Posts in Category "Security"

Do You Know How to Recognize Phishing?

Computer login and password on paper attached to a hook concept for phishing or internet security

By now, most of us know that the email from the Nigerian prince offering us large sums of money in return for our help to get the money out of Nigeria is a scam. We also recognize that the same goes for the email from our bank that is laden with spelling errors. However, phishing attacks have become more sophisticated over the years, and for the most part, it has become much harder to tell the difference between a legitimate piece of communication and a scam.

In recognition of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, we asked a nationally representative sample of ~2,000 computer-owning adults in the United States about their behaviors and knowledge when it comes to cybersecurity. This week, we’ll share some of the insights from our survey related to phishing—as well as resources and tips on how you can better protect yourself from falling victim to phishing attacks.

What is phishing?

Phishing is a form of fraud in which the attacker tries to learn information such as login credentials or account information by masquerading as a legitimate, reputable entity or person in email, instant messages (IMs) or other communication channel. Examples would be an email from a bank that is carefully designed to look like a legitimate message but that is coming from a criminally-motivated source, a phone message claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) threatening large fines unless you immediately pay what you supposedly owe, or the email from the Nigerian prince pleading for your compassion and promising a large reward. Attackers typically create these communications in an effort to steal money, personal information, or both. Phishing emails or IMs are typically designed to make you click on links or open attachments that look authentic but are really just there to distribute malware on your machine or to capture your credit card number in a form on the attacker’s site.

So do YOU know how to recognize phishing?

For the purpose of this blog post, we’ll focus on phishing emails as the attacker’s choice of communication. According to our survey, 70 percent of adults in the United States believe they can identify a phishing email. That percentage rises to 80 percent among Millennials.[i] Yet nearly four (4) in 10 people believe they have been victims of phishing. This goes to show that it’s not as easy to detect phishing emails as it may sound! Here are six tips to help you identify whether you’ve received a “phishy” email:

1. The email urges you to take immediate action

Phishing emails often try to trick you into clicking a link by claiming that your account has been closed or put on hold, or that there’s been fraudulent activity requiring your immediate attention. Of course, it’s possible you may receive a legitimate message informing you to take action on your account. To be safe, don’t click on the link in the email, no matter how authentic it appears to be. Instead, log into the account in question directly by visiting the appropriate website, then check your account status.

2. You don’t recognize the email sender

Another common way to identify a phishing email is if you don’t recognize the email sender. Two-thirds of those individuals we surveyed who believe they can identify a phishing email noted a top indicator to be whether or not they recognized the sender. However, our survey results also show that despite the warning signs, more than four (4) in 10 U.S. adults will still open the email—and among those, nearly half would click on a link inside—potentially putting themselves at risk.

3. The hyperlinked URL is different from the one shown

The hyperlink text in a phishing email may include the name of a legitimate bank. But when you hover the mouse over the link (without clicking on it), you may discover in a small pop-up window that the actual URL differs from the one displayed and that it doesn’t contain the bank’s name. Similarly, you can hover your mouse over the address in the “From” field to see if the website domain matches that of the organization the email is supposed to have been sent from.

4. The email in question has improper spelling or grammar

This is one of the most common signs that an email isn’t legitimate. Sometimes, the mistake is easy to spot, such as “Dear Costumer” instead of “Dear Customer.”

Other mistakes might be more difficult to spot, so make sure to look at the email in closer detail. For example, the subject line or the email itself might say “Health coverage for the unemployeed.” The word “unemployed” isn’t exactly difficult to spell, and any legitimate organization should have editors who review marketing emails carefully before sending them out. So when in doubt, check the email closely for misspellings and improper grammar.

5. The email requests personal information

Reputable organizations don’t ask for personal customer information via email. For example, if you have a checking account, your bank already knows your account number.

6. The email includes suspicious attachments

It would be highly unusual for a legitimate organization to send you an email with an attachment, unless it’s a document you’ve requested or are expecting. As always, if you receive an email that looks in any way suspicious, never click to download the attachment, as it could be malware.

What to do when you think you’ve received a phishing email

Report potential phishing scams. If you think you’ve received a phishing email from someone posing as Adobe, please forward that email to, so we can investigate.

Google also offers online help for reporting phishing websites and phishing attacks. And last but not least, the U.S. government offers valuable tips for protecting yourself from phishing scams as well as an email address for reporting scams:

So while the Nigerian prince has become a lot more sophisticated in his tactics, there is a lot you can do to help protect yourself. Most importantly, trust your instincts. If it smells like a scam, it might very well be a scam!

[i] Millennials are considered individuals who reached adulthood around the turn of the 21st century. If you are in your mid-30s today, you are considered a Millennial.

Defining Security Automation Goals (Part I)

This is the first of a multi-part series on security automation. This blog will focus on high-level design considerations. The next blog will focus on technical design considerations for building security automation. The third blog will dive even deeper with the specific examples as the series continues to get more technical.

There are many possible approaches for adding automation to your security process. For many security engineers, it is an opportunity to get away from reviewing other engineers’ code and write some of their own. One key difference between a successful automation project and “abandonware” is to create a project that will produce meaningful results for the organization. In order to accomplish that, it is critical to have a clear idea of what problem you are trying to solve at the onset of the project.

