2014-03-09

My Computer Security Failures

I'm a security-concious guy, but I have screwed up before.  Here are my security failures over time that I know about:


1994: I downloaded and executed a program from the Internet.  The program spun through the Windows 3.11-based system, overwriting all files.  This resulted in significant data loss.

Root cause: User trusted untrustworthy software.  User failed to back up system.


2001: Fell victim to an SSH exploit on my Linux-based router machine.  The machine was compromised by a remote attacker and used to send spam.  The machine needed to be wiped and reloaded.

Root cause: Zero-day exploit vulnerability, and/or failure to keep on top of security patches.


2006: I gave administrative rights to my brother's au pair's Windows XP-based PC, under pressure from the au-pair who wanted to install software.  The machine was quickly overwhelmed by malware despite anti-virus practices.  The machine was kept in service after significant cleanup.

Root cause: The platform assumed users would need powerful privileges; administrator inappropriately complied.


2008: My account at a popular Internet Service, Twitter, was compromised and misused.

Root cause: I followed poor password management practices: I re-used an identical username/password pair with multiple service providers for accounts "I didn't care about".


2008: Unprivileged Mac OS X user account was compromised remotely over SSH via brute force, due to simple username and matching simple password.

Root cause: Administrator enabled remote SSH access but failed to restrict ssh access to specific accounts.


2014: Wireless access point unsecured, resulting in open network access over-the-air.

Root cause: Administrator created a second wireless SSID without properly securing it.

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