Surface Mapping Pays Off

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Brent Huston

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You have heard us talk about surface mapping applications during an assessment before. You have likely even seen some of our talks about surface mapping networks as a part of the 80/20 Rule of InfoSec. But, we wanted to discuss how that same technique extends into the physical world as well. 

In the last few months, we have done a couple of engagements where the customer really wanted a clear and concise way to discuss physical security issues, possible controls and communicate that information to upper management. We immediately suggested a mind-map style approach with photos where possible for the icons and a heat map approach for expressing the levels of attack and compromise.

In one case, we surface mapped a utility substation. We showed pictures of the controls, pictures of the tools and techniques used to compromise them and even shot some video that demonstrated how easily some of the controls were overcome. The entire presentation was explained as a story and the points came across very very well.

The management team was engaged, piqued their interest in the video and even took their turn at attempting to pick a couple of simple locks we had brought along. (Thanks to @sempf for the suggestion!) In my 20+ years of information security consulting, I have never seen a group folks as engaged as this group. It was amazing and very well received.

Another way we applied similar mapping techniques was while assessing an appliance we had in the lab recently. We photographed the various ports, inputs and pinouts. We shot video of connecting to the device and the brought some headers and tools to the meetings with us to discuss while they passed them around.

We used screen shots as slides to show what the engineers saw and did at each stage. We gave high level overviews of the “why” we did this and the other thing. The briefing went well again and the customer was engaged and interested throughout our time together. In this case, we didn’t get to combine a demo in, but they loved it nonetheless. Their favorite part were the surface maps.

Mapping has proven its worth, over and over again to our teams and our clients. We love doing them and they love reading them. This is exactly how product designers, coders and makers should be engaged. We are very happy that they chose MSI and our lab services to engage with and look forward to many years of a great relationship!

Thanks for reading and reach out on Twitter (@lbhuston) or in the comments if you have any questions or insights to share.

Cross-posted from State of Security

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