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The current age is of supercomputers in our pockets. However, despite using the best security tools, criminals keep on attacking online resources. This post is to introduce you to Incident Response (IR), explain the different stages of IR, and then lists three free open source software that helps with IR.

What is Incident Response

What is an Incident? It could be a cybercriminal or any malware taking over your computer. You should not ignore IR because it can happen to anyone. If you think you won’t be affected, you may be right. But not for long because there is no guarantee of anything connected to the Internet as such. Any artifact there, may go rogue and install some malware or allow a cybercriminal to directly access your data.

You should have an Incident Response Template so that you can respond in case of an attack. In other words, IR is not about IF, but it is concerned with WHEN and HOW of the information science.

Incident Response also applies to natural disasters. You know that all governments and people are prepared when any disaster strikes. They can’t afford to imagine that they are always safe. In such a natural incident, government, army, and plenty of non-government organizations (NGOs). Likewise, you too cannot afford to overlook Incident Response (IR) in IT.

Basically, IR means being ready for a cyber attack and stop it before it does any harm.

Incident Response – Six Stages

Most IT Gurus claim that there are six stages of Incident Response. Some others keep it at 5. But six are good as they are easier to explain. Here are the IR stages that should be kept in focus while planning an Incident Response Template.





Recovery, and

Lessons Learned

1] Incident Response – Preparation

You need to be prepared to detect and deal with any cyberattack. That means you should have a plan. It should also include people with certain skills. It may include people from external organizations if you fall short of talent in your company. It is better to have an IR template that spells out what to do in case of a cyber attack attack. You can create one yourself or download one from the Internet. There are many Incident Response templates available on the Internet. But it is better to engage your IT team with the template as they know better about the conditions of your network.

2] IR – Identification

This refers to identifying your business network traffic for any irregularities. If you find any anomalies, start acting per your IR plan. You might have already placed security equipment and software in place to keep attacks away.

3] IR – Containment

The main aim of the third process is to contain the attack impact. Here, containing means reducing the impact and prevent the cyberattack before it can damage anything.

Containment of Incident Response indicates both short- and long-term plans (assuming that you have a template or plan to counter incidents).

4] IR – Eradication

Eradication, in Incident Response’s six stages, means restoring the network that was affected by the attack. It can be as simple as the network’s image stored on a separate server that is not connected to any network or Internet. It can be used to restore the network.

5] IR – Recovery

The fifth stage in Incident Response is to clean the network to remove anything that might have left behind after eradication. It also refers to bringing back the network to life. At this point, you’d still be monitoring any abnormal activity on the network.

6] Incident Response – Lessons Learned

The last stage of Incident Response’s six stages is about looking into the incident and noting down the things that were at fault. People often give a miss this stage, but it is necessary to learn what went wrong and how you can avoid it in the future.

Open Source Software for managing Incident Response

1] CimSweep is an agentless suite of tools that helps you with Incident Response. You can do it remotely too if you can’t be present at the place where it happened. This suite contains tools for threat identification and remote response. It also offers forensic tools that help you check out event logs, services, and active processes, etc. More details here.

2] GRR Rapid Response Tool is available on the GitHub and helps you perform different checks on your network (Home or Office) to see if there are any vulnerabilities. It has tools for real-time memory analysis, registry search, etc. It is built in Python so is compatible with all Windows OS – XP and later versions, including Windows 10. Check it out on Github.

3] TheHive is yet another open source free Incident Response tool. It allows working with a team. Teamwork makes it easier to counter cyber attacks as work (duties) are mitigated to different, talented people. Thus, it helps in real-time monitoring of IR. The tool offers an API that the IT team can use. When used with other software, TheHive can monitor up to a hundred variables at a time – so that any attack is immediately detected, and Incident Response begins quick. More information here.

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Cyber Security Incident Response: Industry Best Practices

In today’s data-driven world, a data breach can easily affect billions of people at once. As global digital transformation continues, so will data breaches. What if your company was breached today? What does your business need to survive?

Incident response is one of the metrics by which an organization’s commitment to cyber security is measured. Other metrics include Insider Risk Management, Attack Surface Management. By implementing automated solutions that continually monitor networks and highlight cyber risks, organizations can greatly improve their cyber security posture.

