September 24, 2008  5:36 PM

FREE Tool – Changing Local Administratior Passwords On Your Domain

Arian Eigen Heald Arian Eigen Heald Profile: Arian Eigen Heald

I just love VBS.

And I love the folks that share their tools, AND give us a nice interface AND allow us to push a report to a .csv file. So a BIG thank-you should go out to Jeffrey Hicks, who has his own site, anjd a helpful Blog.

He has a nifty free tool for changing the local Administrator password, PWDMan. This tool also reports on the password age. I’ve been looking for a tool like this to give to the admins I “visit” so that I don’t have to hear any more excuses about how hard it is to change that password periodically.

Jeffrey also has a whole page of VBS scripts and yes, Power Shell scripts, something I’m going to learn when I grow up.

I look for tools I can offer to help admins do their jobs, detect problems and provide easy ways to assess their own systems. I teach how to fish, and try to get buy-in so that the watchfulness happens all year long, not just during an audit.

September 23, 2008  3:15 PM

Host vs. Network IDS

Arian Eigen Heald Arian Eigen Heald Profile: Arian Eigen Heald

I’ve noticed a definite tendency for organizations to move to monitoring network traffic with their Intrusion Detection Systems. It’s a lot easier than trying to update a host IDS service/agent and keeps the increased CPU at the monitor, where it belongs. Also, host agents are limited by what the operating system is willing to log.

Windows, for instance, will give you hundreds of logging messages that actually have no useful information for an IT Admin or Auditor to review. The setup of their Event Log auditing mechanism is still klugy, outdated and difficult to interpret. (Micro$oft, are you listening?). I can’t say I get to wow about UNIX either, and FORGET anything like logging with Novell.

So, why bother? I still think that a host IDS has a place, because there are things it can watch for that you will only see on the server. For instance, if someone is doing brute-force against the administrator account. If someone has made Active Directory changes who should not be in there.

How would you tell if someone added themselves to the Server Operator group? (where I’d go to look around and maybe get my hands on a SAM database). If you’ve got an Event Log monitoring function, you could pick it up that way, but wouldn’t it be nice if the IDS would pick it up? If you just installed a host IDS on certain critical servers? There’s lots of options if you step out of the all-or-nothing approach.

Speaking of which, monitoring development and test servers really does have to be included. As much as we’d like to forget that they’re there, that’s the first place hackers look. As a penetration tester, I can attest to that, as well. Patch ’em, monitor ’em, they’re on YOUR network.

September 19, 2008  7:37 PM

Auditing MS SQL – Roles, and Why They Matter

Arian Eigen Heald Arian Eigen Heald Profile: Arian Eigen Heald

SQL “Server” runs on top of MS Windows, and it has groups inside of it that are not seen on the Windows server or even the Windows Domain. That’s why we have to check and make sure that inappropriate users don’t have complete access to everything inside the database. Not everyone should be looking at those payroll files!

So, to confuse us a little more, instead of calling them groups (like Users, Administrators, Power Users, etc) SQL calls them “roles.” There are roles based on SQL as a whole (the SQL “Server”) and roles based on individual databases. Kind of like Domain Admins vs Local Admins.

SQL Server roles are equal to Domain Admins inside SQL Server. They give rights to many different core functions of SQL, and the sysadmins role has rights to everything inside SQL. By default, sa is here, but you should look very carefully at any other user in this group. DBAs like to give themselves a “backdoor” into the server this way, but that should be removed. Best practices recommend always having the DBA use their Domain ID for insertion into this role. This way you can log and monitor their access, and when they leave the company and their ID is disabled, they won’t be able to access the SQL databases. It also let’s them know that you are watching, and people tend to behave better that way.

I have found that software developers LOVE to put their names in this group, and not their Domain IDs, either. If it’s a production database, they have no business having anything other than SELECT rights anywhere. Kick ’em out!

Here’s the SQL Server roles default permissions:

Fixed Server Roles
Sysadmin – can perform any activity (and Builtin\Administrators are part of this group by default)
Serveradmin – can set SQL-server config options and shut down SQL Server.
Securityadmin – manage logins and CREATE DATABASE permissions, read error logs and change passwords (within SQL, not Windows)
Setupadmin – manages linked servers and startup procedures
Processadmin – can manage processes running in SQL server
Dbcreator- can create alter and drop databases
Diskadmin – can manage disk files
Bulkadmin – can execute BULK INSERT statements

How do you find out who is in these roles? Use the results of a stored procedure: sp_helpsrvrolemember with the results taken from the Master database.

