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SSH keys are security Achilles Heel for most organisations

24/02/2014 by


Most organisations have insufficient security controls against rogue, root-level access and cyber-attacks. That is the finding of a new study from the Ponemon Institute, “2014 SSH Security Vunerability Report: Information Technology’s Dirty Secret and Open Backdoors.”

The report was underwritten by Venafi, a leading cybersecurity company in Next-Generation Trust Protection applications.

How bad is the problem? Unprotected SSH (secure shell) cryptographic keys make nearly every enterprise server, virtual machine and cloud service vulnerable to cyberattacks, the report says.

Consider some study findings:

Three out of four enterprises have no security controls for SSH, which provides cyber attackers with root access
Over half of enterprises acknowledge that their organizations have already experienced an SSH-related compromise
Yet 46 percent of enterprises do not rotate or change SSH keys, in spite of the fact that SSH keys never expire, which means this represents a perpetual vulnerability
According to the report highlights, “cybercriminals are exploiting the lack of visibility and control over SSH keys used to authenticate administrators, servers and clouds.” In fact, 46 percent of the 1,854 IT professionals surveyed said their servers and networks are left open and can be owned forever by attackers because they fail to rotate SSH keys.

“Not surprisingly, 51 percent of organizations reported already being breached by an attack using SSH,” the study noted.

The bad news get worse, the report says, since this vulnerability has not gone unnoticed.

“The recently uncovered Mask operation steals SSH keys to impersonate, surveil, collect, and decrypt its target’s communications and data. If SSH keys are not replaced after intrusions like the Mask attacks, enterprise networks remain owned by the attackers,” the report said.

A majority of organizations would also have little way of knowing if they have been the victim of an attack initially. 60 percent of respondents said they could not detect rogue SSH keys on their network since their system administrators use manual processes to monitor and police SSH keys.

“Global organizations are under attack, and the attackers are more dangerous and persistent than ever,” the report said. “Armed with a litany of next-generation cybercrime tools, they’re vastly different from yester-year hackers and better enabled with targeted and persistent tools.”, please click on this link to read the article in full

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