Information Security: Technologies to Secure Federal Systems	 
(09-MAR-04, GAO-04-467).					 
Federal agencies rely extensively on computerized information	 
systems and electronic data to carry out their missions. The	 
security of these systems and date is essential to preventing	 
data tampering, disruptions in critical operations, fraud, and	 
inappropriate disclosure of sensitive information. Congress and  
the executive branch have taken actions to address this 	 
challenge, such as enacting and implementing the Federal	 
Information Security Management Act (FISMA). FISMA and other	 
federal guidance discuss the need for specific technical controls
to secure information systems. In order to meet the requirements 
of FISMA to effectively implement these technical controls, it is
critical that federal agencies consider whether they have	 
adequately implemented available cybersecurity technologies. GAO 
was asked by the Chairman of the House Committee on Government	 
Reform and its Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy,	 
Intergovernmental Relations and the Census to identify		 
commercially available, state-of-the-practice cybersecurity	 
technologies that federal agencies can use to defend their	 
computer systems against cyber attacks. 			 
-------------------------Indexing Terms------------------------- 
REPORTNUM:   GAO-04-467 					        
    ACCNO:   A09442						        
  TITLE:     Information Security: Technologies to Secure Federal     
     DATE:   03/09/2004 
  SUBJECT:   Agency missions					 
	     Computer security					 
	     Federal agencies					 
	     Information resources management			 
	     Information systems				 
	     Information technology				 
	     Internal controls					 
	     Security operations				 

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United States General Accounting Office


                       Report to Congressional Requesters

March 2004


                     Technologies to Secure Federal Systems


Highlights of GAO-04-467, a report to Congressional Requesters

Federal agencies rely extensively on computerized information systems and
electronic data to carry out their missions. The security of these systems
and data is essential to preventing data tampering, disruptions in
critical operations, fraud, and inappropriate disclosure of sensitive

March 2004


Technologies to Secure Federal Systems

Many cybersecurity technologies offered in today's marketplace can serve
as safeguards and countermeasures to protect agencies' information
technology infrastructures. To assist agencies in identifying and
selecting such technologies, we have categorized specific technologies
according to the control functionality they provide and described what the
technologies do, how they work, and their reported effectiveness. The
following table defines these five control categories:

Cybersecurity Control Categories

                     Control category Control functionality

Congress and the executive branch have taken actions to address this
challenge, such as enacting and implementing the Federal Information
Security Management Act (FISMA). FISMA and other federal guidance discuss
the need for specific technical controls to secure information systems. In
order to meet the requirements of FISMA to effectively implement these
technical controls, it is critical that federal agencies consider whether
they have adequately implemented available cybersecurity technologies.

GAO was asked by the Chairmen of the House Committee on Government Reform
and its Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental
Relations and the Census to identify commercially available,
state-ofthe-practice cybersecurity technologies that federal agencies can
use to defend their computer systems against cyber attacks.

Restrict the ability of unknown or unauthorized users to view or use
Access controls information, hosts, or networks. Ensures that a system and
its data are not illicitly modified or System integrity corrupted by
malicious code.

Includes encryption of data during transmission and when stored on

a system. Encryption is the process of transforming ordinary data

into code form so that the information is accessible only to those
Cryptography who are authorized to have access. Help administrators to
perform investigations during and after a Audit and monitoring cyber

Help administrators view and change the security settings on their
Configuration management hosts and networks, verify the correctness of
security settings, and and assurance maintain operations in a secure
fashion under conditions of duress.

Source: GAO analysis.

We identified 18 technologies that are available within these categories,
including smart tokens-which establish users' identities through an
integrated circuit chip in a portable device such as a smart card or a
timesynchronized token-and security event correlation tools-which monitor
and document actions on network devices and analyze the actions to
determine if an attack is ongoing or has occurred.

The selection and effective implementation of cybersecurity technologies
require adequate consideration of a number of key factors, including:

o  	implementing technologies through a layered, defense-in-depth

o  	considering the agency's unique information technology infrastructure
when selecting technologies;

o  	utilizing results of independent testing when assessing the
technologies' capabilities;

o  	training staff on the secure implementation and utilization of these
technologies; and

o  ensuring that the technologies are securely configured.

