Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Perimeter

1/29/2010
01:11 PM
Adrian Lane
Adrian Lane
Commentary
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

 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 7/14/2020
Omdia Research Launches Page on Dark Reading
Tim Wilson, Editor in Chief, Dark Reading 7/9/2020
Russian Cyber Gang 'Cosmic Lynx' Focuses on Email Fraud
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  7/7/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
This report describes some of the latest attacks and threats emanating from the Internet, as well as advice and tips on how your organization can mitigate those threats before they affect your business. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-6287
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-14
SAP NetWeaver AS JAVA (LM Configuration Wizard), versions - 7.30, 7.31, 7.40, 7.50, does not perform an authentication check which allows an attacker without prior authentication to execute configuration tasks to perform critical actions against the SAP Java system, including the ability to create a...
CVE-2020-6289
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-14
SAP Disclosure Management, version 10.1, had insufficient protection against Cross-Site Request Forgery, which could be used to trick user in to browsing malicious site.
CVE-2020-6290
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-14
SAP Disclosure Management, version 10.1, is vulnerable to Session Fixation attacks wherein the attacker tricks the user into using a specific session ID.
CVE-2020-6291
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-14
SAP Disclosure Management, version 10.1, session mechanism does not have expiration data set therefore allows unlimited access after authenticating once, leading to Insufficient Session Expiration
CVE-2020-6292
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-14
Logout mechanism in SAP Disclosure Management, version 10.1, does not invalidate one of the session cookies, leading to Insufficient Session Expiration.