SSH Access Control Guidelines Released

Thursday, August 28, 2014 @ 02:08 PM gHale

Draft guidelines released for addressing the security risks posed by the use of Secure Shell (SSH) for automated access.

SSH, the cryptographic network protocol used for secure data communication and other secure network services, is utilized by many medium and large enterprises for automated processes such as file transfers, backups, patch management, disaster recovery, provisioning and database updates. The communications protected by SSH are often highly privileged, which makes them a tempting target for attackers.

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Because organizations ignore the security risks, The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released a guide for managing SSH access to sensitive data.

The document discusses the basics of access management and automated access management, SSH version 2.0, vulnerabilities in SSH user key management and mitigations, recommended best practices, risk mitigation for SSH access tokens, and solution planning and deployment.

The authors of the report believe SSH users are most exposed to vulnerable implementations, backdoors to sensitive data created by unaudited user keys, incorrect user key locations and unintended key use, and stolen, leaked and unterminated keys that could lead to weakened process controls over key lifecycle management.

Tatu Ylonen, the inventor of the SSH protocol and one of the authors of the report and is the chief executive at SSH Communications Security, said this is a time for CIOs and CISOs at government agencies and in the commercial sector to assess SSH access control procedures and address potential issues.

“A lack of proper access controls in Secure Shell environments creates a significant security risk for government agencies. Malicious insiders and external attackers can utilize a lost or stolen Secure Shell user key to gain access to critical systems and assets,” Ylonen said.

Public comments for the draft of “Security of Automated Access Management Using Secure Shell” can end up submitted until September 26.

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