Announcing Elevation of Privilege: The Threat Modeling Game

I have had the pleasure over the past few months to spend some time playing with an early rendition of ” Elevation of Privilege: The Threat Modeling Game”. According to Adam, “Elevation of Privilege is the easiest way to get started threat modeling”.  I couldn’t agree more. If you have a team that is new to the whole process of threat modeling, you will want to check it out. If you are at RSA this week, drop by the Microsoft booth and pick the game up for free. If you aren’t, you can download it here.

EoP is a card game for 3-6 players. The deck contains 74 playing cards in 6 suits: one suit for each of the STRIDE threats (Spoofing, Tampering, Repudiation, Information disclosure, Denial of Service and Elevation of Privilege). Each card has a more specific threat on it.  You can see a short video on how to play and some more information about the game by checking our Adam’s post here. In the end, it is a game that makes it possible to have more fun when thinking about threats. And that’s a good thing.

Even more impressive is that they have released the game under Creative Commons Attribution license which gives you freedom to share, adapt and remix the game. So you if you feel you can improve up this, step up and let everyone know!!   

Congratulations to the SDL team at Microsoft for creating an innovative way to approach the concept of threat modeling.

Reflecting on our Windows 7 birthday party

So this week my buddy Charlie and I threw a Windows 7 party for the IT pro community in Vancouver, BC at the Microsoft office.

The office could only handle 80 people, and we simply had to turn people away. Sorry to those who weren’t allowed to come. Many people came early, and hung out in the hallway even before they were allowed in.

With almost a 100 people in that hallway just out of the elevator, that hall was WARM. I felt bad for some of the people as you could tell they were overheating. But we weren’t ready to let them in as we set up the rooms with different Windows 7 systems.

When we did open the doors it was a mad rush for everyone to get in where it was cooler and they could grab a cold one and cool down. Thankfully everyone was patient and polite. Thanks to everyone for that!

Once they got in, there were several different rooms that they could go hang out in. In one room, Charlie had brought a HP Media Touchsmart so people could experience the new multi touch functionality of Windows 7. Kerry Brown, a fellow MVP with experience in Windows shell, stayed in the room teaching people all the new shell features like Libraries, Jump Lists etc, and I am told schooled some admins on the nitty gritty of Power Shell. Good job Kerry! Thanks for helping out!!!

It was interesting as everytime I looked in that room, people were surrounded around the device playing with the TouchPack games and with Virtual Earth. It was interesting to hear my buddy Alan comment that his experience on his iPhone with multitouch, especially with Google Earth, was far superior to what he was seeing there. Maybe that is something Microsoft can take away from that. Of course, big difference on a 24 inch monitor and a small iPhone screen. But the point is well taken.

We had the biggest crowds when we did demos in the main presentation room. When I was presenting on DirectAccess security I had my good friend Roger Benes (a Microsoft FTE) demonstrate how Microsoft used DirectAccess themselves. Using the Microsoft guest wireless he connected seamlessly to Microsoft’s corpnet, which allowed us to demonstrate the policy control and easy of use of the technology. I am told a lot of people enjoyed that session, with several taking that experience back to their own office to discuss deployment. Thats always good to hear.

Charlie impressed the crowd showing how to migrate from Windows XP and Vista to Windows 7. He demonstrated Windows Easy Transfer and Anytime Upgrades and took the time to explain the gotchas in the experience. He even had me demonstrate XP mode on my laptop so people could see how they could maintain application compatibility with a legacy Windows XP virtualized on Windows 7.

Of course, I had a lot of fun hanging out in the far back room. I got to demonstrate some of the security stuff built into Windows 7 like BitLocker, AppLocker and BitLocker to Go. I was even asked about Parental Controls which I couldn’t show on my laptop since its domain joined, but was able to show on a demo box Roger had brought for people to play with.

Some of the more interesting things I helped facilitate was asking my buddy Alan to bring his Macbook in. He is a great photographer who works with Linux and OSX a fair bit, on top of using Windows. Actually, all the photos you see in this post were taken by him. Thanks for sharing them Alan!