Conceptual aspirations

When choosing the right path for designing security automation, you need to decide what will be the primary goals for the automation. Most automation projects can be grouped into common themes:


Scalability is something that most engineers instinctively go to first because the cloud has empowered researchers to do so much more. Security tools designed for scalability often focus on the penetration testing phase of the software development lifecycle. They often involve running black or grey box security tests against the infrastructure in order to confirm that the service was deployed correctly. Scalability is necessary if you are going to measure every host in a large production environment. While scalability is definitely a powerful tool that is necessary in the testing phase of your security development lifecycle, it sometimes overshadows other important options that can occur earlier in the development process and that may be less expensive in terms of resources.


There is a lot of value in being able to say that “Every single release has ___.” Consistency isn’t considered as challenging of a problem as scalability because it is often taken for granted. Consistency is necessary for compliance requirements where public attestations need to have clear, simple statements that customers and auditors can understand. In addition, “special snowflakes” in the environment can drown an organization’s response when issues arise. Consistency automation projects frequently focus on the development or build phase of the software development lifecycle. They include integrating security tasks into build tools like Jenkins, Chef, Git, or Maven. By adding security controls into these central tools in the development phase, you can have reasonable confidence that machines in production are correctly configured without scanning each and every one individually.


Efficiency projects typically focus on improving operational processes that currently involve too much human interaction.  The goal is to refocus the team’s manual resources to more important tasks. For instance, many efficiency projects have the word “tracking” somewhere in their definition and involve better leveraging tools like JIRA or Sharepoint. Often times, efficiency automation is purchased rather than built because you aren’t particularly concerned with how the problem gets solved, so long as it gets solved and that you aren’t the one who has to maintain the code for it. That said, SalesForce’s open-source project ( is an example of a custom built efficiency tool which they claim improved operational efficiency and essentially resulted “in a ‘free’ extra engineer for our team.”


Metrics gathering can be a project in itself or it can be the byproduct of a security automation tool. Metrics help inform and influence management decisions with concrete data. That said, it is important to pick metrics that can guide management and development teams towards solving critical issues. For instance, development teams will interpret the metrics gathered as the key performance indicator (KPI) that they are being measured against by management.

In addition, collecting data almost always leads to requests for more detailed data. This can be useful in helping to understand a complex problem or it can be a distraction that leads the team down a rabbit hole. If you take time to select the proper metrics, then you can help keep the team focused on digging deeper into the critical issues.

Operational Challenges

If your scalable automation project aims to run a web application penetration tool (WAPT) across your entire enterprise, then you are basically creating an “enterprise edition” for that tool. If you have used enterprise edition WAPTs in the past and you did not achieve the success that you wanted, then recreating the same concept with a slightly different tool will most likely not produce significantly different results when it comes to action within the enterprise. The success or failure of tools are typically hinged on the operational process surrounding the tool more than the tool itself. If there is no planning for handling the output from the tool, then increasing the scale at which the tool is run doesn’t really matter. When you are designing your automation project, consider operational questions such as:

Are you enumerating a problem that you can fix?

Enumerating an issue that the organization doesn’t have the resources to address can sometimes help justify getting the funding for solving the problem. On the other hand, if you are enumerating a problem that isn’t a priority for an organization, then perhaps you should refocus the automation on issues that are more critical. If no change occurs as the result of the effort, then the project will stop iterating because there is no need to re-measure the issue.

In some situations, it may be better to tackle the technical debt of basic issues before tackling larger issues. Tests for basic technical debt issues are often easier to create and they are easier for the dev team to address. As the dev team addresses the issues, the project will also iterate in response. While technical debt isn’t as exciting as the larger issues, addressing it may be a reasonable first step towards getting immediate ROI.

Are you producing “noise at scale”?

Running a tool that is known for creating a high level of false positives at scale will produce “noise at scale”. Unless you have an “at scale” triage team to eliminate the false positives, then you are just generating more work for everyone. Teams are less likely to take action on metrics that they believe are debatable due to the fear that their time might be wasted. A good security tool will empower the team to be more efficient rather than drown them in reports.

How will metrics guide the development team?

As mentioned earlier, the metric will be interpreted as a KPI for the team and they will focus their strategy around what is reported to management. Therefore, it makes sense not to bother measuring non-critical issues since you don’t want the team to get distracted by minor issues. You will want to make sure that you are collecting metrics on the top issues in a way that will encourage teams towards the desired approach.

Often times there are multiple ways to solve an issue and therefore multiples ways to measure the problem. Let’s assume that you wanted to create a project to tackle cross-site scripting (XSS). Creating metrics that count the number of XSS bugs will focus a development team on a bug fixing approach to the problem. Alternatively, counting the number of sites with content security policy headers deployed will focus the development team on security mitigations for XSS. In some cases, focusing the team on security mitigations has more immediate value than focusing on bug fixing.

What metrics does management need to see?

