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QotW #14: How to secure an environment both physically and technically?

2011-12-16 by . 1 comments

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So after a slight hiatus we are back running question of the week posts again. This time, chosen by me because we had a tie, is the question asked by user jwegner: How to secure an environment both physically and technically?

An interesting question when you may be working in a scenario processing personal data and cannot afford a data leak. So, as a very quick summary, jwegner had:

  • no local storage
  • used cctv cameras
  • used biometric locks and key-card locks
  • used sftp to transfer data in and out when necessary.

However, jwegner was still concerned about a number of issues including mobile phones, preventing data release when the rules need to be relaxed and the fact that their external gateway ran both an sftp server and an ftp server.

Security.se responded. Jeff Ferland has the highest voted answer. He recommended not allowing any mobile phone devices inside the secure area at all, as even in offline mode many phones have data ports and cameras and that the internet connection for the “red” zone was a no-go. However, on the subject of achieving no local storage with flash drives, Jeff recommended the opposite, citing loss of the drives as a big potential risk factor. Jeff continued to recommend that monitoring USB ports is a necessary precaution and possibly using epoxy to fill them – however, his answer also mentions that many devices are now highly reliant on the usb interface, including keyboards and mice.

On the ftp gateway area, Jeff recommended looking into access control to ensure internal accounts only had read access, and possibly using ProFTPd as opposed to the standard sftp subsystem. Finally, Jeff added an extra detail – using deep freeze to ensure machine config cannot persist reboot.

Rory Alsop echoed many of these sentiments in his answer. Over and above Jeff, Rory recommended banning mobiles with very strict consequences for their use inside the secure area as a deterrent – as well as enforcing searches on entry/exit. In addition, he recommended not using ftp at all. Rory also echoed Jeff’s deep freeze, recommending read-only file systems. Finally, his answer mentioned two key points:

  • Internal risks of using ftp – may be worth moving over to sftp to ensure internal traffic is harder to sniff.
  • Staff vetting.

From the comments, an interesting point was raised – blocking cellphones is illegal in the US and may be in other jurisdictions, so whilst detection methods could be used for enforcement outright blocking may require an in-depth review of options before proceeding.

So far, these are the only two answers. Our questions of the week aim to highlight potential interesting questions from the community; if you think you can help answer then the link you need is here.

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