Cyber Security Incident Response

It is well known in the cybersecurity industry that the best forms of cyber protection come from implementing various layers of defense and controls. These protections include physical and software-based firewalls, data and communication encryption, strong authentication policies, malware protection, and more. Sadly, no security paradigm is perfect, and organizations are always vulnerable on some level. The Cybersecurity Triad identifies the three main components of cybersecurity. Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability. Incident response belongs to the latter.

The incident response refers to the actions taken during and after an incident to stop the attack and minimize the damage. Utilizing real-time alerts and notifications of active threats and taking pre-planned steps to minimize the impact of a breach to protect your organization and manage liabilities. During and after a breach, response plans are essential since time is of the essence.

Best Practices for Effective Incident Response

Because implementing a comprehensive incident response plan is so crucial to the longevity of any organization susceptible to breaches, we have compiled a set of best practices for building an effective incident response plan.

Preparation is Key

As with any project, planning is a key part of preparation. Your organization needs to have a comprehensive policy in place that covers actions during and after the breach.

During and after a potential breach someone must be given the responsibility of dealing with the breach. This way, only key individuals drive the actions taken, minimizing chaos, and improving the effectiveness of the incident response. As part of the preparation for incident response, a team needs to be created who are assigned the roles of adjudicators and decision-makers, in the event of a security incident. In larger organizations, this role would typically be performed by their SOC.

Threat Identification

The second part of threat detection relies on real-time monitoring. Traditionally security specialists would have needed to pour time into logfiles. Scrubbing these files to identify possible breaches in progress by identifying transaction and authentication anomalies. This way of doing things had its clear limitations. Autonomous network monitoring tools, however, can inspect and validate all activity present on both the internal and external attack surface of the organization, in real time. Not only are these tools far more efficient than a human, but they can also run 24 hours a day, not taking weekends or personal time off. Accurate and timely threat detection is crucial to incident response.

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Breach Containment

Once a breach is detected, time is of the essence. It can mean the difference between a mild, containable incident and a catastrophic event with far-reaching fallout such as litigation and even business liquidation.

Address Security Violation

Once the threat is contained, the incident response team can focus on eliminating it. This includes identifying and removing malware, applying updates and patches, and deploying more restrictive and secure configurations, amongst other steps.

Disaster Recovery

After the threat has been dealt with the incident response team needs to assess the damage the breach has caused. Once it is possible, recovery options must be enacted. Deleted, encrypted, or otherwise corrupted data may need to be restored from backups if available. Organizations need to have detailed disaster recovery plans in place to deal with this process.

Learn From Past Mistakes

In Conclusion

Cyber breaches can have a significant impact on an organization if there isn’t a comprehensive incident response plan in place. As important as defending against a breach is dealing with its aftermath. This requirement is guided by industry frameworks, such as the ones published by NIST.

The Cloud Vs. Open Source

For years, Linux and free software were perceived as threatened by cloud computing, the online storage of data. However, over the last few years, something ironic happened — free software became a major player in cloud computing.

That wasn’t always the case. In 2008, Richard Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Foundation, condemned cloud computing as “just as bad as using a proprietary program….If you use a proprietary program or somebody else’s web server, you’re defenseless. You’re putty in the hands of whoever developed that software.” Cloud computing, he added, was “worse than stupidity” because it meant that providers controlled customer’s data.

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Stallman was referring mainly to the free storage that many providers offer, equating it with the free services provided by social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Free services, he argued, gave the same convenience as free software, but without user control.

The Free Software Foundation’s response to this threat was to release the Affero General Public License, a license designed for online services. However, the Affero License has never been widely used, and critics like me have often noted that the Free Software Foundation has courted disaster by not offering a solution to an obviously growing threat.

What none of us foresaw was that much of the perceived problem would eventually solve itself. Nor could we foresee that free software would become the model for a growing number of cloud vendors. Angel Diaz, Vice President, Software Standards and Cloud Labs, estimates that IBM did seven billion dollars’ worth of business in cloud service in 2014 alone — and that was only a single company.

Cloud services have been dominated by companies like Amazon and Microsoft. However, in 2012, the OpenStack Foundation was founded to administer a project started by RackSpace and NASA. Today, the OpenStack Foundation consists of hundreds of companies, many of whom are also active in free software development, including Canonical, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Red Hat, and SUSE. Others are well-known technology corporations such as Huawei, Oracle, and VMWare.