To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click on
the link above. For more information, contact Robert F. Dacey at (202)
512-3317 or [email protected]


     Letter                                                                 1 
                          Cybersecurity Technologies Overview               1 
                                       Background                           2 
                        Effective Implementation of Commercially Available 
                                   Can Mitigate Risks                       9 
                   Implementation Considerations Should Be Addressed       74 
Appendix I              Objective, Scope, and Methodology               

  Appendix II 	Staff Acknowledgments 83 Acknowledgments 83

                      Table 1: Cybersecurity Control Categories             2 
                Table 2: Cybersecurity Technology Control Categories and 
                                    Technologies                           12 


Figure 1: Typical IT Infrastructure
Figure 2: A Typical Firewall Protecting Hosts on a Private Network

from the Public Network Figure 3: How a Web Filter Works Figure 4: An
Example of Fingerprint Recognition Technology Built

into a Keyboard Figure 5: An Example of Fingerprint Recognition Technology

into a Mouse Figure 6: A Desktop Iris Recognition System Figure 7: Example
of a Time-Synchronized Token Figure 8: Example of a Challenge-Response
Token Figure 9: Encryption and Decryption with a Symmetric Algorithm
Figure 10: Encryption and Decryption with a Public Key Algorithm Figure
11: Creating a Digital Signature Figure 12: Verifying a Digital Signature
Figure 13: Illustration of a Typical VPN Figure 14: Tunneling Establishes
a Virtual Connection Figure 15: Typical Operation of Security Event
Correlation Tools


                                     15 22


27 28 32 32 41 42 46 47 48 50 57

Figure 16: Typical Network Management Architecture 65
Figure 17: Example of a Vulnerability Scanner Screen
Figure 18: Layered Approach to Network Security 76



CMIP common management information protocol
COTS commercial off-the-shelf
DHCP dynamic host configuration protocol
DSL digital subscriber line
FISMA Federal Information Security Management Act
GISRA Government Information Security Reform provisions
HTML Hypertext Markup Language
ID identification
IDS intrusion detection system
IP Internet protocol
IPS intrusion prevention system
IPSec Internet protocol security protocol
ISP Internet service provider
IT information technology
LAN local area network
NAT network address translation
NIAP National Information Assurance Partnership
NIPC National Infrastructure Protection Center
NIST National Institute of Standards and Technology
NSA National Security Agency
OMB Office of Management and Budget
PC personal computer
PIN personal identification number
PKI public key infrastructure
RADIUS Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service
RAID redundant array of independent disks
SNMP simple network management protocol
SSL Secure Sockets Layer
TACACS+ Terminal Access Controller Access System
TCP transmission control protocol
UDP user datagram protocol
VPN virtual private network
WAN wide area network
XML Extensible Markup Language

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United States General Accounting Office Washington, DC 20548

March 9, 2004

The Honorable Tom Davis
Chairman, Committee on Government Reform
House of Representatives

The Honorable Adam Putnam
Chairman, Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy,

Intergovernmental Relations and the Census Committee on Government Reform
House of Representatives

Federal agencies rely extensively on computerized information systems and
electronic data to carry out their missions. The security of these systems
and data is essential to preventing data tampering, disruptions in
critical operations, fraud, and inappropriate disclosure of sensitive
information. In accordance with your request, our objective was to
identify commercially available, state-of-the-practice cybersecurity
technologies that federal agencies can use to defend their computer
systems against cyber attacks.1 We developed a catalog that lists these
technologies and describes them according to the functionality they
provide. The discussion of each technology is technical in nature and is
intended to assist agencies in identifying and selecting cybersecurity
technologies that can be deployed. Appendix I contains a detailed
description of our objective, scope, and methodology.

Cybersecurity There are many cybersecurity technologies offered in today's

that can serve as safeguards and countermeasures to protect agencies'
Technologies information technology (IT) infrastructures. We identify 18
technologies Overview and describe what they do, how they work, and their

1It is important to note that physical security and cybersecurity are
intertwined, and both are necessary to achieve overall security. Physical
security typically involves protecting any physical asset-from entire
buildings to computer hardware-from physical attacks, whereas
cybersecurity usually focuses on protecting software and data from attacks
that are electronic in nature and that typically arrive over a data
communication link.

      effectiveness. These technologies can be categorized by the control
     functionality they provide. Table 1 defines these control categories:

Table 1: Cybersecurity Control Categories

                     Control category Control functionality

Access controls	Restrict the ability of unknown or unauthorized users to
view or use information, hosts, or networks.

