The President’s Executive Order: Mapping products to cybersecurity Risk Management

In the previous three blogs, President Trump’s Executive Order. What agencies need to do to respond., Quick hit product categories that can boost executive agencies EO mandated NIST risk scores, and Addressing the EO stated greatest threat to agency cybersecurity posture, we laid out some strategies for federal agencies to respond to the President’s Executive Order (EO).  Finally, in this blog we list a variety of products and technologies that, if not already deployed, should be considered first when trying to move the needle in security posture.

First, the different technologies are listed here in the area they fit in EO Section 1 b (i):

Section 1 b (i) defined cybersecurity Risk Management product mapping:
–Protecting IT from unauthorized access
Information and access discovery
Privileged Access Encryption
Privileged Access monitoring and management
UBEA (user)
–Maintaining awareness of threats
Threat Intelligence feeds
Threat Intelligence Management system
Vulnerability scanning/monitoring
Vulnerability mapping/prioritization
–Detecting anomalies and incidents
Deception Technology for EARLY WARNING (Man, this is an easy one!)
NextGen AV
UBEA (User, System and Network)
–Mitigating the impact of incidents through response and recovery

Next, we will list them in alphabetical order with brief explanations of what they do.  These are not ranked by importance or value.  We recognize that many organizations will probably have most of these deployed already, but none that we have experienced have all of them deployed.

Deception Technology for EARLY WARNING (TrapX, Attivo Networks) – (This is an easy one!)
Platform that deploys “fake” systems on the network, fake credentials on the end points, and carefully crafted ogs in the administrative systems.  The most advanced deception platforms weave a complex storyline designed to look like bread crumbs leading to sensitive information to attract/bait adversaries into revealing themselves.  These platforms will include alarms that once these systems and credentials are used will send alerts to the SIEM or SOC directly.  The most eye-opening thing about most deception platforms is the low-price point for the simplest early warning system innovation.  The value vs. cost is fantastic.

EDR (FireEye HX, Carbon Black, DigitalGuardian) – These solutions defend end points against advanced threats, detect active threats and compromise, and collect logs and data for response forensically when a threat or compromise is suspected.  The more advanced EDR products can pull detailed forensic information and quarantine systems actively under attack or already compromised. This is a must-have for any enterprise.

Multi-Factor Authentication (Duo, Okta, Google Authenticator) – Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) uses at least two of the three types of authentication.  “What you know”, “What you have” and “Who you are”.  Typically, this means a password plus a verified device or fingerprint.  In the past, this was a costly and cumbersome security measure where key generators from tokens were bought and distributed.  However, with the advent of smart phones, MFA can be created with a phone app that is verified as a secure second factor for a specific user.  (NOTE:  This is not SMS, which is no longer considered an acceptable MFA.)

NAC (ForeScout) – Manages asset access to the network by validating system is complaint with security policies.  An example would be DoD “Comply2Connect” where any system connecting to the network has to be thoroughly vetted and could be quarantined for further administration and clean up.  Also can be used for quarantining a system that has been identified for investigation for attack or compromise.

NextGen AV (Cylance, Cb Protect) – Legacy AV, using signatures, stop unsophisticated attacks and NextGen AV uses math and heuristics to defend against more sophisticated attacks.  The most prevalent example is poly-morphic malware that changes its signature even after install.  By using analytics on the files, malware can be detected even if the signature was created minutes ago.

Information and Access Discovery (Varonis) – These products can scan enterprises for sensitive data (Ex: PII, or classified data) and report back all the known locations and who has access in the IdAM system to them.  It can also lay out past history of access and monitor for access and anomalous behavior in accessing sensitive data.  In addition, these technologies help significantly in any IdAM. UBA-User or DLP deployment in cleaning up access and classification of data.  Many times, access creep has corrupted security policy or people who have access are not using it and should be removed unless requesting it in the future.  Without these steps, IdAM, User-UBA and DLP can be permanently crippled or take significant time to tune and become effective.

Privileged Access Encryption (Vormetric) – Solution that specifically prevents privileged accounts from accessing data directly.  This is mitigation against the most common form of unauthorized access by adversaries.  Once inside a network, attackers typically elevate privileges to administrators and try to access data directly.   By encrypting data while still allowing administrators to administrate systems, unauthorized users, even privileged users, cannot read important data.