For individual databases, there are database roles. People in these roles can be all powerful, but only within that individual database, not all of SQL. How do you know how many databases are inside one SQL Server installation? Again, a stored procedure: sp_helpdb

You’d be surprised how DBAs like to create their own little mini databases (on production boxes!) just to “do things.” They may be great “things,” but those databases need to go somewhere else.

In order to see the members of all the database roles, run another stored procedure: sp_helprolemember run from each production database in SQL Server. It’s a little tedious, but you will get the information you need.

I commonly monitor the membership in the db_owner role (equivalent to a local server Administrator). By default, the dbo, or db_owner is the only one in this role. If the DBAs are already sysadmins, they don’t need to be in this role, unless you want to be very granular in your controls (NOT a bad idea). Developers shouldn’t be in this role, or just as bad, the application ID of an application accessing data.

This is where a lot of software development falls off the security bandwagon. If the application ID is db_owner, it means that the ID has access to everything in that database. If I can acquire the application ID’s password, (and some of them don’t have one) I can get into all the data. I wouldn’t use the application, just connect directly via ODBC or even Excel.

It’s easier to write applications using the application ID as db_owner, but unless you are using middleware to vet everyone’s login via the Windows Domain, you take the risk of losing all that confidential data out the back door.

If you can acquire this information on a quarterly basis, you will go a long way towards having an easy audit and a better night’s sleep!

September 16, 2008  5:58 PM

FREE Tools for Auditing MS SQL Server

Arian Eigen Heald Arian Eigen Heald Profile: Arian Eigen Heald

There’s a lot of really nice application tools to audit SQL databases out there. They have lots of bells and whistles and write out a really nice report with professional formatting. If you’ve got one of those, LUCKY YOU. But most of us Admins and Auditors have to scrounge for what we can find with the budget we’ve got (read $0).

So I always like to start out with SQLPing A nice tool from that scans the network both actively and passively, testing SQL’s default listening port 1433 and it reports on what it finds (nothing fancy, just text). This includes those desktop versions of SQL Server: MSDE, that are often configured with SA-no password. This tool will tell you what version SQL is running, and will even do a test for SA-no password. Since SA cannot be locked out, you won’t damage the server with one attempt.

NOTE: Check with your network administrator before running this test. It’s also a great test of your intrusion detection system, because, if the IDS is configured properly, it should catch it and alert for it. Make sure management knows you are using this, if that’s what you’re going to use it for. No IDS? No worries.

I also recommend SQLSecurity. com for a lot of great information and scripts for DBAs. They know all about SQL Injection (Unlike a CIO I recently interviewed three years ago) and they have lots of MS SQL information well worth your visit.

The other free tools I use are found inside SQL Server. Yes, inside the SQL database, and they are called “Stored Procedures.” This is a fancy name for pre-written sequenced query language batch files. The folks at Microsoft have done us all a great favor by writing hundreds of them. Inside the Master database are the stored procedures you want to run, or have a DBA run for you and output to .csv format files. (Each database also has stored procedures, but the Master database SPs are the ones you want.) There is a table full of them, and here are the ones I use:

sp_helpdb Names and file locations on the Windows server of all SQL databases. (And you should find out who or what has access to those files)

sp_helpuser Review usernames, groups the user belongs to, and their default login database.

sp_helplogins a. Identify and review any external users and groups; b. Look for mappings of login name to UserOrAlias or as DB Owner. c. Check AUser and ARemote columns to identify who has remote access to what database.

sp_helpsrvrolemember Users and groups assigned to each server role (More on this later)

sp_helprotect Permissions in the database. Examine this list carefully for what rights are granted and denied to whom.

Get the results of these queries, results from the last post, and SQLPing. You’ll have some very interesting items to review. and remember, Google is your friend.

