Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.
 

Philosophical discussion of security (was: Re: [hackers-il] The wheel reinvention mystery)

Expand Messages
  • Omer Zak
    Apparently passions about the story are still hot around the nonprofit in question. Anyway, I duly notice the diversion (change of topic) in the discussion -
    Message 1 of 5 , Sep 21, 2006
      Apparently passions about the story are still hot around the nonprofit
      in question. Anyway, I duly notice the diversion (change of topic) in
      the discussion - from discussion of wheel reinvention vs. NIH to
      management of security.

      I am cross-posting this also to discussions@..., because the
      altered topic is more appropriate to Hamakor discussions than to the
      general philosophical atmosphere of Hackers-IL.

      On Fri, 2006-09-22 at 02:06 +0300, Nadav Har'El wrote:
      > On Thu, Sep 21, 2006, Omer Zak wrote about "[hackers-il] The wheel reinvention mystery":
      > > A recent argument in Hamakor prompted me to consider the general
      > > question why would people sometimes prefer not to reinvent the wheel,
      > > and why would they be enthusiastic about reinventing the wheel.
      > >
      > > http://tddpirate.livejournal.com/63135.html
      >
      > I posted my opinion on your post in your blog (under the heading "you're
      > a bit confused" :-) ).
      >
      > Unlike you, the same Hamakor thread prompted me to ponder on a different
      > topic - one that I raised on this list a few months ago. This is the question
      > of how come every time that somebody uses "security" as a reason for some
      > action (or inaction), people immediately take this as an acceptable
      > explanation, even if it completely unfounded.

      While I agree that the "S" word is frequently abused. We have been
      experiencing it a lot in Israel, where political censorship, corruption
      and environmental damage (TAASH in Hod Hasharon area, for example) were
      hidden behind the veil of "Security".

      However, in this specific case, I believe that nonstandard configuration
      by knowledgeable people does promote security. The problem seems to be
      the failure to take the complementary step of documenting the changes in
      the system and ensuring that it is easy for someone else to pick up the
      reins. (Think of what would happen if the first sysadmin were hit by a
      bus.)

      > Also, people also tend about security as a binary thing, either there is
      > "security" or there is "no security", and obviously "security" is better
      > than "no security". In reality security is a broad spectrum, and there is
      > *always* a tradeoff betwen more security at the cost of more money / less
      > functionality / less convenience.

      Yes. Please tell us what is your threat model and how (in your opinion)
      should Hamakor deal with each threat.
      A quick and dirty threat model is as follows:

      1. Membership information - should be guarded (even if a single person's
      ID can be easily obtained by other means, we do not want to release the
      IDs of 100 people, about 50% of them are successful).
      2. Financial accounting - can be viewed, must not be tampered with.
      3. Web site - not to be defaced.
      4. Wiki - occassional defacing is acceptable (everyone knows that wikis
      are not as protected) but must be easy to detect and recover from
      defacing.
      5. Mailing lists - must not be a vector for spam.
      6. Worms and trojan horses - must at least be easy to detect and
      disinfect.
      --- The Captions Troll
      --
      In civilized societies, captions are as important in movies as
      soundtracks, professional photography and expert editing.
      My own blog is at http://tddpirate.livejournal.com/

      My opinions, as expressed in this E-mail message, are mine alone.
      They do not represent the official policy of any organization with which
      I may be affiliated in any way.
      WARNING TO SPAMMERS: at http://www.zak.co.il/spamwarning.html
    • Nadav Har'El
      ... Are you looking for abuse? Posting on a heated subject, and in English, on the Hamakor list? I m not joining your game, and returning this to hackers-il.
      Message 2 of 5 , Sep 22, 2006
        On Fri, Sep 22, 2006, Omer Zak wrote about "Philosophical discussion of security (was: Re: [hackers-il] The wheel reinvention mystery)":
        > I am cross-posting this also to discussions@..., because the
        > altered topic is more appropriate to Hamakor discussions than to the
        > general philosophical atmosphere of Hackers-IL.

        Are you looking for abuse? Posting on a heated subject, and in English, on
        the Hamakor list? I'm not joining your game, and returning this to hackers-il.

        > > Also, people also tend about security as a binary thing, either there is
        > > "security" or there is "no security", and obviously "security" is better
        > > than "no security". In reality security is a broad spectrum, and there is
        > > *always* a tradeoff betwen more security at the cost of more money / less
        > > functionality / less convenience.
        >
        > Yes. Please tell us what is your threat model and how (in your opinion)
        > should Hamakor deal with each threat.

        You (and the "first sysadmin" in question) is acting like Hamakor's site
        is some sort of unique site that needs unique protection. In fact, it and
        your "threat list" is hardly unique. The threats you list are the same for
        *every* web site: almost every web site wants not to be defaced, contains a
        bit of personal data, does not want to be taken over by spammers, and so on.
        So every "linux distribution", which already cater to web site builders,
        already take these threats seriously. They already have timely and automatic
        security updates, firewall, secure defaults, system-call firewall (i.e,
        "selinux"), rootkit and change detection, stack-smashing-protection and many
        other things.

        Indeed, you may argue that these measures protect against the "typical"
        threats, and may not protect against extremely dedicated and clever attackers
        with zero-day attacks up their sleeve. So what - are you expecting any of
        those to target Hamakor's site? If these attacks come on Hamakor ever, say,
        10 years, what kind of functionality/cost/convenience cost are you agreeing
        to incur in order to reduce their frequency to once every 20 years? (yes,
        this is what the security/functionality tradeoff looks like).

        Anyway, it appears you completely missed my most important point: perhaps
        *some* of this sysadmin's actions are (somehow) justified by security.
        But he hung *every* one of his actions on security, and you believe him
        implicitly just because of the word "security".
        For example, he refused to install Perl on the machine, stating that one
        interpreter (PHP) is enough, and having another one will open more holes.
        Really - do you seriously believe that? Perhaps one specific worm that depends
        on Perl will fail on a machine without Perl, but do you seriously believe
        that this will hinder a serious attacker for more than 5 minutes? How hard
        is it for an attacker to install Perl himself, if he wants Perl *that* much?

        And this "Perl" thing is just an example. It just goes to show you how easy
        it is for people (like you) do defend bizarre actions just because they were
        done in the name of "security" or have a weak smell of "security" in them.

        > A quick and dirty threat model is as follows:
        >
        > 1. Membership information - should be guarded (even if a single person's
        > ID can be easily obtained by other means, we do not want to release the
        > IDs of 100 people, about 50% of them are successful).

        Most web sites in fact contain MUCH MORE sensitive data than Hamakor's
        membership list (which only lists 200 people and does not contain any
        financial information, credit card numbers, or anything even a bit interesting
        to crackers). The fact you're getting overworked by a "list of ids" is very
        strange, considering how you can find these ids everywhere: go to any
        university and see id lists hanging on the wall or used as computer user ids,
        for example. Lists (originally created for use in elections) of millions of
        Israeli citizens, their personal details and ids, are floating around with
        every criminal being able to get them.. Office buildings (like the one I
        mentioned) already take the physical id cards of thousands of "successful"
        (as you call them) people who come to the building, and can do with them
        much more than just copying the id numbers.

        > 2. Financial accounting - can be viewed, must not be tampered with.

        These have no business being on the Internet site, and never were on the site.

        --
        Nadav Har'El | Friday, Sep 22 2006, 29 Elul 5766
        nyh@... |-----------------------------------------
        Phone +972-523-790466, ICQ 13349191 |Seen on the back of a dump truck:
        http://nadav.harel.org.il |<---PASSING SIDE . . . . . SUICIDE--->
      Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.