Privileged Access Monitoring and Management (Varonis and CyberArk/Thycotic)
– By controlling and monitoring privileged user access, a significant threat vector is closed. Even if a privileged user could not access data directly (see above), they could still create or find and take over a user account that does have access to data and systems that are desired by an adversary.  Typically, privileged user account management solutions require check out access in a highly-controlled manner.

SIEM (Splunk, LogRythm) – Security Information and Event Management consumes and correlates logs from the environment against pre-determined rules for security alerting.

Threat Intelligence Feeds – Both free and paid threat feeds supply adversary information to identify when an attack, attacker, or malicious file needs attention.  Many organizations have paid subscriptions to threat feeds from different products in their environment, however some pay for high fidelity threat feeds to augment them.

Threat Intelligence Management System (Anomali) –  Threat Intelligence is the core of defending against attackers.  Knowing what files, IP addresses and threat actor indicators to look for or block are key to the effectiveness of cyber security tools throughout a cyber infrastructure.  By deploying a threat intelligence management platform, the highly valuable threat feeds, free and paid, can be deduplicated against each other, contextually aggregated for enrichment and distributed to the cyber tools.

UBA (User, System and Network)
– User (Exabeam):
 Analyzes logs of user activity from the standard IT infrastructure (such as IdAM/AD/LDAP), creates a baseline of activity and monitors for deviations from the baseline.  This includes individual user behavioral changes and user deviations from the standard a cohesive group creates. This may include an account that has been compromised.  The most mature User-UBA will create a timeline of activity from a range of logs including normal IT and security tools throughout the enterprise.
– System (Exabeam):  Analyzes system logs from the IT infrastructure, creates a baseline of activity and monitors for deviations from the baseline.   This System-UBA go beyond signature or correlations to known activities of attackers.
– Network:  Analyzes network logs such as packets and netflow from IT infrastructure and security tools, creates a baseline of activity and monitors for deviations. Unlike IPS or NGFW, these Network-UBA go beyond signature or correlations to known activities of attackers in the network. The most advanced will pull in logs from many resources across multiple disciplines.

Vulnerability Scanning/Monitoring (Tenable, TripWire) – Scans systems with or without agents on end points to monitor for vulnerabilities and changes to a system that may open it up to compromise.

Vulnerability Mapping/Prioritization (RedSeal) – Actively ingest network configuration data and vulnerability scanning logs to rank security threats identified by attack paths to vulnerable systems.  The resulting risk scoring and details allow for an enterprise to prioritize mediation by risk score that is specific to their systems and not a generic one-size-fits-all scoring.

If any of these intrigue your organization and you would like to know more, please contact us at

About the author:

Jean-Paul Bergeaux, Federal CTO, GuidePoint Security

With more than 18 years of experience in the Federal technology industry, Jean-Paul Bergeaux is currently the Federal CTO for GuidePoint Security. JP’s career has been marked by success in technical leadership roles with ADIC (now Quantum), NetApp and Commvault and SwishData. Jean-Paul focuses on identifying customers’ challenges and architecting innovative solutions to solve their complex problems. He is also a thought leader on topics that are top of mind for Federal IT Managers like Cyber Security, VDI, Big Data, and Backup & Recovery.

Addressing the EO stated greatest threat to agency cybersecurity posture

The first blog in this GuidePoint Security series focused on how Federal agencies can address the President’s Executive Order. It was pointed out that in section 1 b (iv) the EO states:

(iv)  Known but unmitigated vulnerabilities are among the highest cybersecurity risks faced by executive departments and agencies (agencies).  Known vulnerabilities include using operating systems or hardware beyond the vendor’s support lifecycle, declining to implement a vendor’s security patch, or failing to execute security-specific configuration guidance.

Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs) are published to notify organizations of issues that should be addressed. Typically, the CVE will issue guidance on mitigation by anything from a simple patch from the vendor, to disabling services until a patch is released. Sometimes the mitigation is difficult because of legacy End of Life’d (EoL) software. What the EO warning acknowledges is that many agencies are behind in completing these CVE mitigations.

