in reply to Re: Stay aware of security
in thread Stay aware of security

I have really mixed feelings about your thoughts because "It's too hard" is a very slippery slope, one that leads to complacency far too easily. In turn, complacency leads to compromise (in both senses of the word).

Given the rise of distributed DOS attacks, the practice of using compromised systems as gateways to further mayhem, and other common tactics, I really don't think it's unreasonable to make things a little harder than they need to be in order to add basic and reasonable precuations.

(I'm reasonably certain that you're aware of this, but I'm trying to point out that many hacks are executed through very common and easily fixed vunerabilities.)

Yes, of course there's a balance, but I would argue that you need to draw the line a little farther from the knife edge.

Users will complain about being forced to change their passwords and to mix case, add numbers, and so on. But they eventually learn and adapt.

They will not do it on their own; you (the admin) must educate them. Given the number of excellent sources and the publicity surrounding certain hacks, this doesn't need to be overly time consuming.

Your boss wants you to code? Fine, get him to let you code decent starting places for your users. If they're using FormMail, give them a more secure version. Give them packages of convenient, easy-to-use routines designed to be safer.

Let them use their FTP clients...on realms isolated from data. Don't let them play in a sandbox on the same machine as the one running your database.

I think part of tilly's warning is that there are far too many basic, easy, and well-known things you can do to prevent most problems. Be sure you use them.

Do you really want modern versions of Al Capone running through your systems?

Also, try to get your boss to allow you two hours a day for research to be spent on non-billable projects. Explain to him the benefit of having a more educated admin/programmer. Show him that this is an investment that will pay off over time.

Yes, there's a balance between total security and reasonable access. Take the time to make sure you've drawn that line as carefully as possible. If you don't know where it is, you will learn...one way or the other.

(Not trying to flame you or anything. Just trying to make it perfectly clear that it's far too easy to be complacent. Ignorance must be resisted as strongly as possible.)

"It's too hard" is not a valid excuse in my book. "Acceptable Losses" may be a better term.

--f

Update: In response:

I think we're arguing the same thing viewpoint from different angles. I do agree that 100% security is difficult, expensive, and restrictive. I was really trying to say be very, very careful with your compromises.

Specific points:

Again, this is friendly discussion that's not intended to inflame. I'm trying to solve problems, not criticize anyone's decisions, work, or choices. Most of us care enough about our work to keep poking at it after it's "done." That's the attitude that I'm trying to encourage. Do the best you can at the moment, accept your limitations, and try to improve when and where you can--even if that's the next project.

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Re: Re: Re: Stay aware of security
by arhuman (Vicar) on Mar 15, 2001 at 22:16 UTC

    I must have been VERY unclear:
    I've never said security 'it's too hard' in fact I think security is obvious
    (a large part of the vulnerabilities are known and categorized)

    I only say that most of us can't afford the cost of true security
    I furthermore think that saying "security is easy, you only have to do simple things to secure your machine" is wrong !
    (the easy things to do, provides only weak protection against the clueless script-kiddies)
    It's not only wrong but it has the bad side-effect of (wrongly) making you feel secure.

    Really securing your machine is a constant/heavy process.
    the recipes ar known but they are impractical in real use.

    "I'm trying to point out that many hacks are executed through very common and easily fixed vunerabilities"
    I'd like to do it, just imagine how much time it would take to constantly check for new exploit/version and upgrades.
    Tell me how do you easily fix production servers which must be runinng 24/24h 7/7j
    (with of courses some applications incompatible with the new secure version of other applications) ?

    "Let them use their FTP clients"
    Ok but they want the same password for telnet and ftp, anyone with a sniffer on my subnet now has a local access on my box.

    "Users will complain about being forced to change their passwords and to mix case, add numbers, and so on.
    But they eventually learn and adapt.
    "
    You're right they'll adapt, I can't count the number of time I caught them writing it on a post it (put ON THE SCREEN !!!)

    "Don't let them play in a sandbox on the same machine as the one running your database."
    Another machine ? I can't convince my boss to give me few time,
    how will I convince him to spend hundreds dollars for the box/hosting.
    Worse ! I will now have another box to secure...

    Explain to him the benefit of having a more educated admin/programmer. I've tried he then explained me the benefit for the society of making money, he explained me how much 2 hours of security cost and how much 2 hours of coding bring us
    (It IS a huge error if you thing in long term effect, but my boss tend to be short sighted...)

    That's why I (you'll) have to think in term of efficiency(or cost, which is the right term here, as jeroenes said).

    I hope you won't take it as irony or personnal attack but this is MY REALITY, and probably the one a of a lot of sysadmin...

    All I can say is claim it again :
    Be security aware, especially beccause you CAN'T reach true security, and try to make things as secure AND easy AS YOU CAN.


    "Trying to be a SMART lamer" (thanx to Merlyn ;-)