One method to determine how your metrics will drive development teams and inform management, is to phrase them in terms of an assertion. For instance, “I assert that the HSTS header is returned by all our sites in order to ensure our data is always encrypted.”  By phrasing it as an assertion, you are phrasing the test in terms of a simple true/false terms that can be reliably measured at scale. You are also phrasing the test in terms of its desired outcome using simplistic terms. This makes it easier to determine if the goal implied by the metric’s assertion meets with management’s goals.

From a management perspective, it is also important to understand whether your measurement of change or a measurement of adoption. Measuring the number of bugs in an application is often measuring an ongoing wave. If security programs are working, the height of the waves will trend down overtime. Although, that means you have to watch the wave through multiple software releases before you can reliably see a trend in its change. If you measure security mitigations, then you are measuring the adoption rate of a project that will end with a state of relative “completeness.” Tracking wave metrics overtime is valuable because you need to see when things are getting better or worse. However, since it is easy to procrastinate on issues that are open ended,  adoption-style projects that can be expressed as having a definitive “end” may get more immediate traction from the development team because you can set a deadline that needs to be met.

Putting it all together

With these ideas and questions in mind, you can mentally weigh which types of projects to start with for immediate ROI and the different tools for deploying them.

For instance, counting XSS and blind SQL injection bugs are hard tests to set up (authentication to the application, crawling the site, etc.), these tests frequently have false positives, and they typically result in the team focusing on bug fixing which would require in-depth monitoring overtime because it is a wave metric. In contrast, a security project measuring security headers, such as X-Frame-Options or HSTS, are simple tests to write, they have low false-positive rates, they can be defined as “(mostly) done” once the headers are set, and they focus the team on mitigations. Another easy project might be writing scalable tests that confirm the SSL configuration meets the company standards. Therefore, if you are working on a scalability project, starting with a simple SSL or security header projects can be quick wins that demonstrate the value of the tool. From there, you can then progress to measuring the more complex issues.

However, let’s say you don’t have the compute resources for a scalability project. An alternative might be to turn the projects into consistency style projects earlier in the lifecycle. You could create Git or Jenkins extensions that search the source code for indicators that the team has deployed security headers or proper SSL configurations. You would then measure how many teams are using the build platform extensions and review the collected results from the extension. It would have a similar effect as testing the deployed machines without as much implementation overhead. Whether this will work better overall for your organization will depend on where you are with your security program and its compliance requirements.


While the technical details of how to build security automation is an exciting challenge for any engineer, it is critical to build a system that will empower an organization. Your project will have a better chance of success if you spend time considering how the output of your tool will help guide progress. The scope of the project in terms of development effort and project coverage by carefully considering where in the development process you will deploy the automation.  By spending time on defining how the tool can best serve the team’s security goals, you can help ensure you are building a successful platform for the company.

The next blog will focus on the technical design considerations for building security automation tools.

Peleus Uhley
Principal Scientist, Security

Adobe Works with BYU Summer Security Camp for Girls

Adobe Works with the BYU Cybersecurity Summer Camp for Girls

This summer members of the Adobe security teams worked with Brigham Young University (BYU) on a free cybersecurity summer camp for girls in grades 8 – 12.  This event is organized by the BYU Cybersecurity Research Lab and Adobe helps with funding, curriculum development, and mentoring for the program. The camp included 4 days of hands-on cybersecurity workshops, classes, and experiences. The students learned about many topics designed to get them excited about pursuing cybersecurity as a career including hacking, privacy, viruses and how to stay safe online. At the core of the event was a space-themed “escape” challenge. This challenge required teams to solve, through a simulated space ship command bridge, common cybersecurity problems to avoid power failures, hostile alien encounters, and other pitfalls. It was a good combination of training from experts and fun experiential learning experiences.

“All the research and our own experience has shown that this age range is a critical time for young women to develop an interest in cybersecurity” says Dr. Dale Rowe, Director of the BYU Cybersecurity Research Lab. Not only was it beneficial for the participants, Adobe employees serving as mentors also had a great time. CJ Cornel, student director of the camp, said, “the camp was a great way to help us share our passion for cybersecurity with some of the next generation in a safe environment.”

This camp is one of many activities Adobe sponsors to encourage girls and young women to enter the cybersecurity field including Women in Cybersecurity, Girls Who Code, Winja “Capture the Flag” (“CTF”) Competition, and r00tz @ BlackHat.

2016-08-13-2 fromthedailyherald

Chandler Newby
Information Security Engineer

Donald Porter
Sr. Manager, Security Engineering

Security Considerations for Container Orchestration

Orchestration platforms are enabling organizations to scale their applications at an unparalleled rate which is why many technology centric companies are surging to move applications onto a distributed datacenter wide platform that enables them to scale at a click of a button.

One orchestration platform that is rapidly growing in popularity is a distributed datacenter wide operating system running on top of the Apache Mesos kernel. A traditional operating system manages resources for a single server, whereas a distributed operating system seamlessly manages resources for multiple servers acting as one shared pool of resources. Once Mesos agents have been established on servers throughout a datacenter, a cluster is formed, and Mesos jobs can be distributed from a Mesos master to servers with available resources within the cluster for processing.

