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Perimeter

6/4/2010
03:34 PM
John H. Sawyer
John H. Sawyer
Commentary
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'Dark Side' Uses For Defensive Tools

Tools used by system administrators for defensive security can often be turned around and used offensively by attackers. Microsoft Sysinternals' psexec is a great example.

Tools used by system administrators for defensive security can often be turned around and used offensively by attackers. Microsoft Sysinternals' psexec is a great example.While an admin might use psexec to push and execute an update to workstations, an attacker can use the same psexec tool to push a backdoor to run on workstations around your network.

As security professionals, we've seen many examples like this, but what about data loss prevention (DLP) solutions? Can you imagine what would happen if you had a DLP solution deployed and an attacker gained access? Not good. The attacker would have an instant road map of where to find all of the goodies in your enterprise. But let's say you don't have DLP and the attacker brings along his own?

When I was first looking at OpenDLP, I was thinking about it from a purely defensive standpoint. What else does one think about when hearing the term DLP? Here is an open-source DLP product with client/server architecture that could help identify sources of sensitive data so companies could lock it down. So how does it become evil?

I e-mailed the author to ask a couple of questions when the project was first released. During the e-mail exchange, he mentioned developomg OpenDLP as part of his penetration-testing work. As part of a pen test, once he gained Active Directory Domain Administrator rights, he would push the OpenDLP client to workstations within the target company and start scouring them for data. Wicked, right?

I recently attended a two-day event put on by the FBI at an Air Force base a couple of hours south. There was a lot of talk about the advanced persistent threat (APT) during the sessions, along with details of some actual compromises. It was mentioned several times how tools that sysadmins use, such as psexec, could be used to do bad things, and some screenshots and examples were shown from those compromises.

Now imagine if an attacker came up with some very targeted search patterns aimed at finding sensitive data in your enterprise --maybe the kind of stuff the APT might be after -- and used OpenDLP to go after it? Scary stuff, right? Exactly. The tools are available, so start using them now before a bad guy gets into your network and uses them to find the data you want to secure.

John H. Sawyer is a senior security engineer on the IT Security Team at the University of Florida. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are his own and do not represent the views and opinions of the UF IT Security Team or the University of Florida. When John's not fighting flaming, malware-infested machines or performing autopsies on blitzed boxes, he can usually be found hanging with his family, bouncing a baby on one knee and balancing a laptop on the other. Special to Dark Reading.

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