Anyways, I convinced him to let us use his Macbook to install Windows 7. He reluctantly agreed, as you can see from the picture below when he was looking at the Snow Leopard and Windows 7 media together. 🙂

We had a fair number of people crowd around his Macbook as he went through the process of installing Bootcamp and deploying Windows 7. Interestingly enough, it flawlessly converted that Apple hardware into a powerful Windows 7 system in about 20 minutes.

Charlie and I were REALLY busy. We had presented on different sessions in different rooms throughout the night. Actually, I very rarely even saw him except for a few times when he called me in to help out with a demo. Sorry we couldn’t party more together Charlie. And my apologies to those that were looking forward to our traditional “Frick and Frack” show where we banter back and forth.

Many of you may not know that outside of computers, I am an avid indie filmmaker. Actually, that is giving me too much credit. I am an amateur cinematographer at best, who had high hopes that I would get a chance to film everyone’s impressions throughout the party. Unfortunately, I was so busy presenting, I had almost NO TIME to get any film recorded. *sigh* Alan did get a snap of a rare moment when I actually caught someone on film.

Of course I can’t complain too much. I had a great time getting to show all the neat features in Windows 7, and answering the tonnes of questions that people had.

Of course, when the night finally wound down, it was nice to close out the party and watch the Vancouver skyline change. When we were done, we had the opportunity to hang with our IT friends in Vancouver and bring in the birth of Windows 7.

I have several people I would like to thank for making the evening possible. Charlie and I couldn’t have done it without the support of people like Graham from VanTUG, Jas from VanSBS and Roger from Microsoft. Speaking of Microsoft, I have to give a shout out to Sim, Sasha and Ljupco in the MVP team who helped us get through all the red tape to throw the party at Microsoft’s office. And many thanks to Brent, Alan and Kerry for helping us out throughout the event. My thanks to all of you.

I hope everyone had a good time. And if anything, Charlie and I hope you learned something that will help you deploy and use Windows 7 in your organizations. Happy birthday Windows 7. Welcome to a new world without walls!

P.S. All the pictures you see here were taken by Alan and used with his permission. You can check out some of his other amazing work at

Time to party! Windows 7 is here!

It’s only a few days away. The official launch of Windows 7 is here!

And of course, that means its time to party!!! You may have heard about the Windows 7 House Parties that are being thrown all around the world. Basically thousands of small groups of people are getting together to see what Windows 7 can do.

Personally, I thought we needed to do more. So fellow MVP and friend Charlie Russel and I decided we would throw our own party. But focused on IT pros and not the consumer angle. We plan to have a lot of fun, showing the cool features of Windows 7 for IT pros like BitLocker, AppLocker and DirectAccess. We plan to bring a bunch of laptops and show new shell extensions, Powershell, new multitouch features and basically sit around and enjoy hours of Q&A for those that haven’t tried it yet. We are even planning on installing Windows 7 on a guest’s Macbook to show how well it does using Bootcamp on Apple hardware and even on small netbooks.

I also wanted to send a message out to the Vancouver IT community to clear up some misconceptions. This is a party hosted by Charlie and myself. This is NOT a Microsoft event. Microsoft was gracious enough to let us use their facility and even sprung for some of the cost for pizza. However, they never planned this out. Nor did the local VanTUG and VanSBS groups.

Our party is an INVITATION ONLY event. Because we are limited in our own budget and constrained in where we could have the party… we only have enough room for 75 people. So we could only allow a certain number of our friends to come. Charlie and I decided the best way to handle this would be to simply invite who we wanted, and then open it to our friends at the local user groups on a first come, first served basis. This is why there is a cap on the registration on the event, and why it booked up so quickly.

I am hearing through the grapeline that there is a LOT of descent in the Vancouver IT community who feel that Microsoft, VanTUG and VanSBS did a poor job organizing this. >LET ME BE CLEAR. This is a personal party that Charlie and I organized. If you were lucky enough to get an invitation and registered, great. But if you didn’t, don’t take it out on Microsoft, the local usergroups or their leaders. It’s not their fault!!!

