Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Unspoken Taboo – The Never Expiring Password

HNS - The Unspoken Taboo – The Never Expiring Password: "Firstly you have the problem of the never expiring password on a system which is accessible by administrators and anyone else who might have privileged access to a system. The problem is more acute when a company is relying on hosting services from a third party. Your applications are accessing valuable business critical data thousands of times a day, using the same user ID and password. In fact there might very well be hundreds of applications all accessing using the same credentials. And since the applications do not have any integrated security such as VPN technology, the passwords to these accounts are often stored in clear text (not encrypted), thus becoming visible to developers, support staff and anyone that has access to the application code.

Secondly because these passwords are often hard coded within the applications/scripts, a reset of a Service Account password becomes a complex process involving changes to application code, compilation, and in some cases a long process of transferring the code from development to QA to production. In some cases this change might result in or require downtime for the application, a scenario that is unacceptable in cases of confidential information.

Thirdly auditing is virtually impossible. Because the credentials that are embedded in the application, although in theory only accessible to the application they can actually be used by any developer who has access to the code. So if for example a person was to log in using the credentials, it would be impossible to discover this through a simple audit check.
Finally the most serious aspect of this is that this user ID and password is known by developers and support staff and can be used for personal access to the resources. And in many cases today those credentials are know by off-shore developers who have been contracted to develop the applications for your organisation. So access to your business data is ultimately in the hands of developers who may be thousands of miles away."

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