Friday, March 18, 2011

Security is just an illusion (more proof)

RSA is a big company and touts itself as a vendor of top-notch, ultra-strong computer security.

Who wouldn't want to be a fly on their wall then, now that they've admitted to a massive security breach which has resulted in information relating to their key products being stolen from right under their noses.

Apparently a hacker or hackers unknown have managed to break into the RSA's own computers and gain access to critical data used in the creation of tokens for their two-factor authentication system.

Not only is this a huge embarrassment to the company but it's also likely to cause big problems for its valued customers, which include the military, governments, banks and many other key industries.

In admitting the breach, RSA described the attack as "very sophisticated" and said that the intruders had accessed strategic information related to the SecureID product, a cornerstone of implementing secure, restricted access gateways to important computer systems and databases.

Users of RSA's SecureID product are now left on tenterhooks, waiting anxiously to see how the company intends to mitigate this security breach. They have been advised to closely monitor their networks and computer systems for unusual activity that could be indicative of someone gaining access through information leached from RSA.

What can the rest of us learn from this event?

Well there really is no such thing as unbreakable security. Anything made by man can be broken by man.

It's unknown whether the "sophisticated attack" used to breach RSA's own security was a purely technical one but it's well known that social-engineering is often the preferred vector for such intrusions once the hardware and software proves too difficult to circumvent.

There has been speculation that the source of the breach may have been an infected USB drive - as was the case with a major infection of many NZ hospital computer systems a year or two ago.

As I've said before -- the only way to ensure real security for the data on your computer is to turn it off, unplug all network cables and lock it in a secure room. Of course its functionality and performance will be severely affected by such an approach.

Total security is a myth. The best we can hope for is to establish a safe balance between paranoia and practicality.

Might now be a good time to check your firewall and anti-virus settings -- just in case?

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