|By Jason Thompson||
|May 13, 2013 02:30 PM EDT||
From its origin in 1995, SSH, the secure shell data-in-transit protocol, has been used the world over as a method to transfer data between machines, as well as a tool to provide remote administrator access. Some variation of the protocol is packaged free in every version of Unix, Mac OS and Linux. Recently, its use has grown exponentially in Windows operating systems as well. While the exact number of worldwide SSH deployments is unknown, it is estimated that nearly half of all of the World Wide Web uses SSH, making it a virtually mandatory service in the world of network security.
After nearly two decades of use, SSH has succeeded in securing billions of business transactions without any faults of the protocol itself, demonstrating its dependability as a security solution. On the other hand, the evolution of cyber-threat ability requires that organizations take a careful look at how they manage their SSH environments.
New Threats Requires New Thinking
Organizations rely on SSH to securely transmit immense amounts of sensitive data - such as banking information, healthcare records, classified intelligence and other personally identifiable material. Therefore, to attackers and malicious insiders, SSH is a barrier protecting vital corporate data.
However, because this barrier is inherently unbreakable, attackers must pursue alternate routes around the secure shell; to do this, they must focus instead on the mismanagement of SSH keys.
Network administrators establish a trust-based relationship between a user's computer and server by implementing a cryptographic key pair. The connection is established and managed within the corporation's networking system. Unfortunately, many of these systems are outdated and often cannot search for or pinpoint the location of trust-based relationships. Therefore, the search for keys must be done manually. Given a network often houses keys numbering in the hundreds of thousands, it is too easy to lose track of these trust relationships.
This leads to a disheartening conclusion: if an attacker inside or outside the company walls can discover a key, they can essentially imitate any authorized user and gain access to any sensitive data freely.
Improper management of SSH keys presents a prominent vulnerability available for exploitation by attackers looking to gain access to sensitive information.
A study performed recently on some of the largest corporations in the world produced shocking results deriving from the lack of judgment and knowledge of the importance of key management:
- Roughly 10 percent of all SSH user keys offer root access, creating a major compliance and security issue
- Having key-based access grants be essentially permanent leaves the network vulnerable to attack and is in direct violation of SOX, PCI and FISMA requirements for proper termination of access
- Enterprises rarely know what each key is used for, presenting not only a security risk, but also a business continuity risk
- Many SSH keys that grant access to critical servers are no longer usable
- Man-in-the-middle attacks are made simple when organizations share the same SSH host keys across thousands of computers
- Some organizations permit administrators to create or delete SSH user keys at will - without approvals or control - essentially granting unfettered, permanent access to systems and people
- Very few organizations ever rotate SSH user keys, or even remove them when a user leaves or an application is decommissioned
Today, advanced threat vectors are very real and are becoming more commonplace. It is more imperative than ever for organizations without proper SSH key management protocols to restructure their approach to key management, or otherwise face serious consequences.
Organizations must also understand that federal compliance standards such as SOX, NIST, PCI and HIPAA all entail huge fines if they do not exercise the utmost control over access to sensitive network information. With 20,000 servers, a typical number for many large organizations, the cost of manual SSH key management is $40 million over ten years. When the reputation damage caused by a security breach is factored in, organizations have a slew of incentives to repair organizational SSH key management practices.
Key Management Practices Must Change
Fortunately, access control issues in secure shell environments are not a result of any vulnerabilities or flaws in the SSH protocol itself. Rather, the security and compliance risks identified are caused by:
- A reluctance on the part of auditors to flag issues for which they don't have effective answers
- Insufficient resources and time to dig into the issue to gain understanding or develop answers
- Years of lack of clear guidelines or policies relating to SSH key management
- Unintentionally ignoring of the scope and implications of the problem
- A lack of guidelines and good tools early on for solving key management issues
- The focus of the access management field on interactive users without addressing automated access
Why then, has this problem remained in the dark, particularly given the possible consequences? Given its complexity, SSH key management has remained buried in the domain of system administrators. System administrators usually don't control the entire IT environment; instead, they only see the area under their immediate jurisdiction. It must also be taken into account that IT administrators are some of the company's busiest employees, and as such, they may not have had time to recognize and investigate the issue. In addition, because managers and executives are disconnected from the problem, and its underlying consequences, no action is taken and the high risk remains present.
