Insecurity, in Black and White
Proper preventive measures can mitigate attacks on data storage.
- By Roberta Bragg
Las Vegas — Two speakers at last week's Black Hat conference, Himanshu Dwivedi
of @stake (http://www.atstake.com
) and Seth
Fogie, vice president of Airscanner (http://www.airscanner.com
demonstrated how data storage, whether terabytes of dedicated corporate storage
networks or a few megabytes on your personal Pocket PC, is at severe risk. And
both were quick to emphasize that it's not that these devices can't be secured:
It's just that, by default, they aren't.
Dwivedi performed a live attack against a data storage device. First, he demonstrated
that the default shares on the device can be connected to anonymously. Then,
after setting file system permissions on the device for Windows and Unix clients
and showing that they prevented an unauthorized Windows or Unix user from accessing
a file, he quickly gained access by using a Unix client on which he had root
access to determine the user credentials of an authorized user, then assigned
them to another. He was able to successfully obtain access to protected data
because he was able to connect without credentials, a weakness of the default
configuration of the storage device, and because of weaknesses in NFS, a network
file system used by many Unix deployments. "There is mitigation,"
he noted. "Authentication can be required for connection to storage devices,
and version 4 of NFS does not have these vulnerabilities."
Fogie demonstrated numerous attacks against a Pocket PC including attacks that
performed hard reboots and wiped all data, to obtaining data access via wireless
and wired network attacks. At the end of his presentation, he listed best practices
that would have prevented these attacks from succeeding: data encryption, improved
authentication packages, protected synchronization processes, and — along
with frequent data backups — software that destroys all data on the PC
either because of extended time between authorized logons or attacks against
authentication mechanisms. Information on these types of products can be found
in the online article "Protect your PDAs, PDQ" at http://mcpmag.com/columns/article.asp?EditorialsID=510.
Although the attacks were interesting, you should focus on the facts. None
of these attacks will be successful against your or anyone else's data storage
devices or Pocket PCs if you implement appropriate security practices. The problem
is, of course, that many of you, perhaps most of you, don't.
Roberta Bragg, MCSE: Security, CISSP, Security+, and Microsoft MVP is a Redmond contributing editor and the owner of Have Computer Will Travel Inc., an independent firm specializing in information security and operating systems. She's series editor for Osborne/McGraw-Hill's Hardening series, books that instruct you on how to secure your networks before you are hacked, and author of the first book in the series, Hardening Windows Systems.