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Security in Context: The BeyondTrust Blog

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Bringing you news and commentary on solutions and strategies for protecting critical IT infrastructure in the context of your business.

Password Rotation, Phishing and Authentication Limitations, Oh My!

Posted January 26, 2011    Peter McCalister

As we have pointed out in several recent blog posts, getting users to choose effective passwords is hard.  This is particularly important to us at BeyondTrust since for our PIM solutions to function correctly we need to accurately  authenticate a user to know what access privileges to grant them  While new technologies for user authentication  are on the way, they aren’t here just yet.

There are several options today for improving user passwords but they all have issues.   Requiring user to choose strong password often leads to them writing theirs down a yellow sticky pad so they can remember it.  Password rotation is standard defense against password cracking attacks, but a recent Microsoft study suggests password rotation just causes people to choose easier to remember phrases as passwords.  Biometrics are expensive and far from foolproof as shown in this recent MythBusters episode.  2 factor authentication should be the norm but is perceived as expensive and inconvenient.  Even if implemented it’s still susceptible to social engineering and phishing attacks.

So there are no easy answers to assure a user is who they say they are.  As with all security decisions, you need to weigh the costs of a solution versus the risks, but practically we recommend 3 things:

  • Enforce strong passwords but make it easier for people to create them.  You can provideguidance about better ways to create strong but memorable passwords or suggest the use of passphrases rather than passwords.  Finally, you could publish links to password strength testers like Microsoft’s so people aren’t surprised at the moment of truth when asked to input their new strong password.
  • For more secure situations, like systems administrators who may be able to access critical corporate systems, go with 2 factor authentication,  it’s the current gold standard.
  • Finally, recognize that authentication will never be perfect.  So implement least privilege at all levels to limit exposure.  Not every user needs to be an admin on their desktop and not every system admin needs to access all system with all commands

I f you have any tips or techniques you would like to share, please add them to the comments.

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Failing the Security Basics: Backoff Point-of-Sale Malware

Posted August 22, 2014    Marc Maiffret

At the beginning of this month, US-CERT issued a security alert relating to a string of breaches that had been targeting Point of Sale (POS) systems. The alert details that attackers were leveraging brute forcing tools to target common remote desktop applications such as Microsoft’s Remote Desktop, Apple Remote Desktop, Splashtop and LogMeIn among others….

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Troubleshooting Windows Privilege Management Rules with Policy Monitor

Posted August 21, 2014    Jason Silva

When defining and testing PowerBroker for Windows rules for production or pilots, customers sometimes tell us, “I don’t think this policy / program is working.” This is usually a case of the policy not properly triggering because of the way the rule was created. A unique feature of PowerBroker for Windows compared to other solutions is a client-side…

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BeyondTrust Webcast: Darren Mar-Elia’s 4 Active Directory Change Scenarios to Track

Posted August 20, 2014    Chris Burd

In our latest webcast, we joined Darren Mar-Elia, CTO at SDM Software, to discuss best practices for Active Directory (AD) change management. Here are some key takeaways from the presentation, followed by a link to a full-length video of the presentation. Mar-Elia kicks things off with a critical insight: that the best AD change management…

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