September 12, 2008  2:14 PM

Inside the Database Server – MS SQL

Arian Eigen Heald Arian Eigen Heald Profile: Arian Eigen Heald

The first question to answer is: “Is the SQL system patched?” You or a DBA can confirm this inside Enterprise Manager (the software client that runs on SQL or from a remote installation of it) by right-clicking the primary database icon and selecting Properties. You can also run a query inside Query Analyzer “SELECT @@ VERSION” and make sure the latest service packs from Microsoft are installed. No excuses! Make sure it’s updated. MS SQL doesn’t have a lot of patches and updates (unlike the operating system) but they are important.

MS SQL Server is one of the easiest systems for an auditor to review. I have a script I use (when they let me ON the server) or hand off to the DBA/Network Administrators and watch them run it. The most difficult part is sorting all the data into something readable. I always ask for the output in .csv format, which I can then port to Excel.

SQL Server always has a core of databases installed by default. A “tempdb” database used by SQL during its operations, a “sample” database, Northwind (which you can delete, by the way), a “model” database, and the critical one (to auditors and IT Security) the Master database. I do a thorough audit of this database before I move to any other databases installed by applications.

The Master database holds the core functions and controls of MS SQL. SQL has its own users and groups, that are created outside of the Windows server and any Windows Domain the server might belong to. You won’t see them in the local server administration; only the “user” SQL installs to run the SQL services. You can add Windows users and groups to SQL users and groups, and this causes a lot of confusion amongst auditors and non-DBAs.

For auditing purposes, we can keep it simple. But I do want to add one important note first: None of the queries and stored procedures I’m going to discuss with you do ANYTHING in SQL other than READ. All of the procedures use the SELECT command, which is equivalent to READ in SQL.

This is really important in auditing, as the first rule is always: Do No Harm to the System. Always! And it means I don’t accept excuses from DBAs who are afraid of “adding more stress” to the server. Reading a table takes a nanosecond.

Tables in the Master database hold information about the management of SQL as a whole. There is a table in the Master database called syslogins. In SQL 2005 it’s called sysxlogins. This contains information about all users that have a login ID to SQL, regardless of what database they access. (And you want to make sure that very few can log into the Master database).

This is where you will find out about the “sa” ID, which is the equivalent to “administrator” inside MS SQL. You won’t see this ID anywhere in the Windows operating system, but it is critical to examine inside SQL. It can be disabled in SQL 2005, but NOT SQL 2000.

So, here’s what we use: SELECT sid,name,password,dbname FROM syslogins If you can, grab it off your SQL system (even a development box) to get a sense of the structure.

I look for several things in the results of the query, but the two most important are: Who has access and do all the users have a password?

Yes, a password. I am STILL running across production systems that use the sa ID with no password. You might as well write HACK ME across your forehead, poke yourself with a pointed stick and resign. Developers still do this in their coding because it’s easy and fast. You get what you pay for.

Under the Password column in the results, you should see gobbledygook or the word NULL. If there are users and groups from a Windows Domain, they will be identified by the domain name or server name and then the ID, thus: Server\Name (for a local account) or Domain\Name. These IDs always have NULL in the password column, because SQL expects them to be authenticated by Windows.

I look for a user ID with NULL in the password column. And then I test to confirm the ID is blank by using ODBC to connect to the SQL server. I am regularly horrified, I am sorry to say.

Examine the list of users for IDs that have been created inside SQL. DBAs and developers are notorious for creating “backdoor” IDs that are not part of the Windows domain and only exist inside SQL. The problem is, when they leave, those IDs don’t get deleted or disabled when you disable or delete their Domain ID. They just sit there, waiting to be used and abused. Again, I’m regularly horrified, I’m sorry to say.

Finally, the query results will show you each user ID’s default database. Make sure IDs only have access to the database they need.

Next: MS SQL internal groups

September 10, 2008  4:24 PM

Data Loss Due to Insider Access = Much Higher Risk

Arian Eigen Heald Arian Eigen Heald Profile: Arian Eigen Heald

Similar to the Countrywide data theft, a recent news report from Korea highlights the theft of 11 million email addresses and national identification numbers.

Two out of the four people arrested were employees of a Call Center (does this make you nervous? Me, too) and acquired the information and pushed it into Excel files for easy sorting. (Nice of them.) Two compatriots helped burn CDs and DVDs with the information, to make selling it easier. Quite the nice home-grown production.

