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Risk

3/19/2007
12:36 PM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Spy Agency Posts Windows, OS X Security Guides

Who should know more about security than the National Security Agency? (Hey, it's their middle name!) No one, presumably. Which is why you might want to check out a series of security configuration guides the NSA has posted for Windows XP, 2000, Mac OS X, and Sun Solaris.

Who should know more about security than the National Security Agency? (Hey, it's their middle name!) No one, presumably. Which is why you might want to check out a series of security configuration guides the NSA has posted for Windows XP, 2000, Mac OS X, and Sun Solaris.Before you get all excited--and I was, when I first read about this on Digg--be aware that there's probably less here than meets the eye.

Specifically, I was disappointed when I finally downloaded (the site was slow going, probably due to the Digg-driven traffic) the Windows XP security guide, to find out that it was a document prepared by Microsoft. That's not to say it's bad; there are 200 pages worth of detailed information for admins interesting in configuring a secure set-up. It's just that there was no spy agency value-add.

That's not the case for the 69-page Mac OS X security guide, which has the NSA logo emblazoned on the title page, and a big red "Unclassified" stamp on each page, too.

I loved the warning near the beginning: "Do not attempt to implement any of the settings in this guide without first testing in a non-operational environment.

A closer examination indicates that there's no intelligence-community mystery behind the NSA's OS X security advice. It's common-sense things like maintaining good user-account controls, auditing your log files, keeping track of network services, and managing security certificates.

If I learned anything from my time spent on the NSA site today, it's that there's probably nothing about implementing a decent security policy that you don't already know. The hard parts are a) implementing it throughout your IT structure and b) (even tougher) getting people to comply with the stuff that's under their control. Don't get me started on people connecting their thumb drives to their PCs, or bringing in unauthorized CDs.

Finally, as this post tilts ever further away from its original intent, did you know that the NSA has a kids' page? Neither did I. It's entitled "America's Cryptokids: Future Codemakers and Codebreakers."

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