Saturday, June 06, 2009

Researching and found an old flamefest spark


Summary: At, there was a discussion on the security forums on how vulnerable Linux was to attacks/malware. Someone didn't like what was being discussed because of typical Linux zealotry. What happened on LQ's forums spilled over into ##slackware on IRC. Dagmar, the instigator of a LOT of bad things that used to happen in ##slackware got perm banned by me. Later, documented in the link above, he is his typical self, not even attempting to objectively explain what the whole thing was about, pretty much slandering me about how flawed my thoughts are on the whole thing and is worrying that I'll propagate bad information.

Let me explain some things about myself. I'm an IT security engineer. I don't just mess with routers and I'm not some glorified network engineer. I'm a senior consultant. I not only consult, I'm able to find "needle-in-the-haystack"-type info using packet-level analysis. Most of what I do requires that I be a jack-of-all-trades in network engineering, but my specialty is security. I'm proficient in utilizing many industry-leading security tools, both freeware and commercial software. I work at a very large ISP/telecom within a large managed security services team. I am THE lead of a government security operations center. We manage well over 100 customers' security posture via firewalls, NIDS, HIDS, and IPS appliances, using ArcSight, an aggregation and correlation tool that is fast becoming the standard in security event monitoring.

Every day, we see machines being compromised...this is nothing new. The compromises span every mainstream OS. This includes Linux. Whether it is kernel level or application level is not the argument. The argument is that Linux is not as rock-solid as everyone makes it out to be. Sure, it has more safeguards than Windows-based systems, but it is still susceptible to application-level exploits. Whether this is a coder issue or PEBKAC/user/admin issue is besides the point.

People need to stop thinking that just because they are running Linux, they are safe. That is NOT the case. This is not paranoia speaking. It is from seeing such things happen on a daily basis during security event monitoring. Due to applications such as PHP-Nuke, it is becoming more difficult to secure back end applications. It is much harder to stop SQL injection than it is to stop SSH brute-forcing, for instance. This isn't the only issue, though. The issue is the perception that because Linux code is open and free, the code base is free of vulnerabilities. That is NOT the case. Also, many people think that a majority of the cracker focus is on Win32 because MS has a majority of the market share. That also is NOT the case. That is a big assumption. milw0rm and other such sites document many *nix-based vulnerabilities, along with Bugtraq at Securityfocus track all vulnerabilities. Sometimes, people justify Linux because its security model is better focused than Win32 systems. It is, but that does not mean that Linux is rock-solid. It has its own faults, whether it is the user, the admin, or the software developer (or even kernel developer).

Dagmar has a habit of blocking out people's opinions and sometimes beating people down with his own. Dagmar thinks he knows security more than anyone else when he's just a developer. I see attacks every day on all types of machines. Some of the attacks are successful. I doubt that Dagmar sees those. Dagmar need not worry about me "propagating" untruth, because what I say IS the truth. All you have to do to see the truth is to research and not be blind to other opinions.

Dagmar also stalked. After the IRC discussion, he began to frequent the LQ security forums and respond to every thread I posted to. He was hardly ever in those forums before then. I noticed this immediately (and also checked). I didn't mind this, but when it spilled back over into IRC, I tired of it and wanted it really had no place in ##slackware and I was fed up with his attitude about the whole thing. I don't suffer drama very well.

Now, Dagmar has been banned several times before for the lack of tact in the way he 'helped' people in ##slackware. He was walking a thin line to begin with. Those with operator status in ##slackware acknowledge that he is knowledgeable, but that is not grounds for him to be dismissed as an abusive ##slackware visitor. Sure enough, he did the same thing with a channel operator (me) and I banned him. I also discussed it with the other operators. The consensus was that he stay banned since his history of being banned was substantial.

That was why he got banned...not because his views went against my own, but because he started regressing back to his former self and became abusive. He did the same in the forums, but I was able to filter his posts from my normal views. As an operator at, I can't and shouldn't filter any visitor from my views in ##slackware, so my only option was to ban him, and like I said before, he'd his own infamous nature that was going against him.

As a security consultant, I'm certainly not going to keep my thoughts quiet about what I think is a disservice to my favorite operating system. I certainly know more than someone who is not a security consultant about IT security...its what I get paid to do and its what I've been doing for years. It's the same as a person who has built his own car, vs. someone who works as a senior Mercedes mechanic.

As much as I can, I tell people that there is NO secure OS. It is only as secure as the admin makes it, and even if the admin puts 100% resources into hardening the box, it will never be 100% secure. The LQ security forums is itself proof that Linux systems get compromised more than most people think. 2-3 times a week, someone reports they've been compromised. There's even 4 threads on Linux-based vulnerabilities:

Kernel Vulns
Mozilla Firefox Vulns
The Problem with PHP Application Security
Failed SSH Login Attempts

I can post a ton of other links but why do this when there is Google?