Dunning-Kruger Effect in the Workplace

Information Security, IT Auditing, IT Risk Management, and many of these types of functions within an organization lend itself to many traits that can be classed as psychological egoism and can have a negative impact in the work environment. One of the most dangerous users you may encounter suffers from the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Let me explain what I have seen in some organisations and some of the attributes exhibited by the ‘problematic’ users.

Egocentric Superman

There could be many reasons why we find these users in our work environment. But before we try and classify others we need to also look at ourselves critically to make sure we do not fall into that category.

A challenge with a ‘CIO’ made me take a step back and have an independent subject-matter expert review my work as well as legal discovery to make sure that I am not at fault or lacking in my delivery. Let me describe what I have seen in the workplace over the years.

  • To hide laziness or incompetence, you will find the user shouting and complaining with a curse-words thrown in as a matter of expression. He will hide mistakes by moving the blame in public communication to create conflict. This conflict is used to direct attention away from the actual problem. His co-workers would mostly avoid the conflict and he would feel satisfied as he managed the ‘expectation’ but alas only in his eyes.
  • The next user is a parasite leaching of his co-workers to climb the corporate ladder and exhibit knowledge that he actually do not have. In the book 40 Rules of Power by Robert Greene , rule 7 states ‘Get others to do the work for you, but always take the credit’. You know the guy… asking in email, or any other communication, for solutions to a problem and then publish it to management as his own. He will not share information with co-workers and if there is a team-effort he will treat it as a one-way street.. to his benefit.
  • The last one for this topic, there are more, is the user that exhibits the Dunning-Kruger Effect. This is a total lack of empathy and a self-fulfilling attributes a person can have. Decisions are made without consideration of any data but a believe that he is right beyond any doubt. If he is challenged, he would use others that he has convinced to be in his circle to do the ‘dirty-work’ to support his decisions. Examples include writing reports or emails that are filled with half-truths or deflecting from the evidence at hand. The company he works for is not important, just his existence.

Recommended action is that you must always document any interaction with co-workers to ensure that conflict is managed before it escalates where it becomes a Human Resources problem. I suggest reading ’40 Rules of Power’ and try to analyse yourself and your co-workers as a start.

‘Evidence trumps Dunning-Kruger’

Takes these challenges and make sure they feed your growth as a person with your primary focus on delivery for the organisation. One challenge I experienced triggered me to complete a task that has been on the back-burner for a while. Everything is a learning experience.

Do you have a view of the attacks in your network?

All traffic in and out of your environment MUST be monitored for unknown traffic and reviewed by skilled staff and if required incident response initiated.  In the following image (clickable for

Struts Attack to targeted server

large view) you can see that there are attacks from Indonesia on the Apache Struts exploit.  I can note here that the server being attacked is a Hikvision security DVR.  This server is targeted based and preliminary reconnaissance (high port) and sometimes a random attack hoping for the best (port 80) on the fact that it is seen as a DVR and there are admin elevation attacks for a number of these devices.

The lesson that I want a person to take away here is to think about if you have a continuous viewpoint of your network of all the ‘weird’ traffic in-and-out?  The following checklist would be helpful to pick some low-hanging fruits.

I would also look at the first step in your IT risk management landscape is the asset management process.  If you do not know what you have, you have no control on the actual risks present in your environment.  Assets include, hardware, software, data-flow, data, users (internal and external), configuration of devices and many more.

  • Do you monitor all traffic in and out of your network?
  • Do you review the data using a review methodology (policies, standards, procedures and guidelines)?
  • The staff reviewing the data, are they skilled based on the requirements?
  • In case of an incident, what is your incident response plan?
  • Is the data trustworthy for evidence selection in case of an investigation?
  • Do you test your team by injecting some alerts at random times? (example: http://testmyids.com should trigger an event)
  • What reports are available and how is this presented as part of your management pack?

One recommendation I can give you is NOT to have a knee-jerk reaction and spend money without having a proper PoC (Proof-of-Concept) as well as solution evaluations.  If you are suspicious of your environment, there are many opensource tools as well as inherent (you already own it as part of your hardware OS or other Operating Systems).