Best Practices for Dealing with SSH Key Mismanagement
The process needed to fix the issue involves several teams within IT operations. The possible liability and compliance risks demand the awareness and buy-in from executive management as well.
Some best practices to get rid of the dangers include:
- Enforcing proper approvals for all key setups
- Discovering all existing users, public and private keys, and mapping trust between machines and users
- Restricting where each key has access and what commands can be executed using the key
- Rotating keys regularly, so that copied keys cease to work and proper termination of access can be ensured
- Monitoring the environment to determine which keys are actually used, and removing keys no longer in use
- Automating key setups and key removals; eliminating manual work and human errors. This step slashes the number of administrators needed for key setups from possibly several hundred to only a few highly trusted administrators
To further reduce risk, proper key management should involve the establishment of internal boundaries within the organization. The organization should strictly control what key-based trust relationships can cross which boundaries, while enforcing iron-clad IP address and "forced command" restrictions for all authorized keys involving trust relationships crossing such boundaries.
While SSH is widely considered the benchmark for data-in-transit security, the current threat landscape requires organizations to rethink how they are managing access to their encrypted networks. The SSH protocol has done a great job in protecting data-in-transit at a tactical level, but an ever-increasing number of threat vectors means effective management of the SSH environment is critical to secure network operations. Best security practices like the ones identified above will position your enterprise to prepare for security threats and new compliance mandates before they occur.
Manufacturing connected IoT versions of traditional products requires more than multiple deep technology skills. It also requires a shift in mindset, to realize that connected, sensor-enabled “things” act more like services than what we usually think of as products. In his session at @ThingsExpo, David Friedman, CEO and co-founder of Ayla Networks, will discuss how when sensors start generating detailed real-world data about products and how they’re being used, smart manufacturers can use the data to create additional revenue streams, such as improved warranties or premium features. Or slash...
Sep. 5, 2015 03:00 AM EDT
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Sep. 5, 2015 01:30 AM EDT Reads: 999
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies leverage disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advanced analytics, and DevOps to advance innovation and increase agility. Specializing in designing, imple...
Sep. 5, 2015 01:00 AM EDT Reads: 414
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo, November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be.
Sep. 5, 2015 01:00 AM EDT Reads: 256
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome,” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
Sep. 4, 2015 06:45 PM EDT Reads: 458
With the proliferation of connected devices underpinning new Internet of Things systems, Brandon Schulz, Director of Luxoft IoT – Retail, will be looking at the transformation of the retail customer experience in brick and mortar stores in his session at @ThingsExpo. Questions he will address include: Will beacons drop to the wayside like QR codes, or be a proximity-based profit driver? How will the customer experience change in stores of all types when everything can be instrumented and analyzed? As an area of investment, how might a retail company move towards an innovation methodolo...
Sep. 4, 2015 04:15 PM EDT Reads: 535
Contrary to mainstream media attention, the multiple possibilities of how consumer IoT will transform our everyday lives aren’t the only angle of this headline-gaining trend. There’s a huge opportunity for “industrial IoT” and “Smart Cities” to impact the world in the same capacity – especially during critical situations. For example, a community water dam that needs to release water can leverage embedded critical communications logic to alert the appropriate individuals, on the right device, as soon as they are needed to take action.
Sep. 4, 2015 04:00 PM EDT Reads: 103
WebRTC services have already permeated corporate communications in the form of videoconferencing solutions. However, WebRTC has the potential of going beyond and catalyzing a new class of services providing more than calls with capabilities such as mass-scale real-time media broadcasting, enriched and augmented video, person-to-machine and machine-to-machine communications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Luis Lopez, CEO of Kurento, will introduce the technologies required for implementing these ideas and some early experiments performed in the Kurento open source software community in areas ...
Sep. 4, 2015 03:45 PM EDT Reads: 152
While many app developers are comfortable building apps for the smartphone, there is a whole new world out there. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Narayan Sainaney, Co-founder and CTO of Mojio, will discuss how the business case for connected car apps is growing and, with open platform companies having already done the heavy lifting, there really is no barrier to entry.
