BBC Report Highlights Bad Spelling As Key Factor In Email Data Loss

A BBC Report has highlighted mis-spelled email addresses as a key factor in loss of sensitive data via email.  Putting a dot in the wrong place or utilizing slight mis-spellings in domain names has presented a security loop hole for malicious attackers to use to steal data.

Click For BBC Report

Many large organisations use multiple sub domains to divide their various divisions either by function or geographically.  When using email addresses in this type of environment they can get pretty complex. For example might use the sub-domain as the email sub-domain for it’s US employees. So, John Smith might have an address like ““. Data loss can occur when a user types the wrong email suffix, such as An email to this address would normally be bounced back to the sender with an error as the domain wouldn’t be recognized. It is however very easy for an attacker to set-up the wrongly spelled email domain, putting them in a position where they receive all email for that domain.  Researchers have found that by doing this they managed to grab over 20GB of incorrectly addressed mail over a 6 month period. The data grabbed included personal details, usernames, passwords and a bevvy of other sensitive information.

This is a loop hole often ignored by companies, but one that is easily mitigated.  By using an information classification tool such a the Boldon James Email Classifier product, organisations can not only categorized their emails by their level of sensitivity, they can also control what domains are allowed to receive emails from their employees. This is known as white-listing. If you would like to know more about email white-listing please contact me or contact Boldon James directly at


ePrivacy Directive: EU to tighten up on Data Breach Notifications

You may be aware that the EU recently put into force the updated ePrivacy Directive (2002/58/EC).  As of May 2011, the use of cookies to track website visitor information is now strictly prohibited.  Cookies which were previously used to track visitor behaviour and personal details may now only be used with the express permission of the visitor. Interesting website based outside of the EU, do not have to operate with the same constraints.  The enforcement and technical implementation of the directive may take some time to filter through to every cookie using site on the web, and penalties for not doing so are yet to be seen.

Work continues on the ePrivacy Directive in the coming months. One InfoSec concept which the EU are looking to tighten up control of through the directive is “disclosure”.  Whereas in the past, companies or organisations may have been a little shy about publicising their information security breaches, it’s soon going to be come a strictly enforced legal requirement to do so. Under the ePrivacy Directive disclosure requirements will be covered under Data Breach Notification rules.  A public consultation is currently underway and is sue to conclude in September:

ePrivacy Consultation

The consultation will cover the mechanisms for categorising. assessing and reporting breaches.

The hacker groups Anonymous and Lulzsec have made a mockery of the security controls of some major organisations in recent months.  Data loss and it’s prevention continues to be a major challenge for infromation security managers.  It’s time for organisations of all sizes to get serious about InfoSec, and this legislation could help push for that.

Phone Hacking How To: Hacking Voicemail

I’ve been asked in recent weeks how the News of the World private investigators were able to hack into the voicemail of the alleged 4,000 victims of the phone hacking scandal.  While the details of all that activity are something for the police to worry about, we can explain the basic methodology of a simple attack to do this. The one probably used in the majority of cases.

In the world of Infosec there is such a thing called a spoofing attack. A spoofing attack is where you have your device (whether that be a phone, pc or laptop) send out network packets with the identity of someone else.  In the IP world, communications are broken down into thousands of small packets of data. Each packet has a destination address and a source address. When we’re trying to use a spoofing attack, we can use specialised software to send out packets, with someone else’s source address.

With the convergence of data and voice networks over the last 10 years, there’s been a proliferation of technologies that allow data networks to connect to older technologies traditionally used to provide voice services. This has come in the form of VoIP, technologies that provide Voice Over IP data network. This has brought voice communications into the realm of the computing community, and also into the hands of the bad guys in that community.. hackers.  Hackers have produced software tools, that allow them to control the data sent out over VoIP data connections, where calls are made and received.

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Microsoft AD RMS: User Adoption Made Simple

What is Rights Management?

Rights management pertains directly to managing permissions for individuals to access specific information. Our two jargon busting acronyms for this area are DRM (Digital Rights Management) and IRM (Information Rights Management). For the purposes of this article we will consider both DRM and IRM one in the same.

