×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

NSA Considers Its Networks Compromised

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the nowhere-to-go-but-up dept.

Security 239

Orome1 writes "Debora Plunkett, head of the NSA's Information Assurance Directorate, has confirmed what many security experts suspected to be true: no computer network can be considered completely and utterly impenetrable — not even that of the NSA. 'There's no such thing as "secure" any more,' she said to the attendees of a cyber security forum sponsored by the Atlantic and Government Executive media organizations, and confirmed that the NSA works under the assumption that various parts of their systems have already been compromised, and is adjusting its actions accordingly."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

239 comments

Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34588646)

It certainly took them long enough to figure that one out.

Re:Well (3, Insightful)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 3 years ago | (#34588752)

They probably figured it out a long time ago, what they're doing now is admitting it.

Re:Well (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34588944)

They didn't say their networks are compromised. To be on the safe side, they just assume they are.

Re:Well (-1, Offtopic)

NetNed (955141) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589122)

They didn't say their networks are compromised. To be on the safe side, they just assume they are.

Yep it's a RIAA/MPAA model. Assume guilt until proven otherwise, in this case compromised until proven otherwise. Makes you wonder what the NSA is really good for.

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34589172)

Obfuscation? Is this a double or triple bluff?

DAHN DAHN DAAAHHHHHHHHH

of course they have secure networks. Those are the ones that are plugged in anywhere :)

I've got a secure network here, wanna see it?

Oh you can't it isn't plugged into anything public...

Re:Well (1)

Lazareth (1756336) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589226)

Except one is about being cautious and the other is about extorting legally defenseless kids of poor families. Totally the same. Not.

Re:Well (2)

N0Man74 (1620447) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589578)

Your analogy is a bit of a stretch, and a bit off topic...

To make an analogy of your analogy, it's as if you are trying to equate someone who assumes they already been exposed to the cold virus and is trying to drink lots of juice, eat chicken soup, and look for symptoms to validate the assumption that their health has compromised to someone who assumes their wife is sleeping with the mailman so he shoots the mailman.

Re:Well (4, Insightful)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589246)

'Hope for the best, assume the worst' should be the mantra for everyone working in any kind of security. Glad to see the NSA living up to that.

I wonder, though, if the prominence of Wikileaks had anything to do with this, and I don't mean specifically, as in they anticipate a lot of NSA-related document drops in the near future, but more generally, as in the landscape has changed and Wikileaks is a signifier.

Which is the sane thing to assume (3, Insightful)

alfredos (1694270) | more than 3 years ago | (#34588652)

What I can't fathom is that there is still people out there believing that a firewall is all the protection they need. Or that it is a protection they need, even.

Re:Which is the sane thing to assume (4, Funny)

datapharmer (1099455) | more than 3 years ago | (#34588742)

yeah, I mean who really needs a firewall anyway.... I run my computers unpatched with all the ports open. They are much faster and more reliable that way. None of that antivirus nonsense to deal with and I stay virus free since the botnets duke it out for who gets control. It saves time when shopping online too, as I don't even have to tell the nice people my credit card info - they all already know it! It is especially useful when they send me great offers by email for replica rolex watches and discount prescriptions as I don't even have to search for the best prices!

Re:Which is the sane thing to assume (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 3 years ago | (#34588928)

Well what I think the poster was getting at is the idea that, if you're closing off all insecure ports on all your machines themselves, then firewalls shouldn't really being doing anything anyway. It's not an either-or proposition, is it? Either you have a firewall or you have unpatched computers running with all ports open?

In a certain way of thinking, what a firewall does is to block traffic to unauthorized ports on improperly secured machines, so if you secure your machines then the firewall shouldn't be necessary. Of course, that's not really all that a modern firewall does. Many firewalls can act as a proxy for various protocols, which means that they can offer an additional layer of security beyond simply blocking ports. Also, many companies use firewalls to block outgoing traffic as well, though of course it's often possible to circumvent that if you really want to.

Re:Which is the sane thing to assume (5, Insightful)

JackOfAllGeeks (1034454) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589318)

Of course, that's not really all that a modern firewall does.