Sep. 4, 2015 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 231
As more intelligent IoT applications shift into gear, they’re merging into the ever-increasing traffic flow of the Internet. It won’t be long before we experience bottlenecks, as IoT traffic peaks during rush hours. Organizations that are unprepared will find themselves by the side of the road unable to cross back into the fast lane. As billions of new devices begin to communicate and exchange data – will your infrastructure be scalable enough to handle this new interconnected world?
Sep. 4, 2015 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 275
The Internet of Things is in the early stages of mainstream deployment but it promises to unlock value and rapidly transform how organizations manage, operationalize, and monetize their assets. IoT is a complex structure of hardware, sensors, applications, analytics and devices that need to be able to communicate geographically and across all functions. Once the data is collected from numerous endpoints, the challenge then becomes converting it into actionable insight.
Sep. 4, 2015 12:30 PM EDT Reads: 124
SYS-CON Events announced today that Micron Technology, Inc., a global leader in advanced semiconductor systems, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Micron’s broad portfolio of high-performance memory technologies – including DRAM, NAND and NOR Flash – is the basis for solid state drives, modules, multichip packages and other system solutions. Backed by more than 35 years of technology leadership, Micron's memory solutions enable the world's most innovative computing, consumer,...
Sep. 4, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 300
With the Apple Watch making its way onto wrists all over the world, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a staple in the workplace. In fact, Forrester reported that 68 percent of technology and business decision-makers characterize wearables as a top priority for 2015. Recognizing their business value early on, FinancialForce.com was the first to bring ERP to wearables, helping streamline communication across front and back office functions. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kevin Roberts, GM of Platform at FinancialForce.com, will discuss the value of business applications on wearable ...
Sep. 4, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 114
SYS-CON Events announced today that IceWarp will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IceWarp, the leader of cloud and on-premise messaging, delivers secured email, chat, documents, conferencing and collaboration to today's mobile workforce, all in one unified interface
Sep. 4, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 507
As more and more data is generated from a variety of connected devices, the need to get insights from this data and predict future behavior and trends is increasingly essential for businesses. Real-time stream processing is needed in a variety of different industries such as Manufacturing, Oil and Gas, Automobile, Finance, Online Retail, Smart Grids, and Healthcare. Azure Stream Analytics is a fully managed distributed stream computation service that provides low latency, scalable processing of streaming data in the cloud with an enterprise grade SLA. It features built-in integration with Azur...
Sep. 4, 2015 11:45 AM EDT Reads: 406
SYS-CON Events announced today the Containers & Microservices Bootcamp, being held November 3-4, 2015, in conjunction with 17th Cloud Expo, @ThingsExpo, and @DevOpsSummit at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. This is your chance to get started with the latest technology in the industry. Combined with real-world scenarios and use cases, the Containers and Microservices Bootcamp, led by Janakiram MSV, a Microsoft Regional Director, will include presentations as well as hands-on demos and comprehensive walkthroughs.
Sep. 4, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 437
17th Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterprises are using some form of XaaS – software, platform, and infrastructure as a service.
Sep. 4, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,622
SYS-CON Events announced today that the "Second Containers & Microservices Expo" will take place November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Containers and microservices have become topics of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities.
Sep. 4, 2015 10:45 AM EDT Reads: 671
Akana has announced the availability of the new Akana Healthcare Solution. The API-driven solution helps healthcare organizations accelerate their transition to being secure, digitally interoperable businesses. It leverages the Health Level Seven International Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (HL7 FHIR) standard to enable broader business use of medical data. Akana developed the Healthcare Solution in response to healthcare businesses that want to increase electronic, multi-device access to health records while reducing operating costs and complying with government regulations.
Sep. 4, 2015 09:30 AM EDT Reads: 340
Containers are not new, but renewed commitments to performance, flexibility, and agility have propelled them to the top of the agenda today. By working without the need for virtualization and its overhead, containers are seen as the perfect way to deploy apps and services across multiple clouds. Containers can handle anything from file types to operating systems and services, including microservices. What are microservices? Unlike what the name implies, microservices are not necessarily small, but are focused on specific tasks. The ability for developers to deploy multiple containers – thous...
Sep. 4, 2015 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 229