INTERVIEW     Interview with     Arun Sood     Dr. Arun Sood is Professor of Computer Science in the Department of Compute...
Interview with Arun Soodto apply common sense solutions. I like to work at          Take for example in the publishing wor...
INTERVIEW     SCIT technology easily integrates with the existing          being exposed, and thus systems that have recen...
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Hakin9 interview w Prof Sood

  1. 1. INTERVIEW Interview with Arun Sood Dr. Arun Sood is Professor of Computer Science in the Department of Computer Science, and Co-Director of the International Cyber Center at George Mason University, Fairfax, VA. His research interests are in security architectures; image and multimedia computing; performance modeling and evaluation; simulation, modeling, and optimization. He and his team of faculty and students have developed a new approach to server security, called Self Cleansing Intrusion Tolerance (SCIT). We convert static servers into dynamic servers and reduce the exposure of the servers, while maintaining uninterrupted service. This research has been supported by US Army, NIST through the Critical Infrastructure Program, SUN, Lockheed Martin, Commonwealth of Virgina CTRF (in partnership with Northrop Grumman). Recently SCIT technology was winner of the Global Security Challenge (GSC) sponsored Securities Technologies for Tomorrow Challenge. Dr Sood leads a university spin-off called SCIT Labs Inc, which is commercializing SCIT technology under license from GMU. Since 2009 Dr. Sood has directed an annual workshop on Cyber Security and Global Affairs with Office of Naval Research support. The 2009 workshop was at Oxford, 2010 in Zurich and 2011 in Budapest. He was awarded grants by NATO to organize and direct advance study institutes in relational database machine architecture and active perception and robot vision. Dr. Sood has held academic positions at Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, and IIT, Delhi. His has been supported by the Office of Naval Research, NIMA (now NGA), National Science Foundation, U.S. Army Belvoir RD&E Center, U. S. Army TACOM, U.S. Department of Transportation, and private industry. Dr. Sood received the B.Tech degree from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, in 1966, and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, in 1967 and 1971, respectively. His research has resulted in more than 160 publications, 4 patents, 2 edited books. What’s your background? appointments at Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi All my degrees are in Electrical Engineering – BTech (IIT, Delhi), Louisiana State University, and Wayne (IIT, Delhi); MS and PhD (Carnegie Mellon). My State University. dissertation research was in the area of control theory and motivated by the use of „small” computers like the When did you made the decision to get early DEC mini-computers (PDP series). Currently, I am involved in cyber security? a Professor of Computer Science and Co-Director of the For the last 10 years my research interests have shifted International Cyber Center at George Mason University towards cyber security, and especially on recovery at Fairfax, Virginia. My research is focused on modeling strategies. I got introduced to the complexity of the and designing resilient architectures; scalability of issues during a consulting assingment for a bank. This resilient systems; and metrics to evaluate resilience. was the first time that I realized the expenses related to I have worked for process engineering and consulting IDS alert processing. I see cyber security having many companies for about 10 years and have had academic open and challenging problems, and yet opportunity32 ��������������� 02/2012
  2. 2. Interview with Arun Soodto apply common sense solutions. I like to work at Take for example in the publishing world. The samethe edge of practice and research and cyber security article is replicated and published in many venues. Ifprovides an interesting place to be. you subscribe to several publications, then the human has to act as the deduplicator. The same is true of theHow do you follow the evolution of this area? search results.(books, newsletters, other sources, etc)Conferences, workshops, technical publications. On What’s your main area of interest / research?line resources. Some IEEE publications that focus on The cyber security problem is an area of intensethis topic are well worth reading. IEEE Security and research. The current focus has been on reactivePrivacy is a magazine style publication, that is designed methods that are expected to defend against allfor lay public. IEEE Transactions on Dependable the attacks. Enterprise systems process millionsand Secure Computing and IEEE Transactions on of transaction per day, and failure in even. 01%Information Forensics and Security are two key research of the cases provides for a challenging situation.publications. A number of papers provide information This experience is supported by theory – detectionabout the current status of the cyber incidents and cyber theory suggests increasing probabilit of detection willthreat. Periodically I look at Financial Times, New York increase probability of false positives which requiresTimes, SC Magazine, Wall Street Journal, Washington more cyber security analyst man hours to resolve.Post, Wired. This reasoning, lead us to 3 principals that drive our research:Do you believe that Moore’s law will continueat its current rate and at one the point an • Intrusions are inevitableevolution in cyber security will be necessary • Once in the system, intruders stay for long periodsin order to protect digital assets in light of the – days, weeks and monthsprocessing evolution? • Our current servers are sitting ducksMoore suggested that transistors per chips willdouble every 2 years. I think that this will continue In my research I have focused on reducing the lossesfor sometime. Multiple cores per chip are helping that are induced by a successful attack. We call thisachieve this. However, I expect that more compute intrusion tolerance, and have developed SCIT – Selfcycles will be required to protect the digital assests. Cleansing Intrusion