Don't be a security snob. Support your business team!


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There have been many a times that access controls have been discussed in the meetings related to web development. With an interconnected world of APIs it is very important to understand the authentication of these end-points. One of the best approach I always vouch for is mutual authentication on SSL certificates (or 2 way SSL). Most of the times it is viable but it fails when either of party couldn't support it (hence not mutual). So, what to do when the business can't implement your "security requirement"?

The role of security is not to hinder the business, but to support it. It has to act as a pillar, and not a tollgate. We all know, that's audit!

Are you a security snob?
The rules/ regulations made by us, auditors and regulators are to make sure the architecture, implementation and roll-out is secure, and the information is tightly controlled. It is in no manner adding to the miseries of developers at the last stage of go-live. The security requirements must be clear right from the design phase. There must be a security architect appointed to work in accordance with the industry standards, and security nitty-gritties. Sometimes the security team gets to know that few important implementations have not been considered and now the project is at final stage. What should the security do - Shall it take business to the grinding halt? Shall it take the developers back to drawing board? No and no! Don't be a snob!

Look forward, and figure out the workarounds; strong mitigations steps to find a way to lower the risk. As long as you can lower the risk to minimum by using WAF, access controls, and white-listing etc. the business can make a plan to "fix" it in the next release. Make sure business understands the risk - brand or financial, and then if the risk is too high - involve the "C" suite executives, but support the business instead of bashing them with - you didn't do this, or that. It is counter-productive and doesn't help any party.

In most cases "business" accounts for the IT security paychecks and it's your (security team) job to avoid it looking like an overhead, but an investment!
IT security is NOT generating money. So don't point fingers, but hold hands!

Now, in the case of mutual authentication - what if the 2-way SSL is not available? Is IP white-listing a possible option with API credentials? Yes, if the IP is not shared by the whole network & the traffic is over secure channel. It's a strong measure to apply and restrict the participating parties to talk 1:1 on an encrypted channel. But then, I have been asked what if there is IP spoofing? Come'on guys! IP spoofing doesn't work the way you think. It's a TCP handshake; how do you expect the handshake to succeed when the IP doesn't ACK the SYN-ACK? Rememeber, the "actual IP" is not expecting the SYN-ACK & traffic will not go to the "malicious IP". So, IP spoofing over Internet is out of picture.

As a security specialist, try to understand that there are various ways to strengthen the security without being a pain in the ass. There are ways to implement compensatory controls; making sure the traffic is encrypted, access controls are tightly restricted, and risk is lowered significantly. If you can do this, you can definitely help business go live, and give them time to manage the security expectations more constructively.

Cheers, and be safe.