Security Advisor

Popping the Hood on Kerberos

Plus: Symantec sets up a sting operation to catch the code thieves.

Many of us just go through the motions of work-related duties and never question what exactly is going on. While this may save the headache of trying to fully understand what's going on in the background of your software, if something goes wrong, you're stuck in research crunch mode or stuck on the phone with customer service.

Here to help you out with what makes the Kerberos protocol tick is Redmondmag.com's Geir Olsen, who breaks down exactly what it does and what you need to know.

So what is the Kerberos protocol? It's the Swiss army knife of cyber security. First introduced in Windows 2000, it protects your network from outside attacks, sets up an easy-to-use ticket system for users, authenticates Web apps, and much more.

That all sounds like it's important. And it's also important you know how it does all of these things. "...It's important to have a good understanding of how the Kerberos protocol works and be familiar with the details of the security functions," writes Olsen. "This will help with diagnosing a variety of security issues. In addition, IT professionals should understand how Windows Time Service works because Kerberos security is highly dependent on time services."

So take some time to educate yourself.

How's your general understanding of Kerberos? And how much interaction do you have with it on a daily basis? Let me know at cpaoli@1105media.com.

Symantec Tries To Catch Code Thieves
You've read about Symantec's source code turning up online. You've also read about how other companies jumped on the security firm's bad luck. Now, chapter three focuses on how Symantec tried to catch those responsible for the code theft by trying to negotiate.

Actually, those negotiating with the suspected hackers were none other than law enforcement members. In an e-mail exchange, the hackers holding the code tried to extort $50,000 from what they thought was a Symantec employee. In exchange, they would destroy the stolen code and pronounce to the public that  that they never had it in the first place.

The e-mail exchange, which can be read here, plays out similarly to a typical ransom negotiation in a bad '80s action flick. The demands are made, the cops (pretending not to be the cops) stall for time, the kidnappers grow impatient and hostages are sacrificed (or in this case, the code released in the wild).

Now, as someone who has been following the exploits of Anonymous, believed to be responsible for the code theft, it doesn't really sound like the group's modus operandi -- its attacks are perpetrated for a worthy cause (in its eyes) and it sees it more as a modern-day Robin Hood than a group of two-bit cyber criminals.

Either to cover up its quick grab at cash or to show that money really doesn't mean a thing to Anonymous, a hacker by the user name of Yama Tough told Reuters its intent in the negotiations: "We tricked them into offering us a bribe so we could humiliate them."

Another interesting tidbit in the e-mail exchange is that the group plans to release code for other Symantec products, including Norton AntiVirus, in the near future.

About the Author

Chris Paoli is the site producer for Redmondmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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