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RE: Every incident is an opportunity (was Re: Hackers hit key Internet traffic computers)
Sean makes a good point, but there is one small problem with his suggestions. He is preaching to the choir. I really really hope everyone on this list knows how to do some basic security on their personal computers (not to mention the collection of security experts that are on this list). The real problem here is getting the word out to regular users about computer security. Point-in-case. A friend of mine was recently buying her daughter a new computer for her birthday. So she asked me to give them suggestions and look over the specs of a few models they where considering. On the print outs she handed me (I think from Dell) she had unchecked the AV and firewall software. When I asked her why, she responded with "oh we trust our daughter, she won't go to any bad websites so anti-virus and firewall software is just an unneeded expense"... It is this type of mentality that is common among consumers. Another time I was do some consulting work for a NPO. I was going over the findings of my audit and I told the IT manager that all of his machines were missing patches. His response: "we only install service packs, individual patches take too much time to install and tend to break more stuff than they fix". Ironically, a month latter he calls me back asking for help because his network got infect with Blaster... Last story. In a pervious job one of my duties was to maintain the internet connection and firewall. One day I get an automatic page that our outbound bandwidth is maxed. Checking the router, sure enough, 100% utilization. So I began to back track the traffic, it all originated from the helpdesk subnet. My first assumption was that they were trying to disinfect someone's computer that got a virus. So I walked down to the desk ready to yell at the genius who plugged the computer into the production network. But I found that there were no computers in for service... Checked the router, still maxing out the internet, so I check each of the IPs of the tech workstations and found that the manger's computer matched. Checked the NIC light, blinking crazy. This definitely was the computer. Ask the manger if he knew anything about this, and he responded "well there was this odd email we got in the helpdesk mailbox, I figured it was a virus, and I wanted to see what happened if I ran it. So I downloaded and ran the .exe. But nothing happened, so I thought it must have been broken or something like that"... This guy is the helpdesk manager (who really should know better) and is knowingly running malicious code on his work computer (while logged in with a privileged account). So if there is anything to get from the above stories, is that when it comes to computer security, the average person is very very under educated. So where I think the real focus should be is not to scare people about attacks on abstract concepts like root servers, but instead try to educate them on personal computer security. I want to see a CNN special about someone who had their identity stolen because his did not have anti-virus software. I want to see interviews with computer criminals saying that they could have not hacked into personal computers if only the owners had put on firewalls. I want to see the media show the horror stories that a lack of personal computer security can do and then show people how to keep it from happening to them. My $0.02, Adam Stasiniewicz -----Original Message----- From: owner-nanog@xxxxxxxxx [mailto:owner-nanog@xxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Sean Donelan Sent: Saturday, February 10, 2007 10:41 PM To: nanog Subject: Every incident is an opportunity (was Re: Hackers hit key Internet traffic computers) On Tue, 6 Feb 2007, Roy wrote: > Its amazing how reporters has to butcher technology information to make it > understood by their editors > > http://www.cnn.com/2007/TECH/internet/02/06/internet.attacks.ap/index.ht ml?eref=rss_topstories Do we keep missing opportunities? Yes, it was a minor incident, just like a minor earthquake, the hurricane that doesn't hit, the fire that is exitinguished. But it was also an opportunity to get the message out to the public about the things they can do to take control. We remind people what to do in a tornado, earthquake, flood, hurricane, etc. This on-going education does help; even though some people still drive their cars through moving water or go outside to watch the tornado. Instead of pointing fingers at South Korea, China, etc, every country with compromised computers (all of them) are the problem. The United States may be slow as far as broadband, but it makes up for it in the number of compromised computers. We may know the drill, but it doesn't hurt to repeat message everytime we have the public's attention for 15 seconds. 1. Turn on Automatic Update if your computer isn't managed by a full-time IT group. Microsoft Windows, Apple MAC OS/X, and several versions of Linux have Automatic Update available. Most vendors make security patches available to users whether or not the software is licensed or un-licensed. Zero day exploits may be sexy and get the press attention, but the long-term problem are the computers that never get patched. The VML exploit on the football stadium websites was patched last month; but its not how fast a patch is released, its how fast people install it. 2. Use a hardware firewall/router for your broadband connection and turn on the software firewall on your computer in case you ever move your computer to a different network. Use Wireless security (WEP, WPA, VPN, SSL, etc) if using a WiFi access point, or turn off the radio on both your home gateway and computer if you are not using WiFi. 3. Even if your computer is secure, miscreants depend on your trust. Be suspicious of messages, files, software; even if it appears to come from a person or company you trust. Anti-spam, anti-spyware, anit-virus, anti-phishing tools can help. But don't assume because you are using them, you can click on everything and still be safe. The miscreants are always finding new ways around them. It may just be human nature, but people seem to engage in more risky behavior when they believe they are protected. 4. If your computer is compromised, unplug it until you can get it fixed. Its not going to fix itself, and ignoring the problem is just going to get worse.