A (link dead, sorry) NewsForge article on security vulnerabilities reminds me of the old saying about "lies, damn lies, and statistics"
The NewsForge article points out that the really useful statistics are U.S. Certs Alerts and Current Activity. In fact, the "current" page is probably the best snapshot of what's important right now (and, as usual, Microsoft takes top honors).
Many vulnerabilities are extremely obscure or require conditions that really make them unlikely. Other security issues may be more likely for some than others: an exploit that requires a login might be dangerous in a large organization and completely unimportant in a three person office. Vulnerabilities in specific software only matter to you if you are running that software.
I want to step back and take a more general view for a moment and remind all of us that a door is usually more vulnerable than a wall.
I get asked about security a lot more than I used to. That's good; it shows that people are more aware and are at least thinking about it. Of course many of the people I'm likely to be talking to have multiple operating systems: Windows, Linux, maybe Mac or SCO Unix. They want to know "Are we safe?"
It's a legitimate question, and there's no easy answer. Safe from what? The outside world? Internal employees? Physical disasters?
Well, usually they mean the outside world. Hackers. Black Hats. Script Kiddies. Worms, Trojans and all that. Are we safe, dammit.
Earlier this week I was asked that in reference to a new Fedora install. Is it safe? Yeah, right this minute it's a lot safer than the Windows XP machines and certainly a heck of a lot safer than the Windows 98 machines that were still running there. But new exploits are discovered all the time, so the Linux box might not be "safe" next week.
But wait a minute. What's this Linux box used for? It's an app server. It's not even really connected to the Internet. That is, it can go out and get patches, and you could browse web pages from it, but nobody does. There's no direct path from the router/firewall to it. Effectively, it has no "doors".
Yet an XP machine near it is used as a "GotoMYPC" box. When that box isn't being used to provide access for remote support, somebody uses it for their ordinary day to day activities: browsing, email, and everything else. There's a redirect in the firewall that shuffles "GotoMyPC" packets over to it. That's a door. In fact, it's several doors, and some of them are being thrown open all day long.
So what I said was that I'd be a lot more worried about the "GotoMyPC" than the Fedora Linux. Not that it's necessarily insecure right now, but it is an opening. It's not a wall, it's a door. People browse with it and read email. It has more exposure to exploits than the Linux box does. Therefore, you should watch its security very closely. You don't want to ignore the Linux, but frankly in this scenario, it's pretty darn "safe".
Security is a journey, not a destination. Unwanted visitors are more likely to come through doors (even if they have to pick the locks) than smash through walls. Doors that are shut are more secure than doors that get used all day long.
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More Articles by Anthony Lawrence © 2015-04-16 Anthony Lawrence
I was taught that the human brain was the crowning glory of evolution so far, but I think it’s a very poor scheme for survival (Kurt Vonnegut).