Network Security and ISP Setup Implementation
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It might not store any of your personal information directly, but sensitive data passes through it every time you access various online services and can be stolen or manipulated if the router is hacked. A compromised router can also serve as a platform for attacking other devices on your local network, such as your phone or laptop, or for launching denial-of-service attacks against internet websites. This can get your IP address blacklisted and can slow down your internet speed. Because it's exposed directly to the outside world, your router is frequently targeted by automated scans, probes and exploits, even if you don't see those attacks.
And compared to your laptop or phone, your router doesn't have an antivirus program or other security software to protect it. Unfortunately, most routers are black boxes and users have little control over their software and configurations, especially when it comes to devices supplied by internet service providers to their customers. That said, there are certain actions that users can take to considerably decrease the likelihood of their routers falling victim to automated attacks. Many of those actions are quite basic, but others require a bit of technical knowledge and some understanding of networking concepts.
The downside is that those routers are expensive, some require annual subscriptions for certain services, and their level of customization is very limited. Ultimately, their users need to trust the vendors to do the right thing. If you prefer getting a cheaper router or modem that you can tweak to your needs, avoid getting one from your ISP.
ISP Resources | Network Startup Resource Center
Those devices are typically manufactured in bulk by companies in China and elsewhere and they come with customized firmware that the ISPs might not fully control. This means that security issues can take a very long time to fix and in some cases, they never get patched. Some ISPs force users to use gateway devices they supply because they come pre-configured for remote assistance and there have been many cases when those remote management features have been poorly implemented, leaving devices open to hacking.
Furthermore, users cannot disable remote access because they're often not given full administrative control over such devices. Whether users can be forced to use a particular modem or router by their ISP varies from country to country. There are also more subtle device lock-ins where ISPs allow users to install their own devices, but certain services like VoIP will not work without an ISP-supplied device. If your internet provider doesn't allow you to bring your own device onto its network, at least ask if their device can be configured in bridge mode and if you can install your own router behind it.
Bridge mode disables routing functionality in favor of your own device. Also, ask if your ISP's device is remotely managed and if you can opt out and disable that service.
Secure your core telecom network
The market for home and small office routers is very diverse so choosing the right router will depend on budget, the space that needs to be covered by its wireless signal, the type of internet connection you have, and other desired features like USB ports for attached storage, etc. However, once you get your list down to a few candidates, it's important to choose a device from a manufacturer that takes security seriously.
How quickly did it release patches?
Does it have a dedicated contact for handling security reports? Does it have a vulnerability disclosure policy or does it run a bug bounty program? Look at the disclosure timelines in those reports to see how fast the companies developed and released patches after being notified of a vulnerability. It's also important to determine, if possible, how long a device will continue to receive firmware updates after you buy it. With product lifecycles becoming shorter and shorter across the industry, you might end up buying a product released two years ago that will reach end-of-support in one year or in several months.
And that's not something you want with a router. Once you have a router, it's time to make a few important settings. Start by reading the manual to find out how to connect to the device and access its administration interface. This is usually done from a computer through a web browser. Never leave your router with the default administrator password as this is one of the most common reasons for compromises. Attackers use botnets to scan the entire internet for exposed routers and try to authenticate with publicly known default credentials or with weak and easy-to-guess passwords.
Choose a strong password and, if given the option, also change the username for the default administrative account. Last year, a botnet called Mirai enslaved over , routers, IP cameras and other Internet-of-Things devices by connecting to them over Telnet and SSH with default or weak administrative credentials. The botnet was then used to launch some of the largest DDoS attacks ever recorded.
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Many routers allow users to expose the admin interface to the internet for remote administration and some older devices even have it configured this way by default. This is a very bad idea even if the admin password is changed, because many of the vulnerabilities found in routers are located in their web-based management interfaces. If you need remote administration for your router, read up on how to set up a virtual private network VPN server to securely connect into your local network from the internet and then perform management tasks through that connection.
Your router might even have the option to act as a VPN server, but unless you understand how to configure VPNs, turning on that feature might be risky and could expose your network to additional attacks.
How to Enhance your Home Wireless Network Security
It's also a common misconception that if a router's administrative interface is not exposed to the internet, the device is safe. For a number of years now, attackers have been launching attacks against routers through cross-site request forgery CSRF techniques. Those attacks hijack users' browsers when visiting malicious or compromised websites and force them to send unauthorized requests to routers through local network connections.