A risk associated with the Mesos master and slave model revolves around the authentication of Mesos services. Many Mesos deployments do not require authentication by default – if an attacker can communicate with either the Mesos master service (default TCP port 5050) or a Mesos slave service (default TCP port 5051), the attacker may be able to easily gain remote code execution (RCE) on another server within the cluster.

Frameworks are commonly installed within DC/OS environments to provide datacenter wide services. For example, the Marathon Framework is commonly used within these environments to perform container orchestration and help ensure that a specific number of instances of a container are running persistently within the DC/OS cluster. The Chronos Framework is also commonly deployed to provide fault tolerant distributed job scheduling throughout the cluster.

Today many frameworks do not by default enforce authentication on both management web UIs and the API interfaces. Therefore, if an attacker can communicate with the framework, they may be able to gain remote code execution (RCE) on servers within the cluster.

One hurdle associated with the exploitation of framework services, is that many implementations will deploy framework services to random high TCP ports on arbitrary servers within the cluster, making it slightly more difficult for an unaware attacker to find the services within the datacenter. This hurdle can be overcome by leveraging a few built in services within the DC/OS environment. First, many times a unique top level domain (TLD) is established for the Mesos cluster which can be used by services within the cluster to locate frameworks (e.g. ping -c3 marathon.mesos). Second, if the Mesos master service can be queried, a complete list of Mesos slaves can be obtained potentially reducing the attack space. Lastly, many times a Mesos DNS service is established that will enable a remote attacker to perform an enumerate API call. This is the functional equivalent of performing a DNS zone transfer – it will provide a detailed map of all services and random high ports back to the attacker.

Defenders can easily take quite a few steps to help prevent the above exploitation paths, including:

  • Enabling authentication on all Mesos Masters and Agents
  • Enabling authentication on all Framework Web UIs and APIs services
  • Disabling the enumerate API call for the Mesos DNS service
  • Logging authentication requests and the execution of jobs for detection of suspicious events

As the popularity of orchestration platforms grows, attackers will continue to spend more resources building tools and techniques to exploit these frameworks and services. Organizations leveraging these technologies would be wise to spend the extra cycles up front to put reasonable security controls in place before using these platforms to host production applications.

Bryce Kunz
Sr. Lead Security Engineer, Digital Marketing

Tips for Sandboxing Docker Containers

In the world of virtualization, we know two words: Virtual Machines and Containers. Both provide sandboxing: Virtual Machines provide it through hardware level abstraction while containers provide a process level isolation using a common kernel. Docker containers by default are secure but do they provide complete isolation? Let us look at the various ways sandboxing could be achieved in containers and what we need to do to try and achieve complete isolation.


One of the building blocks of containers that provides the first level of sandboxing is Namespaces. It allows processes with their own view of the system. It isolates the processes from having less effect on other processes in container environment or in the host system. Today there are 6 namespaces available in Linux and all of them are supported by Docker.

  • PID namespace: Provides isolation such that a process belonging to a particular PID namespace can only see other processes in the same namespace. It makes sure that processes that belong to one PID namespace cannot know the existence of processes in other PID namespace and hence cannot inspect or kill them.
  • User namespace: Provides isolation such that a process belonging to a particular user namespace is given a view such that a user could be a root within that namespace, but on the host system, it is mapped as a non-privileged user. This provides a great security improvement in Docker environment.
  • Mount namespace: Provides isolation of the host filesystem from the new filesystem created for the process. This allows processes in different namespaces to change the mount points without affecting each other.
  • Network namespace: Provides isolation such that a process belonging to a particular network namespace gets its own network stack that includes routing tables, IP tables rules, sockets and interfaces. Additionally, we would require Ethernet bridges that allow networking between hosts and namespaces.
  • Uts namespace: Isolates two system identifiers – nodename and domainname. This allows containers to have its own hostname and NIS domain name, which is helpful during the initialization steps.
  • IPC namespace: Provides isolation of InterProcess communication resources that includes IPC message queues, semaphores etc.

Although, namespaces provide a great level of isolation, there are resources that a container can access, but they are not namespaced. These resources are common to all the containers on the host machine which raises concerns over the security. This may present a risk of attack or information exposure. Resources that are not sandboxed include the following:

  • The Kernel Keyring: The Kernel Keyring separates keys using UID. Since we have multiple users in different containers that might have the same UID, all of these users are allowed to have access to the same keys in the keyring. Applications using Kernel Keyring for handling secrets are much less secured due to lack of sandboxing
  • The /proc and system time: Due to the “one size fits all” nature of Docker, a number of linux capabilities remain enabled. With certain capabilities enabled, the exposure of /proc offers a source of information leak and large attack surface. /proc includes files that contain configuration information of the kernel. It has information about the host system resources. Another set of Capabilities include the SYS_TIME and SYS_ADMIN, that allow changes to the system time not just inside the container, but also for the host and other containers.
  • The Kernel Modules: If an application loads kernel modules, that would allow the newly added module to be available across all the containers in the environment and the host system. There are some modules that enforce security policies. Access to such modules would allow the applications to make changes to the security policies which again is a big concern.
  • Hardware: The underlying hardware of the host system is shared between all the containers running on the system. A proper cgroup configuration and access control is required to have a fair distribution of resources. In other words, namespaces allow a larger area to be divided into smaller areas and cgroups allow proper usage of these areas. Cgroups work on resources like memory, cpu, disk drives etc. Having a well-defined cgroup configuration would prevent DoS attacks.