System integrity 	Ensures that a system and its data are not illicitly
modified or corrupted by malicious code.

Cryptography 	Includes encryption of data during transmission and when
stored on a system. Encryption is the process of transforming ordinary
data into code form so that the information is accessible only to those
who are authorized to have access.

Audit and monitoring 	Help administrators to perform investigations during
and after a cyber attack.

Configuration Help administrators view and change the security settings on
management and their hosts and networks, verify the correctness of
security assurance settings, and maintain operations in a secure fashion

                             conditions of duress.


Source: GAO analysis.

The selection and effective implementation of cybersecurity technologies
require adequate consideration of several key factors, including
considering the agency's unique IT infrastructure and utilizing a layered,
defense-in-depth strategy.

Information security is an important consideration for any organization
that depends on information systems to carry out its mission. The dramatic
expansion in computer interconnectivity and the exponential increase in
the use of the Internet are changing the way our government, the nation,
and much of the world communicate and conduct business. However, without
proper safeguards, the speed and accessibility that create the enormous
benefits of the computer age may allow individuals and groups with
malicious intentions to gain unauthorized access to systems and use this
access to obtain sensitive information, commit fraud, disrupt operations,
or launch attacks against other organizations' sites.

Experts agree that there has been a steady advance in the sophistication
and effectiveness of attack technology. Intruders quickly develop attacks
to exploit the vulnerabilities discovered in products, use these attacks
to compromise computers, and share them with other attackers. In addition,
they can combine these attacks with other forms of technology to develop

programs that automatically scan a network for vulnerable systems, attack
them, compromise them, and use them to spread the attack even further.
These attack tools have become readily available, and can be easily
downloaded from the Internet and, with a simple "point and click," used to
launch an attack.

Government officials are concerned about attacks from individuals and
groups with malicious intent, such as crime, terrorism, foreign
intelligence gathering, and acts of war. According to the Federal Bureau
of Investigation, terrorists, transnational criminals, and intelligence
services are quickly becoming aware of and using information exploitation
tools such as computer viruses, Trojan horses, worms, logic bombs, and
eavesdropping sniffers that can destroy, intercept, degrade the integrity
of, or deny access to data.2 In addition, the disgruntled organization
insider is a significant threat, since such individuals often have
knowledge that allows them to gain unrestricted access and inflict damage
or steal assets without possessing a great deal of knowledge about
computer intrusions. As greater amounts of money and more sensitive
economic and commercial information are exchanged electronically, and as
the nation's defense and intelligence communities increasingly rely on
standardized information technology, the likelihood increases that
information attacks will threaten vital national interests.

According to the National Security Agency (NSA), foreign governments
already have or are developing computer attack capabilities, and potential
adversaries are developing a body of knowledge about U.S. systems and
about methods to attack these systems. In his February 2002 statement
before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the Director of
Central Intelligence discussed the possibility of a cyber warfare attack

2Virus: a program that "infects" computer files, usually executable
programs, by inserting a copy of itself into the file. These copies are
usually executed when the infected file is loaded into memory, allowing
the virus to infect other files. Unlike the computer worm, a virus
requires human involvement (usually unwitting) to propagate. Trojan horse:
a computer program that conceals harmful code. A Trojan horse usually
masquerades as a useful program that a user would wish to execute. Worm:
an independent computer program that reproduces by copying itself from one
system to another across a network. Unlike computer viruses, worms do not
require human involvement to propagate. Logic bomb: in programming, a form
of sabotage in which a programmer inserts code that causes the program to
perform a destructive action when some triggering event, such as
termination of the programmer's employment, occurs. Sniffer:synonymous
with packet sniffer. A program that intercepts routed data and examines
each packet in search of specified information, such as passwords
transmitted in clear text.

terrorists.3 He stated that the September 11, 2001, attacks demonstrated
the nation's dependence on critical infrastructure systems that rely on
electronic and computer networks. He noted that attacks of this nature
would become an increasingly viable option for terrorists as they and
other foreign adversaries become more familiar with these targets and the
technologies required to attack them.

