Ethical hacking

Ethical hacking is attacking a system in various ways on request of the owner of the system, and within the law. The goal is to find vulnerabilities in the system before real hackers find and exploit them. In the IT infrastructure realm two ways of ethical hacking are relevant: hardening checks and penetration tests.   

I think it should be a company's policy to do a hardening check and/or a penetration test for each and every new infrastructure component that is to be placed into production. A hardening check is an active analysis of the system for vulnerabilities resulting from bad system configuration and operational weaknesses in process or technical countermeasures. In practice a hardening check consists of checking if various services or daemons are switched off, IPSec is used, no default login accounts are used, a firewall is used; all patches are applied, etc. This is a check on the "inside" of an infrastructure component. This check can be done using a checklist of things that need to be configured on a system, based on the identified risk.

A penetration test checks the outside of the infrastructure component. Which TCP/UDP ports are open, can the system be overloaded, is the system vulnerable to SQL-injection or cross-site scripting, etc. A penetration test (also known as pentest) is a method of evaluating the security of a system by simulating an attack from a malicious source. The intent of a penetration test is to determine the feasibility of an attack and the amount of business impact of a successful exploit, if discovered.

Usually ethical hackers are hired by the company to perform pentests. At the start of the pentest the scope of the pentest must be made very clear. The potential impact on the organization must be clear and the hacker must have official clearance to perform the hack test from the highest level management of the organization (on paper!). Pentesters use a myriad of tools and much experience. Most of the used tools are available from the Internet usually in the form of open source software. Pentests can be performed from the internal network or from the Internet. Often used techniques include:

  • War dialing (dialing all phone numbers in the range of the company to see if a modem answers and then try to hack the modem connection)
  • Password cracking (brute force or intelligent guessing)
  • Sniffing the IP network for information Using sources of information on the internet (phone numbers, used equipment, usernames) or intranet (IP addresses)
  • Use of a password used on Gmail as well as on the corporate network
  • Open or badly secured wifi access points (which can be hacked from the parking lot – the hacker does not even have to enter the building)

These tests should not be done by the company’s system administrators, but by security professionals, preferably from an external company. The results should be documented in a report with non-compliances and tips to resolve them. Systems should only be allowed in production after a hardening check and pentest. If changes are made to the infrastructure, these tests must be repeated. I think too few companies implement this strategy today.

It takes time, slows down implementations, and costs money. I know. But systems usually will be in production for many years. Making sure the system has a secure start is the least one can do.


This entry was posted on Friday 04 March 2011

Earlier articles

Infrastructure as code

My Book

DevOps for infrastructure

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

(Hyper) Converged Infrastructure

Object storage

Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV)

Software Defined Storage (SDS)

What's the point of using Docker containers?

Identity and Access Management

Using user profiles to determine infrastructure load

Public wireless networks

Supercomputer architecture

Desktop virtualization

Stakeholder management

x86 platform architecture

Midrange systems architecture

Mainframe Architecture

Software Defined Data Center - SDDC

The Virtualization Model

What are concurrent users?

Performance and availability monitoring in levels

UX/UI has no business rules

Technical debt: a time related issue

Solution shaping workshops

Architecture life cycle

Project managers and architects

Using ArchiMate for describing infrastructures

Kruchten’s 4+1 views for solution architecture

The SEI stack of solution architecture frameworks

TOGAF and infrastructure architecture

The Zachman framework

An introduction to architecture frameworks

How to handle a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack

Architecture Principles

Views and viewpoints explained

Stakeholders and their concerns

Skills of a solution architect architect

Solution architects versus enterprise architects

Definition of IT Architecture

What is Big Data?

How to make your IT "Greener"

What is Cloud computing and IaaS?

Purchasing of IT infrastructure technologies and services

IDS/IPS systems

IP Protocol (IPv4) classes and subnets

Infrastructure Architecture - Course materials

Introduction to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

IT Infrastructure Architecture model

Fire prevention in the datacenter

Where to build your datacenter

Availability - Fall-back, hot site, warm site

Reliabilty of infrastructure components

Human factors in availability of systems

Business Continuity Management (BCM) and Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP)

Performance - Design for use

Performance concepts - Load balancing

Performance concepts - Scaling

Performance concept - Caching

Perceived performance

Ethical hacking

The first computers

Open group ITAC /Open CA Certification

Sjaak Laan


Recommended links

Ruth Malan
Gaudi site
Byelex
XR Magazine
Esther Barthel's site on virtualization


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The postings on this site are my opinions and do not necessarily represent CGI’s strategies, views or opinions.

 

Copyright Sjaak Laan