Week in review: RSA conference wrap; Brandis wants private-public security alliance

The RSA security conference in the US was on, bringing information-security professionals from around the globe – and pundits onto the stage (check out our photo gallery here). The head of RSA told security professionals they needed to get rid of old mindsets when considering security, while an expert panel concluded that giving encryption keys to the US National Security Agency (NSA) was a bad idea; other experts said a proposed key-escrow plan it just wouldn't work.

Some were contemplating whether it was time to rethink the traditional security boundary, while NSA speakers warned that cybercriminals have turned to focus on gaps in user-awareness training now that phishing is less effective than it was. Little wonder some are comparing the reporting of cybercrime to seminal film 'Groundhog Day', in which the same thing happens over and over again. One security expert suggested fighting attackers by revising software so quickly that vulnerabilities couldn't be exploited, while other equally robust ideas were flying thick and fast as the conference drew to a close.

Meanwhile, at the first-ever Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) conference in Canberra, Attorney-General George Brandis was calling for broader collaboration with the private sector through the centralised ACSC – an idea the US government is set to match with a planned cybersecurity centre in Silicon Valley. The US is striking back against cyber attacks (never mind the slashing of research budgets in areas critical to the progress of cybersecurity). Nonetheless, the US Department of Defense wants to rebuild trust with the technology industry.

A global study of advertising quality found that Australian online advertisements are less likely to be fraudulent than those in other countries, but were also of an overall lower quality. Google debuted a plan to encrypt its ad traffic in a bid to thwart ad-hijacking efforts. This, despite figures showing that enterprise adoption of encryption is actually slowing – and that those who have adopted encryption believe it frees them from the obligation to inform users about data breaches. Yet the US Congress might disagree, moving as it passed a cyberthreat information sharing bill that has raised privacy concerns for many.

Twitter may have expressed an opinion about the changing US policy, restructuring its privacy policy so that account information for users outside the US is now governed under the European Union's strict privacy policies.

Of course, compliance with such policies is one thing – but without visibility of security-related information, compliance can be hard to translate into executive-speak. This is doubly important because, new research tells us, IT leaders are not the best people to turn to in times of cybersecurity crisis.

CISOs still need to better learn how to communicate risk to business leaders better, some experts are advising – particularly given the results of a new ISACA study that found just 46 percent of organisations believe their security teams can respond to complex threats. Even vendors need to up their game, with Gartner warning that “immature” security-analytics tools needed to bolster their capabilities to speak to executives in their native tongue.

Mobile malware is not one of the things likely to trigger such a crisis, according to one report that found the risk of mobile malware infection was overblown. Yet nasties persist elsewhere: one stubbornly persistent botnet, Pushdo, emerged in a new version despite numerous efforts to shut it down since it was first identified in 2007. A well-known Russian hacking group wasted no time exploiting Flash and Windows 0-day flaws, while a flaw in multiple WordPress plugins was said to potentially affect millions of Web sites. Along similar lines, a snooping flaw in a third-party software library's implementation of HTTPS meant that 1000 iOS apps built using the tools were vulnerable to snooping.

Perhaps those tool makers need to follow the example of Google and cloud-aspirant archrival Microsoft, which both released updated productivity applications that better addressed security concerns. Microsoft also kicked off a bug-bounty program for finding flaws in its new Project Spartan browser.

Working with a broader remit, the Cloud Security Alliance is trying to enforce similarly tight security outside the Google-Microsoft sphere of influence. IBM launched new cloud-based threat-analytics tools, while Centrify launched a cloud-based identity-management service designed to improve the protection of IT management accounts and EMC Syncplicity released a cloud-based encryption key-management tool.

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.