And this is why the original poster is wrong.

If you're just relying on a Firewall to block access to ports you shouldn't have open anyways, then yeah, you don't need the firewall: just close the ports. But in that scenario, it's really just a misapplication of an otherwise useful security device.

A Firewall can be useful, as you said, to proxy various protocols or block certain outgoing (or unsolicited incoming) traffic. It can also be used if potentially-harmful traffic belongs on the network, but not going to or from certain hosts (ie, remote administration of servers might be desirable, but only from certain hosts).

The point is, yes a Firewall isn't The Solution to all security problems, and it can be misapplied, but that doesn't mean it's not a useful device in the right situation.

Re:Which is the sane thing to assume (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589392)

In a certain way of thinking, what a firewall does is to block traffic to unauthorized ports on improperly secured machines, so if you secure your machines then the firewall shouldn't be necessary.

And Darth Vader really did betray and murder Luke's father, from a certain point of view. I use firewalls all the time, because I've got ports that don't need to be world accessible (and trusting tcpwrappers for everything is silly). Also, just because daemon foo is "secure" now doesn't mean it will be a month from now. If you need the port locally, but not externally, firewall it completely off from the outside and be a little happier.

Re:Which is the sane thing to assume (4, Funny)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 3 years ago | (#34588956)

You're actually cutting edge. You've out-sourced your personal information security and set up a fully flexible payment schedule to support it. You're clearly executive material and deserve that Rolux you've had your eye on.

Re:Which is the sane thing to assume (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34588968)

I don't find this funny at all, I work at an Ivy League institution that believes firewalls are unnecessary.

Re:Which is the sane thing to assume (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34589664)

you broke my sarcasmeter

Re:Which is the sane thing to assume (5, Insightful)

B'Trey (111263) | more than 3 years ago | (#34588828)

What I can't fathom is that there is still people out there believing that a firewall is all the protection they need. Or that it is a protection they need, even.

A firewall is reasonable protection for most people, just as a dead bolt on the front door is reasonable protection for most homes. If you're the online equivalent of a jewelry store - that is, a high profile target - then obviously you need much more than that.

Re:Which is the sane thing to assume (2)

Steeltoe (98226) | more than 3 years ago | (#34588982)

I2P sports end-to-end encryption. Arbitrary tunnels between computers. Darknet capabilities. Integrated bittorrent. Anonymous and encrypted websites. P2P naming services.

If you need transparent encryption between nets, while preventing sniffers and MITM-attacks, I believe I2P can be a great fit. I wonder what performance a custom version restricted to the LAN might yield, given that it's already many orders of magnitude faster than FreeNet?

I2P: http://www.i2p2.de/ [i2p2.de]

Re:Which is the sane thing to assume (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34589024)

Just like rolling up the windows and locking the doors in a "questionable" neighborhood, right?

Re:Which is the sane thing to assume (2)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589132)

Most people are confused by all the marketing that AV and firewall vendors spew out, together with the anecdotes of their friends about "Well, AV doesn't work 'cuz I got a virus that one time" and all that other nonsense.

Honestly, IMHO, you should -always- consider your network to be compromised in some fashion. Always keep an eye out for clues of infiltration--strange network traffic, odd lack of response, uncharacteristic behaviors--and, though you'll doubtless waste some time on false positives, you'll end up saving a lot more time should something show up than you would if you ignored it.

Besides, half the crap can be set up to run automatically; glancing over some logfiles every day when you login to check your email doesn't take that long.

I compromised... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34588658)

I compromised the first post.

Definition of security (3, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 3 years ago | (#34588684)

Security is achievable provided you start with good parameters. Believing your systems are "unhackable" is silly. No physical security is impenetrable, why would electronic security be different? But what you can do is make the cost of breaching that security more than the value of whatever it is being protected. Keep in mind though that what you're protecting also includes access, not just the data itself.

Problem is, in the private sector you have all these companies trying to control the internet, instead of keeping it as a public commons. The net result is that the cost to access it is often the main price consideration, at least in the United States.