It’s a scary fact, but is easy to understand why. A typical vulnerability report includes hundreds to thousands of vulnerabilities that need mitigation. How does an organization quickly resolve all of them? Most organizations rely on prioritization strategies that result in a spread sheet of the vulnerabilities in order of which to resolve first. One of the ways agencies prioritize is how these CVEs are graded by NIST as “Critical,” “High,” “Medium,” or “Low,” depending on factors like how easy the vulnerability is to execute against and how much access the vulnerability provides the attacker.

While this might seem like a great way to prioritize which vulnerabilities to resolve, the simple fact is that all vulnerabilities cannot be resolved quickly. A large enterprise can fall weeks or months behind mitigation schedules because of the volume of vulnerabilities produced every cycle. If an application requires an EOL’d software to run, mitigation can be very difficult to resolve and involve recoding the application. This can leave some low category CVEs unresolved for a very long time. And this is what the EO is pointing out and rightly so. Why?

Here are some examples of where this type of rating system falls short. First, a low rating from NIST on a publicly facing application inside the DMZ that accesses sensitive information or information with PII on the back end. Even worse, maybe that software was EoL’d recently and there is no patch or remediation. Coders were already working on changing the code to support a newer software, but it’s three or four months away. While this may show up on a list of vulnerabilities as not-a-priority, you can easily see where this should be a high priority.

Second, a critical rating from NIST is given on a printer system that sits deep in the bowels of an enterprise network behind three different layers of firewalls. Also, the printer system is not on network connected to anything with sensitive data. This would show up in bright red in a list of vulnerabilities, but should be prioritized lower than the first example.

Finally, an HVAC system that should not, but does, sit on the same subnet as an organization’s database containing PII such as SSN or credit card information. The HVAC system requires EoL’d software to run the ICS that has just come up with a Medium NIST rated CVE rating vulnerability. On a simple list, this would show up as not important and difficult to resolve. However, a quick look at the network topology would show that the organization should firewall off this system from the network it is accidentally on. (See below how to get a “quick look”) Let’s add on to that attackers who have been actively using this vulnerability to exploit these systems.

GuidePoint Security has three recommended technologies that could significantly help better prioritize and mitigate these vulnerabilities.

Network Vulnerability Management Platform

In the first two blogs, here and here, NVM platforms were mentioned. The basic recap is that vulnerabilities are mapped to the network and a risk score is associated to it. Here’s your “quick look” referred to above. This is exactly what is needed when comparing the three cases for prioritization. There are several other valuable things NVMs add to a security infrastructure, but this value is relative to the EO specifically around which vulnerabilities to mitigate. Several customers have been able to document why a specific vulnerability might not be as critical to address as a basic NIST score might indicate and prioritize much higher risk vulnerability in context.

RedSeal Image

Vulnerability Threat Intelligence Mapping

This solution consumes an organization’s list of vulnerabilities and maps them to the activity seen in threat intelligence of threat actors. While this would not predict a new vulnerability’s sudden usage in the wild, it could help a security organization realize that a low or medium NIST rated vulnerability, that is visible to the outside, is a high risk because it is being actively used by criminal or nation-state actors.

Kenna Security Image

Application Delivery Controller/Web Application Firewall

While this might seem a default and not innovative, GuidePoint still finds organizations that do not have high quality Application Delivery Controllers (ADC) or have them and only use them as load balancers. These proxies offer a significant value to organizations when trying to mitigate applications that rely on old software or have vulnerabilities that cannot be easily resolved. By removing direct access to the application and forcing all traffic through the ADC, a vulnerability can completely disappear from the network, even while not resolved downstream inside the actual application. This allows for downtime planning or coding changes to be made on a reasonable schedule.

The best example of this was when applications were required to move from SSL to TLS (now at version 1.2). Many custom applications simply didn’t have the ability to make the change without code rewrites. By using a quality ADC/WAF, the connection from application to user could be converted to TLS, while the downstream application was scheduled for coding updates to make it possible to move to TLS natively. Restricting data traffic to just between the application and the ADC mitigates the problem.

