Perimeter
1/29/2010
01:11 PM
Adrian Lane
Adrian Lane
Commentary
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Wiping Out Wimpy Passwords

Recent breaches at Rockyou.com and Hotmail illustrate the consistency of human behavior: Since the dawn of access control systems, users continue to choose easily guessed passwords.

Recent breaches at Rockyou.com and Hotmail illustrate the consistency of human behavior: Since the dawn of access control systems, users continue to choose easily guessed passwords.From these exploited accounts (check out Dark Reading's coverage about Rockyou.com and Hotmail), we have substantial proof that weak passwords are the norm, and that compromised accounts are used to launch subsequent phishing and malware attacks. Most security researchers know that passwords are of limited use -- even with strong passwords, keystroke loggers and phishing attacks will divulge strong and weak passwords alike. Regardless, having a slightly better password reduces the common threat of password dictionary attacks.

So how do you go about it?

As with most applications, passwords are the front line of defense for databases. All databases have features to enforce the use of strong passwords. I could detail for you the wonderful ways your database will help enforce password length and complexity, lock accounts after failed login attempts, or require password rotation. But you probably already know this. Besides, password-strength enforcement is just the starting point. If you have not turned on password complexity checkers or login triggers to verify new passwords, then stop reading this right now and go do that right now! It's free, and it's easy. And no cheating: Apply the rules to DBA and service accounts used by applications, not just end users.

Now that password controls are in place, here's what else you should do:

Training: Teach people how to create more secure passwords. Send an email, post to your internal Website, or talk to them over lunch, but give them some simple guidelines. Teach them how to pick a word or phase that is easy to remember, such as something they see visually each day, or perhaps something from their childhoods. Now show them simple substitutions of the letters with special characters and numbers.

Logging: When attempting to guess a password, normally you will fail many times before you find the right password. Simple platform or database logging captures these failed attempts, and review of the log files makes it very apparent when an account is being attacked. Turn on simple logging and, more important, review the results.

Monitoring: If someone has gotten your password, through keystroke logger, phishing, or reading the Post-It note on your desk, then none of the steps mentioned above will help. If you are worried about this, you need to use activity monitoring. Monitoring can detect compromised accounts by comparing a user's current requests with a known behavioral profile, detecting account compromises when the patterns don't match and alerting to suspicious activity.

Human behavior is unlikely to change anytime soon, and people cannot resist clicking on embedded email links that result in their machines being compromised. But a combination of password checking, training, and logging makes your access controls far more effective.

Adrian Lane is an analyst/CTO with Securosis LLC, an independent security consulting practice. Special to Dark Reading. Adrian Lane is a Security Strategist and brings over 25 years of industry experience to the Securosis team, much of it at the executive level. Adrian specializes in database security, data security, and secure software development. With experience at Ingres, Oracle, and ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading, September 16, 2014
Malicious software is morphing to be more targeted, stealthy, and destructive. Are you prepared to stop it?
Flash Poll
Title Partner’s Role in Perimeter Security
Title Partner’s Role in Perimeter Security
Considering how prevalent third-party attacks are, we need to ask hard questions about how partners and suppliers are safeguarding systems and data.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-4973
Published: 2014-09-23
The ESET Personal Firewall NDIS filter (EpFwNdis.sys) driver in the Firewall Module Build 1183 (20140214) and earlier in ESET Smart Security and ESET Endpoint Security products 5.0 through 7.0 allows local users to gain privileges via a crafted argument to a 0x830020CC IOCTL call.

CVE-2014-5392
Published: 2014-09-23
XML External Entity (XXE) vulnerability in JobScheduler before 1.6.4246 and 7.x before 1.7.4241 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service and read arbitrary files or directories via a request containing an XML external entity declaration in conjunction with an entity reference.

CVE-2014-6646
Published: 2014-09-23
The bellyhoodcom (aka com.tapatalk.bellyhoodcom) application 3.4.23 for Android does not verify X.509 certificates from SSL servers, which allows man-in-the-middle attackers to spoof servers and obtain sensitive information via a crafted certificate.

CVE-2014-6647
Published: 2014-09-23
The ElForro.com (aka com.tapatalk.elforrocom) application 2.4.3.10 for Android does not verify X.509 certificates from SSL servers, which allows man-in-the-middle attackers to spoof servers and obtain sensitive information via a crafted certificate.

CVE-2014-6648
Published: 2014-09-23
The iPhone4.TW (aka com.tapatalk.iPhone4TWforums) application 3.3.20 for Android does not verify X.509 certificates from SSL servers, which allows man-in-the-middle attackers to spoof servers and obtain sensitive information via a crafted certificate.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio