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Part VII Hardening Networks 211
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Ideal Versus Reality: The Need for Hardening
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An ideally designed network would be incredibly difficult to attack from either the inside or the outside But ideal designs are not practical Their restrictions create far too much inconvenience for the average business The practical needs of business often require making compromises in network design, balancing functionality against security Consequently, most real networks contain insecurities, even those designed with security in mind from the start Common vulnerabilities include services that don t need to run and systems that can be exploited because of hardware or software flaws An ideal network would never interact with untrusted systems In the real business world, that s not practical because people often need to: Access external untrusted resources from within the network Access internal resources from machines on external untrusted networks Exchange information quickly and readily within the organization This functionality comes at the cost of weakened security Uncontrollable and untrusted elements will have pathways into the network Internal threats may have greater potential for damage Network hardening technologies compensate for these and other common design compromises (try saying that three times quickly) They can do the following: Provide a central choke point where both internal access to the outside and external access to the inside can be controlled (firewalls) Restrict access based on per-user authentication (proxies) Prioritize the use of shared network resources (traffic shaping) Keep data secure when it travels across insecure networks (virtual private networks [VPNs])
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Part VII Hardening Networks
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No amount of hardening can make up for poor network design A lock on the door is pointless if another door or window in back is open A good design limits the possible entrances to those that can be effectively managed with hardening technologies A poor design either results in too many entrances to protect, or doorways that are so wide that they become fundamentally unprotectable So what is a poor network design Ultimately, it s any design that permits a user to have far more access to resources than necessary It s like parenting: letting a child eat all the candy he or she wants would be considered poor parenting Not allowing any candy is impractical (unless both parents are deaf), but good parents control
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212 Network Security Illustrated
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Table VII-1 Network Practices
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Design Issue Need to exchange files Bad Employees make files and directories on their system available on the network Good A central file server and sharing environment controls who gets to access the files and can provide additional protection against viruses and data destruction Unrestricted access from isolated machines or highly controlled desktop access Implement alternate remote access solutions that are separate from the primary internal network, such as a secure Web-based email system The network is segmented based on business organizational structure and functional needs
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Need remote access
Unrestricted access to the Internet from the primary desktop Allow remote connections to desktops or file servers (programs like PC Anywhere) Machines are all added to the same network
Business is growing
access to sweets and junk food Similarly, network resources are like candy Internet access, email, and file sharing resources can all be used in excess Network gluttony can lead to viruses, trojans, and other intrusions Table VII-1 compares a few good and bad network practices There are many others, but this should illustrate the underlying distinction
Out with the Bad, in with the Good
Hardening involves removing the insecure elements from a network and then implementing additional security It is more important to remove insecurities than it is to add hardening devices Fundamental vulnerabilities in the network will undermine the ability to further lock down the network through hardening Entry to a network is often gained through services that are either fundamentally insecure or have not been properly configured Shutting down or reconfiguring services of this nature is an example of removing the insecure Equally important is the removal of any extraneous software and hardware, regardless of the security implications If it is not absolutely needed, remove it; this is a good rule of thumb in any design or redesign stage Simply think of a network as a house, the bigger the house, the more doors and windows through which an intruder can enter Don t build a mansion if the situation calls for a three-bedroom colonial Once unnecessary hardware and software are removed, there will still be security vulnerabilities Now it s time to bring in the heavy artillery This is when the VPNs, firewalls, and traffic shaping devices come into play These, and other hardening technologies, can effectively fence in your network from outside threats They can protect
Part VII Hardening Networks 213 your data when it s in transit They can even be used inside the network to protect critical systems from internal threats
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