Capabilities are rules that help in performing privileged operations. The privileged operations are only allowed by the root user. An individual non-root process would not be able to perform any privileged operation. By dividing the rules into Capabilities, we can assign them to individual processes without elevating their privilege level. This way we can sandbox the container with certain restricted action and if it is compromised, it would perform less damage than it would with the “root” access. Be careful when using capabilities:

  • Defaults: As mentioned earlier, with “one size fits all” nature of Docker, a number of Capabilities remain enabled. These default set of capabilities given to a container does not provide complete isolation. A better approach would be to remove all the capabilities for the container and then add only those capabilities that are required by the application process running in the container. Adding capabilities comes from trial and error approach using various test scenarios for the application running on the container.
  • SYS_ADMIN capability: Another issue here is that even capabilities are not finegrained. One such capability that is most talked about is the SYS_ADMIN capability. It has a lot of functionalities, some of which are used only by the privileged user. Another reason of concern here.
  • SETUID binary: The setuid bit provides full root permission to a process using it. Many linux distributions use the setuid bit on several binaries, despite the fact that capabilities can be an alternative to using setuid, thus making it more safe and provide less surface for attack in case there is a break out from a non-privileged container. Defang SETUID binaries by removing the SETUID bit or mount filesystems with nosuid.


Seccomp (Secure Computing mode) is a simple sandboxing tool feature in the Linux Kernel. Seccomp provides a filtering mechanism for incoming system calls. It provides a process to monitor all the system calls it can make and take action if the system call is not allowed by the filter. Thus, if an attacker gains access to the container, it would have a limited number of system calls in its arsenal. The seccomp filter system uses Berkeley Packet Filter (BPF) system, similar to the one that uses socket filters. In other words, seccomp allows a user to catch a syscall and “allow”, “deny”, “trap”, “kill”, or “trace” it via the syscall number and arguments passed. An additional layer of granularity is added in locking down the process in one’s containers to only do what is needed.

Docker has provided a default seccomp profile for running on the containers that is more like a whitelist of calls that are allowed. This profile disables only 44 system calls out of 300+ available system calls. This is because of the vast use cases of the containers and its current deployment. Making it stricter would make many applications not usable via Docker container environment. Eg: System call such as reboot is disabled, because there would never be a situation where a container would ever need to reboot the host machine.

Another good example is keyctl – a system call for which a vulnerability was recently found (CVE 2016-0728). Keyctl is also disabled by default now. A most secure seccomp profile would be to create a Custom seccomp profile that blocks these 44 system calls and the ones running on the container that are not required by the app. This can be done with the help of DockerSlim ( that auto-generates seccomp profiles.

The good part about the seccomp feature is that it would make the attack surface very narrow. However, it also has around 250+ calls still available that would make it susceptible to attacks. For example, CVE 2014-2153 is a vulnerability that was found in the futex system call, which enables privilege escalation through a kernel exploit. This system call is still enabled and is inevitable since it has legitimate use for implementing basic resource locking for synchronization needs. Although the seccomp feature makes the containers more secured than earlier versions of Docker, it only provides moderate security in the container environment. This needs to be hardened, especially for enterprises, to make it compatible with the application running on the containers.


Through the hardening methods for namespaces, cgroups and the use of seccomp profiles we are able to sandbox our containers to a great extent. By following various benchmarks and using least privileges we can make our container environment secure. However, this only scratches the surface and there are plenty of things to take care of.

Rahul Gajria
Cloud Security Researcher Intern



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Adobe’s CCF Helps Acquisitions Meet Security Compliance Requirements

The Common Controls Framework (CCF) is a comprehensive set of control requirements, rationalized from the alphabet soup of several different industry information security and privacy standards. To help ensure that our standards effectively meet our customers’ expectations, we are constantly refining this framework based on industry requirement changes, customer asks, and internal feedback.

As Adobe continues to grow as an organization and as we continue to onboard new acquisitions, CCF enables these acquisitions to come into compliance more quickly. At Adobe, the goal is for acquisitions to meet organization security practices and standards and come up to speed with the compliance roadmap of the organization. CCF enables the new acquisitions to inherit existing simple & scalable solutions to reduce the overall effort significantly to meet compliance goals.

The journey for the newest members of the Adobe family (read: acquisition) begins with a gap assessment against the CCF. Once the gaps are determined against the existing CCF controls, the team can leverage a lot of driver-subscriber scalable controls (Read to understand driver-subscriber controls at Adobe) that are aligned with the CCF to remediate a majority of the gaps. Once the remediation is completed, often what is left is a handful of controls that need to be implemented in order to achieve compliance.

