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Halting the Hacker: A Practical Guide to Computer Security, 2nd Edition

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Halting the Hacker: A Practical Guide to Computer Security, 2nd Edition


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  • Copyright 2003
  • Dimensions: 7" x 9-1/4"
  • Pages: 384
  • Edition: 2nd
  • Book
  • ISBN-10: 0-13-046416-3
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-13-046416-3

Halting the Hacker provides a unique look inside the mind of the hacker--you'll understand how and why he makes the choices he does to attack your system. At the same time, you're getting practical, step-by-step information on how to foil him! Unlike many other security books, this book shows you why you need to take particular steps, rather than just listing what to do. This gives you knowledge you can apply to future, as-yet-unknown, attacks. Organized around how hackers gain access, control and privileges on your system, Halting the Hacker helps you understand how different subsystems can be used in harmony to attack your computer. Filled with dozens of up-to-the-minute real world examples, the book provides a vivid look at the consequences of ignoring security, and gives you numerous solutions you can put to immediate use. It contains specific steps for improving the security of your HP-UX and Linux systems.


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Table of Contents


The Hacking Environment. Historic Perspective. Hacker or Cracker.

 1. Who Hackers Are.

Internal Hackers. External Hackers. Categorizing Hackers. Demographics. Classified by Skill Level.

 2. Hacker Motives.

Intellectually Motivated. Personally Motivated. Socially Motivated. Politically Motivated. Financially Motivated. Motivated by Ego.

 3. What Hackers Do.

Modern Day Robin Hood. Digital Dillinger.

 4. How Hackers Do What They Do.

Malicious Code. Modified Source Code. Exploiting Network Protocols. Exploiting Vulnerabilities. Password Crackers.


Selecting the Target. Identifying the Systems to be Attacked. Gathering Information. Gaining Access. Acquiring Privileges. Avoiding Detection. Realizing a Goal.

 5. Gathering Information.

Public Sources. People. Going On Site. Computer Systems. Security Experts. Other Hackers.

 6. Limiting Information Disclosure.

Public Information Sources. Announcements. Restricting the Scope of the Service. Polling. Eavesdropping. Misinformation.

 7. Gaining Access.

Back Doors. Anonymously. Active Sessions. Stolen Credentials. Subverting Protocols.

 8. Limiting Access.

Physical System Access. Restricting Users. Over the Network. Restricting Services. File System Access.

 9. Getting Credentials.

Identity Management. Account Management. Repositories. Monitoring the Network. Social Engineering. Monitoring User Input.

10. Controlling Authentication.

Authentication Management. Cracking Passwords. Finding Passwords in Clear Text. The Future of Passwords. Implementing Strong Authentication.

11. Gaining Privileges.

Having Another User Run a Program. Exploiting Permission Vulnerabilities. Exploiting Hardware Vulnerabilities. Exploiting Software Vulnerabilities.

12. Controlling Authorizations.

User Authorizations. Program Authorizations. Compartmentalization. Protecting Files. Exploiting Permission Vulnerabilities. Read-only File Systems.

13. Avoiding Detection.

Monitoring Connections. Monitoring Processes. Monitoring Information. Increasing Security. Not Making Tracks. Removing Tracks. Misdirection. Changing Time.

14: Increasing Monitoring.

Monitoring Files. Monitoring Users. Monitoring Resources. The Logging System. Consolidated Logging Server. Log File Monitoring.


Criminal Charges. Civil Remedies.

15. Computer Crimes.

Traditional Offenses Using Computers. Computer-specific Offenses. Intellectual Property Offenses. Content-related Offenses. Privacy Offenses.

16. Legal Prosecution.

Criminal Crime. Law Enforcement Agencies.

17. Obstacles to Prosecution.

Identifying the Hacker. Jurisdiction. Extradition. Evidence. Cost of Prosecution. Corporate Concerns. Personal Concerns.

18. Improving Successful Prosecution.

Enforcing Security Policy. Fair Notice. Marking Information. Proper Evidence Preservation. Trusted Time.


