0.0 Introduction to Security
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This brings us to the last point, involving risk assessment, and then we offer you some good news. In order to apply security measures intelligently, you should be aware of the risks faced by your organization. We cant give you a list of them, because theyre different for all organizations. For example, US government computers containing national-security-related information may be worth spending millions of dollars and tens of thousands of hours of staff time to protect, to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of the information on them. The likelihood of a sophisticated person specifically targeting these systems, because of the data they contain, is relatively high. Likewise, the potential for major consequences, should this information fall into the wrong hands, is great. In contrast, your childs computer used for homework assignments probably merits a less rigorous approach to security although if your child keeps a diary, they might be ready to insist to you that it deserves the level of security applied to systems containing national secrets!
The sad reality today is the fact that most computer networks have little to no protection. Our guess is this is the I dont want to think about anything bad approach. In our research we found two disturbing issues.
First, an unprotected computer will be at least probed for information within 2 to 3 days of being plugged into the Internet. This is a statistical average15. There are reports at honeynet.org16 of being invaded within 15 minutes of going on-line. Brian & Toms Linux book goes so far as to suggest that if a computer has a broadband connection to select no Ethernet as the selection when first installing a Linux configuration due to multiple reports of being hacked within 10 minutes.
Second, most of the numerous bad guys out there are what are known as script kiddies. This means they grab some software designed to probe for gross lapses in security. Once one of the many targets has been identified, they run additional software that will cause havoc. While this may seem like bad news, its partially good news. The script kiddie has virtually no technical knowledge. The typically self-taught script kiddie has little more understanding than a monkey that has learned to push button get bananas.
It is the sheer number of script kiddies existing, and the randomness with which they select targets that make reports of being hacked within minutes a reality. This doesnt sound like good news, does it? Aah, but there is good news. Because the script kiddie is pretty clueless about the underlying technology, and there are so many completely naked targets, a digital equivalent of checking to see if the car door is locked makes the typical site uninviting unless they can walk right in. Security specialists call these simple security precautions Low Hanging Fruit (LHF). Chapter 0011, 3.4.3 Honey pots, reveals the depth of this statement with an email (used with permission) between one of your authors and Fred Cohen. Mr. Cohen is one of the pioneers of computer security with hundreds of publications on the topic over a 20-year period and popularized the term computer virus17. Furthermore, he has one of the most popular honey pot programs ever.
Script kiddies are relatively easy to spot and stop. Since they tend to use canned exploits, many successful attacks can be prevented by keeping your systems up to date with patches. Still more can be prevented through the use of an Intrusion Detection System which recognizes patterns of attacks. Both of these topics are discussed in more depth in later chapters.
We are sorry to report there are elements (human and otherwise) that are potentially more damaging than the script kiddie. This is our next topic.
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Version 1.0 - Version Date: November 15, 2004
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