Such a diverse group required a model for cooperation. The Foundation found it in Linux and the free software movement. It chose the Apache 2.0 license for its software, allowing for a mixture of free and proprietary uses. Just as importantly, it took Linux, free software, and the community that supports them as a direct example, noting how they were organized and how they had survived the cycle of boom and bust around the turn of the millennium.

The result was unprecedented growth, which Chairman of the Board Alan Clark of SUSE attributes largely to the Foundation’s ability to learn from free software’s example. It helped, too, Clark says, to be able to point to a proven success to convince executives of the validity of the approach.

Of course, free software as a means of production does not address Stallman’s concerns about privacy and control of data. Even if users can examine the code for backdoors usable by vendors, they still have no control over who has access to the data, or where and how it is stored.

However, free software is providing alternatives that address these issues as well. For example, Tahoe-LAFS is a free software project that offers the means to encrypt data and to store it in separate chunks across multiple sites and reassemble it, with the result that privacy is returned to the users.

Similarly, ownCloud, which began as a free software project and became a company, offers a relatively easy way for customers to set up their own cloud services while retaining control over their data. The fact that ownCloud does not sell storage itself helps to reinforce its dedication to privacy.

In fact, when ownCloud founder Frank Karlitschek talks, his concerns sound almost identical to Stallman’s. The problem with most cloud services, Karlitschek explains, “is that we give up control of our data, which means privacy is a concern; you don’t really know who has access to the data.”

ownCloud is probably a minor company compared to most members of the OpenStack Foundation, but the signs are that it, too, is flourishing. Still, the point is that, both in the mainstream and in the alternatives, free software has become a dominant player in cloud services. What is more, it has done in less than five years what free software took over twenty do — largely because free software was available as an example.

Apparently, in expressing his concerns for free software, Stallman neglected to consider free software itself as a factor in the situation. The current situation is one that was inconceivable in 2008.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

M0N0Wall, An Open Source Lightweight Firewall

Manuel Kasper developed the embedded firewall software package m0n0wall back in 2002, he says, while experimenting with embedded x86-based computers. “Having just succeeded at stripping down FreeBSD enough to make it run on a Soekris net4501 board… and deploying it for use as a home firewall/NAT router, I wanted to go one step further,” he says. “I wanted a nice, web-based interface to configure it, just like the commercial firewall boxes.”

Kasper says he chose the name m0n0wall simply because “Mono” was his nickname in school. “I’m not sure why I replaced the o’s for zeros—perhaps because all domain names with normal o’s were already taken—and when I look at it now, it seems a bit silly/’31337‘—but it has become a trademark anyway,” he says.

And the system requirements have remained extremely minimal. “m0n0wall will run on almost any x86-based PC with a Pentium-compatible processor, at least 64 MB of RAM, and at least two supported network controllers,” Kasper says. “No hard disk is required; a USB flash drive, a CF card, or even a CD-ROM plus a floppy disk (for very old machines) suffice. While a common off-the-shelf PC will do, m0n0wall is especially designed for x86 based embedded computers, such as the new AMD LX based boards from PC Engines and Soekris.”

Still, Kasper admits that m0n0wall’s simplicity can also be a weakness. “If you’re looking for features such as content filtering or proxying, or if you want a firewall that can double as a print/file server or PBX, then m0n0wall won’t be a complete solution for you: it has long ago been decided that these things don’t fit in with the m0n0wall philosophy,” he says. “But that’s why there are other m0n0wall-based projects, like AskoziaPBX, FreeNAS, or pfSense.”

And being open source, Kasper says, helps in terms of both price and security. “[Users] get a firewall with a web interface that can stand up to many commercial solutions in terms of features and usability—but for free,” he says. “[And] if a bug is found, it is usually only a matter of days (sometimes hours) before a fix is released—and since all the source code is available, anyone with some FreeBSD and PHP knowledge can add new features or fix bugs.”

Kasper says m0n0wall has proven to be particularly attractive to ISPs. “The traffic shaper built into m0n0wall is used by some (usually smaller) ISPs to easily control the bandwidth usage of their clients without having to resort to command lines or expensive commercial gear,” Kasper says. “Also, I’ve heard that the captive portal built into m0n0wall is quite popular among small WISPs and individual hotspot operators, perhaps because it is so easy to deploy and, in conjunction with the other features of m0n0wall, can provide a complete solution for a hotspot access gateway.”