Re:Definition of security (4, Insightful)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589218)

The problem is that the NSA has, or at least it believes it has and other believe it has, information whose value is essentially beyond price. Therefore they feel reasonable expecting that other parties will pay nearly any cost for access. The whole dynamic of "make it more expensive to get than it's worth to have" goes out the window when what it's worth to have is essentially infinite. Then it becomes "protect it as much as possibly can and hope it's enough".

Don't get me wrong, I typically agree with you, and I've posted that very thing quite recently in response to something else recently. It's just that the theory kinda goes out the window when you have bad actors with the resources of an entire nation behind them as your most likely threat vector. Now of course everything that the NSA protects isn't that valuable, and much of it is probably protected with precisely the theory you promote. The rest is just protected with every possible resource they can think of.

Well obviously... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34588688)

Really, shouldn't the NSA have been operating under this principle all the time? Has there ever been any security protocol that's never been breached?
It seems naive that they thought impenetrable security was possible. Even if you managed to somehow get the security technically perfect, it's still going to be used by completely fallible and inconsistent humans.

So much for the cloud (4, Insightful)

T1girl (213375) | more than 3 years ago | (#34588696)

The idea of sticking all my data out in cyberspace on somebody else's servers always seemed a little fluffy anyway.

Which network? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34589362)

Which network are they referring to?

Their primary network, accessible to the Internet, and partially from? Or, their black-holed standalone secure network, that is presumably 100% audit-able given clearance? Or have both been compromised?

Boo Hoo. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34588702)

Good. Fuck them.

Re:Boo Hoo. (1)

jcrb (187104) | more than 3 years ago | (#34588746)

Demonstrating the truth of the saying

"You're not paranoid if people really are out to get you"

The only secure system... (3)

ChefInnocent (667809) | more than 3 years ago | (#34588714)

Is the one buried a mile under ground in 100' radius of concrete connected to nothing. Preferably in an undisclosed location. Even then, it is only as secure as the guards protecting it.

Re:The only secure system... (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#34588804)

I had a co-worker ask me for some computer advice yesterday, since she was "tired of all the viruses [she] seems to keep getting." I gave her two options:

1. Stop clicking on every blinking banner, spam email, and "RESPOND NOWZ0RZ!!1!111!" message she gets on facebook. Install a quality anti-virus and software firewall, as well as set up a hardware firewall, and remove all privileges from the account she logs onto her computer with.

OR

2. Unplug the computer from the wall, go to CVS, and buy a legal pad and some pens.

I then proceeded to tell her that only one would provide 100% protection.

Re:The only secure system... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34588854)

Pff, you call that protection? You didn't even remember to tell her to pick up the extra-large box of condoms while she was at CVS.

Re:The only secure system... (1)

hadrins (1210784) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589140)

Both options don't give you 100% privacy protection. I don't think a condom is 100% protection either. Right now I am thinking of a "Friends" episode.

Re:The only secure system... (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589498)

"Look, yes, I have banged hundreds of broads, internationally...but know this, I wrap my rascal TWO times, cause I like it to be joyless and without sensation, as a way of punishing supermodels." -Shake

Re:The only secure system... (3, Funny)

Colourspace (563895) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589300)

CVS?? According to you she doesn't even seem to have heard of antivirus, and you want her to use control versioning?

Re:The only secure system... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34589576)

Maybe not 100%, but by using such a drastic example you're likely leading her into thinking: that viruses / worms are common and will happen regardless of her actions, and/or it's difficult to prevent viruses / worms. Neither of these have to be true.

Granted, if she's like a lot of people then even after getting infected and losing data several times she will continue to click on the cute picture / porn link.

The easiest first step to fix this is to uninstall / rename iexplore.exe and replace it with FireFox. Yes, I know that breaks some stuff. Since I doubt she's browsing Windows Help files or competent enough to know which Windows update to install, I doubt she will miss it.

