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A Welcome Intruder

By Steve Jones,

One of the things that many large companies do is hire companies to evaluate their security. This often involves some sort of test of the security systems by an individual whose experise is breaking into companies. There are some experts who study the techniques used to break security, but I suspect that often former hackers/crackers are hired because they have practical experience breaking into systems.

However for most companies, the security is only examined when there is an actual issue. I know most IT people that manage web systems are told about security lapses when the site si defaced, or when your data is discovered posted in some other location.

This Friday I wanted to ask this question:

How many of you have attempted to penetrate your own systems?

You could do it yourself or get a friend to try, but have any of you actually performed some type of penetration test and what did you do? I typically haven't at most of my jobs, but I have spent time thinking about how I would penetrate the systems and then made an effort to close any holes.

My feeling is that most of the data breaches or losses occur because of attacks against the weakest links in the security system: humans. Social engineering, which taking advantage of most people's good nature and desire to help others, is usually the biggest problem. Theft of laptops is also an issue, but I think the targeted attacks specifically aimed at your company is fairly rare. The exception would be SQL injection attacks, which spring up constantly at site after site, mostly because of poor development practices.

We can get better at securing our systems, but it takes some effort, and a belief that we are vulnerable. Maybe setting up a test against your own systems will convince you, or more importantly, your boss, that it is worth the time spent better securing your systems.

Steve Jones

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Steve Jones