Development of this area of technology primarily driven by Copyright. Publishers of books, music and films have in recent years been more and more motivated to try to protect their material, in the face of the proliferation of internet use. The Internet has been it exponentially more possible to share copyrighted materials with the click of a button, and not to just one person, but hundreds of people, even one’s that the sharer has never even met.  The need to control who has the right to access, read, modify or even delete information and also become prominent in both government and commercial organisations.

Microsoft AD RMS – Active Directory Rights Management Services

Controlling content is at the heart of fulfilling those requirements, and Microsoft provides an Active Directory integrated service ADRMS, to do exactly that.  The basis of the AD RMS service is that each document is automatically encrypted by an RMS client, at the point of creation (the desktop). It is then, by default, protected from unauthorised individuals trying to access it.  When created, the creator is able to apply a list of permissions to the document, to specify who have what level of access to read or change it.  These permissions are stored in the central AD RMS server, so at the time any other client tries to access the document, the server can be queried to see if the requested access should be permitted. Simple enough? Continue reading

Eco-Labelling – The Green Argument For Information Classification

It seems that if you are promoting a product or service these days, it’s mandatory to have an associated “Green Story” to back up your proposition. Earning cold hard cash for the benefit of both you and your customer is in some circumstances frowned upon, if there isn’t an ethical eco-friendly angle to your pitch.  While I support green initiatives and do what I can to help with moves to improve the sustainability of the planet, hasn’t it all gone a bit eco-mad.

Those fabled 3 letters, E C O , are being used and abused by all and sundry to get that green tickbox filled. Whether a product in environmentally friendly or not, the ECO label gets thrown around like confetti at a wedding. We have Eco-Homes, Eco-Heaters, Eco-Computers, Eco-Laptops, Eco-Cars, Eco-Trucks… you name it we have it. In a shameless attempt to look more trendy, I’d like to throw my hat in the ring and talk briefly about how appropriate labelling of documents and emails can help save the planet. Eco-Labelling for short.

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UK: What is the GCSx Code of Connection (CoCo)?

A code of connection (CoCo) is a mutually agreed set of rules used by two parties to allow the Exchange of information between their systems.  The UK government has pursued several initiatives in recent years to connect all government organisations into the secure networks of the central government intranet.

GCSx stands for Government Connect Secure Extranet.  This is the network which will specifically connect Local Authorities (LAs) to the central government intranet (GSI – Government Secure Intranet). GCSx relates only to LAs in England and Wales. Scottish LAs will connect through GSX (Government Secure Extranet). Local Authorities must achieve CoCo compliance in order to be access access to the Government Secure networks. Confused yet? Being driven CoCo.Nuts?

Here’s a diagram to help see how it all fits together:

There are jut under 100 controls and measures that a Local Authority needs to put in place in order to be CoCo compliant. The most prominent of these are listed here: Continue reading

Phone Hacking, Corporate Responsibility and Employee Accountability

The UK has been awash with scandal upon scandal in recent months. Individuals and organisations who we are supposed to trust have abuse their positions and the circumstances available to them. Is this to be the century of corruption? The politicians led the way with the expenses scandal,  immediately followed by questionable banking practices which brought the world to the brink of bankruptcy. Now in our latest installment of the “people doing what they really shouldn’t” saga, we have once reputable press organisations hacking into the phones of, well, pretty much everyone.

The world needs a double dose of the medicine that is corporate responsibility and employee accountability.   Whether or not the chiefs at the head of these corporate tribes were aware of the activities of their employees, ultimately they have a duty of care to take reasonable measures to prevent this kind of unacceptable behaviour occurring. Failure to do so is a slippery slope which rapidly evolves from the occasional cheeky rogue, to an inherent culture of wide spread wrong doing. Individuals should not be given a shield of plausible deniability or proclamation of ignorance. Each and every individual should be liable to take responsibility for their actions.  Chiefs have a responsibility to foster and enforce an ethical culture through the correct provision of training and providing the right tools for employees to adopt that ethical behaviour.

Just this week we have learned that News International were in fact in possession of emails which were withheld from the police in an attempt to control possible damage from implication of law breaking. Although possible, it’s difficult to release information in  an email without actually thinking about it’s content before clicking send. Much more difficult than giving the go ahead to do something in the spur of the moment over the phone. Information created or received by an organisation should be treated with the respect it deserves, but with the casual use of email in day to day life, it’s easy for the lines to blur. People generally use their work email accounts for general informal internal communications, even external at times.  When wrong doing is suspected, the legal defence of “that email was sent in this context” is used all to often.