Another key component of security compliance is ensuring proper supporting documentation is in place. In most cases, the acquisition can therefore leverage existing documents used by product teams at Adobe that have successfully embarked and achieved compliance or on the roadmap, as they all address the same CCF requirements. Therefore, the team can often subscribe to the existing documentation when subscribing to a service. For the standalone controls, the teams can use existing templates documented in-line with the CCF to speed up the documentation effort.

Example of Implementation

One of our recent acquisitions was required to undergo PCI DSS compliance and as a result they underwent the gap assessment against the CCF controls. The acquisition was able to successfully leverage a lot of existing solutions like multifactor authentication to production, hardened baseline images, security monitoring, incident response processes to name a few to achieve compliance. At the end, the team was required to implement only a handful of standalone controls.

Given the new updated change in PCI DSS 3.2 around multifactor authentication, this acquisition will not be affected by the change in requirement as they already implemented Multi-factor authentication due to requirements listed in CCF.


Adobe’s CCF controls are helping new acquisitions achieve security compliance more quickly. These teams are able to leverage much of the existing infrastructure Adobe has put in place to meet and maintain its security certifications. Therefore, the overall burden of implementing these controls is significantly reduced and the acquisition that is now an Adobe member can continue to delight our customers at the same time as being compliant with Adobe’s security requirements.

Rahat Sethi
Sr. Information Security Analyst, Adobe Risk Assurance and Analysis Services (RAAS)

Adobe @ BlackHat USA 2016

We are headed to BlackHat USA 2016 in Las Vegas this week with members of our Adobe security teams. We are looking forward to connecting with the security community throughout the week. We also hope to meet up with some of you at the parties, at the craps tables, or just mingling outside the session rooms during the week.

This year Peleus Uhley, our Lead Security Strategist, will be speaking on Wednesday, August 3rd, at 4:20 p.m. He will be talking about “Design Approaches for Security Automation.” DarkReading says his talk is one of the “10 Hottest Talks” at the conference this year, so you do not want to miss it.

This year we are again proud to sponsor the r00tz Kids Conference @ DefCon. If you are going to DefCon and bringing your kids, we hope you take the time out to take them to this great event for future security pros. There will be educational sessions and hands-on workshops throughout the event to challenge their creativity and skills.

Make sure to follow our team on Twitter @AdobeSecurity. Feel free to follow me as well @BradArkin. We’ll be tweeting info as to our observations and happenings during the week. Look for the hashtag #AdobeBH2016.

We are looking forward to a great week in Vegas.

Brad Arkin
VP and Chief Security Officer

Identity and Access Management in the Enterprise Environment

The management of identity is one of the most common and complex security challenges that is faced by organizations today. Many businesses operate globally with thousands of users constantly accessing hundreds of unique systems and applications. Establishing a role-based model and enforcing accountability is critical to securing access to company resources, but can be very difficult to implement, especially in mature and large organizations.

At Adobe, our Identity and Access Management (IAM) strategy is comprised of the following 6 pillars:

  1. Compliance with key Adobe Common Control Framework (CCF) objectives, especially those related to authentication and authorization.
  2. Authentication to Adobe systems is governed via a centralized identity source, which maintains compliance with scalable CCF requirements.
  3. Workflows have been implemented which automate provisioning, deprovisioning, and periodic access review processes.
  4. Access requests require a user and role to be selected from a pre-defined list, and a business justification must be provided.
  5. Once a user is granted access to a role, strong authentication is required to access company and customer resources.
  6. Critical system activity is logged to a centralized repository to maintain user accountability.

Our security administrators work diligently to discourage abuse and try to avoid human error. They recognize the importance of a centrally managed identity source built with strong role-based and accountability principles. When a single source of record exists, whose updates are automatically synced to all integrated systems, the need to manage access to each system independently is eliminated.

Workflows have been implemented to automatically route access requests to approvers, provision approved requests within the system, disable terminated users, and perform access updates based on periodic access review submissions. This automation helps reduce the risk associated with manual processes and creates efficiency in Adobe’s IAM implementation.

One of the most important pillars is defining a role-based access model. System owners predefine roles within Adobe’s automated provisioning workflow. This allows users to self-service the access request process while maintaining least privilege. Users requesting access to a role which would grant excessive privilege will be denied by the role owner and the user must resubmit their request for a more restrictive role.

Role-based models for managing access help reduce provisioning errors and overhead, improve logical access review accuracy, and enforce least privilege. When logical access roles are not defined, excessive or unauthorized access across systems is likely to result from manual and ad-hoc provisioning processes.

For example, without a defined role-based access model, new hires might require 25 separate permissions to be configured for them to perform their job responsibilities. Performing these tasks for numerous new hires, position transfers, and exiting personnel on a daily basis is cumbersome and prone to error.

Additionally, during periodic logical access reviews, the system owner must review each of the 25 separate permissions for every user with access to the system. The ability to review all users assigned to a defined role in one step will save the organization time and money while improving security.

On the other hand, defining a set of roles with explicit system privileges requires a one-time setup with minimal ongoing maintenance. Changes to existing roles should be controlled via change management processes. Once established, system owners can perform a single action to assign users to a role, or multiple roles, based on their job responsibilities.

