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making multiple attempts to log on with phony credentials. The mortgage company does not monitor the portal entry point, believing that the three-strike lockout is enough security. During the course of the year, Joe Hacker can attempt to breach security by sending two logon attempts for each of hundreds of usernames per hour every day across the Internet to the portal totally undetected. This hacker can try thousands of possible username-password combinations over time. He needs to be right only once to compromise an admin login and gain access to everything on the server. With the use of scripting and previously compromised Internet hosts, one hacker could be attempting low-profile compromises against all the Fortune 1000 s Web-connected hosts. How many of these companies will have IDS in place that recognizes the two logon attempts as a potential security problem For security reasons, the answer may never be known, but you and your company need to be wary of calling anything found by IDS a false positive or harmless anomaly ; there may be no such thing. When real-time monitoring is done, it has to be capable of detecting the patient hacker s approach. Monitoring for three failed attempts is going to help you find only your own customers who have forgotten their passwords. Monitoring choices for sounding alarms must be very carefully considered. Focus the monitoring on areas with a capability of mitigating the highest risks and oversee the weakest entry points as your first priority. Any risk your organization faces, whether from internal or external sources, that is not dealt with by your overall system of access controls diminishes your claim that your SOX compliance strategy and access controls are adequate. Perhaps your initial security designs did not cover every node that can come under attack from potential wrongdoers. IDS can become one more way to discover ways to improve your overall controls. It isn t just for monitoring anymore. The intelligence data generated from IDS should be input right back to the beginning of the design process to seek ways to improve controls at every opportunity discovered.
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In addition to intrusion monitoring, many computers and network devices have alarm bells and whistles to get your attention when things that have gone wrong are detected. When alarm information is forwarded, it is not always security-related but it could be. Thinking that only the paranoid don t get hacked will cause you to want to have alarms for all events looked at by security staff, but their seeing every alarm event is probably not necessary. Alarm events that are in no way likely to be security events should be separated out from the ones that could be.
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Hardware and software host-based detection varies from product to product, so much so that it isn t feasible to cover them in this book. A general course of action is to turn on every event detection capability your hardware and software systems provide. Then you have to determine what to do with the resulting information, how to filter it, and how to use it. This is a challenge for your architecture or network management and monitoring staff. Detected events such as a redundant fan failing merely need to be logged for later analysis; other detected events should be processed by staff immediately. Separating available alarms into action categories requires careful consideration by experienced staff. Evaluate the possibilities for host-based detection features in your existing infrastructure and applications. For new designs, alarm features may influence your choice of one product over another. Study the features and determine their value. As always, justify shutting down what is already available and document your reasons for doing so; err on the side of using more rather than fewer features. Systems that have detection and automated alarm events that could flag potential security failure events should move to the top of the list for activation and security staff notification. When a buffer overflow event occurs on a Web host, for example, detection alarms can notify you of its occurrence. The question is whether the overflow was caused by a harmless event, by a successful hack, or by some malicious code that s found its way into your network. Hostbased detection features can automatically inform your operations center of many events so many events, in fact, that the alarms and information forwarded can lead to sensory overload for your staff. It may be helpful to send normal alarms such as fan out or drive failure in drive arrays to an operations desk and then carefully separate those detection alarms on security protection levels to be forwarded or copied out to security staff for immediate analysis. Discovering OS hack attempts, application or database security breach attempts, and system- or data-destructive employee behaviors involves adding some form of intelligence to your monitoring and detecting processes. It is often necessary to store the log information gathered from all sources in a log data warehouse and run an analytical program against the data to find matches for the anomalies that you wouldn t usually notice when reviewing the logs. Analysis programs matched to the logging software program often seek only the known, high-profile risks. Detecting security problems before they become well known in the industry is an enormous challenge. Thwarting damaging behavior from insiders is also a huge problem. If your systems have weaknesses, it is important to be the first to know and to be as proactive as possible to eliminate the risks. A well-thought-out approach to
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