UK admins lack skills to spot hackers, says pentest expert

SANS course to address lack of knowledge

Many UK admins lack the skills, resources and time necessary to keep firewalls secure from well-drilled hackers, one of the country's loading penetration testing experts has claimed while launching a new defence training course.

The problems start with expert oversight of the firewall and Intrusion Detection System (IDS) logs, said former head of penetration testing at the Royal Air Airforce, Steve Armstrong, who will lead the new SANS course, 464 Hacker Detection for Systems Administrators.

Of the last 20 incidents his SANS team had been called to look at, 95 percent showed clear evidence of trouble once the logs were studied with care.

"In many cases, it is often an admin who has a 'gut feeling' that calls us in but when we start digging, the full extent of the breach is normally far worse than initially suspected," said Armstrong.

"We go in, look at the logs and can quickly see clear evidence of the problem but there has either been a failure to spot it or not enough resource assigned to look for the evidence."

A year or two ago, Armstrong's assessment would have been seen as the sort of scaremongering designed to generate business for a company offering pricey training course but the atmosphere has recently changed.

With reports of incursions behind the firewalls of even the best-defended companies now routine, companies are taking the issue more seriously. The hackers are simply getting more sophisticated, according to Armstrong, and attacks are seen not simply as possible but as likely.

"The IT vendors keep on telling us how great the tools to spot problems are but they are certainly not foolproof. They can also be circumvented by criminals who know what they are doing," he said.

It's not clear that going on a defence course will always stop attacks getting through the security layer but what it will do is make it easier to spot when something has gone wrong. It is an issue of visibility.

A deeper theme that no course can address, however, is whether conventional perimeter security is enough of a barrier any longer. Firewalls were invented to look at packets, protocols and software ports; today's security is oriented towards protecting data, something such firewalling can't directly defend unless it has had an application filtering layer bolted on.

The 464 course will be on the timetable for SANS 2011 London between 3 and 12 December, a two-day event backed up with four quarterly threat and tool briefings. More information can be found on the SANS website.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags infrastructuresecuritypublic sector

More about Intrusion

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by John E Dunn

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place