February 4th, 2002, 10:27 PM
Linux is 'dreadfully insecure
You saw it. This was a hedline on The Registers web site.
"Out of the box, Linux is 'dreadfully insecure"
By Tina Gasperson, Newsforge.comPosted: 31/01/2002 at 13:56 GMT
Jay Beale, the lead developer of Bastille Linux and an independent security consultant, says it's not the Unix-based systems with interesting stuff on them that get hacked, it's the vulnerable ones. And if you're not prepared to tighten up what you get from the vendor, it's just a matter of time.
Beale shared his philosophy for building a secure system Tuesday at a LinuxWorld Expo tutorial on securing Linux/Unix systems. "The purpose of tightening a system is just to make it hard to attack," he says.
As the development of Linux progresses, many people set up systems that are running lots of features. For instance, in the Mandrake Linux setup, you can choose to install software that makes your computer an FTP server, a Web server, or even an email server.
"If there's a bug in any one of these features," says Beale, "then the chances are that someone can exploit one of those features. If you've left your system as it is, from the vendor, you're going to be vulnerable."
The problem happens when people think that they don't need extra security measures because their system "just isn't interesting." Beale's example is the average university mathematics department. "If I'm the system administrator, I'm thinking, 'what could a hacker possibly want with my system?' so, why worry?" But, Beale says, even the math department he was a part of was continuously cracked.
"The issue is, while you can target a system, an attack more than likely isn't targeting you specifically," he says. A script kiddie looks for and downloads exploit code that tells him what to look for. "He sets up a scanner with a huge block of IP addresses. Out of the tens of thousands of addresses, he'll get a list of a few hundred that are vulnerable. In that list is perhaps my home machine, perhaps the university math department.
"They're not coming after us because we're interesting, they're coming after us because we're vulnerable."
The way to stop hackers, says Beale, is to employ what he calls minimalism. "If you can bring your system down from 10 functions to three functions, there's less of a chance to be exploited. This is why we tighten."
Beales lists five things that sysadmins can do to lock down their systems:
1. Set up a firewall. "This is not the end of the security process," Beale says. "But it is a good start."
2. Decrease the number of privileged programs. By this Beale means don't run too many applications that give the user power to make changes to the system.
3. Tighten configurations on the remaining programs. Most network daemons can be set to reduce their access and the kinds of interactions they permit.
4. Reduce the number of paths to root. Every user on the system is assigned a number, or UID. Root is assigned the number zero. Some programs automatically run with the root UID, a potential vulnerability. Reducing these kinds of programs reduces the "paths to root."
5. Deploy intrusion detection. "Tripwire (an application to detect intruders) can be amazingly effective," says Beale.
The COOKIE TUX lives!!!!
Windows NT crashed,I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.
February 4th, 2002, 10:45 PM
that is a good article. reading it makes me want to update my linux because mine is "straight out of the box" and vulnerable. an interesting point that was stated in it was the fact that some people get hacked not because the hacker/cracker/skript kiddie wants something from their system, but instead get hacked because they are vulnerable. i will from now on keep that in mind.
February 4th, 2002, 10:46 PM
Nothing is secure "out of the box". You always need to harden the OS unless it's not on the net. The only totally secure box is one that is OFF.
He missed setting up a tarpit for security and to lessen the symptoms of a worm infestation.
But thanks for the info.
Mankind have a great aversion to intellectual labor; but even supposing knowledge to be easily attainable, more people would be content to be ignorant than would take even a little trouble to acquire it.
- Samuel Johnson
February 4th, 2002, 11:01 PM
I don't think this guy realizes just how much of a pain in the ass it is to look at tripwire logs EVERY DAY. You can have tripwire running 24x7x36 and still get broken into because you didn't check your logs (syslog, mail logs, ftp logs, tripwire file modified/created/deleted logs, etc).
"Tripwire (an application to detect intruders) can be amazingly effective," says Beale.
Once again for those in the cheap seats: Security = 1 / Convenience
And if anyone thinks anything's secure right out of the box, they deserve to be broken into (almost...complete n00bs are understandable).
Edit: I should say complete newbies to linux or anything else like that would not know what to do with tripwire logs or anything else and probably have no idea as to what "security" means on a *nix box.
We the willing, led by the unknowing, have been doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much with so little for so long that we are now qualified to do just about anything with almost nothing.