And yes, it might be harsh, but some people are truly too stupid to own or use a computer. They are so cheap however that every redneck retard out there has one. For those, even the legal pads might be a stretch. When I need my yard mowed or fruit picked, or someone to mop the bathrooms, these people can usually handle that much mental activity.

Re:The only secure system... (1)

clone52431 (1805862) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589654)

There’s absolutely no reason to try to remove or rename the executable. Replacing the shortcuts on the desktop and start menu and setting Firefox as the default browser should be adequate.

Re:The only secure system... (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589772)

I did that with my technophobic grandmother, actually...I even set the Firefox shortcut to use the Internet Explorer icon. When it loaded up and looked different she asked why it looked like that. I told her I had updated her to the lastest version, and they had upgraded the visual style because people liked it more.

She agreed :)

Re:The only secure system... (1)

clone52431 (1805862) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589792)

I did that with my technophobic grandmother, actually...I even set the Firefox shortcut to use the Internet Explorer icon.

Extreme circumstances call for extreme measures. :)

Re:The only secure system... (1)

Grandim (1390511) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589000)

What about a computer on a space probe that doesn't have transmitting equipment? Getting it back or even sending something to catch it would be near impossible.

Re:The only secure system... (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589102)

What about a computer on a space probe that doesn't have transmitting equipment? Getting it back or even sending something to catch it would be near impossible.

For now. What's the future value of that system?

Re:The only secure system... (1)

Grandim (1390511) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589404)

Well the system has the unique trait of becoming safer with time has the probe travel farther away from Earth. The data safety is a race between the distance traveled by the probe and space travel improvements since the probe launch.

Re:The only secure system... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34589036)

I don't want you talking about my house, CAPISCE ?

Re:The only secure system... (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589148)

Right. How I would put it is, "security" is not a binary state. It's not that a computer is either "secure" or "not secure". Security is a process, or maybe a context, and the main concern is not about making something "absolutely secure" but a balancing act. You need to balance the restriction of access by unauthorized personnel with the enabling of access by authorized personnel.

Or to use another metaphor, security is like a constant ongoing war. You simply can't devote enough resources to protect every possible target completely from any possible attack. If I'm a general leading an army protecting a country, I can't station my entire army at every place in the country at once. I can't have my army guard every interaction that goes on in the entire country, especially since some of the interactions will involve the army, which raises the question, "Who watches the watchmen?" And if I try to guard every single possible target, I'll find myself spread too thin and a focused attack will defeat me.

So no, the NSA shouldn't consider its network to be "secure". It should try to segment its network based on security requirements, similar to the way many networks have a DMZ. The point of a DMZ is to say, "I am going to break publicly available servers into another network specifically because I won't consider them to be secure."

The only secure system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34588732)

Is one that lacks a network.

And then it doesn't serve it's purpose.

Re:The only secure system (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34588768)

Not quite true. There are useful non-networked machines. And they can still be compromised, if you can just get access to some removeable media that's going to end up connected.

Re:The only secure system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34589428)

The fallacy here is assuming that "no wired/broadcast connection" means it's non-networked. It's called "sneakernet" for a reason. And even a truly non-networked computer can be compromised if you can't trust your users.

Of course it's compromised (1)

Trygil (1880796) | more than 3 years ago | (#34588744)

People use it, right?

Re:Of course it's compromised (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34588890)

Exactly what I was going to say. If humans built it and have access to it, then it is compromised.

It's probably analogous to my university network. Ostensibly it's a monitored and secured "intranet", but in reality I assume any machine I attach will be plugging into the equivalent of the wildest possible internet jungle. I've seen some pretty scary and persistent stuff probing the machines I manage. It's the right policy for the NSA to tell its employees not to assume that their intranet is somehow "safe" from security risks.

Re:Of course it's compromised (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589368)

Yes, but even the trustworthy people can't trust the network, so it's the network itself that is compromised.

Untrustworthy people can do untrustworthy things on a non-compromised network.

Though a compromised network may be compromised in a way that helps them hide their untrustworthy acts.