Tolerance architecture. SCITAt some point more hardware assets will be used to uses a recovery oriented approach to achieve ourmanage key security problems like attribution and goal of limiting losses. SCIT reduces the exposureassurance. time of the server to the internet, and restores the server to a pristine state every refresh cycle. In thisDoes the increasing use of distributed way we reduce the time the bad guys have to inducecomputing, new algorithms and new threats losses. The limited goal of our research is to increase(especially APT) affects the way we do cyber the work effort required by the How?Cyber security can no longer rely on reactive What is your opinion of server security andapproaches alone. It is necessary to take a how do you design secure systems?information risk management view to the problem. Our current servers are sitting ducks. The bad guysOur solutions must include information sharing, install malware on the server, and this spreads theproactive and threat independent approaches, agile infection in the system. We need systems that willdefense approaches and continuous monitoring of delete the malware as quickly as possibl. For thisthe system status. We also need new approaches to reason, I think that servers should be regularly takenforensics – maybe we should design systems with the offline and restored to a pristine state. The time theexpectation that forensic analysis may be necessary, servers are exposed to the internet is called the serverthus reducing the time for trace back and other Exposure Time. If we can keep the Exposure Time lowforensic analysis. and restore the server to a pristine state at the end of this period, then the malware will have only a limitedIs the growing use of computers and amount of time to do damage. We have built serversdigital data leading to system downfall? At with an exposure time of 1 minute.what degree are we dependent on digital It is generally believed that a defense in depthinformation and processes? approach is appropriate. I agree. If we can makeWe are increasingly dependent on digital info. I think the layers independent of each other then thatthat we are increasingly suffer from info overload. will have additional protection characteristics. ��������������� 33
  3. 3. INTERVIEW SCIT technology easily integrates with the existing being exposed, and thus systems that have recently infrastructure without interfering with the existing successfully passed a penetration test, will find that security subsystems. they are vulnerable, In this sense the penetration test gives a false sense of confidence. What do you see as the future of cyber security? There are people who predict doomsday Today we are mostly focused on Information Assurance scenarios. Is it likely that eventually we get to – primarliy technology and policy issues. I think that a cyber cold war (let’s say: a code war)? What there needs to be more focus on human factors, would it be like? low cost solutions, and policy. In addition, Attribution To some extent this has already occured in limited deserves much more work. environments. The twin objectives of standardization and cost reduction, reduces the variety or hardware and In terms of players in cyber security, what do software and makes all our systems vulnerable. There is you expect? Small companies, lonely hackers, a risk at the boundary of the cyber – physical connected organized crime, cyber warriors? I assume systems. Protecting the national financial infrastructure this industry is dependent of financial from attack is critically important especially countries resources or lack of them. Is it possible to that are leading users of internet and mobile systems. small companies to prevail? Emerging countries are pushing for using mobile Most of the headlines are about successful attacks devices to perform financial transactions, especially low on large companies, especially financial services value monetary transactions. Most Critical Infrastructure companies, and defense and government offices and Protection projects include water and electric utilities. contractors. However, small companies have also been hacked. Hackers have stolen data, and stolen Has it already started? commercial and business information like forthcoming It appears that Estonia and Georgia events are bids which makes small companies particularly examples of code ware. There are reports of the vulnerable. Rural comunities and small towns are also Israel adn Palestinan conflict leading to cyber security vulnerable to hacking. At the same time emerging nations incidences. There is widespread speculation that the are getting access to larger bandwidths and access to Stuxnet attack on the Iranian nuclear infrastructure was international traffic, with more danger of being targets linked to a foreign government. and orginators of cyber attacks. For such organizations, the current approaches are too expensive, and low cost Are you optimistic or pessimistic of our ability alternatives have to be developed. to mitigate the cyber threat? Ont he other hand, small firms focused on a specific On the whole I am optimistic that the world will problems and solution can be very effective. However, successfully manage and navigate through the cyber usually enterprise solutions require extensive testing and threat. hence the support of large companies. For successes in this space it in necessary to form strategic partnerships between large companies and small companies; by Zsolt Nemeth and Jeffrey Smith between government and small companies; and this information sharing with the entrepreunerial drive of small companies will yield major dividends. What do you think about the future generation of cyber warriors and hackers? Cyber warriors and hackers deserve more respect. We should not underestimate the value provided by the ethical hacking community. We need to build more trusting environments. We also need to switch from penetration testing, to measuring the consequences of bad guy actions. What’s wrong with penetration testing? Do you feel it gives companies a fake confidence? Penetration testing provides the status of the system at one point in time, New vulnerabilities are constantly34 ��������������� 02/2012