HP OpenVMS Guide to System Security: OpenVMS Version 8.4 > Chapter 11 System Security Breaches
Handling a Security Breach
There are four phases that security administrators
experience while handling a security breach, whether the breach actually
occurred or was attempted:
Detection of a problem
Identification of the
Prevention of further
Repair of damage
The following sections describe these phases for
both attempted and successful break-ins.
In all phases, train personnel to retain information
and data as evidence, should there be a need to apprehend and prosecute
Unsuccessful Intrusion Attempts
Unsuccessful intrusion attempts include situations
where someone has attempted to guess passwords or browse through files.
Detecting Intrusion Attempts
You usually detect intrusion attempts through
the following sources:
Reports from users about
unexplained login failures
Unusual system activity
or unavailability of dialup lines
Security alarms for login
failures, break-in attempts, and file-protection violations
Examination of the intrusion
Identifying the Perpetrator
Enabling file auditing simplifies identification
of file browsers. If, however, browsing is being initiated from another
node in the network, you must inspect the network server log file
(NETSERVER.LOG) that corresponds to the times of the protection violations.
Coordinate your investigation with the security administrator at the
a perpetrator who is guessing passwords is considerably more difficult,
especially when the source is anonymous, as from a dialup line. Usually,
you must trade identification for prevention. Often the only way to
positively identify an outsider attempting to enter the system requires
that you permit further attempts while establishing the perpetrator's
Preventing Intrusion Attempts
The prevention phase for this kind of attack involves
preventing the would-be intruder from actually gaining access to the
system and making future attempts more difficult.
To reduce the opportunities for successful password
Make certain your users
choose appropriate passwords. Consider use of the password generator
(see “Generated Passwords”).
Enable system passwords
at the points of entry. While a minor inconvenience to your users,
system passwords are the best protection against further probing.
If you already had a system password enabled, change it (see “System Passwords”).
Enable auditing of successful
logins to catch the event if the intruder succeeds in getting in (see “Security Auditing”).
To reduce the opportunities for successful file
If you can identify the
perpetrator, take action as established at your site.
Warn your users about
the importance of adequate protection of their files, and consider
inspecting the protection of user files.
If file browsing from
other nodes in the network becomes a persistent problem, eliminate
the default FAL account and authorize individual users through proxy
login accounts (see “Setting Up a Proxy Database”).
A successful security breach can include a successful
password guessing scheme, theft or modification of either information
or system resources, and placement of damaging software on the system.
An intrusion may require a considerable amount of time to repair,
depending upon the skill and intent of the perpetrator.
Identifying the Successful Perpetrator
Identification is often the most difficult part
of handling an intrusion. First, you must establish whether the perpetrator
is an authorized user or not. This determines the nature of the preventive
measures that you will take. However, the distinction between insiders
and outsiders may be difficult to achieve.
Tradeoff Between Identification and Prevention
You may have to make a tradeoff between a positive
identification of the intruder and preventing future attacks. Often,
the data available initially does not allow complete identification.
If it is important to identify the perpetrator, you will often find
it necessary to permit continued intrusions while you analyze the
intrusion activity. Increase your auditing. Consider planting traps
in system procedures that are under your control (such as SYLOGIN.COM)
to obtain additional information. Increase your system backup efforts
to permit easier recovery if files become damaged.
Identification of Outsiders
Identifying external intruders is particularly
difficult, especially if they use any switched forms of communication
(such as dialup lines or public data networks). DECnet for OpenVMS
software provides many features to help you trace the activity through
the network back to the source node. If a local terminal is involved,
physical surveillance may be appropriate.
When a switched connection is involved, one of the major computer
security problems is the telephone system itself. Tracing a telephone
or public data network connection is time-consuming. Chasing an intruder
through the telephone system is likely to take months and will require
the assistance of law enforcement authorities. The existence of multiple
long-distance telephone services compounds the problem by increasing
the number of organizations with whom you must deal.
As a result, identifying an outside intruder is
usually worthwhile only when you have sustained substantial financial
damage. In many cases, it may be more useful if you concentrate on
preventing recurrences of the problem.
The actions you must take to secure your system
after an intrusion depend on the nature and source of that intrusion.
This section describes these actions in order of priority.
Restore SYSUAF.DAT, NETPROXY.DAT,
NET$PROXY.DAT and RIGHTSLIST.DAT (if damaged) from backups. Alternatively,
generate listings of the files and inspect them closely, looking for
improper entries, additional privileges, and changed UICs. If you
are unsure of when SYSUAF.DAT might first have been modified, inspect
it carefully regardless of whether you are using a backup copy or
proceeding with the existing one. Be sure all authorization files
The perpetrator may have
discovered passwords by browsing either through files or from other
nodes in the network and may be using seldom accessed accounts for
personal use. Change passwords for accounts, and have your users appear
in person to learn their new passwords. At a minimum, change passwords
on all privileged accounts. Do not use the same new password for all
A sophisticated penetrator
may have planted ways to provide future access to the system even
though you have taken the obvious steps of securing your system. Therefore,
you may have to restore selected components of the OpenVMS software
from backups or from your OpenVMS distribution kit. If the intruder
was an outsider, the two critical components are LOGINOUT.EXE and
NETACP.EXE, which validate all entries to the system.
However, if the intruder was an authorized user, restore
all system files from backup copies. Authorized users can make use
of a wide variety of illicit software patches (called trap
doors ) that they insert in the executive (SYS.EXE), the
file system (F11BXQP.EXE), DCL, and other system files. The penetrator
may have planted damaging software in any piece of software or command
procedure likely to be used by a privileged user. Thus, complete assurance
of a secure system requires a wholesale restoration of files from
backups. Also reinstall any image (even from layered products) installed
with privileges because it can also be used for a trap door. An alternate
strategy is to restore trustworthy copies of the obvious targets of
attack and to rely on increased auditing for a period of time to catch
additional security features, such as system passwords, password generation,
increased auditing, and more stringent file protection to prevent
Repair After a Successful Intrusion
After an intrusion, restore corrupted files. Decide
whether it is appropriate either to do a wholesale restoration of
your system's data or to repair problems as they are discovered.
Look for modifications to file protection that would have created
paths for viruses and for Trojan horses that were introduced into
the system and may still reside there.