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5.5 Security Tactics

Tactics for achieving security can be divided into those concerned with resisting attacks, those concerned with detecting attacks, and those concerned with recovering from attacks. All three categories are important. Using a familiar analogy, putting a lock on your door is a form of resisting an attack, having a motion sensor inside of your house is a form of detecting an attack, and having insurance is a form of recovering from an attack. Figure 5.8 shows the goals of the security tactics.

Figure 5.8. Goal of security tactics



In Chapter 4, we identified nonrepudiation, confidentiality, integrity, and assurance as goals in our security characterization. The following tactics can be used in combination to achieve these goals.

  • Authenticate users. Authentication is ensuring that a user or remote computer is actually who it purports to be. Passwords, one-time passwords, digital certificates, and biometric identifications provide authentication.

  • Authorize users. Authorization is ensuring that an authenticated user has the rights to access and modify either data or services. This is usually managed by providing some access control patterns within a system. Access control can be by user or by user class. Classes of users can be defined by user groups, by user roles, or by lists of individuals.

  • Maintain data confidentiality. Data should be protected from unauthorized access. Confidentiality is usually achieved by applying some form of encryption to data and to communication links. Encryption provides extra protection to persistently maintained data beyond that available from authorization. Communication links, on the other hand, typically do not have authorization controls. Encryption is the only protection for passing data over publicly accessible communication links. The link can be implemented by a virtual private network (VPN) or by a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) for a Web-based link. Encryption can be symmetric (both parties use the same key) or asymmetric (public and private keys).

  • Maintain integrity. Data should be delivered as intended. It can have redundant information encoded in it, such as checksums or hash results, which can be encrypted either along with or independently from the original data.

  • Limit exposure. Attacks typically depend on exploiting a single weakness to attack all data and services on a host. The architect can design the allocation of services to hosts so that limited services are available on each host.

  • Limit access. Firewalls restrict access based on message source or destination port. Messages from unknown sources may be a form of an attack. It is not always possible to limit access to known sources. A public Web site, for example, can expect to get requests from unknown sources. One configuration used in this case is the so-called demilitarized zone (DMZ). A DMZ is used when access must be provided to Internet services but not to a private network. It sits between the Internet and a firewall in front of the internal network. The DMZ contains devices expected to receive messages from arbitrary sources such as Web services, e-mail, and domain name services.


The detection of an attack is usually through an intrusion detection system. Such systems work by comparing network traffic patterns to a database. In the case of misuse detection, the traffic pattern is compared to historic patterns of known attacks. In the case of anomaly detection, the traffic pattern is compared to a historical baseline of itself. Frequently, the packets must be filtered in order to make comparisons. Filtering can be on the basis of protocol, TCP flags, payload sizes, source or destination address, or port number.

Intrusion detectors must have some sort of sensor to detect attacks, managers to do sensor fusion, databases for storing events for later analysis, tools for offline reporting and analysis, and a control console so that the analyst can modify intrusion detection actions.


Tactics involved in recovering from an attack can be divided into those concerned with restoring state and those concerned with attacker identification (for either preventive or punitive purposes).

The tactics used in restoring the system or data to a correct state overlap with those used for availability since they are both concerned with recovering a consistent state from an inconsistent state. One difference is that special attention is paid to maintaining redundant copies of system administrative data such as passwords, access control lists, domain name services, and user profile data.

The tactic for identifying an attacker is to maintain an audit trail. An audit trail is a copy of each transaction applied to the data in the system together with identifying information. Audit information can be used to trace the actions of an attacker, support nonrepudiation (it provides evidence that a particular request was made), and support system recovery. Audit trails are often attack targets themselves and therefore should be maintained in a trusted fashion.

Figure 5.9 provides a summary of the tactics for security.

Figure 5.9. Summary of tactics for security


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