If you would like to get additional information on services and solutions feel free to leave a message with your email address in the form below.

Websites want me to remove my Ad-blocker

More and more sites I visit is detecting that I use an ad-blocker and asking me to either pay a daily or monthly fee to access their content, or whitelist the site in my system.  If the content is valuable which is not available free from other sites I would not mind having a small subscription and get a regular feed.  To remove my ad-blocker or white-list a site may result in your 

Possible threat from an ad being delivered

system being compromised. This is due to ads being delivered may contain harmful code from fraudsters and users with malicious intent buying ad space from ad re-sellers.  As can be seen from the image, anti-virus is blocking a potential risk from an ad delivering site trying run run a java-script on the workstation.

Websites wanting ad to be displayed on your system have no clue on what risk they are deliver to the unsuspecting users.

In the future, ads will be blocked more at the enterprise level on all platforms as it is realized that the threat is bigger than thought before.  This is all to the fraud syndication embracing technology for another compromise to the defense layer.

I would recommend to not allow any ads while browsing the Internet or at least have current and good anti-virus on your system and do not log onto your system with a privileged account.

 

Getting caught by unsubscribing from spam

By unsubscribing you confirm your email to the main spamming company and you will only get more spam

Have you ever received an spam email that you have unsubscribed from before?  Today I had a very interesting encounter with a local company getting onto the bandwagon to sell training by obtaining email lists from definitely dubious sources.  My argument here is that we see many coming from the same source without anyone subscribing.  Personally, I have unsubscribed during May 2018 without being removed.  Today (close to 4 months later and numerous requests to be removed) the evidence of a spamming engine came to fore.

My local defense layer consists of multiple security ‘check-points’.  As you come from the Internet, the first router has the normal edge protection such as attack mitigation, source validation, and more, but only at a rudimentary level.  It is more effectively used for egress (from the inside out) destination validation.  This is a very nice feature which came in handy in this example.

Perimeter router with IDS and IPS

The next level is a firewall with IPS (Intrusion Prevention Services) that actively blocks access to malicious sites, including TOR, Ransomware Command and Control Centres, Trojan and other real-time updated IP addresses.  This is both ingress and egress. and finally before a packet is allowed in or out of the ‘worker’ segment, it is monitored using a Network Security Monitor for attack signatures.  It is amazing to see the amount of actual attacks from countries to gain access to, as an example, command access to the D-LINK routers.

The first step is email in my inbox which was from a local site (South Africa) which needs to conform to the ECT Act of 2002 that defines that a recipient should be able to unsubscribe.  In this case,

after numerous attempts, we are still receiving emails and finally with a new updated signature realized that the email .marketing’ company the local company is using is registered as a spamming agent.  This is after receiving an email with an unsubscribe link, and only to be warned that the linked is blocked as it is a spamming company.

Also, just a quick look at the registration details of the company we see the following.

Link to the direct information at the South African registrar for Internet Addresses/Names shows that the company registered in 2008 in the USA (CA) with telephone numbers and email addresses ‘withheld’.  The hosting company locally will be contacted for comment.

 

 

The following warning is received from the external perimeter that the site connecting to the unsubscribe link.

Spam ‘Haus’

So what does this mean?

Sometimes when you unsubscribe, you only confirm the validity of your email address to spamming engines and other email marketing companies.  With some local laws protecting you, many of these spam companies are outside your country and your recourse becomes difficult if not impossible.

An option could be to complain to the hosting company copying to ‘abuse@sendercompany…..’ (of course replace sendercompany) or adding the sender domain as a spam email to your antivirus. This sometimes is reported to the ‘mother-ship’ and can help fighting spam.

Spam still is one of the biggest problems and also lends to phishing and other attacks.  A very good book is by Brian Krebs called Spam Nation… highly recommended.

Let’s wait and see how long it takes for this to sink in and get an unsubscribe to all domains requested.  It may be possible that the sender has no idea, but it is not an excuse of course.

It could be beneficial to train recipients on how to complain to the registrar of the company sending the spam.  HOLD THAT THOUGHT!