In 2003, the Federal Computer Incident Response Center documented
1,433,916 cybersecurity incidents related to systems at federal agencies
and departments-compared with 489,890 incidents in 2002.4 This dramatic
increase may be related to the military actions taken by the United States
against Iraq in 2003. According to the Department of Homeland Security's
National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC), illegal cyber activity
often escalates during a time of increased international tension. This
kind of activity can be state sponsored or encouraged and can come from
domestic organizations or individuals acting independently or from
sympathetic entities around the world who view their actions as a form of
political activism. In February 2003, NIPC issued an advisory on the
increase in global hacking activities as a result of the growing tensions
between the United States and Iraq, warning computer users and system
administrators of the potential for increased cyber disruption. NIPC
advised owners and operators of computers and networked systems to limit
potential problems by using security best practices.5

Since September 1996, we have reported that poor information security is a
widespread problem in the federal government with potentially devastating
consequences.6 We have identified information security as a
government-wide high-risk issue in reports to Congress since 1997-most

3Testimony of George J. Tenet, Director of Central Intelligence, before
the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Feb. 6, 2002.

4The Federal Computer Incident Response Center tracks a variety of
incident types such as root compromise, user compromise, denial of
service, malicious code, Web site defacement, misuse of resources, and
reconnaissance activity.

5U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Encourages Heightened Cyber
Security as Iraq-U.S. Tensions Increase, Advisory 03-002 (February 11,

6U.S. General Accounting Office, InformationSecurity: Opportunities for
ImprovedOMB Oversight ofAgency Practices; GAO/AIMD-96-110 (Washington,
D.C.: September 24, 1996).

recently in January 2003.7 Although agencies have taken steps to redesign
and strengthen their information system security programs, our analyses of
major federal agencies have shown that federal systems have not been
adequately protected from computer-based threats, even though these
systems process, store, and transmit enormous amounts of sensitive data
and are indispensable to many agencies' operations. For the past several
years, we have analyzed audit results for 24 of the largest federal
agencies and we have found that all 24 had significant information
security weaknesses.8

Federal Legislation Emphasizes Computer Security

Concerned with accounts of attacks on systems via the Internet and reports
of significant weaknesses in federal computer systems that make them
vulnerable to attack, in October 2000 Congress passed and the President
signed into law Government Information Security Reform provisions
(commonly known as GISRA). 9 To strengthen information security practices
throughout the federal government, GISRA established information security
program, evaluation, and reporting requirements for federal agencies.

In December 2002, the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA),
enacted as Title III of the E-Government Act of 2002, permanently
authorized and strengthened GISRA requirements.10 FISMA requires each
agency to develop, document, and implement an agencywide

7U.S. General Accounting Office, High-RiskSeries:
ProtectingInformationSystems SupportingtheFederal Government and
theNation'sCriticalInfrastructures, GAO-03-121 (Washington, D.C.: January

8U.S. General Accounting Office, Information Security:Serious Weaknesses
Place Critical Federal Operations and Assets at Risk, GAO/AIMD-98-92
(Washington, D.C.: September 23, 1998); Information
Security:SeriousandWidespreadWeaknesses Persist at Federal
AgenciesGAO/AIMD-00-295 (Washington, D.C.: September 6, 2000); Computer
Security: ImprovementsNeeded to Reduce Risk toCritical Federal Operations
and Assets, GAO-02-231T (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 9, 2001);
ComputerSecurity: ProgressMade,but Critical Federal Operations and Assets
Remain at Risk, GAO-02-303T (Washington, D.C.: November 19, 2002); and
Information Security: ProgressMade,butChallengesRemain to Protect
FederalSystems and the Nation's Critical Infrastructures, GAO-03-564T
(Washington, D.C.: April 8, 2003).

9Government Information Security Reform, Title X, Subtitle G, Floyd D.
Spence National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001,P.L.
106-398, October 30, 2000.

10Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002, Title III,
E-Government Act of 2002,P.L. 107-347, December 17, 2002. This act
superseded an earlier version of FISMA that was enacted as Title X of the
Homeland Security Act of 2002.

information security program to provide information security for the
information and systems that support the operations and assets of the
agency, using a risk-based approach to information security management. In
addition, FISMA requires the National Institute of Standards and
Technology (NIST) to develop risk-based minimum information security
standards for systems other than those dealing with national security. The
Cyber Security Research and Development Act requires NIST to develop, and
revise as necessary, checklists providing suggested configurations that
minimize the security risks associated with each computer hardware or
software system that is, or is likely to become, widely used within the
federal government.11

A Comprehensive Information Security Management Program Is Essential

FISMA recognized that the underlying cause for the majority of security
problems in federal agencies is the lack of an effective information
security management program. No matter how sophisticated technology
becomes, it will never solve management issues. Furthermore, because of
the vast differences in types of federal systems and the variety of risks
associated with each of them, there is no single approach to security that
will be effective for all systems. Therefore, following basic risk
management steps is fundamental to determining security priorities and
implementing appropriate solutions.