The most recent releases, Kasper says, have updated the base system to FreeBSD 6, improved support for new WLAN cards as well as WPA, added a SIP proxy, and added support for ISPsec tunnels to dynamic endpoints.

Support for the solution is available through m0n0wall’s forums, chat, and mailing lists. Commercial support services are also available from Oklahoma-based Centipede Networks.

Looking at the solution as a whole, Kasper says the best way to explain m0n0wall’s strengths is to look at the stability and reliability of FreeBSD. “m0n0wall, owing to the fact that it’s based on FreeBSD, inherits those qualities,” he says.

This story originally appeared on ISP-Planet.

The Rise Of Open Source Hardware

Emile Petrone founded Tindie for selfish reasons. “The basic idea was that there wasn’t a marketplace for the things I was interested in,” he says. At the time, those things were his latest DIY hardware obsessions—specifically, kits to support Arduino and Raspberry Pi. “Ebay’s not really right, and neither is Amazon. Hardware projects had no natural home.”

So in the summer of 2012, Petrone (then an engineer at a Portland startup) launched a site where flexible matrix boards and laser motion sensors could be sold alongside build-it-yourself weather monitoring kits and robot birds. Almost immediately, Tindie began attracting favorable attention from the indie hardware community—and then expanded from there. Today, around 600 inventors sell more than 3,000 different hardware products, which have shipped out to more than 80 countries around the world. Some customers are hobbyists like Petrone, but others are large entities like the Australian government, Google and NASA. These days, Petrone says, “NASA’s purchasing department just calls my cell phone.”

Just as Etsy became the go-to marketplace for craft creators, Tindie has become the primary hub for hardware aficionados.

The site has also gained a strong following from hard-core DIY types. Just as Etsy became the go-to marketplace for craft creators, Tindie has become the primary hub for hardware aficionados. “We are definitely part of and supportive of the maker movement,” Petrone says. “We fill the hardware side.”

An open source rolling robot Ryantech LTD on Tindie

Petrone, who stands on the board of the Open Source Hardware Association, insists that this development was not intentional but rather just happened. Whatever the reasoning, it could be a boon for hardware. Unlike software, which has been open sourced for decades and includes hundreds of thousands of projects, hardware has lagged behind the open source movement, wherein the inner workings of a program or a product are openly available for anyone to see, edit or modify. Open source software projects demonstrate the value of this approach, having led to integral creations such as Linux, the operating system that vast majority of the Internet runs on today. “The more people who know about a project and have access to it, the better it becomes,” Petrone says. “We then all benefit from that collective development.”

DIY Ghost Low Voltage Labs on Tindie

For companies and makers, the revenue model for open source hardware is still being worked out, since a person could potentially exploit an open source platform and sell it for profit. But as Arduino— a micro-controller for DIYers, and the most successful open source hardware project to date—shows, people tend to buy the $30 original version rather than the $10 copycats. “Most people want to support those who are actually contributing and putting the sweat and time into the project,” Petrone says. “You don’t get the same warm fuzzy feeling when buying a closed product as you do when you support someone who is creating an open one.”

As for Tindie sellers, monetary support has so far not been a problem. There is so much demand for the open source products sold on the site that the waiting list alone contains nearly half a million dollars’ worth of orders. For Petrone, “This has been something incredibly interesting to see because, ultimately, it’s a totally new market that doesn’t exist anywhere else.”

Tindie, however, is likely only an early example of what is to come.

“I think open hardware will start coming into its own in the next ten years,” Petrone says. “Apple’s not going to open source their products anytime soon, but Tesla could.”

This article was originally published in the October 2014 issue of Popular Science with the title, “The Etsy Of Hardware.” It has been expanded in this web version.

50 Open Source Replacements For Windows Xp

Microsoft officially ended support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. That means the company is no longer patching newly discovered security vulnerabilities in the operating system, and people who continue to use it are opening themselves up to security risks.

However, according to NetMarketShare, more than a quarter of all PCs (27.69 percent) were still running Windows XP in March of this year.

Why would people continue using a twelve-year-old operating system that would put them at risk?

No doubt, many are home users who simply aren’t very technology savvy and/or may not have the desire or the money to upgrade to a newer version of Windows. Some probably have older, underpowered PCs that can’t run Windows 7 or 8. And others have specific software—often custom business applications—that only runs on Windows XP.