Proactive Security Measures. Reactive Security Measures.

19. Preparation.

Define What Needs Protection. Define How Much Protection Is Required. Define How Much Protection Is Afforded. Define What You Have. Define How to Protect It.

20. Installation.

Software Structure. Install Minimum Base Operating System. Remove Any Unneeded Software. Install Additional Products. Install Standard Patches. Install Security Patches. Remove Software Remnants.

21. Proactive Protection.

Remove What Is Not Needed. Disable What Is Not Used. Restrict the Rest. Host Hardening Systems.

22. Security Testing.

Evaluate Current Status. Compliance with Security Program. Integrity of Installed Software. Integrity of Configuration. Security Scanners.

23. Security Monitoring.

Monitoring for New Vulnerabilities. Intrusion Methods. Determining When a Security Incident Has Occurred. System Monitoring Techniques. Comprehensive Monitoring.

24. Reactive Security.

Review the Incident Response Plan. Preserve the State of the Computer. Report the Incident. Contain the Incident. Gathering Information. Countermeasures.

25. Recovery.

Assess the Scope. Setting Priorities. Secure the System. Repair the Vulnerability. System Recovery. Data Recovery. Monitor for Additional Signs of Attack. Restoration of Confidence.

26. Review.

Determine the Cost of the Incident. Evaluate the Response Plan. Improve the Safeguards. Update Detection. Process Improvement. Postmortem Documentation. Follow-up Communication.

About the CD-ROM.
Accessing the CD-ROM.
Using the CD-ROM.



Never in the history of computing has there been such agreat opportunity for hackers. Falling prices and the increasing performance of computer equipmenthave made it possible for any hacker to afford a powerful computer system of his own.

Inexpensive high-speed Internet access is available almost everywhere. Hacker tools have becomewidely available and easy to use, making anyone able to be a hacker.At the same time, business are making dramatic changes in the way they use their informationsystems. Companies are downsizing from proprietary mainframes to open systems, there isa tremendous demand for the information on office PCs to be shared around the globe, andbusinesses are flocking to the Internet to provide new avenues for customers, enable remotemobile or work-from-home employees, and replace dedicated private networks with cheap virtualprivate networks. International networking, with the increasing number of computers andgrowing connectivity, has provided an ease of access to computers heretofore unknown.

Financial pressures are pushing companies to explore new opportunities. Companies areoutsourcing operations. They are entering into new business arrangements with partners thatrequire greater sharing of information with remote individuals who are not employees. Thesenew environments are uncharted territories for many of the companies who are leaping online.Companies, administrators, and users are all having to change their understanding of their computationalenvironment. There are new rules for using, managing, and evaluating this newenvironment. Reduction in staff has been made to contain costs, and has led to many systemswith inexperienced managers, responsible for a greater number of systems with operating systemswith which they are unfamiliar. The combination of ease of access with overworked andinexperienced system managers is a potentially explosive one.

Many companies are moving to UNIX system-based operating systems—some becauseof mainframe downsizing, others because Linux is free, and others because they are tired of thealternatives. The more widespread an operating system, the more attractive it will be for hackersto attack. UNIX systems have traditionally been used by universities and research facilities.Since it is common in research and scientific areas, there is an abundance of information about the operating system. Also, universities and scientific research institutes are often more lax withsecurity, providing a fruitful playground for hackers to learn and hack. UNIX operating systemsare some of the most documented operating systems, and versions of the source code are widelyavailable, making it a common target of hackers today.

In the computer industry, security has mostly been an afterthought. It is often thought thatputting security into programs that don't demand it will only get in the way. Most softwaresystems have evolved from older systems and quite often large software systems actually incorporatecode from many sources, written by many authors. When you have software that does nothave a single design, it is almost impossible to design security into it after the fact.

Computer security is part of the larger field of corporate information security and has asignificant effect on system availability. Data security encompasses all aspects of management ofproprietary information, including information classification, ownership, appropriate access,use, handling, and storage.

