Mission and Definitions - Network Security Overview - Introduction To Network Security: Theory And Practice (2015)

Introduction To Network Security: Theory And Practice (2015)

Chapter 1. Network Security Overview

If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will win hundred times in hundred battles. If you know yourself but not your enemies, you will suffer a defeat for every victory won. If you do not know yourself or your enemies, you will always lose.

—Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”

The goal of network security is to give people the freedom to enjoy computer networks without the fear of compromising their rights and interests. Network security therefore needs to guard networked computer systems and protect electronic data that is either stored in networked computers or transmitted in the networks. The Internet, which is built on the IP communication protocols, has become the dominant computer network technology. It interconnects millions of computers and edge networks into one immense network system. The Internet is a public network, where individuals or organizations can easily become subscribers of the Internet service by connecting their own computers and networking devices (e.g., routers and sniffers) to the Internet and paying a small subscription fee.

Because IP is a store-forward switching technology, where data is transmitted using routers controlled by other people, user A can read user B's data that goes through user A's network equipment. Likewise, user A's data transmitted in the Internet may also be read by user B. Hence, any individual or any organization may become an attacker, a target, or both. Even if one does not want to attack other people, it is still possible that one's networked computers may be compromised into becoming an attacking tool. Therefore, to achieve the goal of network security, one must first understand the attackers, what could become their targets, and how these targets might be attacked.

1.1 Mission and Definitions

The tasks of network security are to provide confidentiality, integrity, nonrepudiation, and availability of useful data that are transmitted in public networks or stored in networked computers.

The concept of data has a broad sense in the context of network security. Any object that can be processed or executed by computers is data. Thus, source code, executable code, files in various formats, email messages, digital music, digital graphics, and digital video are each considered data. Data should be read, written, or modified only by legitimate users. That is, unauthorized individuals or organizations are not allowed to have access to data.

Just as CPU, RAM, hard disk, and network bandwidth are resources, data is also a resource. Data is sometimes referred to as information or messages.

Each piece of data has two possible states, namely, the transmission state and the storage state. Data in the transmission state is simply data in the process of being delivered to a network destination. Data in the storage state is that which is stored in a local computer or in a storage device. Thus, the meanings of data confidentiality and data integrity have the following two aspects:

1. Provide and maintain the confidentiality and integrity of data that is in the transmission state. In this sense, confidentiality means that data during transmission cannot be read by any unauthorized user, and integrity means that data during transmission cannot be modified or fabricated by any unauthorized user.

2. Provide and maintain the confidentiality and integrity of data that is in the storage state. Within this state, confidentiality means that data stored in a local device cannot be read by any unauthorized user through a network, and integrity means that data stored in a local device cannot be modified or fabricated by any unauthorized user through a network.

Data nonrepudiation means that a person who owns the data has no way to convince other people that he or she does not own it.

Data availability means that attackers cannot block legitimate users from using available resources and services of a networked computer. For example, a computer system infected with a virus should be able to detect and disinfect the virus without much delay, and a server hit by denial of service attacks should still be able to provide services to its users.

Unintentional components in protocol specifications, protocol implementations, or other types of software that are exploitable by attackers are often referred to as loopholes, flaws, or defects. They might be an imperfect minor step in a protocol design, an unforeseen side effect of a certain instruction in a program, or a misconfigured setting in a system.

Defense is the guiding principle of network security, but it is a passive defense because before being attacked, the victim has no idea who the attackers are and from which computers in the jungle of the Internet the attackers will launch their attacks. After a victim is attacked, even if the attacker's identity and computer system are known, the victim still cannot launch a direct assault at the attacker, for such actions may be unlawful. What constitutes legal actions against attackers involves a discussion of relevant laws, which is beyond the scope of this book. Therefore, although offense may be the best defense in military operations, this tactic may not apply to network security. Building a deep layered defense system is instead the best possible defense tactic in network security. Within this type of defense system, multiple layers of defense mechanisms are used to resist possible attacks.

Network security is a major part of information security. In addition to network security, information security deals with many other security issues, including security policies, security auditing, security assessment, trusted operating systems, database security, secure code, emergency response, computer forensics, software forensics, disaster recovery, and security training.

· Security policies are special rules to protect a computer network system against security attacks. For example, security policies may specify what types of data are to be protected, who should be given the access right of read from or write to the data, and how the data should flow from one place to the next.

· Security auditing is a procedure of checking how well the security policies for a particular computer network system are followed. It may be a manual procedure or an automated procedure run by software tools.

· Security assessment is a procedure of determining the security needs of a particular system, measuring the strength and weakness of the existing security policies, and assessing whether the security policies are reasonable and whether security loopholes exist.

· A trusted operating system is an operating system without any security flaws or loopholes in system designs, computing resource management, software implementations, and configurations.

· Database security is a set of security measures specifically devised for database systems, specifying which data fields are accessible by which level of users.

· Secure software is software that contains no security flaws, loopholes, or side effects.

· Intrusion response is a set of actions that should take place when a computer network system is detected being intruded by intruders.

· Cyber forensics studies how to collect information of user activities from computer systems and network communications, providing evidence to indict cyber criminals. Cyber forensics can be further divided into computer forensics and network forensics.

· Disaster recovery is a set of mechanisms to bring a computer system that goes down because of attacks or natural disasters back to a working status.

This book does not cover these issues, but it may touch certain aspects of them.