We are using our own money and time to throw this party. Please be considerate and respect that we couldn’t invite all of you. I am happy to see there is so much excitement about Windows 7 and that you wanted to party with us. And I am sorry if you feel it isn’t fair that you didn’t get invited. Please feel free to share your own Windows 7 experience, and host your own party. We may be the only IT pro party during the Windows 7 launch, but nothing says you can’t have your own!

So party on. Welcome to a new world. Welcome to Windows 7!

RunAs Radio podcasts you might want to listen to

Hey guys. I noticed Twitter is a buzz with a few podcast interviews I did on RunAs Radio lately. I thought I will post the links for those of you who don’t follow such tweets.

There were two interviews I did last month:

The first interview was discussion on free tools available for network monitoring and diagnostics. The second was some in depth discussion on using DirectAccess with Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. I do hope you find both interviews fun and useful.


Coding Tip: Why you should always use well known SIDs over usernames for security groups

So have you ever tried to restrict access to your applications in a way so that you can maintain least privilege?

I do. All the time. And recently it blew up in my face, and I want to share my experience so others can learn from my failure.

Let me show you a faulty line of code:

if( principal.IsInRole( “Administrators” ) )

Seems rather harmless doesn’t it? Can you spot the defect? Come on… its sitting right in the subject of this post.

Checking to see if the current user is in the “Administrators” group is a good idea. And using WindowsPrincipal is an appropriate way to do it. But you have to remember that not EVERYONE speaks English. In our particular case, we found a customer installed our product using English, but had a user with a French language pack. Guess what… the above code didn’t work for them. Why? Because the local administrators group is actually “Administrateurs”.

The fix is rather trivial:

SecurityIdentifier sid = new SecurityIdentifier( WellKnownSidType.BuiltinAdministratorsSid, null );
if (principal.IsInRole(sid))

By using the well known SID for the Administrators group, we ensure the check regardless of the name or language used.

Lesson learned the hard way for me. We have an entire new class of defect we are auditing for, which we have found in several places in our code. it always fails securely, NOT letting them do anything, but that’s not the point. It is still a defect. Other accounts we weren’t considering were “Network Service” (its an ugly name on a German target) and “Guest”. Just to name a few.

Hope you can learn from my mistake on that one. That’s a silly but common error you may or may not be considering in your own code.

Major Windows 7 gotcha you should know about that may block you from upgrading

OK, so anyone who knows me expects that I stay up on the bleeding edge when it comes to dev tools and operating systems. Yes, I have been using Windows 7 for almost a year now and have been loving it. However, I never ran it on my production dev environment as I felt I did not what to disrupt our software development workflow until Windows 7 was in final release. With it out to RTM now, I felt it was as good as time as any to migrate, especially since we recently released our latest build of our own product and have a bit of time to do this.

So last week I deployed Windows 7 to both of my production dev systems, as well as the primary QA lab workstations. It was the worst thing I could ever have done, halting all major development and test authoring in our office due to a MAJOR gotcha Microsoft failed to let us know about during the beta and RC.

Ready for this….

You cannot run Virtual PC 7 (beta) in Windows 7 WITHOUT hardware virtualization. OK, I can live with that, since the new XP mode (which is an excellent feature) may very well need it. That didn’t concern me. It was my fall back that failed to work that blew my mind…

You cannot run Virtual PC 2007 in Windows 7, as they have a hard block preventing it from being installed on Windows 7 due to compatibility issues. So the same machine that I have been using for development using Vista for a few years has now become a glorified browsing brick. I cannot do any of my kernel mode and system level development or debugging as I am not ALLOWED to install Virtual PC 2007 on the same hardware that worked before. *sigh*

What surprised me is that Ben, the Virtual PC Guy at Microsoft blogged that it was possible to run Virtual PC on Windows 7, and in his own words:

While all the integration aspects of Virtual Machine Additions work (mouse integration, shared folders, etc…) there is no performance tuning for Windows 7 at this stage – so for best performance you should use a system with hardware vitalization support.

