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Hardware vendors . . . low risk?

By Dan Hadaway | Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 2 Comments


Do we need to do due diligence on our “hardware vendors?”

Another one of those Dan’s New Leaf Posts, meant to inspire thought about IT Governance . . . .


I finally bought my new laptop.  Was researching throughout the fourth quarter, and ended up selecting a Lenovo.  I told myself, as I tell my Clients, “no need for due diligence on a hardware vendor.”

You may have heard about Lenovo recently . . . . My laptop came with an additional feature that I didn’t order . . . . . Superfish Spyware . . . . And it temporarily destroyed my ability to rely on SSL Certificates.  It’s part of a new risk arising due to the increasing use of what some call “crapware.”

Fortunately, I have a team of security experts and they helped me both uninstall the program and remove the bogus certificate.  Yes, that’s right.  Uninstalling the app does not solve the problem.  You need to also remove the problematic certificate.  It’s in control panel > internet options > content tab > certificates button > trusted root certificate authorities.

superfish_certificateWe originally decided we should wipe the drive and re-install the operating system and drivers from scratch but . . . . . I’m running a business . . . . So we’re logging the risk that there COULD be additional issues, and putting a Google Alert on Lenovo.  What does this mean?

It means we’re accepting risk that Lenovo could have additional malware on the device.  But we feel that risk is well-mitigated, and likelihood of an additional issue is rather low.   We have a response ready and we’re watching the press.  So no, Dan isn’t going to wipe the drive and start over . . . . yet.

But now we must at least consider performing “due diligence” on Lenovo . . . and any hardware vendor . . . unless we wipe the drive.  We’re still wondering about the real-world implications of this . . . do we do due diligence on Apple or Motorola when we purchase a portable device?  Because we certainly aren’t going to wipe the drive there, are we?

And how would we word the “threshold question” for this particular issue?  Something like:   “Will the vendor have advance access to software on the asset?”  Or “will vendor’s access to the asset allow vendor to install unknown software?”   What we’re talking about is the question that needs to be inserted into a typical threshold analysis process, and the implications could mean lots of unnecessary work, if we’re not careful.

For those of you using the infotex vendor management spreadsheets, it would be the green question inserted below:

Potential New Threshold Analysis
Proposed Threshold Analysis Change

And then look at the question we’d need to add below, to ensure that we at least do basic due diligence on the vendor . . .

Due Diligence Detail Question

Proposed Detail Question (note the “25” if no.)

As I said, the implications are scary.  We need to slow down and think this through.  So don’t expect this to be on any audit checklists soon!  But we should still all be aware of the potential risk.

And my standard response now is going to be . . . “only if you wipe the drive and re-install the operating system and drivers from scratch.  Otherwise, you should perform some sort of risk assessment on the vendor.”

And that’s also if you trust the NSA.

Original article by Dan Hadaway CRISC CISA CISM. Founder and Managing Partner, infotex

“Dan’s New Leaf” is a “fun blog to inspire thought in the area of IT Governance.”




2 Responses to “Hardware vendors . . . low risk?”

Comment from Dan Hadaway
Time 02/26/2015 at 8:55 am

Well the Lenovo alerts are coming in . . . . cluttering my inbox. I’m obviously not the only one writing about Lenovo! Might need to tighten my alert criteria!

Comment from Dan Hadaway
Time 02/27/2015 at 8:04 am

As an example, the recent hack into their website required us to look into it, and determine that unless we are using their e-mail service (and we’re not), we do not have exposure there. It does affect their reputation as a vendor but we’ve already marked them way down on that.

It’s like advanced Deja Vu . . . . the cost to monitor Lenovo could outweight the cost to wipe the drive . . . . stay tuned!

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