As much as we have to be concerned about external breaches, it appears that data theft from an internal source carries a much higher risk of fraud.

A study from ID Analytics suggests that consumers victimized by insider data theft — theft by an employee — are 12 times more likely to be ultimately hit by fraud than victims of an accidental data loss, like a lost laptop computer. According to the latest Computer Security Institute report, insider threats are up 17 percent this year.

“For the most part a company doesn’t lose its data, they lose your data,” Bruce Schneier tells the Business Technology Blog. (emphasis mine)

When an insider wants information he/she can sell, where does she go? To the corporate databases. HR records, Payroll, and Medical Administration Plans.

The only way to catch a thief is to watch for him.

Next: More on Auditing Databases

September 8, 2008  1:52 PM

Auditing Databases – Part II

Arian Eigen Heald Arian Eigen Heald Profile: Arian Eigen Heald

Thanks to marketing, we have a confusing jumble of terms when thinking about databases. For instance, Microsoft’s database product, SQL Server, isn’t really a “server.” It has to run on a Microsoft Windows Server 200x operating system. It’s a database system, that can hold many databases inside of it.

Another example would be Oracle databases.Oracle can run on any version of *NIX, and Windows, too (but ooohhh so slowly, since the two don’t get along). But since Oracle sells its database product by the CPU, one database is almost always set up to have multiple “schemas,” and those are actually databases inside the database.

Sybase is very similar to MS SQL (after all, M$ bought it from them!), and DB2 can run on an IBM-based system, like the iSeries, or AIX, or even Windows (good luck there!).

So each database product has a slightly different structure, which means we have to have an understanding of each structure in order to audit who, what and when.

All the products install “pieces” of themselves on top of a server structure, whether it’s Windows, *NIX, or AS 400. They all install a database user ID, usually with administrative rights. They all install files and services that open listening ports so that users or applications can connect to those ports. MS SQL uses 1443 and Oracle uses multiple ports, but principally 1521. It’s important to know those ports, and what connects to them.

Using those ports, someone with an ID and password can connect to your database directly, using any database-aware application to pull data out. Microsoft has an ODBC software client that connects using this port. Many DBA’s and software developers connect directly to databases this way. You will want to monitor any connections to your databases using this access.

A DBA should be able to identify who has direct access and set up a custom procedure to write a report on access via ODBC, or any direct Oracle access. Given that this connection can be unencrypted (by default), any user ID and password could be captured. Another reason to monitor!

August 27, 2008  4:27 PM

“Over-Reacting” to Data Breach Reports

Arian Eigen Heald Arian Eigen Heald Profile: Arian Eigen Heald

After Benjamin Wright’s comments on my previous post about Best Western, I hopped on over to his blog and took a look at his point of view.

Speaking from a consumer point of view, I find cold comfort in the drop in numbers from “possibly 90 million” to “only” 40 million credit card numbers being stolen from TJX. He makes a good point about the actual theft losses (as far as we know) committed with the stolen data as “only” about $1 million, and complains about the fines imposed and the over-reaction of Banks (by issuing new cards and forwarding the resulting costs to TJX).

The problem is, the Banks can’t wait around to see which ones of the 40 million accounts are used to commit fraud, or even how many of the accounts are “finally” used to commit fraud. That number is an unknown, especially if all the cards were NOT closed out. The banks did what they had to do, and TJX should pay for it. I certainly would not want to used a card with a compromised number and the possibility of being charged for something I didn’t buy, and the resulting hassles.

Did the FTC over-react? Did the economy need a crisis in consumer confidence? Did TJX get used as a “power-of-example” by VISA?

As an auditor and engineer, it bothers me when I see that vendors don’t know who accessed their data, or how much of it was lost. It tells me good controls are not in place. See Rule # 5

I’d like to see a list of companies from VISA that are NOT compliant. Or even a list of companies that are compliant. You could check before you purchased anything online. That would motivate business, I’m sure. Is compliance the same thing as good security? Absolutely not. Just ask Hannaford. However, “It’s better than snowballs in summer,” as my father-in-law likes to say.