Open source government? (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34588754)

So to me this raises a fundamental philosophical question: why keep secrets at all, as a government? Unless of course what "we" do as a government is fundamentally evil to begin with? Should government be open-sourced in the sense that it should be fully (100%) transparent? If full transparency works wonderfully in the coding world, why would it not work in the realm of the government...unless again, the things we wish to keep secret are things we are fundamentally evil and immoral, like WikiLeaks had repeatedly proven already?

Re:Open source government? (5, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#34588926)

So to me this raises a fundamental philosophical question: why keep secrets at all, as a government?

Because we need the military to protect us. You wouldn't want an enemy country to know all about the military operations in your country. And before you propose to completely eliminate the military, remember 1939.
 

Re:Open source government? (2)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589070)

I was going to post essentially the same thing. There are secrets that are secret for a reason that isn't evil of nefarious. Take the list of critical US infrastructure that Wikileaks published. There is nothing to be gained by having 100% transparency on that and everything to lose since it's basically a blue print on how to attack the US.

Re:Open source government? (2, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589494)

Take the list of critical US infrastructure that Wikileaks published. There is nothing to be gained by having 100% transparency on that and everything to lose since it's basically a blue print on how to attack the US.

Do you really think the bad guys don't know these things?

I remember when I was a kid there was a nuclear weapons store a few miles from where we lived. Everyone knew it was there, the USSR could see it on their satellite photos, but strangely it was completely missing from any official maps of the area. Who was that secrecy supposed to be protecting?

Re:Open source government? (3, Insightful)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589572)

Do you really think the bad guys don't know these things?

Suspecting it and actually confirming it for them with an official US government document are two separate things. And you still haven't given a reason why it should be released.

Re:Open source government? (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589716)

Suspecting it and actually confirming it for them with an official US government document are two separate things.

Assuming that bin Laden actually believes said document and doesn't assume it's disinformation.

And you still haven't given a reason why it should be released.

Because if someone sees they're working at a place which is officially listed as 'critical infrastructure' then they might take security more seriously? Or, horrors, someone completely unrelated to the operations might come up with a way to make it less critical?

There are plenty of reasons why this openness be a good thing rather than a bad thing. For example, I was reading an anecdote by a British airbase worker a while back saying how he was on occasion left to 'protect' a nuclear-armed bomber by himself at night and all he had as a weapon was a pickaxe handle. You could argue that letting people know that the RAF was so broke that all it could do to prevent people from stealing nuclear weapons was send a guy out to stand by the plane with a pickaxe handle would be an invitation to anyone to come and steal some, but you could equally well argue that if the population of Britain knew that was the RAF's idea of nuclear security then the politicos would be forced to provide some actual real security within days of that information getting out.

Re:Open source government? (1)

zero0ne (1309517) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589784)

except, now that it is public, the people working and managing those facilities now know they must increase security. Do you honestly think before that was leaked that the Gov't went over to Joe Geek Manager and said: "hey you are one of 1000 critical facilities in the US in an event of an attack, make sure to get your IT security up to snuff"

Of course they didn't. They probably couldn't because the IT manager didn't have the clearance.

Now, that IT manager knows, and can use that document as a reason to request an extra 40k in hardware to help secure and audit his network.

The leak helped by making the right people aware, thereby allowing them to do what needs to be done to secure their sites properly.

Re:Open source government? (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589156)

So to me this raises a fundamental philosophical question: why keep secrets at all, as a government? Unless of course what "we" do as a government is fundamentally evil to begin with? Should government be open-sourced in the sense that it should be fully (100%) transparent? If full transparency works wonderfully in the coding world, why would it not work in the realm of the government...unless again, the things we wish to keep secret are things we are fundamentally evil and immoral, like WikiLeaks had repeatedly proven already?

-1, "begging the question". There is no such thing as fundamental evil. What is evil to someone else (such as eating cows, or men and women with visible faces working in the close quarters of a 2000 sq. ft. open office) might not be evil to us... And keeping secrets away from the people who find you evil when you know in your heart of hearts you aren't evil is exactly why these agencies exist. Sure, it would be nice to not have anyone think you're evil, but I don't really see the USA going 100% vegan, 100% sex-segregated (and probably several other types of segregation too) and giving away all our "capitalist excesses" just to appease our critics.

