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NASA Vulnerability and Admin Rights

Posted April 7, 2011    Peter McCalister

A report came out recently highlighting vulnerabilities in NASA’s IT that could have impaired critical space missions or leaked sensitive information.

Using the NASA CIO’s own words, The Network World story by Tim Greene points the finger in the same mistaken direction most anyone would as a reflexive response. The lack of an ongoing program to identify and patch vulnerabilities. But the article itself also presents the very obstacle to that. NASA was/is patching software routinely, but there’s just too much to patch, too many updates, too often that need to be implemented too quickly. Mistakes and overlooked vulnerabilities are bountiful. What about vulnerabilities that aren’t discovered yet, were just discovered but not patched, or are known but overlooked. Is there no room for error?

The report states the agency has over 190 IT systems and projects that include assets that control the Hubble Space Telescope, The Space Shuttle and the International Space Station among others and describes previous breaches where extremely sensitive information had been leaked by sophisticated attacks.  In one case malware was allowed to spread and make 3,000 unauthorized connections to IP addresses all over the globe. The report blames “inadequate security configurations.”

Since a desktop requires admin privileges to install software, including malware, it’s pretty safe to say that at least one of those “inadequate security configurations” was administrator privileges on the desktop.  We’re almost finished polishing up our 2010 report on Windows vulnerabilities (see 2010 report here), but suffice to say there’s no surprises – the vast majority of Windows vulnerabilities can be mitigated by removing administrator privileges.

What the NASA story is missing in the mainstream media is that running around patching vulnerabilities everywhere they can be found is only half the solution. It’s like a game of whack-a-mole, you’re never done and you’ll always be too late to at least one. Companies need to reduce their risk exposure even under the assumption that some vulnerabilities will be leveraged – and they will.

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Why big data breaches won’t always be so easy

Posted September 19, 2014    Byron Acohido

This blog post is republished with the permission of ThirdCertainty. See the original post here. – By: Byron Acohido, Editor-In-Chief, ThirdCertainty Some day, perhaps fairly soon, it will be much more difficult for data thieves to pull off capers like the headline-grabbing hacks of Home Depot and Target. That’s not a pipe dream. It’s the projected outcome…

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8 Reasons Your Privileged Password Management Solution Will Fail

Posted September 18, 2014    Chris Burd

Leveraging complex, frequently updated passwords is a basic security best practice for protecting privileged accounts in your organization. But if passwords are such a no-brainer, why do two out of three data breaches tie back to poor password management? The fact is that not all privileged password management strategies are created equal, so it’s critical…

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You Change Your Oil Regularly; Why Not Your Passwords?

Posted September 11, 2014    Chris Burd

There are many things in life that get changed regularly:  your car oil, toothbrush and hopefully, your bed sheets.  It’s rare that you give these things much thought – even when you forget to change them. But what if you’re forgetting something that can cost you millions of dollars if left unchanged for long periods…

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