Nation States rumors were starting to hit, like China was hacking into the Pentagon and other large network. Which had grown so large, nobody was sure exactly who was connected to whom and how. The thousands of departments quadrupled by the number of staff that did it their way and each only had report ability to a direct supervisor whom really had no clue as to who else was on the connection, or who was listening. Because of each division, branch or department as only directly responsible for those under them, not above them. And meanwhile at the small business, it was even grimmer, the attitude was “I’m too small, they only hack the big guys” so nothing was done.