F5 Image

There are other solutions that can help as well, however, these three are some that should be top consideration. If an organization doesn’t have them in their tool chest now, they should consider moving quickly to purchase, install and use them in order to meet the EO’s requirement to mitigate known vulnerabilities. For more about the above solutions and more choices contact GuidePoint Federal at

About the author:

Jean-Paul Bergeaux, Federal CTO, GuidePoint Security

With more than 18 years of experience in the Federal technology industry, Jean-Paul Bergeaux is currently the Federal CTO for GuidePoint Security. JP’s career has been marked by success in technical leadership roles with ADIC (now Quantum), NetApp and Commvault and SwishData. Jean-Paul focuses on identifying customers’ challenges and architecting innovative solutions to solve their complex problems. He is also a thought leader on topics that are top of mind for Federal IT Managers like Cyber Security, VDI, Big Data, and Backup & Recovery.


Quick hit product categories that can boost executive agencies EO mandated NIST risk scores

In the first of four blogs regarding GuidePoint Security’s guidance for how Federal Agencies can best respond to the President’s EO, we focused on what steps to take to prepare to respond to reporting to DHS/OMB in 90 days. This second blog is about how to boost an agency’s compliance and risk scoring for the report within the short 90 day window.

Here are five product types (not OEMs) that should be a quick hit for government agencies to deploy and show value in security posture before issuing their NIST report to DHS/OMB in 90 days. By quick hit, it is meant that these solutions are the quickest to deploy and show value in security posture. As would be expected, the first two are SaaS based, making them easiest to deploy and to get up and running.

  • IDaaS for SSO/MFA deployment (SaaS based)
  • CASB (SaaS based) -Threat Intelligence Management platform
  • Privileged Access Management
  • Vulnerability prioritization

These solutions are not about highest value in security posture, although some of them do significantly move an agency’s security posture. The point is meeting the compliance standards of NIST for the 90 day reporting deadline.

IDaaS (Protect, Detect)

IDaaS adds identity access functionality, most importantly, Single-SignOn (SSO) and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). Adding a cloud based solution to an organization’s infrastructure is usually a quick deployment saving time and providing value.

SSO eliminates outliers for authentication. This can come in the form of cloud (SaaS and IaaS/PaaS) and legacy applications. Typically, cloud solutions like ServiceNow, AWS, and SalesForce are not well integrated with on-prem IdAM core functionality. This leaves gaps in password management and logging and alerting on activity users have with these sanctioned applications.

Okta “Multi-Factor setup for IDaaS SSO”

In addition, most large enterprises like government agencies have legacy applications that require a second username and password after core IdAM login like Active Directory (AD). Similar to cloud applications, these legacy applications lack integration with core IdAM leaving gaps in password management and logging as well. By bringing these legacy applications into a SSO implementation for password management and logging, better security for these applications can be maintained.

Finally, and probably most importantly, IDaaS allows for easy to use MFA typically using smart phone codes or push notifications. We have seen these types of solutions implemented in days, rather than weeks or months from legacy token based MFA solutions. This type of MFA also offers a much lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) both being less to buy and maintain.

CASB (Protect, Detect, Respond)

Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASB) are hot and for good reason. The main three functions that a CASB can add to an agencies security infrastructure are centralized sanctioned cloud policy management, significantly improved sanctioned cloud logging and un-sanctioned cloud visibility. There are many more functions that a CASB can add, however these three are easy to deploy, get working, and show value.

Again, a significant feature here is SaaS deployment that significantly improves deployment speed and simplicity. In a matter of days or weeks, a government agency can show cloud policy lockdown, cloud activity logging to their SIEM and a significant improvement in locking down un-sanctioned or ShadowIT activity.

SkyHigh Networks “Cloud security posture status main console”

The only way for an organization to understand the impact a CASB has on sanctioned cloud usage such as O365, ServiceNow, SalesForce, AWS, etc. is for them to see it themselves.

Threat Intelligence Management Platform (Detect, Respond)

A threat intelligence management platform correlates, dedups and distributes threat intelligence throughout the security infrastructure. A quality threat platform will integrate with core products like Splunk, LogRythm, and Qradar as well as nearly every type of security product from network, end point, analytics and more.

