CompTIA CSA+ Study Guide. Mike Chapple

CompTIA CSA+ Study Guide - Mike Chapple

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performing a threat analysis, cybersecurity professionals must remember that threats come from both external and internal sources. In addition to the hackers, natural disasters, and other threats that begin outside the organization, rouge employees, disgruntled team members, and incompetent administrators also pose a significant threat to enterprise cybersecurity. As an organization designs controls, it must consider both internal and external threats.

       NIST SP 800-30 provides a great deal of additional information to help organizations conduct risk assessments, including detailed tasks associated with each of these steps. This information is outside the scope of the Cybersecurity Analyst+ exam, but organizations preparing to conduct risk assessments should download and read the entire publication.

Identify Vulnerabilities

      During the threat identification phase of a risk assessment, cybersecurity analysts focus on the external factors likely to impact an organization’s security efforts. After completing threat identification, the focus of the assessment turns inward, identifying the vulnerabilities that those threats might exploit to compromise an organization’s confidentiality, integrity, or availability.

      Chapters 3 and 4 of this book focus extensively on the identification and management of vulnerabilities.

Determine Likelihood, Impact, and Risk

      After identifying the threats and vulnerabilities facing an organization, risk assessors next seek out combinations of threat and vulnerability that pose a risk to the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of enterprise information and systems. This requires assessing both the likelihood that a risk will materialize and the impact that the risk will have on the organization if it does occur.

      When determining the likelihood of a risk occurring, analysts should consider two factors. First, they should assess the likelihood that the threat source will initiate the risk. In the case of an adversarial threat source, this is the likelihood that the adversary will execute an attack against the organization. In the case of accidental, structural, or environmental threats, it is the likelihood that the threat will occur. The second factor that contributes is the likelihood that, if a risk occurs, it will actually have an adverse impact on the organization, given the state of the organization’s security controls. After considering each of these criteria, risk assessors assign an overall likelihood rating. This may use categories, such as “low,” “medium,” and “high,” to describe the likelihood qualitatively.

      Risk assessors evaluate the impact of a risk using a similar rating scale. This evaluation should assume that a threat actually does take place and cause a risk to the organization and then attempt to identify the magnitude of the adverse impact that the risk will have on the organization. When evaluating this risk, it is helpful to refer to the three objectives of cybersecurity shown in Figure 1.1, confidentiality, integrity, and availability, and then assess the impact that the risk would have on each of these objectives.

       The risk assessment process described here, using categories of “high,” “medium,” and “low,” is an example of a qualitative risk assessment process. Risk assessments also may use quantitative techniques that numerically assess the likelihood and impact of risks. Quantitative risk assessments are beyond the scope of the Cybersecurity Analyst+ exam but are found on more advanced security exams, including the CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP) and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) exams.

After assessing the likelihood and impact of a risk, risk assessors then combine those two evaluations to determine an overall risk rating. This may be as simple as using a matrix similar to the one shown in Figure 1.4 that describes how the organization assigns overall ratings to risks. For example, an organization might decide that the likelihood of a hacker attack is medium whereas the impact would be high. Looking this combination up in Figure 1.4 reveals that it should be considered a high overall risk. Similarly, if an organization assesses the likelihood of a flood as medium and the impact as low, a flood scenario would have an overall risk of low.

“Table showing risk matrix which has low, medium, and high likelihood and impact assessment. It shows combinations of risk rating from bottom to top as 'low, low and medium', 'low, medium, and high', and 'medium, high and high'.”

Figure 1.4 Many organizations use a risk matrix to determine an overall risk rating based on likelihood and impact assessments.

Reviewing Controls

      Cybersecurity professionals use risk management strategies, such as risk acceptance, risk avoidance, risk mitigation, and risk transference, to reduce the likelihood and impact of risks identified during risk assessments. The most common way that organizations manage security risks is to develop sets of technical and operational security controls that mitigate those risks to acceptable levels.

      Technical controls are systems, devices, software, and settings that work to enforce confidentiality, integrity, and/or availability requirements. Examples of technical controls include building a secure network and implementing endpoint security, two topics discussed later in this chapter. Operational controls are practices and procedures that bolster cybersecurity. Examples of operational controls include conducting penetration testing and using reverse engineering to analyze acquired software. These two topics are also discussed later in this chapter.

      Building a Secure Network

      Many threats to an organization’s cybersecurity exploit vulnerabilities in the organization’s network to gain initial access to systems and information. To help mitigate these risks, organizations should focus on building secure networks that keep attackers at bay. Examples of the controls that an organization may use to contribute to building a secure network include network access control (NAC) solutions; network perimeter security controls, such as firewalls; network segmentation; and the use of deception as a defensive measure.

Network Access Control

      One of the basic security objectives set forth by most organizations is controlling access to the organization’s network. Network access control (NAC) solutions help security professionals achieve two cybersecurity objectives: limiting network access to authorized individuals and ensuring that systems accessing the organization’s network meet basic security requirements.

The 802.1x protocol is a common standard used for NAC. When a new device wishes to gain access to a network, either by connecting to a wireless access point or plugging into a wired network port, the network challenges that device to authenticate using the 802.1x protocol. A special piece of software, known as a supplicant, resides on the device requesting to join the network. The supplicant communicates with a service known as the authenticator that runs on either the wireless access point or the network switch. The authenticator does not have the information necessary to validate the user itself, so it passes access requests along to an authentication server using the RADIUS protocol. If the user correctly authenticates and is authorized to access the network, the switch or access point then joins the user to the network. If the user does not successfully complete this process, the device is denied access to the network or may be assigned to a special quarantine network for remediation. Figure 1.5 shows the devices involved in 802.1x authentication.

Image described by caption and surrounding text.

Figure 1.5 In an 802.1x system, the device attempting to join the network runs a NAC supplicant, which communicates with an authenticator on the network switch or wireless access point. The authenticator uses RADIUS to communicate with an authentication server.

      There are many different NAC solutions available on the market, and they differ in two major ways:

      Agent-Based vs. Agentless Agent-based solutions, such as 802.1x, require that the device requesting access to the network run special software designed to communicate with the NAC service. Agentless approaches to NAC conduct authentication

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