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Safety in Numbers - Cisco & Microsoft

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Patch Management, Wireless & Security Tools

 

Patch Management

Patch management will ensure that known Microsoft vulnerabilities can be addressed (generally) by applying the relevant hot fix or service pack. Although not much detail was given Hot Fox Network Checker (Hfnetchk) was highlighted as an appropriate tool along with Microsoft Baseline Security Analyser (MBSA). More information about Hfnetchk can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/tools/hfnetchk.mspx


Restrict Software

Active Directory is also a key tool for administrators that manage user nodes running WXP and Windows 2000. With Group Policies for Active Directory you can prevent specified software from running on a Windows XP user node.

To do this use the “Software Restriction Policy”. You can then blacklist specific software based on any of the following:

  • A hash value of the software
  • A digital certificate for the software
  • The path for to the executable
  • Internet Zone rules

 

Further information can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/winxppro/maintain/rstrplcy.mspx


File, Folder and Share access

On the server all user access to files, folders and shares should be locked down via NTFS (requires Windows NT or higher). Use the concept of minimal necessary privilege.

 

User Node Connectivity

The firewall in Service Pack 2 for Windows XP (released 25 August 2004) can be used to limit what ports are open to incoming connections on the Windows XP user node.

 

Wireless

As wireless becomes more widely deployed and integrated more deeply in day-to-day operations we need to manage security and reliability. It is estimated Lynx that wireless installations can provide up to a 40% reduction in installation costs over standard fixed line installations. But wireless and the ubiquity of the web means that the network perimeter is now on the user node's desktop.

NAC and NAP, introduced earlier, will work with Extensible Authentication Protocol-Transport Level Security (EAP-TLS). EAP-TLS is used as a wireless authentication protocol. This means the wireless user node can still be managed for patching, AV and security compliance on the same basis as fixed line (e.g. Ethernet) connected user nodes.

EAP-TLS is scalable but requires Windows 2000 and Active Directory with Group Policy. To encrypt wireless traffic, 802.1x is recommended and if you wanted to investigate single sign on for your users across the domain then you could look at Public Key Infrastructure (PKI).

As part of your network and security auditing you will want to check the wireless aspect and the netstumbler tool from www.netstumbler.com will run on a wireless client and report on any wireless networks that have sufficient strength to be picked up.

As a part of your physical security for wireless networking you should consider placing Wireless Access Points (WAPs) in locations that provide restricted user access, for example in the ceiling cavity. Of course you will need to ensure that ypu achieve the right balance of physical security and usability, making sure that the signal is still strong enough to be used.

 

Layer 8 of the OSI model

The user was jokingly referred to as being the eighth layer in the OSI model and it is here that social engineering and other non-technical reconnaissance and attack methods can be attempted. Kevin Mitnick has written “The Art Of Deception: Controlling The Human Element Of Security” which is highly regarded in the IT security environment.

One counter measure to employ for social engineering is ensuring that all physical material is disposed of securely. This includes internal phone lists, hard copy documents, software user manuals etc. User education is one of the most important actions so you could consider user friendly training with workshops and reminders (posters, email memo's, briefings) to create a security conscious work place.

 

Free Microsoft Security Tools

MBSA, mentioned earlier, helps audit the security configuration of a user/server node. Other free Microsoft tools are the Exchange Best Practice Analyser, SQL Best Practice Analyser and the Microsoft Audit Collection System.

For conducting event log analysis you could use the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit tool called EventcombMT. User education can be enhanced with visual reminders like a login message or posters promoting password security www.nativeintelligence.com.

For developing operational guidelines the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) provides a comprehensive and customisable solution. ITIL was developed by the UK government and is now used internationally. Microsoft's own framework, Microsoft Operations Framework draws from ITIL. There is also assistance in designing and maintaining a secure network provided free by Microsoft called “Security Operations Guide”

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