The Information Security Infantry

As a low-level, gravel crunching, grunt there are a few things that get drilled into your head through constant repetition, things like the only defense in an ambush is offense. If you’re caught in the middle of a well planned and executed ambush your pretty much dead so you might as well turn and run towards the hail of bullets coming at you and hopefully either run through them or scream loud enough to scare the guys shooting at you to stop shooting. Yeah, like I said, in an ambush your pretty much dead.

One of the other things that get drilled into your head is that obstacles must be kept under observation or they will be circumvented. You cannot spend all day in the hot sun setting up triple strand concertina wire and then walk away, the enemy will just cut through it. Sure it might slow them down for a while but it won’t stop them. However, if you’re standing there on the other side of the wire and the tanks come rolling along you will have more than enough time to call in the Warthogs before they can cut through the wire.

It is sometimes amazing to me how this simple principal of observation of obstacles is lost out here in the real world. Things like people installing a firewall and then never checking the logs. An attacker will bang on that firewall all day long until he finds a hole if he knows no one is watching. If you don’t observe your obstacles they will be compromised.

The folks over at Country Wide Home Loans evidently did not know of or understand his simple fundamental (to me anyway. Thanks Drill Sergeant!) security protocol. As a method to prevent dataloss by physical means they glued closed all the USB ports on their computers. Except evidently they forgot one machine. Of course the bad guy found this one machine and managed to siphon off personal information for 20,000 customers every week for two years!.

So an obstacle was put in place, the gluing closed of the USB ports, but there was no observation. No one checked the machines on a routine basis to see if rogue USB cards had been added to the system, no auditing of data transfer logs (assuming there were logs) for suspicious activity. No, just blind faith in super glue and the $14.00 an hour employee tasked with using the glue to get every single machine and not slack off early on a Friday afternoon.

Remember most security measures are just obstacles, all obstacles can be overcome given enough time and resources. Obstacles are nothing more than a deterrence, some obstacles are a bigger deterrence than others. So you can either run like a madman into the hail of bullets or keep your obstacles under observation.

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About Space Rogue

Space Rogue is widely sought after by journalists and industry analysts for his unique views and perceptions of the information security industry. He has been called to testify before the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs and has been quoted in numerous magazine and newspaper articles as well as appeared on such TV shows as News Hour with Jim Lehrer, CNN Nightly News, ABC News Online with Sam Donaldson, and others. A recognized name within the industry, Space Rogue has written articles that are often quoted or refered to by other major media outlets. He has spoken before numerous audiances including the Digital Messageing Association, Defcon, Pumpcon, HOPE, H2K, and others. As a former member of L0pht Heavy Industries, Space Rogue ran the widely popular Hacker News Network which quickly became a major resource on the Internet for daily information security news. Before HNN he ran the The Whacked Mac Archives, which at the time, was the largest and the most popular Macintosh security site on the net. Currently Space Rogue does consulting for various companies.
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