Finally, least privilege requires that each defined and approved role has the minimum necessary system privileges which allow the role to fulfill its job requirements. When role creation is not guided by least privilege, it often results in excessive access for many of its members and appropriate access for very few of its members.  New roles should always be created for system users that require more or less access than what is provided by an existing role.

Mismanaged systems may introduce security and process breakdowns, which may facilitate unauthorized or excessive access to systems or data. Access to critical Adobe resources requires a valid whitelisted IP, username, password, and a logical access token or key. The combination of these elements comply with Adobe’s Authentication Standard requirements. If suspicious or malicious activity is identified within a system, security administrators are able identify the user and hold them accountable for their associated system activity.

Accountability ties the authenticated user to the actions they performed while interacting with the system. In most cases, a single user is assigned a unique account. When shared accounts are necessary, they must be individually authenticated to before being used by an individual user. This provides security administrators the ability to track a specific user’s actions within a system, which can be used to investigate incidents and deny repudiation.

Maintaining an efficient and more secure IAM model in a large organization can be challenging and requires diligent forethought. When implemented correctly, an organization can help reduce the risk and likelihood of unauthorized access, both internally and externally. Adobe is committed to excellence with the delivery of its services and the protection of both Adobe and customer resources. Our IAM implementation is just one of many examples of Adobe’s defense-in-depth security strategy.

Zosh Kuball
Sr. Analyst, Adobe Risk Assurance and Analysis Services (RAAS)

Preparing for Content Security Policies

Deploying Content Security Policies (CSPs) can help increase the security of your website. Therefore, it is an easy recommendation that most security professionals make when working with development teams. However, the process of helping a team go from the simple recommendation to a successfully deployed policy can be complicated. As a security professional, you need to be aware of the potential challenges along the way in order to help teams navigate their way to a successful deployment.

Let’s start with the initial challenges that developers may face. One, is that many authoring tools that support accelerated web design, do not produce CSP compliant code. While some of the major JS frameworks support CSP, the extensions to those frameworks may not. Also, there are trade-offs to running in CSP compliant mode. For instance, AngularJS has a CSP-compliant mode that you can enable. ( However, there are speed trade offs in enabling that flag. Security people may think a 30% speed trade-off is acceptable but, depending on how dependent the page is on AngularJS, the developers may take notice.

Lastly, a CSP compliant coding style may be counter-intuitive to some long time web developers. For instance, let’s take a simple button tag as an example. In a pre-CSP design approach, you would write it as:

<input type=”button” id=”myButton” value=”Click Me!” onClick=”doCoolStuff();”/>

To enable CSP, we have to tell the developer to remove the onClick statement and put it in a separate JS file. This may be counterintuitive because the developer may wonder why making two Internet requests and dynamically adding the event handler might be safer than just hard coding the event inline within the original request. From a developer’s perspective, the extra web request adds latency to the page load. Also, it will make the code harder to read because you have to do more cross-referencing in order to understand what the button does.

In terms of moving the code out of the HTML, it is more complicated than just copying and pasting. For instance, you can’t add an event handler to the button until the button has been added to the DOM. Therefore, you may need to add an additional onLoad event handler just to add the onClick event handler to the button. The same race condition would apply anytime you dynamically add content to an innerHTML property.

For cascading style sheets, you also need to remove any style properties from the code. Fortunately, while many developers still use inline style statements, the deprecation of several style properties in tags by the HTML5 movement has already forced the migration of many style settings to separate files. That said, there may be templates and libraries that developers use with style statements still in the HTML.

Understanding the changes required to support CSP is important because it gives you perspective on the scope of what you are asking teams to change. It is more than just enumerating everywhere that you load content and putting it in a header. You are likely asking teams to recode large amounts of working, validated code. This is similar to the “banned function” movement that happened in C/C++ code several years ago where developers had to re-architect existing code to use newer C/C++ functions.

Before you start a CSP deployment with teams, you should be prepared to answer questions such as:

  • Do I deploy CSP Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3?
    • Is Level 2 better than Level 1 in terms of security or does it just have more features?
    • What is the browser adoption for each level? I want to use the nonce and hash features of CSP Level 2 for my inline scripts but I also have to be compatible with older browsers.
    • I heard that the “strict-dynamic” property in Level 3 is going to make deployment easier. Should we just wait for that?
  • I read one site where it said I should start with the policy “default ‘self'” but another site said I should start with “default-src ‘none’; script-src ‘self’; connect-src ‘self’; img-src ‘self’; style-src ‘self’;”.  Which should I use?
  • Do I have to set a unique, restricted CSP for each page or can I just set one for the entire site that is a little more permissive?
  • How do I handle the CSP report-only reports? What is the process for ensuring someone reviews the reports? Is there a pre-made module available via gem/pip/npm that handles some of this and automatically puts the reports in a database?
  • Do I need to deploy the CSP reporting in production or is staging enough?
  • What are the common mistakes people make when deploying CSPs?
  • How do I debug when the CSP is breaking content? The CSP report doesn’t give me the line number of the violation and sometimes it doesn’t even give me the full path for the request. Do the builtin browser developer consoles help with debugging violations? Which is best?
  • I load JS content from a third-party provider and their content is causing issues with the recommended CSP settings. What should I do?
  • How bad is it to allow unsafe-inline? Can I use the nonce approach instead? Are there any prewritten/preapproved npm/pip/gem modules for generating nonces? How does that compare to hash source?  How do I know whether to use nonces or hashes? I heard that nonces don’t work well with static content. Is that true? Is there a way to have the server generate the hash at runtime so I don’t have to update CSPs every time I change a file?
  • How do we change our developer guides to help ensure that new code is written in a CSP compliant manner? Are there plugins for our IDEs to detect these things? Will our static analysis tools flag these issues? Are there pre-written guidelines which enumerate what you can and can’t do? Is there a way to style the code so that it is easier to handle the added complexity of cross-referencing between files?
  • Are there any published stats on rendering time when implementing CSP? What is the performance impact?
  • Is it OK to specify things like media-src, object-src or font-src and set them to ‘self’ even though we aren’t currently using them on the page? I want to limit how often I have to adjust the policy files in production. As long as they are set to ‘self’, then it shouldn’t be that big of a risk, right?