In , a researcher known as Kafeine detected a large-scale CSRF attack launched through malicious advertisements placed on legitimate websites. The attack code was capable of targeting over 40 different router models from various manufacturers and attempted to change their Domain Name System DNS settings through command injection exploits or through default administrative credentials. By replacing the DNS servers configured on routers with rogue servers under their control, attackers can direct users to fake versions of the websites they are trying to visit.
This is a powerful attack because there's no indication in the browser address bar that something is amiss unless the website uses the secure HTTPS protocol. In , DNS hijacking attacks through compromised home routers were used to phish online banking credentials from users in Poland and Brazil. CSRF attacks usually try to locate routers over the local area network at common IP addresses like Include as stakeholders individuals who are not only responsible for implementing your company's network security but also those individuals who are party to risk management and mitigation.
Without clearly-defined notions of network security and a strict application and traffic policy you intend to enforce, your firewall configuration will end up being little more than an ad hoc and troublesome listing of outbound rules to meet users' perceived needs, instead of a well conceived policy designed to protect the company's resources. Compose a list of the approved Internet-accessible services. If your organization supports services like email and DNS from its own internal servers, compose a list of these services and service hosts domain names and IP addresses.
List any Internet servers these must communicate with. If, for example, you run a split-DNS then include any public servers your DNS server contacts for zone transfers, uses as resolvers, etc. If you intend to implement content exit control at a proxy or firewall, enumerate the types of content you will permit or deny. You many also find it necessary to identify permission sets for user groups if your content exit control is not a "one glove fits all" policy.
Accept the fact that your firewall configuration will deviate from the ideal enforcement policy you develop following this exercise. Such deviations or exceptions may be necessary to accommodate senior management, business relationships, or sometimes for lack of a better or more secure path to completing a critical project. Assess the risk of each deviation, call attention to the security risks inherent in any alteration you are required to make to the firewall's egress policy, and consider how you might compensate by implementing a complementary security measure. The best way to configure egress traffic filtering policies is to begin with a DENY ALL outbound policy, packet filter, or firewall rule.
This creates a "nothing leaves my network without explicit permission" security baseline. Add granular, restrictive rules to allow administrators access to network and security systems outside your firewall. Lastly, add rules to allow servers you operate from your trusted network to communicate with Internet-hosted servers. Let's examine each of these general policies in some detail. In many firewalls, the default egress traffic policy for trusted networks is to allow any source address in outbound packets: literally, if the source address is syntactically correct, your firewall will forward it.
This is overly permissive for any network, large or small. Prune it. List the IP subnet numbers or individual IP addresses of hosts that are authorized trusted to make use of externally hosted services.
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Limit the addresses allowed to send traffic to Internet destinations by configuring policies such as these:. The Nefarious ANY appears again in the default egress traffic policy of firewalls that allow hosts on internal networks to access any service port on Internet hosts if forwarding to the destination is permitted. Limit the destination ports on Internet-directed traffic in the following ways:. Testing and Monitoring Egress Traffic Policies. Firewall configuration testing remains an acquired skill, effectively performed by firewall experts, auditors or security professionals with this special expertise.
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- Secure your core telecom network!
Rigorous logging of denied outbound connections could help identify scofflaws that are either ignorant or defiant of your AUP, as well as provide early warning of infections. Where possible, cause potentially dangerous denied outbound packets to trigger notification for further investigation. When I first wrote this article with Nathan Buff in we concluded that configuring egress traffic policies is admittedly more time consuming than not, and that your organization should rightly assess whether the time invested and the improved risk profile you achieve when you take this initiative is justified.
This was perhaps too soft a sell. Events throughout the past 18 months bear evidence that motives to exfiltrate data will only increase.
I now believe that governments and private organizations are near the tipping point and no longer willing to passively accept the current threat condition but now actively investigating ways to mitigate harm resulting from the lax security practices of others.
It may only be a small matter of time before regulatory compliance or fear of being held contributory to a criminal act or liable for financial loss will drive many organizations to choose to implement stringent egress traffic policies. The original version of this article can be found here. Comments 0. You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post. Posted by:. The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.
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