Fortunately, the open source community has free operating systems that meet the needs of users in all of these situations. This month we’ve put together a list of 50 different applications that can replace Windows XP. It’s organized into several different categories. Those that are easiest for beginners to use come first, followed by lightweight operating systems that can run on old hardware, then operating systems that are particularly tailored for business users and open source operating systems that aren’t based on Linux. The list ends with a few applications that aren’t complete operating systems but do allow users to run their existing XP software from Linux.

Before we get to the list itself, here’s a some quick background for Windows XP users who aren’t familiar with Linux or open source software. Linux is an operating system that anyone can use free of charge. In addition, anyone can see the source code for Linux and modify it however they like. Because anyone can tweak it, it comes in thousands of different versions, which are known as “distributions.” Different Linux distributions use different interfaces or “desktops,” which determine how the operating system looks on the screen. Unlike Windows, Linux distributions generally come with lots of free applications already built in, so users don’t have to pay extra for office productivity software, security software, games or other applications.

1. Linux Mint

Many people consider Linux Mint to be among the most intuitive operating systems for Windows XP users. It supports several different desktop interfaces, including Cinnamon, which users can configure to look and feel a lot like XP.

2. Ubuntu

Very easy to use, Ubuntu is likely the most widely used Linux distribution in the world. The desktop version offers speed, security, thousands of built-in applications and compatibility with most peripherals.

3. Zorin OS

Built specifically to attract former Windows users, Ubuntu-based Zorin is probably the Linux distribution that’s the most similar to Windows. It includes a unique “Look Changer” that switches the desktop to look like Windows 7, XP, Vista, Ubuntu Unity, Mac OS X or GNOME 2, and it includes WINE and PlayOnLinux to allow users to keep using their Windows software.

4. Robolinux

Also similar to Windows, Robolinux promises to allow users to run all their Windows XP and 7 software without making themselves vulnerable to malware. It also includes more than 30,000 open source applications.

5. StartOS

Formerly known as YLMF, the interface for StartOS looks an awful lot like Windows XP. It’s managed by a group of Chinese developers, so the website is in Chinese. However, English versions of the OS are available.

6. Pinguy OS

According to the Pinguy website, “PinguyOS is very much designed for people who are new to the Linux world; many people coming from both a Windows or a Mac background will find plenty of familiar features along with some new ones that aren’t available in either Windows or Mac.” It’s based on Ubuntu and uses the Gnome-Shell desktop.


Popular with new Linux users, MEPIS aims at providing a Linux distribution that’s very stable and very easy to use. It comes with hundreds of applications preinstalled and you can easily dual-boot it alongside Windows so that you can continue using XP software.

8. Antergos

Previously known as Cinnarch, Antergos is based on Arch Linux, which is popular with hard-core open source users, but Antergos much easier for beginners to use than Arch. It comes with a graphical installer that allows the user to choose from among several interfaces, including some that look quite a bit like XP.

9. Manjaro

Like Antergos, Manjaro aims to be a more user-friendly version of Arch. It comes with desktop environments, software management applications and media codecs pre-installed so users can get right to work after installing it.

10. PCLinuxOS

Like many other OSes on this list, PCLinuxOS was designed with usability in mind. It can run from a LiveCD, meaning you can try it out while still keeping Windows XP installed on your PC.

11. Edubuntu

For those looking to replace Windows XP on a PC primarily used by kids, Edubuntu is an excellent choice. It’s based on Ubuntu (and supported by Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu), so it’s very user-friendly. Plus, it adds plenty of software tailored for use by schools or home users with children.

12. Mageia

Forked from Mandrake (which was later renamed Mandriva), Mageia is a community-driven Linux distribution with a good reputation for being beginner-friendly. Because it’s updated very frequently, it tends to include more recent versions of software packages, and it has excellent support for several different languages.

13. OpenMandriva

14. Kubuntu

Kubuntu’s goal is to “make your PC friendly,” and it’s fairly easy for new Linux users to figure out. It combines Ubuntu and the KDE desktop and includes plenty of built-in software, like a web browser, an office suite, media apps and more.

15. Netrunner

Netrunner is based on Kubuntu, plus some interface modifications to make it even more user friendly and some extra codecs to make it easier to play media files. The project also offers a second version of the same OS based on Manjaro.

16. Kwheezy

17. Point Linux

Also based on Debian, Point Linux uses the Mate desktop, which should feel comfortable to most Windows XP users. It aims to be a “fast, stable and predictable” desktop operating system.

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