Back to Best Western: there IS a question in my mind as to whether the report is more hyperbole than what may have happened. It’s unclear to me. Access via one machine and one account may not have given up all the information. Unfortunately we may not get to know the truth. It would be nice to know, but it may give up too much information for Best Western to release the facts about their systems.

Benjamin is right that I may have commented too quickly. The report from the Sunday Herald leaves out a LOT of details and a lot of people on the web have jumped all over it, too. (Insanity in numbers is always helpful). So we will need to wait and see. Unfortunately, given the track record of business, it’s hard to be hopeful. I will hope I’m wrong.

UPDATED Check out Best Western’s excellent response to the incident.

Eigen – Being wrong and liking it.

August 25, 2008  6:33 PM

European Hotel Chain Has Their Customer Data For the Past Year Accessed

Arian Eigen Heald Arian Eigen Heald Profile: Arian Eigen Heald

Visited Europe in the last year and used a Best Western Hotel? Your credit card, expiration date, the company that employs you, your name, address and future bookings may be in the possession of a Russian Mafia website. An enterprising Scottish newspaper, the Sunday Herald, noticed on Thursday night that an Indian hacker offered to sell access to Best Western and notified Best Western about the breach. Although Best Western closed the hole on Friday, the horse is out of the barn.

Eight million people stayed at 1,312 locations from 2007. Is this “Identity Theft?” It’s a darned nice start. Only the Social Security number is missing. Certainly the names, addresses, business information, details of employment, credit card numbers and expiration dates could be used for synthetic identity theft.

According to the Herald:

“The Sunday Herald understands that a hacker from India – new to the world of cyber-crime – succeeded in bypassing the system’s security software and placing a Trojan virus on one of the Best Western Hotel machines used for reservations. The next time a member of staff logged in, her username and password were collected and stored.”

One of the first things I learned doing penetration testing was that you don’t have to have some fancy piece of coding to break in. It can be the simplest thing – finding a set of keys in someone’s desk – that gets you into the server room. In fact, it usually IS the simplest thing. Their web site may have great security, but that was easily bypassed by a user login.

Best Western evidently had not noticed all the activity that account was generating – sucking all the data out of their databases. Which takes us back to auditing databases, doesn’t it?

Best Western’s response? Tim Wade, head of marketing for Best Western GB, said it was “unlikely” that whoever was responsible got hold of the details of “every booking at every hotel” in Europe because of the way their system worked. Has anyone mentioned to Best Western that letting a marketing guy handle communications for a data breach is not always the best choice? “Unlikely” is not a word that I find comforting. What are the facts? Why don’t they know exactly how much was taken? Because they probably don’t have any security logging in the right place. It’s why they didn’t notice the breach in the first place.

Let’s hope they didn’t get all the way into the American side of the company. Or maybe they have. How would we know?

August 21, 2008  3:48 PM

How to Audit Databases: Part I

Arian Eigen Heald Arian Eigen Heald Profile: Arian Eigen Heald

Databases are enormous, powerful repositories of data. They can hold payroll, HR personnel data (think social security numbers) stock prices, Accounts Receivable, Client Relationship Management, and customer information. Banks can’t live without them. Most medium and many small sized businesses use them, too.

They are the motherlode of the organization and the last line of defense in a hack. It’s critical that DBAs have the tools at their disposal to monitor and provide reporting. If your database isn’t secure, the hacker won’t care how well indexed it is.

And there are a lot of ways in. If I have administrative access to the server, I can copy all the database files, take them away and reload them on my own database server. If I have unencrypted backups of those files, I can do the same thing.

So the first step in auditing the database is to examine the server the database is running on. This gets confusing to non-DBAs and auditors because many of the terms used inside the database are similiar to server terms. It’s important to keep them separate, and to make sure that access to the database files on the server is monitored. Server administrators do not need to have access to those files, but they may have to, in order to manage/backup the server. So, set up logging.
Make sure everyone who has a need to access that server administratively has a unique ID. Remove access to root(*NIX) or Administrator (Windows). They can have administrative rights, just make sure you can identify them by ID and IP connection.

Finally, what about the backup tapes? If they are not encrypted, you can join the “breach list” of companies that have lost their data when tapes were misplaced, stolen, or “disappeared.”

NEXT: Inside the Database “Server”

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