10 Off-the-Wall Ideas to Network Security

Brett Harney Network Security

In recent data breach news, a Detroit zoo vendor is investigating a data security breach of its computerized cash registers in gift shops at nine zoos across the country where credit and debit card info was snagged by the hackers. No one is immune, but businesses can enhance network security and be prepared for attacks that may strike. Roger A. Grimes from InfoWorld offers 10 security ideas that have been called a little off-the-wall but function quite effectively in helping secure the company's IT assets. 

10 crazy IT security tricks that actually work

Network and endpoint security may not strike you as the first place to scratch an experimental itch.  After all, protecting the company's systems and data should call into question any action that may introduce risk. But IT security threats constantly evolve, and sometimes you have to think outside the box to keep ahead of the more ingenious evildoers.
And sometimes you have to get a little crazy.

Innovative security technique No. 1: Renaming admins

Renaming privileged accounts to something less obvious than "administrator" is often slammed as a wasteful, "security by obscurity" defense. However, this simple security strategy works. If the attacker hasn't already made it inside your network or host, there's little reason to believe they'll be able to readily discern the new names for your privileged accounts. If they don't know the names, they can't mount a successful password-guessing campaign against them.
Even bigger bonus? Never in the history of automated malware -- the campaigns usually mounted against workstations and servers -- has an attack attempted to use anything but built-in account names. By renaming your privileged accounts, you defeat hackers and malware in one step. Plus, it's easier to monitor and alert on log-on attempts to the original privileged account names when they're no longer in use.

Innovative security technique No. 2: Getting rid of admins

Another recommendation is to get rid of all wholesale privileged accounts: administrator, domain admin, enterprise admin, and every other account and group that has built-in, widespread, privileged permissions by default.
At least one Fortune 100 company has eliminated all built-in privileged accounts, and it's working great. The company presents no evidence of having been compromised by an APT (advanced persistent threat). And nobody is complaining about the lack of privileged access, either on the user side or from IT. Why would they? They aren't getting hacked.

Innovative security technique No. 3: Honeypots

Modern computer honeypots have been around since the days of Clifford Stoll's "The Cuckoo's Egg," and they still aren't as respected or as widely adopted as they deserve to be. A honeypot is any computer asset that is set up solely to be attacked. Honeypots have no production value. They sit and wait, and they are monitored. When a hacker or malware touches them, they send an alert to an admin so that the touch can be investigated. They provide low noise and high value.

Innovative security technique No. 4: Using nondefault ports

Another technique for minimizing security risk is to install services on nondefault ports. Like renaming privileged accounts, this security-by-obscurity tactic goes gangbusters. When zero-day, remote buffer overflow threats become weaponized by worms, computer viruses, and so on, they always -- and only -- go for the default ports. This is the case for SQL injection surfers, HTTP worms, SSH discoverers, and any other common remote advertising port.

Innovative security technique No. 5: Installing to custom directories

This one doesn't work as well as it used to, given that most attacks happen at the application file level today, but it still has value. Like the previous security-by-obscurity recommendations, installing applications to custom directories reduces risk -- automated malware almost never looks anywhere but the default directories. If malware is able to exploit your system or application, it will try to manipulate the system or application by looking for default directories. Install your OS or application to a nonstandard directory and you screw up its coding.

Innovative security technique No. 6: Tarpits

Today, many networks (and honeypots) have tarpit functionality, which answers for any nonvalid connection attempt. When I penetration-test these networks, my attacks and network sweep scanning attacks slow to a crawl -- they're unusable, which is exactly the purpose. The only downside: Tarpits can cause problems with legitimate services if the tarpits answer prematurely because the legitimate server responded slowly. Remember to fine-tune the tarpit to avoid these false positives and enjoy the benefits.

Innovative security technique No. 7: Network traffic flow analysis

With foreign hackers abounding, one of the best ways to discover massive data theft is through network traffic flow analysis. Free and commercial software is available to map your network flows and establish baselines for what should be going where. That way, if you see hundreds of gigabytes of data suddenly and unexpectedly heading offshore, you can investigate. Most of the APT attacks I've investigated would have been recognized months earlier if the victim had an idea of what data should have been going where and when.

Innovative security technique No. 8: Screensavers

Password-protected screensavers are a simple technique for minimizing security risk. If the computing device is idle for too long, a screensaver requiring a password kicks in. Long criticized by users who considered them nuisances to their legitimate work, they're now a staple on every computing device, from laptops to slates to mobile phones.

Innovative security technique No. 9: Disabling Internet browsing on servers

Most computer risk is incurred by users' actions on the Internet. Organizations that disable Internet browsing or all Internet access on servers that don't need the connections significantly reduce that server's risk to maliciousness. You don't want bored admins picking up their email and posting to social networking sites while they're waiting for a patch to download. Instead, block what isn't needed. For companies using Windows servers, consider disabling UAC (User Account Control) because the risk to the desktop that UAC minimizes isn't there. UAC can cause some security issues, so disabling it while maintaining strong security is a boon for many organizations.

Innovative security technique No. 10: Security-minded development

Any organization producing custom code should integrate security practices into its development process -- ensuring that code security will be reviewed and built in from day one in any coding project. Doing so absolutely will reduce the risk of exploitation in your environment.
The experts at Corporate Technologies Group don’t want your business to become a cyber security statistic. We can help your business determine if your network and IT security is adequate and ready for an attack.  Don't become a news story, let us help you!