Anomali “Threat Intelligence Management Platform example”

Built in integration with already purchased licenses for threat intelligence and ingestion from SIEMs, these products allow for threat intelligence to be enriched by each other’s information and ensure that the entire security infrastructure stays informed of the latest threat and attacker information. This can significantly boost an agency’s scoring in the NIST framework in the Detect category framework and is not very complicated to deploy and get working.

Privilege Access Management (Protect, Detect, Respond)

In the Civilian space, CDM’s award for Privilege Access Management has brought the solution front and center, but roll out is still not moving fast enough to cover enough agencies. Deploying this solution immediately improves an agency’s security posture due to the common theme in most incidents involving administrator access to data.

These solutions take away direct access to administrator credentials and make privileged users “check-out” administrative credentials for daily use. This prevents user account compromise from directly giving adversary access and also adds a logging mechanism for administrative activities. This can significantly prevent, delay or provide an early warning for an attack in progress.

Vulnerability Prioritization and Risk Scoring (Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond)

In the first blog about the President’s EO, it was mentioned that a Network Vulnerability Management tool could help map vulnerabilities to the network and help risk score the environment. This helps prioritize highly dangerous vulnerabilities and in some cases, reduce the urgency of patching for other vulnerabilities.

In addition, there are other vulnerability risk scoring platforms that can additionally add context to what exploits are actively in use and under attack. Again, the goal is to prioritize the most important vulnerabilities for urgent patching and mitigation. By combining threat intelligence on current attacker activities, this solution can be the difference between patching an exploit on SMBv1 first vs an exploit that is not currently in active use second.

These five solutions may not be the best next step from a pure security architecture, depending on the agencies maturity and current architecture, but any one of them could be deployed inside the 90 day window if a purchase can be fast tracked and an agency can get the product in the door quickly. GuidePoint Security has the ability to augment the services needed to get any one of these solutions up and running. For more information about how to execute any of these solutions as soon as possible, contact GuidePoint Security at

About the author:

Jean-Paul Bergeaux, Federal CTO, GuidePoint Security

With more than 18 years of experience in the Federal technology industry, Jean-Paul Bergeaux is currently the Federal CTO for GuidePoint Security. JP’s career has been marked by success in technical leadership roles with ADIC (now Quantum), NetApp and Commvault and SwishData. Jean-Paul focuses on identifying customers’ challenges and architecting innovative solutions to solve their complex problems. He is also a thought leader on topics that are top of mind for Federal IT Managers like Cyber Security, VDI, Big Data, and Backup & Recovery.

President Trump’s Executive Order. What agencies need to do to respond.

Since President Trump released his EO a few days ago, we at GuidePoint Security Federal are carefully crafting some strategies for our customers to respond to the requirements detailed in it. This is the first of four blogs outlining some of our guidance. This first blog is about what important take-aways are in the EO and how to best produce an acceptable risk management report in this tight 90-day window. The second blog will offer some “quick hit” products that are the easiest to deploy and close the gaps in a NIST framework, boosting agency scores. The third specifically focuses on what the EO calls the “highest risk” to agencies, which is known, but unmitigated vulnerabilities. The fourth blog will address how the EO defines Cybersecurity Risk Management by mapping specific products, not vendors, to each of the four areas.

The take-aways below are specific to Section 1, and do not cover the entire EO, but outline some important points to note. It does not cover Section 2 and 3, which are about how agencies in the Executive Branch should support non-government entities and does not cover Section 4, which offers up some definitions for clarity. It is important to note that this EO covers all Civilian, DoD and IC agencies not part of the Legislative Branch or Judicial Branch of government. Quick Hits:

