If you have a device on your network that you do not have root privileges for, then your entire enterprise is at risk for a Cybercrime! Do you want to know what a Trojan horse might look like? It might very well look like a Linux appliance provided by an outside manufacturer, delivered and installed on your network. This might be a network camera, firewall, phone system or monitoring device. As network security professionals we would never allow any device to be connected to our network, in which we did not have root administrative authority. IT Directors who budget for network security, intrusion prevention and detection and apply best practice to the care and feeding of their enterprise networks seem to overlook this very large potential security vulnerability. Every day, new networking equipment, appliances and hosts are connected to your network and nobody every questions the fact that you do not have root authority?
Most of the younger folks carrying an Android device have “rooted” their phone, why? Yet you will allow your company to install equipment for which you do not have root authority? Makes no sense to us? The fact is that most modern VoIP phone systems like those from ShoreTel and CISCO are delivered with key components built on Linux like platforms. These devices are placed on the network inside the firewall and perimeter security devices yet the root privilege is not available to the system owner. A very curious practice, would you not agree? Even if you have no clue about network security and hacking, would you allow someone to come into your place of business and install a “box” for which you have not access rights?
Anyone with root access could easily put programs on that appliance that could act unnoticed by network security devices. No virus protection would take note and the device would have complete access to the entire network. A common and popular hack is the RAT, a Trojan horse that can easily be placed on an unsuspecting users phone, computer, or other network device. These RAT’s or “remote access terminals” can be remotely controlled to turn on you microphone, camera and would have full access to all files and network resources. They become remotely controlled “bots” or computer zombies. The good news is that most modern virus protection will find these RAT’s if they are installed on a host computer. What about that appliance you just added to your network, the one you do not have root access privileges? You would never even know that RAT was there and you do not even have access permission to check!
Business owners, regardless of their personal level of technical savvy, need to question every device installed on their enterprise network. Who owns the box and who administers the box? Do you have root administrative authority on every device in your network? If not, why not?