‫ 10 crazy IT security tricks that actually work

We offer 10 security ideas that have been -and in many cases still are- shunned as too offbeat to work but that function quite effectively in helping secure the company's IT assets.
1: Renaming admins
Renaming privileged accounts to something less obvious than "administrator" is often slammed as a wasteful, "security by obscurity" defense. However, this simple security strategy works. If the attacker hasn't already made it inside your network or host, there's little reason to believe they'll be able to readily discern the new names for your privileged accounts. If they don't know the names, they can't mount a successful password-guessing campaign against them.
Never in the history of automated malware has an attack attempted to use anything but built-in account names. By renaming your privileged accounts, you defeat hackers and malware in one step. Plus, it's easier to monitor and alert on log-on attempts to the original privileged account names when they're no longer in use.
2: Getting rid of admins
Another recommendation is to get rid of all wholesale privileged accounts: administrator, domain admin, enterprise admin, and every other account and group that has built-in, widespread, privileged permissions by default.
When this is suggested, most network administrators laugh and protest, but Microsoft followed this recommendation, disabling local Administrator accounts by default on every version of Windows starting with Vista/Server 2008 and later. Lo and behold, hundreds of millions of computers later, the world hasn't come crashing down.
True, Windows still allows you to create an alternate Administrator account, but today's most aggressive computer security defenders recommend getting rid of all built-in privileged accounts, at least full-time.
3: Honeypots
A honeypot is any computer asset that is set up solely to be attacked. Honeypots have no production value. They sit and wait, and they are monitored. When a hacker or malware touches them, they send an alert to an admin so that the touch can be investigated. They provide low noise and high value.
The shops that use honeypots get notified quickly of active attacks. Still many people are typically incredulous they’re offered honeypots. But sometimes the best thing you can do is to try one.
4: Using nondefault ports
Another technique for minimizing security risk is to install services on nondefault ports. Like renaming privileged accounts, this security-by-obscurity tactic goes gangbusters. When zero-day, remote buffer overflow threats become weaponized by worms, computer viruses, and so on, they always -- and only -- go for the default ports. This is the case for SQL injection surfers, HTTP worms, SSH discoverers, and any other common remote advertising port.
Critics of this method of defense say it's easy for a hacker to find where the default port has been moved, and this is true. All it takes is a port scanner or an application fingerprinter to identify the app running on the nondefault port. In reality, most attacks are automated using malware, which as stated, only go for default ports, and most hackers don't bother to look for nondefault ports.
5: Installing to custom directories
Another security-by-obscurity defense is to install applications to nondefault directories.
This one doesn't work as well as it used to, given that most attacks happen at the application file level today, but it still has value. Like the previous security-by-obscurity recommendations, installing applications to custom directories reduces risk -automated malware almost never looks anywhere but the default directories. If malware is able to exploit your system or application, it will try to manipulate the system or application by looking for default directories. Install your OS or application to a nonstandard directory and you screw up its coding.
6: Tarpits
Worms readily replicate to any system that matches their exploit capabilities. Trapits work by answering connection attempts for addresses not already assigned to legitimate machines. It would then answer and tell the worm to connect, then spend the rest of the time trying to slow down the worm, using various TCP protocol tricks: long timeouts, multiple retransmissions, and so on.
Today, many networks (and honeypots) have tarpit functionality, which answers for any nonvalid connection attempt. When penetration-test these networks, attacks and network sweep scanning attacks slow to a crawl- they're unusable, which is exactly the purpose.
7: Network traffic flow analysis
With foreign hackers abounding, one of the best ways to discover massive data theft is through network traffic flow analysis. Free and commercial software is available to map your network flows and establish baselines for what should be going where. That way, if you see hundreds of gigabytes of data suddenly and unexpectedly heading offshore, you can investigate. Most of the APT attacks would have been recognized months earlier if the victim had an idea of what data should have been going where and when.
8: Screensavers
Password-protected screensavers are a simple technique for minimizing security risk. If the computing device is idle for too long, a screensaver requiring a password kicks in. Long criticized by users who considered them nuisances to their legitimate work, they're now a staple on every computing device, from laptops to slates to mobile phones.
9: Disabling Internet browsing on servers
Most computer risk is incurred by users' actions on the Internet. Organizations that disable Internet browsing or all Internet access on servers that don't need the connections significantly reduce that server's risk to maliciousness. You don't want bored admins picking up their email and posting to social networking sites while they're waiting for a patch to download. Instead, block what isn't needed. For companies using Windows servers, consider disabling UAC (User Account Control) because the risk to the desktop that UAC minimizes isn't there. UAC can cause some security issues, so disabling it while maintaining strong security is a boon for many organizations.
10: Security-minded development
Any organization producing custom code should integrate security practices into its development process -- ensuring that code security will be reviewed and built in from day one in any coding project. Doing so absolutely will reduce the risk of exploitation in your environment.
This practice, sometimes known as SDL (Security Development Lifecycle), differs from educator to educator, but often includes the following tenets: use of secure programming languages; avoidance of knowingly insecure programming functions; code review; penetration testing; and a laundry list of other best practices aimed at reducing the likelihood of producing security bug-ridden code.


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