Vendors in the computer industry have spent a good deal of time and money addressingthe other areas of data security and system availability. Most corporations have a disaster planin place that has detailed contingency plans that cover fire, flood, and earthquake, but rarely dothey cover security-based disasters. Even though only a small percentage of corporate losses isfrom this threat, a tremendous amount of money and resources is spent each year to reduce thelosses from physical disasters. However, few company disaster plans cover contingencies for thelosses due to computer security incidents, which are often the result of malicious activities, withthe greatest share of these being the actions of disgruntled or dishonest employees, the restbeing the result of outside threats. These outside threats account for only a tiny percentage ofcorporate losses. However, this tiny percentage gets the lion's share of the publicity. It can bemuch more damaging to the company's reputation than the actual damage it may cause to thedata it compromises.

The tragic events of September 11th have changed forever the way the world looks atsecurity. Companies are putting security at the top of their lists—as a concern, as an issueneeding to be addressed, and as a budget item. The question "What about security?" is beingasked at the beginning of a project with the requirement that it be addressed. Security is no longeran afterthought—it is now being seen as the fundamental foundation for every project.

When the first edition of this book was originally conceived in the mid-nineties, it was verydifficult to get information on how information systems were compromised. It was equally difficultto get a book published that described the process by which systems were compromised.Even though it was written to raise the awareness of system administrators that there weresecurity issues which had to be addressed to avoid being attacked, there was fear that such abook would be used by hackers to attack systems. There is a thin line between informing systemmanagers and providing a guidebook for hackers. It is unavoidable that some will utilize this bookto attempt to hack into systems. Today, security information is a much more open topic. Everyoneis aware of hackers. The headlines are full of hacker stories.

This book is designed to give system and security managers insight into the mind of ahacker and to provide tools to fight both existing and yet-to-come system attacks. You will seethat even seemingly harmless services can become valuable tools in the hands of a skilled hackerwho uses them to search for weak points in a system. The information here is broadly available tothose who know where to look for it. Unfortunately, all too often it is the hacker who knows whereto look and those responsible for computer security who do not. System managers generally donot have the time or inclination to peruse the dark corners of the Internet for hacking informationand tools, and certainly they are not going to cruise the bulletin boards that are frequented byhackers.

This book is written with a dual viewpoint. We look through the eyes of a potentialintruder and expose cracks in systems that can be widened to gain access or privileges, and wealso take the system manager's viewpoint and explore methods of sealing those cracks. Thisdual viewpoint allows you to understand how a hacker thinks so you can block the intruder. Itis organized by the processes hackers use to gain access, privileges, and control of a computersystem, instead of simply illustrating how to secure each software subsystem. This helps youunderstand how the different subsystems can be used in harmony to attack a computer, and howthe changes you make in one system can affect another and leave you without a secure computersystem. This book explains why and how a problem can be leveraged into a security breach anddiscusses how to fix it. Understanding the why of a problem is a skill you can use throughoutyour career.

This edition of the book details building and securing a UNIX system, with specifics forHP-UX and Red Hat Linux systems.

This book puts the hacker under the microscope to bring to light the common motives andbasic methods that are used. In so doing it gives you, the system manager, the knowledge toapply security effort efficiently and effectively to secure systems now and into the future.

About the Author

Donald L. Pipkin, CISSP, is an Information Security Architect for the Internet SecurityDivision of Hewlett-Packard. He is an internationally renowned security expert with fifteen-plusyears of experience in the industry. He is a frequent speaker on security and is the author ofthe new book Information Security: Protecting the Global Enterprise. He is versed in allaspects of security, including policy and procedures, and has hands-on experience with computerintrusions. He has made presentations on security at various conferences from a regionalto the international level. His years of experience have allowed him to bring his understandingof security issues and his experiences with computer crime to bear when consulting with Fortune500 companies on issues of policies and procedures addressing specific security issues.


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