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Rock the Cradle of Root Access Gently

Posted February 11, 2011    Peter McCalister

The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. This is an absolute truth. Although originally referring to motherhood, there is an especially poignant application from an enterprise point of view.  As long as the hand (your IT manager with root access) handles that cradle gently (your server and the sensitive information therein), your world will remain a secure place.

It’s when the cradle rocks a little too hard that walls start crumbling. And how do you keep that cradle calm and steady? The answer lies with the hand. Having an all-powerful IT administrator is dangerous and expensive- a cost that is not worth the security of your enterprise. Want your framework to stay standing? Let’s look at a few things you can do.

  1. Adopt the four golden words of server security: lock down root access. Your IT manager should not be allowed to be “the hand.” With root access they have can look at, move, and/or manipulate everything. There is no one in your organization, under any circumstances, that should be allowed rule the world. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your IT manager would never do such a thing, or that a breach won’t happen to you. Chances are good that’s exactly what the University of Hawaii thought. If they had integrated a solution to lock down root access, 40,000 confidential student records wouldn’t have been exposed.
  2. Create and maintain a keystroke log. All actions should be transparent and a record must be kept. This way, in the event that a breach does occur, all keystrokes are documented for easy auditing and identification. This will also raise the flag on any suspected wrongdoing.
  3. Install a solution that will alert you to the use of any forbidden keywords. This will proactively keep your sensitive and mission-critical information protected while warning you about any employee or contractor who may potentially have the intention of harming your company.

Securing your sever boils down to eliminating admin rights. It’s important to give all employees access to only the information they need, which is never root access. Participate in this enterprise security best practice today. Protect your cradle from the all-powerful IT hand keep it rocking smooth and slow

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