42.2.1. Thinking Like the Enemy

42.2.1. Thinking Like the Enemy

Suppose that you administer an enterprise network. Such networks are commonly comprised of operating systems, applications, servers, network monitors, firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and more. Now imagine trying to keep current with each of these. Given the complexity of today's software and networking environments, exploits and bugs are a certainty. Keeping current with patches and updates for an entire network can prove to be a daunting task in a large organization with heterogeneous systems.

Combine the expertise requirements with the task of keeping current, and it is inevitable that adverse incidents occur, systems are breached, data is corrupted, and service is interrupted.

To augment security technologies and aid in protecting systems, networks, and data, you must think like a cracker and gauge the security of your systems by checking for weaknesses. Preventative vulnerability assessments against your own systems and network resources can reveal potential issues that can be addressed before a cracker exploits it.

A vulnerability assessment is an internal audit of your network and system security; the results of which indicate the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of your network (as explained in Section, “Standardizing Security”). Typically, vulnerability assessment starts with a reconnaissance phase, during which important data regarding the target systems and resources is gathered. This phase leads to the system readiness phase, whereby the target is essentially checked for all known vulnerabilities. The readiness phase culminates in the reporting phase, where the findings are classified into categories of high, medium, and low risk; and methods for improving the security (or mitigating the risk of vulnerability) of the target are discussed.

If you were to perform a vulnerability assessment of your home, you would likely check each door to your home to see if they are closed and locked. You would also check every window, making sure that they closed completely and latch correctly. This same concept applies to systems, networks, and electronic data. Malicious users are the thieves and vandals of your data. Focus on their tools, mentality, and motivations, and you can then react swiftly to their actions.

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