  • Section 1 b (i) defines Cybersecurity Risk Management as:
    • Protecting IT from unauthorized access
    • Maintaining awareness of threats
    • Detecting anomalies and incidents
    • Mitigating the impact of incidents through response and recovery
      (NOTE: These points closely map to the NIST categories below in Figure 1)
  • Section 1 b (iv) Specifically calls out known but unmitigated vulnerabilities as the highest risk to agencies.
  • Section 1 b (v) Exhorts agency leadership to personally head integration of different typically silo’d teams such as IT, security, budgeting, acquisition, policy, and HR for better risk management.
  • Section 1 c (i) Agency heads should implement risk management measures to prevent harm from unauthorized:
    • Access
    • Use
    • Disclosure
    • Disruption (of government services)
    • Modification (of government owned data)
    • Destruction (of government data or IT infrastructure)
  • Section 1 c (ii) Establishes the NIST Cybersecurity Framework as the standard measurement to manage cybersecurity risk, overriding any DoD or IC standards. It mandates a risk management report by each agency within 90 days.
  • Section 1 c (iii) Establishes both DHS and OMB as the joint assessor of each agencies’ report to determine if it is sufficient to manage the cybersecurity risk of that agency. For the first time, it is commanded that DoD and IC agencies, must now report to DHS and OMB both as authorities for Cybersecurity.
  • Section 1 c (iv) Mandates that OMB and DHS have 60 days from time of receiving each agency’s report to send the President a determination from Section 1 c (iii) and a plan of action going forward for each agency.
  • Section 1 c (vi) Mandates that agencies (DoD, IC, and Civilian) move to “shared IT services” which appears to be public or private cloud and requires a report on that effort within 90 days.

Figure 1. NIST Functions Graphic

Now we will focus on Section 1 c (ii) of the EO, where the President defines the NIST Cybersecurity Framework as the official standard that Executive Branch agencies should be managing their risk against. It then mandates that a report be created by each agency under the President’s authority (which includes Civilian, DoD and IC, but not Legislative or Judicial organizations) within 90 days of the EO being issued.

This means that each agency be able to show that they can:

  • Identify systems, assets, data, and capabilities.
  • Protect delivery of critical services.
  • Detect threats and attacks defined as cybersecurity events.
  • Respond to threats and attacks detected as cybersecurity events.
  • Recover from attacks and compromises by maintaining plans for resilience and plans for restoring services.

Anyone who is familiar with government cybersecurity will recognize Figure 1. as the NIST “Functions” graphic from the official Cybersecurity Framework document. This is not new information. However, the question is, “How do I measure myself against this NIST Framework for my report to DHS and OMB?” Some Federal customers we work with are well down the path to delivering on the EO’s reporting mandate, however, some of our customers have previously decided to devote all resources to securing their infrastructure, rather than tracking, for reporting purposes, how they map to the NIST framework.

Following the NIST categories, we recommend agencies start by discovering and profiling to Identify assets, software and vulnerabilities that need to be addressed. Protecting, the next category, requires mapping that information to a current network infrastructure and resolving any high-risk gaps. Detecting threats, Responding to attacks, and Recovering from events involves both technical products and establishing a codified policy inside the agency.

Check out our next blog that will detail some quick-hit products to improve an agency’s security posture for the last three NIST categories (Detect, Respond, Recover). The first two, Identify and Protect, can be done quickly, if not in place already, to show compliance to the NIST framework before the report needs to be completed. It only requires a comprehensive end point profiler and a Network Vulnerability Management solution that consumes asset, vulnerability, and network configuration information and map them together into something like Figure 2.

Figure 2. (RedSeal Graphic)

Finally, a Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) product that can consume all technical and policy information to produce a comprehensive NIST compliance and risk assessment report. If an agency is already using a GRC product now, they simply need to configure and start running NIST modules that produce the reporting needed. However, many agencies do not run GRC products yet. GRC products, in general, have developed a reputation for their difficulty to stand up and get operating well for something like this, however, there are GRC solutions that are not difficult and cumbersome. GuidePoint has been working with specific GRC products that are designed specifically to stand up, integrate, and provide reporting on modules like NIST compliance status quickly, meeting the needs for responding to the EO.

Contact us at for assistance in helping your agency respond with the best possible report to DHS/OMB today!

About the author:

Jean-Paul Bergeaux, Federal CTO, GuidePoint Security

With more than 18 years of experience in the Federal technology industry, Jean-Paul Bergeaux is currently the Federal CTO for GuidePoint Security. JP’s career has been marked by success in technical leadership roles with ADIC (now Quantum), NetApp and Commvault and SwishData. Jean-Paul focuses on identifying customers’ challenges and architecting innovative solutions to solve their complex problems. He is also a thought leader on topics that are top of mind for Federal IT Managers like Cyber Security, VDI, Big Data, and Backup & Recovery.