That sounds to me like it will still work without hardware virtualization. Seems that is not the case.

Since Windows 7 is already to RTM, if this is a block due to Windows, it isn’t going to be fixed anytime soon. So hopefully they can do something in the Virtual PC side of the equation, or they are going to disappoint a lot of unknowing developers.

This just became a MAJOR blocking issue for many dev shops that are using Virtual PC for isolated testing.

If this concerns you, then I recommend you download Intel’s Processor Identification Utility so you can check to see if your dev environment is capable of running hardware virtualization.

Failing to do so might get you stuck like I did, now having me decide if I want to degrade back to Windows Vista just to get work done. There goes another day to prep my main systems again. *sigh*

Microsoft SDL bans mempcy()… next it will be zeros!!!!

So recently Microsoft banned memcpy() from their SDL process, which got several of us talking about perf hits and the likes when using the replacement memcpy_s, especially since it has SAL mapped to it. For those that don’t know, SAL is the “Standard Annotation Language” that allows programmers to explicitly state the contracts between params that are implicit in C/C++ code. I have to admit its sometimes hard to read SAL annotations, but it works extremely well to be able to help compilers know when things won’t play nice. It is great for static code analysis of args in functions, which is why it works so sweet for things like memcpy_s()… as it will enforce checks for length between buffers.

Anyways, during the discussion Michael Howard said something that had me fall off my chair laughing. And I just had to share it with everyone, because I think it would make a great tshirt in the midst of this debate:

Oh, I’m thinking of banning zero’s next – so we can no longer have DIV/0 bugs! Waddya think?

OK.. so its a Friday and that is funny to only a few of us. Still great fun though.

Have a great long weekend! (For you Canadian folks that is)

Using TS RemoteApp as an attack vector

So in today’s session at SMBNation that I spoke at, I showed how to use TS RemoteApp with TS Gateway on SBS2008 to deliver remote applications through Remote Web Workplace. It is one of the most cool features in the Windows Server 2008 operating system. But we have to remember what its doing.

Part of the conversation we had was on the difference between local desktop display in TS RemoteApp vs just having a full desktop to the Terminal Server. One issue that came up was that as a RemoteApp, you can’t run other applications.

Well, that is not actually true. If you think that, then a TS RemoteApp has the ability to be an attack vector for you. What do I mean? Well below is a screen shot of what happens if you hit CTRL-ALT-ENTER with the cursor focused on the RemoteApp window (in this case MS Paint running remotely):

At this point, you can run Task Manager…. then hit File->Run and run something else. In my case, I showed a few people afterwards how to start cmd and start exploring the network. Now, you will only have the privileges of the user account logged in as, but it is still something you have to be careful about. If you think a RemoteApp bundle prevents access to other application sor the network… you are wrong.

So is this bad? No. Is it really an attack vector? No. You just need to understand that when allowing ANY type of Terminal Services based access, you have to restrict the policies and access accordingly. No matter if its local or remote. Running a TS RemoteApp bundle of Office will display on the local desktop, but is STILL running on the Terminal Server. So it will be browsing the network the Terminal Server is connected to as the local net. It will also browse your own drives mapped via tsclient. So you have to remember that.

Hope thats useful. A TS RemoteApp bundle does NOT mean you won’t have access to the TS desktop when displaying remotely on your personal desktop. And that’s not a bad thing. TS Remote App is a convenient way to extend the workspace to your local machine, anywhere in the world. No pun intended. That’s its power… and the benefit. Great remote productivity enhancement in Windows Server 2008. Use it. (Safely of course)

Is Twittering safe?

So Susan has been on my case about Twitter for some time now. In a recent round table we were recording she “beat me up” about it, and tonight on IM we had a good discussion about the REAL vs PERCEIVED risks in Twitter.

Susan’s biggest complaint is that security minded individuals shouldn’t be blindly recommending the use of Twitter without educating the user on ‘safe-twittering’. I would say that same logic exists for setting up web pages, blogs and the use of social networking sites like Facebook.