As an organisation, one line of defence to this legal minefield is.. yes.. you have guessed it.. email labelling.  Forcing users (whether employees, directors or other execs) to select an appropriate label before sending an email builds not only awareness of company policies, but also re-enforces a culture of employee accountability.  Investment in an email labelling tool, could in the long run save your organisation millions or may even save it from the recently bloodied axe, which took out News of the World in one fell swoop. Furthermore, there are no longer any excuses on cost. You can do this for free.  Although you don’t get all the benefits of the paid version of Boldon James’ Email Classifier, the FreeMark version of Classifier allows you to do exactly that, label emails. ITS FREE,  the clue is in the name – FreeMark.  If you want to learn more about the FreeMark initiative, please visit

Theory of Gravitational Information Security – Making Security Policy Implementation A Reality

This article draws on elements of gravity theory to help visualise information security concepts and to describe how to practically implement security policy objectives. It describes a metaphorical model where gravitational forces are analogous to the level of security controls we apply to an organisation’s information. Be warned, this will quite possibly be the nerdiest article I have written, but will be simple enough.. no degree in particle physics required to grasp it.

What is Gravity?

Gravity is a force which attracts and pulls physical objects towards each other. All objects are known to be affected by gravity, from the smallest atom to the largest star in the night sky. A general rule for gravity is, that the greater the mass of an object, the more gravitational force it will exert on the other objects around it. The sun, for instance, pulls the earth towards it in the same way that the earth pulls the moon ever closer as time passes.

At an atomic level, the closer to the center of an object we get, the greater the gravitational force is. As density increases, the movement of those central atoms is more restricted whereas the outer atoms are often able to move more freely.

The Analogy

In the same way as gravity applies force to those atoms drawing them towards the center, we can secure information by applying varying levels of enforcement based on sensitivity. If we imagine the sum of our organisation’s information as a spherical object made up of thousands of information atoms, we can start to visualize the relationship. Our most sensitive information is at the core of our infosphere (information sphere) and we must apply more force to protect it. As we move further towards the surface of our infosphere, the controls we will want to apply will be less restrictive and we will let those less sensitive information atoms move more freely.

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Whitepaper: Command Email – A New Military Message

It’s been a few months since my last blog. As always work commitments come first and it’s been a bumper couple of months.  I’ve been studying the military messaging environment and how it is evolving and summarized my findings in this whitepaper.  The main thrust is that organisations should be considering moving away from traditional Military Message Handling Systems (MMHS) approaches in favour of lighter, simpler, COTS based, modular and more cost-effective solutions.

“ The secret of war lies in the communications”

Napoleon Bonaparte


The ability to communicate effectively and without ambiguity has been, and continues to be, instrumental to the success of military organisations across the world.  Throughout history military organisations have pushed the boundaries of communication. Military messaging has evolved from smoke signals, to written letters, to telegraphs, to radio, to email and to unified communications today. Sending messages between organisations, units, roles and individuals is paramount to the success of both peace and war time operations.Military information needs to be exchanged in a secure, time-sensitive and standardised manner.  This is often done in environments where connections may be intermittent or of low capacity.  As messaging technologies rapidly evolve, the systems implemented must keep pace and retain the ability to upgrade easily and in short timeframes.  The key challenge for most organisations today is to ensure that these core criteria are met, without over-complicating messaging solutions to the point that they cannot be effectively implemented, maintained or used.  This whitepaper discusses the current military messaging environment, how it has evolved to today and the challenges surrounding the technologies. It will then go on to detail an alternative approach to these challenges which we call ‘Command Email’.


The Legacy – Military Message Handling Systems (MMHS) – Implementing Yesterday’s Technology Tomorrow

Traditional MMHS approaches can be summed up as complicated, expensive and fraught with risk.

In past decades, military organisations Continue reading

Web 2.0 – Why the internet got better, why security got worse.

Web 2.0 was recently crowned the one millionth word of the English language.  This is perhaps just one indicator of the impact that Web 2.0 has had on our everyday lives. Why?  In this blog, I’m going to go into what Web 2.0 actually is, some of the underlying technologies and what challenges these bring for security. Continue reading