As you can see, the questions arising from deployment can get complicated quickly. For instance, it is trivial to define what would be the ideal policy and how to set the header. However, content security policies are the lowest common denominator of all your page dependencies. If the team integrates with multiple providers, then the policy is going to be whatever lowest common denominator is necessary to support all the providers that are linked by that page. How are you going to handle the situation where their third-party library requires “unsafe-inline unsafe-eval data: …”?  Are your policies immutable or will there be an exception process? What is the exception process?

While I can’t provide all the answers in a single blog, here are some thoughts on how to approach it:

  • Work on changing coding guidelines so that new code is CSP compliant. You will never catch up to where you need to be if new code continues to follow the existing development practices.
  • You can get a feel for the scope of the effort by setting up a test server with a few web pages from your site and experimenting with adding CSPs locally.
  • Rather than going after the entire site, start with critical pages. The simple process of getting your first page to work will likely require a decent amount of effort such as training the team on what the rules mean, deciding what approach should be used by the server to add the headers, learning how to debug issues, identifying patterns, etc. For instance, a login page is critical in terms of security and it is likely to have fewer third-party dependencies than other pages. Once that first page is established, you can build on your CSP deployment incrementally from there.
  • Track the policies necessary to support different third-party providers and libraries. This will allow teams to share rules and limit the amount of debugging necessary for third-party code.
  • Search for blogs and talks where people talk about the actual deployment process rather than just the technical definitions. One example is this blog by Terrill Dent of Square : For people who prefer full presentations, Michele Spagnuolo and Lukas Weichselbaum have conducted a lot research in this area. Their HITB Amsterdam presentation detailed common mistakes made in CSP deployments: (slides) (video) They also recently presented, “Making CSP great again” at OWASP AppSecEU 2016:

It is trivial to email a team telling them they should deploy content security policies and describing all the wonderful benefits that they can bring. However, the next step is to dig in and help the teams through the implementation process. In Spagnulo and Weichselbaum’s AppSecEU presentation, they mentioned that they analyzed 1.6 million policies from the web and they estimated that they were able to bypass the whitelist of at least 90% of them. Therefore, simply deploying CSPs does not guarantee security.  You will need to be prepared for all the design questions and policy decisions that will result from the effort in order to deploy them well. That preparation will pay dividends in creating and executing a successful CSP deployment plan with a development team.

Peleus Uhley
Principal Scientist

Join Members of our Security Team at AppSec Europe and Security of Things World

Our director of secure software engineering, Dave Lenoe, will be speaking at the upcoming Security of Things World conference in Berlin, Germany, June 27 – 28. In addition, two more members of our security team will also be speaking at the upcoming OWASP AppSec Europe conference in Rome, Italy, June 27 – July 1.

First up is Dave at Security of Things World. He will be speaking about how Adobe engages with the broader security community for both proactive and reactive assistance in finding and resolving vulnerabilities in our solutions. You can join him on Monday, June 27, at 2:30 p.m.

Next up will be Julia Knecht, security analyst for Adobe Marketing Cloud, at OWASP AppSec Europe to share lessons learned from developing and employing an effective Secure Product Lifecycle (SPLC) process for our Marketing Cloud solutions. This session will give you on-the-ground knowledge that may assist you in developing your own SAAS-ready SPLC that helps break down silos in your organization, making it more agile and effective at building secure solutions. Julia’s session will be on Thursday, June 30th, at 3:00 p.m.

Finally, Vaibhav Gupta, security researcher, will be leading a “lightning training” on the OWASP Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP) tool at OWASP AppSec Europe. ZAP is one of the world’s most popular free security tools and is actively maintained by hundreds of international volunteers. It helps you automatically find security vulnerabilities in your web applications while you are developing and testing them. This training is focused on helping you with ZAP automation to enable better integration of it into your DevOps environment. Vaibhav’s session will be on Friday, July 1st, at 10:20 a.m.

If you will be at either of these conferences next week, we hope you can join our team for their sessions and conversation after or in the hallways throughout the event.