Re:Open source government? (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589458)

I don't really see the USA going 100% vegan, 100% sex-segregated (and probably several other types of segregation too) and giving away all our "capitalist excesses" just to appease our critics.

Vegans are evil: think of all the cows who would never exist if we couldn't drink milk or eat burgers.

In any case, the idea that there's no such thing as 'fundamental evil' is naive: what can you call the deliberate murder of millions in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, Maoist China and Pol-Pot's Cambodia, other than evil?

Re:Open source government? (5, Insightful)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589352)

Well you see it's like this... As a former soldier I'd have been a bit miffed to be say, escorting a convoy, only to discover that bad people with guns knew my route, numbers of troops, and level of armament. It really ruins your day when bad people show up in precisely the right place with way more troops and guns than you have. Especially if they set up explosives. That takes things to whole new level of "ruined day". And before you comment on my simplistic view of "bad people", please understand that my overall opinion of you shifts dramatically toward "bad" when you start shooting at me. As far as I am concerned anyone who shoots at me is by definition a "bad person", no matter what their initial motivation may have been.

Re:Open source government? (1)

JackOfAllGeeks (1034454) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589604)

If full transparency works wonderfully in the coding world, why would it not work in the realm of the government...

The Coding World is concerned with internal actors whose impact (malicious code insertion) can easily be corrected.

National defense is concerned with external actors whose impact (casualties, property damage, etc) can not be corrected.

Anymore (1)

genfail (777943) | more than 3 years ago | (#34588776)

"Anymore," really? I thought after three decades of high profile penetrations into government systems from every department would have taught them that they were never secure. From the first moment they hooked two computer together on a network one of them got hacked.

That makes two of us (1, Troll)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#34588782)

Yeah, well I consider my *civil rights* compromised. So I guess we're BOTH fucked, huh?

That's because they are. (1)

Mekkah (1651935) | more than 3 years ago | (#34588790)

Any time you have users, you are going to eventually get infected, I'm sure they have been and will be again, but it is the separation between valuable data and the users infected computers that they need to keep a handle on.

oh yay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34588800)

im so glad no one in the comments actually read the story.

Think of systems as prisons (4, Interesting)

devleopard (317515) | more than 3 years ago | (#34588818)

In other words, no internal trust. You eliminate all assumptions in-house with the requisite sandboxes, minimal privileges, etc. Like prison: no one is your friend, you merely have alliances that can be severed at the moment that trust is no longer needed.

Now for TSA to make the same realization (4, Insightful)

ColoradoAuthor (682295) | more than 3 years ago | (#34588830)

Complete security is a fleeting deception. What we need is RESILIENCY to cope with the attacks (physical or cyber) which will inevitably occur. Wise people have known that for approximately forever (that's how we got this thing called the Internet, after all).

Re:Now for TSA to make the same realization (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589652)

I just watched the documentary "Why we fight" based on Eisenhower's exit speech warning us about the Congressional Military Industrial Complex. One of his quotes was, paraphrasing, the pursuit of absolute security will bankrupt this country. It's just not achievable. Working over a guy's package just to get on a plane accomplishes nothing.

Quick question (1)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 3 years ago | (#34588876)

Isn't that one of the most basic rules?
Always assume that a device on your network could become compromised. That's why the gods of microchips and junk food gave us the gift of layered security.

Duh (4, Insightful)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#34588904)

Any good security policy assumes that, if the system has not already been penetrated, it will be soon. There must be procedures for detecting intrusions, repairing weaknesses and plugging holes, and compartmentalizing data so as to minimize damage once a part of the system has been breached. And there needs to be ongoing R&D into the various techniques the enemy could use to break into systems and applicable countermeasures.

What scares me is that the NSA is "adjusting its actions accordingly". They should have been thinking this way from day zero.

Re:Duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34589160)

indeed. It's the well known (not by the NSA?) principle of defense in depth. Put up first line defenses but still make provisions in case/when they are overrun...