She stepped that up a bit tonight when she blogged her discomfort in the fact the RSA Conference was recommending Twitter as well.

So in an effort to stop spreading the FUD about Twitter insecurity, I wanted to share some of my thoughts through a quick set of safe twittering rules.

@DanaEpp’s 5 Rules of Safer Twittering

  • Never share information in a tweet that you wouldn’t share with the world. You can never expect to take it back once it’s on the Internet. Even though you can delete a tweet, 3rd party clients may still have it archived. If you feel you want to share private thoughts through Twitter, consider using a “Private Account” and limited it to only people you trust and want to share with. Of course, remember nothing prevents your friends from sharing your tweets with the world. So never share private information on Twitter. Ever. it’s just easier that way.
  • There is no assurance that a Twitter account is the person you believe it is. Deal with it. Anyone can register an account if it doesn’t already exist. As a real world example, for some time @cnnbrk was NOT an official CNN account, even though most of the Twitter world thought it was. It wasn’t until recently that CNN bought the account from James Cox (the account holder) for an undisclosed amount of money. Another example is the fact that one of Susan’s Twitter accounts was actually created by a fellow SBS MVP, and not actually her. 🙂
  • Never click on links in a tweet, unless you trust the URL. If unsure, don’t click! The worms that were used to attack Twitter came from people getting users to go to profile pages etc that they had control over for some interesting script attacks. With only 140 chars, its common to “shorten” the URL. Which means you might be clicking on a link blind. That’s fine. But only trust shortened URLs that can be previewed BEFORE you go to it. As an example, my recommendation is to use something like TinyURL. However, here is the trick. When you create a TinyURL, use the preview mode. As an example, if you want to send someone to my blog you can use to go directly. However, if you use it will stop at and let the user SEE the link before they actually get to it. That is much safer. If using TweetDeck, select TinyURL as the provider, and when it creates the shortened url, simply add “preview.” in front of “”.
  • Use a 3rd party Twitter client instead of using the website directly. I am a fan of TweetDeck and Twitterfon, but there are tons of different clients out there. Why? It is the lesser of two security evils as it relates to web based attacks in Twitter. Most clients have ways to reduce or turn off linking, prevents the script attacks in profile viewing and generally is just an easier environment to stay protected in. Are these clients free of attack? Of course not. But its another layer of defense. Of course… you need to have trust in your client. But that’s a story for another day 😉
  • You never know who is following you. Remember that. As you use Twitter more and more, you never know who might be watching. I recently had someone who has been trying to get an interview with me who follows me on Twitter, knew where I was having coffee one day because of a tweet I wrote (and it’s geotag) and ended up coming down to confront me with his resume. Which was inappropriate in my books. But my own fault. I wasn’t too concerned.. but it definitely gave me pause when considering my daughter uses Twitter and could be as easily found. Nothing like the potential of being stalked. GeoTagging makes it way to easy to find you. Remember that.

Look, Twitter is addictive. Simple. Short. Fast. A great way to see the thoughts of others you might care about. Ultimately though… like any other Internet based technology it has the potential to be abused… and put you at risk. No different than websites or blogs.

So be careful. Follow these rules and enjoy the conversation!

Come have Coffee and Code in Vancouver with me and Microsoft tomorrow

So John Bristowe, Developer Evangelist for Microsoft Canada will be hosting a Coffee and Code event in Vancouver tomorrow from 9 to 2 at Wicked Cafe. Come join him and fellow Microsoft peers Rodney Buike and Damir Bersinic as they sit and share their knowledge over a cup of joe.

I will be there too, and will be available if anyone wants to talk about secure coding, threat modeling with the SDL TM or if you want to talk about integrating AuthAnvil strong authentication into your own applications or architectures

I do hope to see some of you there. And if I don’t… I will be seeing you at #energizeIT right?

What: Coffee and Code in Vancouver
When: April 8th, 2009 from 9am – 2pm
Where: Wicked Cafe – 861 Hornby Street (Vancouver)