Attacks/Breaches
3/26/2009
03:15 PM
50%
50%

Top-Down Password Protection

New tools can corral administrator-level access, but plan ahead to avoid costly downtime.

Chances are good that many of your servers share administrator passwords that haven't been changed in a long time. Chances also are good that these passwords are well-known to many staff members--including some former ones.

If that doesn't scare you, it should: Anyone who knows the passwords could log in and have complete control over servers and applications, and you'd have no ability to track who made changes or accessed data.

The problems with poor administrative password management extend beyond insiders to external threats as well. Penetration testers have proven that there's a way into nearly every network, and once attackers find it--often in a typical user's desktop--they can reverse-engineer the passwords on the system and discover the local administrator password. If this password is common to other systems, as it often is, attackers can then use it to access other systems and move through the network.

InformationWeek Reports

Just as bad, at many companies there's only one system administrator who knows a critical password. This situation is dangerous, as the case of Terry Childs shows. Childs, you may remember, was a network administrator in San Francisco who last year was accused of locking top administrators out of the city's network. At the time, he was the only person with passwords to many of the city's routers.

Account Ability
The dangers of administrator accounts are well known, but few organizations have a comprehensive way to manage these all-powerful accounts. It's not that organizations want to leave themselves open to vulnerability and accountability issues. The problem is that privileged accounts are difficult to manage because there are so many of them. Every server and workstation has a local administrator account, as do most applications. Even services running on servers, such as a backup agent or a Web server, use privileged accounts to function. All the routers, switches, and firewalls on your network do, too.

DIG DEEPER
An Inside Job?
If your network's been hacked, forensics can help you discover how.
Ideally, passwords for these accounts should all be unique and should be changed frequently. In the real world, that's just not practical. But now is a particularly good time to start figuring out who has access to what: The sad fact is that the threat level from former workers will likely remain high as companies lay off higher-level employees to survive the economic downturn.

Some organizations use a low-tech approach to secure administrator accounts, constructing elaborate systems where privileged account passwords are stored in sealed envelopes in a fireproof safe, with a paper record of when they were accessed. These measures are probably better than nothing, but they don't fully address password access control and user accountability, and can quickly become unworkable for larger installations.

Impact Assessment: Privelaged Account Management Tools

(click image for larger view)

Previous
1 of 3
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest, Dec. 19, 2014
Software-defined networking can be a net plus for security. The key: Work with the network team to implement gradually, test as you go, and take the opportunity to overhaul your security strategy.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-7241
Published: 2014-12-19
The TSUTAYA application 5.3 and earlier for Android allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary Java methods via a crafted HTML document.

CVE-2014-7249
Published: 2014-12-19
Buffer overflow on the Allied Telesis AR440S, AR441S, AR442S, AR745, AR750S, AR750S-DP, AT-8624POE, AT-8624T/2M, AT-8648T/2SP, AT-8748XL, AT-8848, AT-9816GB, AT-9924T, AT-9924Ts, CentreCOM AR415S, CentreCOM AR450S, CentreCOM AR550S, CentreCOM AR570S, CentreCOM 8700SL, CentreCOM 8948XL, CentreCOM 992...

CVE-2014-7267
Published: 2014-12-19
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the output-page generator in the Ricksoft WBS Gantt-Chart add-on 7.8.1 and earlier for JIRA allows remote authenticated users to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via unspecified vectors, a different vulnerability than CVE-2014-7268.

CVE-2014-7268
Published: 2014-12-19
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the data-export feature in the Ricksoft WBS Gantt-Chart add-on 7.8.1 and earlier for JIRA allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via unspecified vectors, a different vulnerability than CVE-2014-7267.

CVE-2014-8272
Published: 2014-12-19
The IPMI 1.5 functionality in Dell iDRAC6 modular before 3.65, iDRAC6 monolithic before 1.98, and iDRAC7 before 1.57.57 does not properly select session ID values, which makes it easier for remote attackers to execute arbitrary commands via a brute-force attack.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join us Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to hear what employers are really looking for in a chief information security officer -- it may not be what you think.