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Re: log files (was: Re: dbts: Cryptographic Dog Stocks, The Dirigible Biplane, and Sending the Wizards Back to Menlo Park )

At 05:26 PM 10/26/98 -0500, Steve Bellovin wrote:

>Leaving aside the rest of this discussion, Vin touches on a point that
>I think has been ignored by some:  operations demand log files.  That
>is -- and I'm doffing my security hat here and donning the hat of someone
>who has been running computer systems and networks for 30+ years --
>when I'm trying to manage a system and/or troubleshoot a problem,
>I *want* log files, as many as I can get and cross-referenced 17 different
>ways.  This isn't a security issue -- most system administrator headaches are
>due to the "benign indifference of the universe", or maybe to Murphy's Law
>-- but simply a question of having enough information to trace the
>the perturbations caused to the system by any given stimulus.
>The more anonymity, and the more privacy cut-outs, the harder this is.

With respect to Steve's vast experience on this subject, I must disagree.
Managing and tracking systems and networks does require monitoring and
logging of traffic.  However, the information of interest is confined to
the headers.  There is no need to examine the body of user messages for
these purposes.  Even less would their be a need to "crack" some kind of
bearer token. (Of course this implies that crypto should be applied as far
up the stack as possible, ideally in the application. But that is another

I hear you saying, "but what if the guy is trying to break into my system."
 I would argue, that if you are using strong cryptographic authentication
(whether his identity can be mapped to a human being or not) then either 1)
he will fail, in which case you don't care or 2) he will succeed, in which
case he must have used some technique like stealing a key which cannot be
detected by monitoring.

I raise this point, because I see it as part of a current trend to resist
stong security measures in preference to weak ones.  The current industry
facination with weak measures, like firewalls and intrusion detection
systems has caused some people to resist the introduction of strong
measures, such as cryptographic authentication and data protection.  The
most popular example of this is the foolish practice of putting an SSL
server, with its vital server private key, outside the firewall in a DMZ.  

But I have also heard system administrators protest the introduction of
cryptographic solutions because some current half measure will no longer
work.  There are even misguided individuals who have proposed putting
master decryption keys at vulnerable locations like border routers, so that
messages can be inspected in the fly.

Like many people here, I live in the practical world and read dbs for
serious amusement (see Darwin on Malthus).  However in both worlds I spend
a lot of time trying to distingush the sound from the foolish.



Harold W. Lockhart Jr.               PLATINUM technology
Chief Technical Architect            8 New England Executive Park
Email: [email protected]  Burlington, MA 01803 USA
Voice: (781)273-6406                 Fax: (781)229-2969