Data Leakage – A covert channel

If you think you are safe having adequate NAC (Network Access Control) but not controlling local administrative access and application execution on your workstations, you should think again.  This post will go through some of the risks as well as some of the controls in an enterprise environment.  This is an example of bypassing a NAC and the controls what you can put in place to ensure that your risk is mitigated.

The weakest point is normally an unsuspecting administrator, lack of proper configuration, and simple default installs.  In this example, let’s look at a complete CISCO ISE implementation whereby

Guarding the ‘Perimeter’

the workstations have been locked down to a secure realm and the MAC Address is used as one of the authentication mechanisms.  Here, for argument, we will be using an user connected to the network using a physical cable.  The user has a laptop with a Wireless LAN adapter as well. (As we can see, a compromise will depend on many requirements to be met).

I will not go in detail on the actual application that compromises access, but the normal PowerShell command are in the public domain.

The workflow of the penetration is to activate the WLAN card on the laptop to act as a Access Point and use the authenticated users credentials without his knowledge to access the Internet.  This of course may lead to implicating the user into actions against the Acceptable Use Policy.

The windows commands are as follows:

  • NETSH WLAN set hostednetwork mode=allow ssid=Your_SSID key=Your_Passphrase
  • NETSH WLAN start hostednetwork
  • The next step is to enable sharing on the WLAN device and this is done normally through the Network Connection Properties.  This can be done programatically via updating registry keys.
  • In order to stop the share the following command must be entered NETSH WLAN stop hostednetwork
  • and then NETSH WLAN set hostednetwork mode= disallow

Now visualize a possible compromise

  1. Develop and application requiring UAC elevation privileges and give this to a user with local administrative rights
    1. This application will execute the above commands using either PowerShell or an API
    2. The unsuspecting user’s laptop is Wireless Access Point (AP) with your predefined SSID and Password
  2. One this is done, any wireless device can connect to the AP and access the Internet
  3. If the local user has authentication to the Domain/LDAP (or other authentication mechanism) to access the Internet, any access via the local AP will be through his account using his MAC address of the wired connection.

Controlling the risk

  • A simple to control to the risk by ensuring users do not have local administrative access.
  • Ensure only known (white-listed) applications can run on administrator workstations
  • Monitor and report on user behavior (access to the Internet)
  • Monitor, log and react on system changes outside the acceptable defined control framework

Free Internet at Santander Totta

The banking landscape is changing at an exponential rate.  Travelling a bit and finding myself on the island of Madeira.  Off the continent of Africa, closest country is Morocco, but it is part of Portugal.  A few years ago, BANIF Bank was experiencing some financial stability and was bought out by a the Spanish Bank Santander Totta.

UALA

User Agreement

A very interesting finding was that while sitting outside the bank I saw the Wi-Fi SSID of the bank.  It was ‘unsecured’ (no password required) and I decided to connect to the Wi-Fi.   To my amazement, I got connected to the Internet with full browser functionality.  Whatsapp worked, Instagram as well as Facebook, and other social media applications.

This is a total different approach to some of the banks I have experience in and I think it will be good to comment on the approach here.  As part of a past implementation of a new infrastructure, it was discussed to give GUEST access to clients in the bank limited by time.

What can be realized as a benefit to the bank?

  • Branding is number 1 here.  Your bank’s logo will be shown as part of the agreement.  The user, client or not, will be happy for this free service and will relate ‘happiness with the bank’s logo’.
  • Based on the User Agreement, it will be possible to obtain some statistics of usage and possibly have some leads for product sales.

Are there any new risks to the bank?

I can see no material risk to the bank if the network access via the Wi-Fi is totally separate from the bank’s production network.  The bank of course should have good practices in place where IPS (Intrusion Prevention Services) are part of the delivery platform.

  • Make sure users cannot visit blacklisted sites.
  • Make sure that exploits are blocked.
  • Monitor access as the platform may be used for criminal activity.
  • Only allow services such as HTTP, HTTPS and other protocols that will enable a good experience for the user but cannot be used as a springboard for malicious intent.

Based on the rules, it is simple to control and monitor.

The only recommendation is the security certificate that is not properly implemented.  This should be updated.

This is a plus for the Bank.  Well done Santander Totta.

Links

Santander Totta