Posts Tagged Secure FTP

FTP Server Security Flaw Discovered

Posted by on Monday, 1 November, 2010

We know that FTP has security issues that are based upon its aging design. But a new flaw, discovered by Maksymilian Arciemowicz, is creating new concerns. This new flaw is calling into question the underlying code-base implemented by literally thousands of FTP server applications.

The flaw resides in several C code libraries that call the glob() function. “Globbing” is a pervasive function that permits the use of wildcard patterns to identify file names. It’s one of the most commonly used processes in transferring large numbers of files with FTP: Instead of individually selecting files, a user may select a folder or a group of files based upon a common string. The common use of *.doc or *.* are examples.

The flaw discovered by Arciemowicz relates to a feature added to C libraries in 2001.  That feature – called GLOB_LIMIT – was designed to limit the amount of memory used during transfer. Because GLOB_LIMIT is not effective, it potentially allows a system’s main memory to be flooded when processing certain patterns and this may, depending on the hardware used, cause the system to become very slow, cease to respond or even crash as a result.

Of course, crashing an FTP server can then permit other security violations to take place – not only on the server side. For instance, a hung FTP server that is in the midst of a conversation with a client can leave the client’s data in the open. This represents a serious potential security hole for the client software itself.

In most servers, the function is implemented via libc, but some vendors have integrated the globbing feature directly into their products, with an option in the configuration settings for it to be disabled. Arciemowicz said that OpenBSD 4.7, NetBSD 5.0.2, FreeBSD 7.3 / 8.1, Oracle Sun Solaris 10 and GNU Libc (glibc) are affected. FTP and SFTP servers all tend to support globbing, so it’s important to either disable globbing in the configuration of the server side, and/or to contact the software vendor about the use of this underlying function to discuss how to the function.

GoAnywhere does not have this issue as it does not use C or the GLOB_LIMIT. GoAnywhere Services is a secure file server that allows trading partners (both internal and external) to securely connect to your system and exchange files within a fully managed and audited solution. Popular file transfer and encryption standards are supported without the need for proprietary client software.

Thomas Stockwell

Thomas M. Stockwell is one of Linoma Software's subject matter experts and a top blogger in the industry. He is Principle Analyst at IT Incendiary, with more than 20 years of experience in IT as a Systems Analyst, Engineer, and IS Director.

More Posts - Website

Who Insures the Insurer?

Posted by on Monday, 2 August, 2010

Do insurance companies maintain Data Security Breach Insurance?

On June 23, 2010 more than 200,000 Anthem Blue Cross customers received letters informing them that their personal information might have been accessed during a security breach of the company’s website. Customers who had pending insurance applications in the system are currently being contacted because information was viewed through an on-line tool that allows users to track the status of their application. Social Security and credit card numbers were potentially viewed.  It’s one more tumble in a cascade of security breaches that can have terrible consequences for the customers and clients of such a large insurance company.

And of course, this raises an ironic question: Do insurance companies maintain their own liability insurance in the event that their information systems are compromised?  As absurd as it may seem at first glance, it’s really not a laughing matter. According to the Ponemon Institute, the average cost of a security breach is now exceeding $200 per client record.  This would mean that Anthem Blue Cross’s breach last month created a liability as great as $40M.

Moreover, there’s a ripple effect to organizations that do business with insurance companies that suffer such an information security breach.  Each Personnel Department that delivers private employee information to an outside service supplier has an inherent responsibility and liability to its employees.

We all know that the privacy information transferred between companies should use a secure and confidential method of transmission.  Yet too many small and medium-sized companies are still using simple FTP (File Transfer Protocol) software that has been proven to be susceptible to the threats of network hackers.  And by the time these organizations realize their vulnerability, it’s often too late.  These companies are often performing these FTP transfers below the radar of their IT departments.  How does it happen?

Often personnel data is off-loaded to PCs from the main information systems where it is left “in the open” on the hard drives of desktops or laptops. After the data is transferred this residual data is often unprotected, where it’s subject to theft or secondary security flaws. Insurance agents – whose jobs are to facilitate the processing of the data with their insurance providers – can also suffer from such breaches. The loss of an agent’s laptop – through theft, accident, or routine use of USB thumb-drives – poses additional liability.

There are two readily available strategies to help prevent these kinds of security abuses. The first strategy is to use data encryption technologies that not only encrypt the data, but also record into a secure log detailing when, where, and by whom the sensitive data has moved from the main information database.  Linoma’s CryptoComplete offers precisely this kind of encryption capability, and it should be examined by IT professionals as a viable, highly configurable resource for the protection of the company’s information assets.

The second strategy is to use a secure method of transfer for the data itself, ensuring that the information is never left in a vulnerable state on an individual’s personal computer.  By removing FTP access to the data by any employee’s PC and channeling the transfer through the secure corporate server, IT can prevent the problem of network hacking from occurring.  Linoma’s GoAnywhere Director solution is precisely the means of achieving the goal of a secure FTP transfer between companies.

The tragedy of the Anthem Blue Cross breach was the result of a faulty security scheme in the design of its customer service solution.  But it is not the only potential failure of data security that can impact its customers and business partners. And, unfortunately, this information security breach is just one of the 356 million reported breaches that have occurred in the US over the last five years.

So who insures the insurer when a data security breach occurs?  The real answer is IT itself.  And helping IT achieve a better result will be the subject of this blog over the next few months.

Thomas Stockwell

Thomas M. Stockwell is one of Linoma Software's subject matter experts and a top blogger in the industry. He is Principle Analyst at IT Incendiary, with more than 20 years of experience in IT as a Systems Analyst, Engineer, and IS Director.

More Posts - Website

1.800.949.4696  |  sales@linomasoftware.com  |  privacy policy
Copyright ©1994 - 2012 Linoma Software  |  All rights reserved