June 12 2017

CISM exam passed

Last week I passed the ISACA Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) exam, and thought I could share some information on the resources I used to study:

  • Two months before the exam, I started to listen to and watch the Cybrary CISM training course videos.  About 8 hours of content all up, these were fantastic to listen to on the train or while driving to work.  Well presented, good coverage of the material and also free – although I did end up making a donation.  Download the app or use the website –  https://www.cybrary.it/course/cism/
  • A month before the exam I attended a 5 days CISM course run by ALC training in Melbourne.  This was a great course and provided online and paper study material that I used for the next month.  https://www.alctraining.com.au/course/cism-certified-information-security-manager/
  • ISACA self assessment test – I used this 50 question test to see where I should concentrate my efforts – http://www.isaca.org/certification/cism-certified-information-security-manager/prepare-for-the-exam/pages/cism-self-assessment.aspx
  • CISM Review Manual 15th Edition – fantastic study guide covering the content in great detail.  Well laid out so you can quickly find sections and terms that you want to focus in on.
  • CISM Review Questions, Answers & Explanations Manual 9th Edition – well worth spending the time to go through some practice questions to prepare yourself for the formatting of the questions.  Again I used this to work out areas I needed to focus on.

All the study in the world doesn’t replace experience, I’d been lucky enough to have been applying most of this content in my day-to-day job already, so I didn’t find the exam too far removed from decisions I’d make on a daily basis.

July 27 2016

CISSP exam passed

Today I passed the CISSP Certified Information Systems Security Professional exam.

I attended a week training course run by Les Bell (https://www.lesbell.com.au/) via ALC training (http://www.alctraining.com.au/course/cissp-certified-information-systems-security-professional/course-overview/).   There was some excellent material in this course and Les also provides access to his online training portal that has some great resources. In addition, I spent around a two months studying and I found the material below to be the most helpful:

  • CISSP Training – By CyberSecStudy – free audio podcast, great for listening to in the car – https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/cissp-training/id969825909?mt=2
  • CISSP All-in-One Exam Guide, 6th Edition – Shon Harris (from Amazon)
  • CISSP Practice Exams, 3rd Edition – Shon Harris (from Amazon)
  • The Sunflower CISSP summary v1.1

The last 3 sources are slightly dated as they talk about the 10 domains (as opposed to the new 8 domains) however I found the content was still relevant.

The exam, 6 hours and 250 questions long, requires real life work experience across all facets of IT – without this experience there is no chance of understanding the concepts and subsequently no chance of being able to answer questions on the extremely wide variety of topics.

August 10 2015

Windows 10 peer-to-peer (P2P) patching

Reviewing Microsoft 10 over the last week, I am very happy with the approach that Microsoft are taking with their ‘Windows Update Delivery Optimization’.  In short, this is peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing of Microsoft updates and Apps instead of content delivery directly from Microsoft servers. I like the concept behind this and I believe that this is an delivery method that we’ll start to see more of from other Internet-based software and service providers in the coming years.

The main concepts behind this are:

  • WUDO lets you get Windows updates and Windows Store apps from sources in addition to Microsoft.
  • Windows doesn’t download the entire file from one place. Instead, the download is broken down into smaller parts. Windows uses the fastest, most reliable download source for each part of the file.
  • WUDO creates a local cache, and stores files that it has downloaded in that cache for a short period of time. Depending on the settings, Windows then send parts of those files to other PCs on the local network or PCs on the Internet that are downloading the same files.
  • Delivery Optimization is turned on by default for all editions of Windows 10 (an opt-out scenario as opposed to opt-in), with the following differences:
    • Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education: The PCs on your local network option is turned on by default.
    • All other editions of Windows 10: The PCs on your local network and PCs on the Internet option is turned on by default.
  • Users can turn this feature on and off, and can also set whether they can get and send updates to either just PCs on their local network or to PCs on the Internet as well.

There isn’t any detailed technical information available from Microsoft on how this works so one can only assume that it may be a larger implementation of Microsoft’s SCCM BranchCache concept.


June 22 2015

System Center Endpoint Protection (SCEP) support for Windows Server 2003

As we all know, as of July 14 2015, Windows Server 2003 will no longer be a supported operating system. This means that customers using Windows Server 2003 will no longer receive new security updates, non-security updates, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates from Microsoft.

However, it isn’t that well publicised that on this same date, customers using System Center Endpoint Protection on Windows Server 2003 will stop receiving updates to antimalware definitions and the engine for Windows Server 2003.

As a result, the SCEP agent will stop functioning.  Starting on July 14 2015, systems running Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 that have the System Center 2012 Endpoint Protection client installed will receive the following system tray notification:

SCEP notification
SCEP notification
SCEP notification
SCEP notification

Time to get off Windows 2003!

June 18 2015

Why we need to keep Domain Controllers physically secure

This purpose of this post is to highlight another reason we need to keep Domain Controllers physically secure – in fact the principle here also applies to standard Windows Servers too.

My home test lab had been powered down for a few months and I’d forgotten my Domain Administrator password. I knew there was a method to log onto a Windows Server without a username and password back in Windows Server 2003 and I thought that surely this still wouldn’t work with Windows Server 2012 R2 – however to my horror it still did. Here is how I reset my Domain Administrator account password – scary stuff!

Forgotten password
Forgotten password
Forgotten password
Forgotten password

So I’d forgotten my Domain Administrator password. Time to attach the Windows Server 2012 R2 ISO to the VM.

Attach ISO
Attach ISO

Adjust the boot order to force booting from ISO first.

Boot to DVD/ISO

Restart the VM and boot to the DVD/ISO. Click Next on the first setup screen. On the following screen make sure you select “Repair your computer”.

Repair your computer
Repair your computer

Then click on “Troubleshoot” followed by “Command Prompt”

Command Prompt
Command Prompt

You will now be presented with a Command Prompt.  Change your directory to c:\Windows\System32.  Then rename the Utilman.exe executable by running the command “ren Utilman.exe Utilman.exe.old”.  Then make a copy of cmd.exe named Utilman.exe using the command “copy cmd.exe Utilman.exe”.  See below screenshot.

Replace Utilman
Replace Utilman

Close the command prompt and restart the machine, booting back into the regular Windows logon screen.  Once the logon screen is presented, press the “Windows Key” and “U”.  Much to your horror you will see a Command Prompt appear. If you check Task Manager, you will see that the Command Prompt (executable called Utilman.exe) is running in the SYSTEM context.  Given that this is a Domain Controller, effectively this mean the commands run within the Command Prompt are executed with the Domain Admin permission level.

SYSTEM context
SYSTEM context

To reset the Domain Administrator account password, we simply need to run the “net user Administrator password” command.

Reset password

You can now close the Command Prompt and log onto the domain with the Administrator account and the newly set password.

I have also seen this work with the Sticky Keys executable (sethc.exe) being replaced instead of Utilman.exe.


Once again this highlights why we need to keep our Domain Controllers physically secure – from this demo you can see that anyone with physical access to the server can have control over your entire Active Directory domain in a very short amount of time!