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Re: Secure host newbie - fun - humm
From: Fredrik Hult <fredrik () hult co uk>
Date: Wed, 07 Apr 2004 22:05:04 +0100

There is a third option that is usually viable for remote exploits.
If it is possible to deduce a signature of the attack then an inline IPS or application proxy could provide protection from the attack while enabling Ops to patch the server when the patch is availible or when it is convenient.

Sadly of course this only works if the admin is not complacent. It is also useful when being a customer of a software vendor that takes a long time to provide patches to their products. The complacent hope that one will not get infected is largely not applicable anymore as the worms scan the whole net (which of course implies that the vuln get into a worm but in the win32 world I would say this is more the norm now).

Duty of Care is an interesting topic and (IANAL) is dependant on the resources of the victim. OTOH one could argue that a victim should not handle data that might result in such degree of harm that the victim has no financial or practical way of fulfilling its duty. Cost benefit analysis is a somewhat inexakt science and the Duty of Care needed is ultimately decided upon by the courts (which in the UK at least have several different ways to calculate this).

For 0day exploits one could argue that the compromise was not forseeable and the extent of the damage could not be quantified. OTOH one could argue that a diligent InfoSec professional would assume that the systems software components will contain undiscovered flaws (history of course proves this) and thus should have taken steps to mitigate damage in case of full system compromise.

As for not running servers if they have holes in them.. well then I think it might be time to shut down most public and private organisations that process information in paper as they are probably more insecure in their handling of information. If these organisations can tolerate the risks involved with handling very sensitive data, then surely the organisations and the courts will be able to transpose their resoning to the interconnected digital realm?

As for DoS attacks I would just add that this threat is always present in the age of zombies and it is more important to have good relations with ones connectivity providers as they will be the ones that will mitigate the attacks.

BTW sorry if I reply in an inconsistent manner as I have not caught the beginning of this thread.

Fredrik

At 19:55 06/04/2004, Ranjeet Shetye wrote:

No, I am not pushing one decision over another.

I am pointing out the fact that when a HUMAN BEING decides to run a
server KNOWING that there is a security problem, then that is a HUMAN
issue, NOT a technology issue. (e.g. I dont think that running an
insecure service is any different from insecurely running a secure
service - in both cases, its professional negligence.)

Just cos an admin is helpless cos there is NO fix, does NOT exonerate
the network admin of any blame, IF he or she KNEW that is an exploit
available.

In today's 24x7 broadband interconnected world, you have 2 options:
1. Take down the server yourself.
2. Hope that you do not get compromised and continue business as usual.
(When you do get taken down, try to put it back together from backups.)

Are there any other options ? That is what I was pointing out. Find out
the cost of each option, and take the path with the lesser cost.
Decision-making 101.

e.g. Lets take a case where there IS a severe price to be paid for the
NEGLIGENCE of KNOWINGLY running an insecure solution.

If a US based service is hosting health records on a Linux server, and
they KNOW that there is a kernel exploit that's available, BUT there is
no fix available for it, then either they play safe and TAKE DOWN the
server themselves, or prepare for a costly legal battle and/or a lengthy
prison sentence if it can be proven that the admin was (deliberately ?)
NEGLIGENT.

The court is surely NOT going to think that running data servers for
24x7 (admin's desire) OR the health of the business (CEO's desire) is
more important than the privacy of the health records. By law, EACH
leaked health record will cost you $8 million + other civil and criminal
proceedings if warranted + other intangibles like loss of customer
trust, loss of reputation, etc. If that is worth keeping your servers up
and running, you should make the decision accordingly. I wouldn't. I'd
try to keep the service secure.

On the other hand, if you are running a photo album server, then things
are not so bad. As I said, you've got to take your own individual
decision.

This is very different from DoS attacks because in DoS, you dont get a
choice, your server gets taken down for you. It's not a business
decision taken on the basis of some calculated risk.

And I DO think that security is a very black and white issue. Either you
have it, or you dont.

Ranjeet.

On Tue, 2004-04-06 at 07:04, Barry Fitzgerald wrote:
> Ranjeet Shetye wrote:
>
> >I'd say that most of the **avoidable** security **problems** are created
> >by human beings (and network admins too).
> >
> >just going over the recent well-publicised and researched breakins:
> >
> >ftp.gnu.org - known ptrace kernel exploit (but no solution available) -
> >TECHNOLOGY + HUMAN (cos admins decided to leave machine running and
> >"risk it").
> >
> >
> Are you advocating that people should just take their servers down if
> someone finds an exploit that isn't patched?  Well, in that case, who
> needs denial of service attacks?
>
> You're also assuming that every admin is aware when an exploit is found,
> that's not always the case.  (In fact, I'd argue that it's like that
> unless a patch or new version is released and said admin is on an
> announcement list, they probably don't know about the vulnerability.)
>
> If both of these are the case, then an issue like this is not a human
> issue at all - it's a technology issue.
>
>
> >(My interpretation:
> >TECHNOLOGY - unexpectedly getting a flat tyre while you're driving.
> >HUMAN - driving around despite knowing that you have a flat tyre.)
> >
> >
> >
> >
>
> I disagree completely.
>
> I see what you're getting at, but it's not enough.  I'd define it this way:
>
> TECHNOLOGY - Any issue which could have been prevented or stopped
> technologically.  This includes flaws in software that are purely
> technical -- including flaws in design methodology.
>
> HUMAN - Improper use, misconfiguration of known-to-be-insecure
> configurations, use of inherently vulnerable services (like nfs and
> telnet) when better alternatives exist and are equally available, and
> not patching a system when it is known to be safely patchable.  (In the
> real world, you can't just patch a system -- you have to test things
> first.)  Most of these are configuration and use issues, and often there
> is a justification for carrying out the action.  For instance, telnet is
> inherently "insecure".  Yet, there are times when it's appropriate to
> use telnet.
>
> Sometimes, decisions aren't cut and dry and it's these decisions that
> fall into the HUMAN category, not the decision to run a vulnerable
> system when you don't have a choice.  That's purely technological.
>
>
>                 -Barry
>
--

Ranjeet Shetye
Senior Software Engineer
Zultys Technologies
Ranjeet dot Shetye2 at Zultys dot com
http://www.zultys.com/

The views, opinions, and judgements expressed in this message are solely
those of the author. The message contents have not been reviewed or
approved by Zultys.



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