Re:Duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34589310)

What scares me is that the NSA is "adjusting its actions accordingly". They should have been thinking this way from day zero.

Doing what?

Adjusting?

Then once they had adjusted and something else happens, can they not adjust again...accordingly?

I'm not sure you know what 'adjust accordingly' means.

Re:Duh (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34589484)

They did - there was the rainbow series [wikipedia.org] of books which documented how to stop information from leaking out of computer systems. They set a threshold at speeds over 100 bits/second. Simple things - no networking to outside world. No connectors to allow any external storage. Even the keyboards wouldn't have indicator lights as these could be toggled on and off. No color palettes in the window system, as information could be shoved and retrieved through the X-windows server. You could perform an airport-style security sweep to make sure nobody took anything electronic in with them, or documents out.

But suppose someone did sneak in a mobile phone The video recorder/camera could be used to record information off a screen. At the simplest it could just be a binary dump using # and spaces. During the 1980's the BBC ran a computer education program that allowed peopled to download information using a basic light sensor (ORP12) attached to a digital-analog converter and RS232 port.

Good for them (3, Interesting)

mewsenews (251487) | more than 3 years ago | (#34588934)

If you've played around with any rootkits you know how devious an attacker can be with your system. If you read about the Gawker story, they had a couple signals that their systems were compromised but nothing catastrophic had happened so they carried on their merry way.

This is how most businesses are approaching IT security: if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

It almost takes a govt organization to sit down and say "wait a minute, we could be hacked and not even know it". Especially a very, very high profile target like the NSA. They're facing legions of hackers funded by foreign governments. This isn't the dawn of the Internet anymore, it has to be taken seriously.

Levels of security (4, Insightful)

formfeed (703859) | more than 3 years ago | (#34588952)

Many large organizations still operate under the bad internet vs. good intranet principle.

What considering "the assumption that various parts of their systems have already been compromised" means is that you go away from that model.

There can be multiple levels, walls between various areas, zones according to task, etc. And the auditing system can be much more complex than a firewall.

Think of something like the "unusual activity" trigger software for your credit card. Low ranking security person reading a low level cable? -fine. Reading 10000 cables in one hour? very unusual.

The NSA know their stuff, I see this talk not as someone admitting that they are compromised, but as someone talking shop.

Re:Levels of security (2)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589216)

Well the problem is basically a new tyranny of numbers problem.
As systems get more and more complex the harder they are to deal with. In this case to secure.
At one time you had a lot of physical security and frankly at best dial up speed or frame relay connections to deal with.
Now so many systems are interconnected that security is a completely different game.

Is connectivity to the www required (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34588970)

Why would the NSA want to open their network to the world wide web? Surely they keep sensitive stuff in a closed network that has many controls on the machines and users? But then they would have to employ people that know what their doing to manage it all.

But my guess is they outsource and don't know how to actually check themselves. She should ask Gary McInnon for help, I'm sure he would offer his advice if the NSA could convince Obama that he's not a terrorist and shouldn't be extradighted. And the fact is cost so much (apparenly) to put right just shows how poorly they systems were managed. I am a system admin and if anyone f@*cks with our system, I have all the essential data backed up in a virtual machine. So even if the server dies, it takes me 10-20 mins to setup and get running on another machine.

It seemed odd that just by getting into a univeristy server as admin, he was able to connect to the Pentagon and possibly even the NSA?

Security is easy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34589022)

You just do 2 things:
1) Don't network the computer.
2) Have the computer electrocute anyone that touches it.
Simple really!

What? (5, Insightful)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589026)

What? You mean there's another option?

Any network administrator worth half their income should always consider their LAN to be compromised. That's why you use secure transfer protocols to transfer any data containing any sensitive information between company systems. That's why you have active network monitors that turn off network ports when they encounter an unknown MAC address. That's why you don't allow anonymous logins to your active directory, and you strictly control access to everything by at least department.

