six worst security mistakes

NetworkWorld posted a rather good series of articles on the six worst security mistakes.
1. Not having a security architecture– I like this overview, but I would add the need for logging and reviews of logging, from syslog/snmp stuff to web logs, OS logs, etc. Sadly, none of the companies I have worked for have been big enough to trouble themselves with spending money on formal security architectures beyond what is done when the environments are built or enhanced. Policy and protections have been second place, at best, to functionality and getting the needs taken care of.
2. Not investing in training– This discussion was awesome and a lot of poignant stuff was mentioned. I liked the contrast of the benefit of employee training and what happens when untrained people make decisions.
3. Neglecting identity management– Since I’ve not worked in environments over with over 500 employees, I’ve not had to worry much about identity management. Sadly, gaining any type of knowledge here is difficult, as so many sources pretty much say, “you need identity management, here’s kinda what it is” but never discuss what products work, what don’t, pros and cons of each, or even how to properly implement it from user acceptance to technical specs. This is one of my biggest issues with a lot of trade mags, especially vendor/ad supported mags that otherwise get sent free. They talk in general terms without actually giving me, an IT doer, much substance. Someday I’d like to examine identity management systems, but so far I’ve not seen a need for it in current environments. If I could make my own home-brew setup with little costs (maybe a USB fob and open source software), I would love to add that to my projects list.
4. Ignoring the insider threat– Most articles talk about how the insider threat needs attention, but never explain what to do, even in the most elementary terms. This piece goes one step further than most by saying one should monitor employee network use, harden the internal network, use internal network IPS to filter at the switch level, review and test internal access controls, and limit explicit trust in pretty much everyone. This is a good start, but spending money on this can be difficult as not many people really want to think about insider attacks. HR and management like to trust their employees while IT security tends to distrust pretty much everyone. This is just a matter of having different viewpoints, and can be a hard topic to effectively discuss. I think I would add in that not just empoyee use should be monitored, but all internal system logs as well, especially for odd connections, failed authentications, IPS/IDS alerts, and mysterious local account creation. Internal routers and firewalls can help segment things quite nicely and put off the bear of hardening all systems, at least for a while.
5. Not protecting web appliances– This was a shaky article, but I like the identification of three levels to protect when it comes to web servers: the host (OS), the server infrastructure (IIS/Apache I believe he meant), and the web application. The host and the infrastructure or no-brainers, really. The web app is the dicey part. In my experience, infrastructure (network and sysadmin roles) is not married with application development, in fact, these teams tend to work in opposition to each other. Likewise, security tends to fall in the middle somewhere. Infrastructure may bring it up and even test it, but typically we are hands-off when it actually comes to code changes. Whenever talking about web site security strategies from an infrastructure viewpoint, defense in depth must always be used. Assume there will be vulnerabilities in the web app, and plan to mitigate them. If development and infrastructure work well together, it will be a cold day in hell… 🙁
6. Buying products with the most bells and whistles– This is an interesting item, and I think is a product of poor training, lack of time to make accurate assessments and decisions in the face of sales propoganda, and lack of having a security architecture or plan. Sadly, I often hear about how appliances are purchased and forced into an environment because some senior manager read about it in a magazine and demanded it, all without truly evaluating the needs, the best solutions, or determining if there is a need for more staff to properly manage. A spiffy buzzword logging device is useless if no one is looking at the log reports or investigating the reported issues.