Security is done in layers. Firewalls can and will be breached. If it is, your goal is to slow the attacker down until you can detect the breach and close it. Honeypot servers, data encryption, network segmentation, network resource security, all of these things are vital.

Re:What? (2)

hadrins (1210784) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589268)

Now if you could only get software vendors to pay attention to that rule.
I will be happy the day I don't have to give a user admin right on the local machine to be able to use some database software that is just pulling UNC path files.

Networks are like sex (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34589028)

If you don't want to get viruses(kids), you don't get on a network(have sex).
Sure there are ways to lower your chances of viruses(kids), such as firewalls(condoms), but it's not going to work 100%

Re:Networks are like sex (1)

chichilalescu (1647065) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589414)

I remember reading about people being able to read into your computer through fluctuations in the power line. I hope I remember correctly.
anyway, once that option is there, the only way to keep safe is to turn off the computer.
I have a friend who told me ten years ago that if I want to keep my data private, I have to unplug the network cable, turn off the computer and then unplug the power cable. strangely enough, he wasn't talking about sex.

Re:Networks are like sex (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34589710)

If that's true, what's a thumb drive?

This sounds familiar... (1)

hoshino (790390) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589120)

“The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie. This must result in minimization of efficient internal communications mechanisms (an increase in cognitive “secrecy tax”) and consequent system-wide cognitive decline resulting in decreased ability to hold onto power as the environment demands adaption. Hence in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems are nonlinearly hit relative to open, just systems. Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance.”

So Julian Assange is succeeding in forcing conspirators (according to him) to increase the cost of carrying out their conspiracies and perhaps eventually turn on itself out of paranoid?

Actually, that also sounds like one of those "the terrorists have already won" arguments, depending on your perspective of Assange's agenda.

They didn't say they had been penetrated. (2)

whizbang77045 (1342005) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589138)

If I read the post correctly, the NSA did not say their computer network had been compromised, They said they worked under the assumption that it had been. The two are not the same thing. Any intelligence organization must work under the assumption that it has been penetrated. This does not mean that the organization does not do everything in its power to avoid this, but that, knowing the opposition is trying to penetrate, the best assumption operationally is that the penetration has already occurred.

Next step (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34589192)

Convince everyone that the Iranians did it.

The NSA is compromised (-1, Troll)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589312)

There are Republicans in the NSA, which means you can never trust that the publicly stated goals of the NSA are the real end-result of every NSA employee's activities.

solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34589360)

maybe what the NSA needs are LESS robust-muscular-manly firewalls?
fickle, doggy firewalls. and a sh1tload of 'em.
if you fiddle around with it "too much", it just virtually blows up. nothing in, nothing out. safe!

you can call it the nitroglycerin fire-veil.

it very similar to the TSA. if you make a fuss about "whatever", you'll never get on the flight.
"thread lightly. you are threading on my dreams."

Manufacturing is key (5, Insightful)

J4 (449) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589440)

The fact that we outsource chip fabrication ought to be a clue as to why they can't pretend any more.
OT: It's even money that every piece of military hardware with computers has an illicit kill switch embedded in it.

Game over USA.

Security (4, Insightful)

theamarand (794542) | more than 3 years ago | (#34589756)

It always makes sense to operate based on the assumption that you may already be compromised. If you take a look at your data, and you think that impenetrable firewall is going to keep people from accessing it, you're delusional. Security, or lack thereof, is measured in time. If what you're securing is important, the question is not can this information be accessed but how long until it can be accessed. Compartmentalization is an important part of any security plan. Finding ways of keeping people out is something the security field has been working on for ages. Have different passwords for everything. Change passwords regularly. Audit data accesses. Watch for suspicious behavior. Keep off-site backup of data and forensics information. Create different subnets and VLANs to segregate traffic. Train all employees in basic security measures. Ensure that no employees are above security - no backdoors, everything audited. I'd say the most important thing to recognize, though, is exactly what they said: unless a resource is sitting in a heavily-guarded Faraday-cage, inside a vault, turned off, and not connected to anything else, it can not be considered 100% secure. Everything else is risk management.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...