Our May 1998 study of security management best practices determined that a
comprehensive information security management program is essential to
ensuring that information system controls work effectively on a continuing
basis.12 The effective implementation of appropriate, properly designed
security controls is an essential element for ensuring the
confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the information that is
transmitted, processed, and stored on agencies' IT infrastructures. Weak
security controls can expose information to an increased risk of
unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, and

An effective program should establish a framework and a continuing cycle
of activity for assessing risk, developing and implementing effective
security procedures, and monitoring the effectiveness of these procedures.

11Cyber Security Research and Development Act, P.L. 107-305, November 27,

12U.S. General Accounting Office, Information SecurityManagement:
Learningfrom Leading Organizations; GAO/AIMD-98-68 (Washington, D.C.: May
1, 1998).

The recently enacted FISMA, consistent with our study, describes certain
key elements of a comprehensive information security management program.
These elements include

o  	a senior agency information security officer with the mission and
resources to ensure FISMA compliance;

o  	periodic assessments of the risk and magnitude of the harm that could
result from the unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption,
modification, or destruction of information and information systems;

o  	policies and procedures that (1) are based on risk assessments, (2)
costeffectively reduce risks, (3) ensure that information security is
addressed throughout the life cycle of each system, and (4) ensure
compliance with applicable requirements;

o  	security awareness training to inform personnel, including contactors
and other users of information systems, of information security risks and
their responsibilities in complying with agency policies and procedures;

o  	at least annual testing and evaluation of the effectiveness of
information security policies, procedures, and practices relating to
management, operational, and technical controls of every major information
system that is identified in agencies' inventories.

Federal Government Is Taking Actions to Implement FISMA and Improve
Information Security

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and NIST have taken a number of
actions to implement FISMA and improve information security. Preceding
FISMA, OMB issued Circular A-130, Management ofFederal Resources, Appendix
III, "Security of Federal Information Resources," which establishes a
minimum set of controls that agencies must include in their information
security programs. NIST continues to publish guidance for improving
information security, in addition to developing the minimum standards
required by FISMA.13 The administration has undertaken other important
actions to improve information security, such as integrating information
security into the President's Management Agenda Scorecard and issuing
annual reports on the implementation of GISRA (and now FISMA) that
analyzed federal government's information security challenges.

13See NIST's FISMA Implementation Project Web site at

In addition, OMB has provided annual guidance to agencies on how to
implement GISRA and FISMA.14 For the last 2 years, this guidance has
instructed agencies to use NIST Special Publication 800-26, Security
Self-AssessmentGuide for Information Technology Systems, to conduct their
annual reviews. This guide builds on the FederalITSecurity Assessment
Framework,which NIST developed for the Federal Chief Information Officer
Council. The framework includes guidelines for assessing agencies'
implementations of specific technical controls such as antivirus software,
technologies to ensure data integrity, intrusion detection tools,
firewalls, and audit and monitoring tools. In the meantime, NIST, as
required by FISMA, has been working to develop specific cybersecurity
standards and guidelines for federal information systems, including

o  	standards to be used by all federal agencies to categorize all
information and information systems based on the objective of providing
appropriate levels of information security according to a range of risk

o  	guidelines recommending the types of information and information
systems to include in each category; and

o  	minimum information security requirements for information and
information systems in each category.

NIST issued the first of these required documents, Standards for Security
Categorization of Federal Information and Information Systems, Federal
Information Processing Standards Publication 199 (commonly referred to as
FIPS 199) in December 2003. Drafts of additional standards and guidelines
were recently released for public comment.15

FIPS 199 established three levels of potential impact of cyber attacks on
organizations or individuals-low, moderate, and high-and categorized
information and information systems with respect to three security

14See Office of Management and Budget, Memorandum for Headsof Executive
Departmentsand Agencies, M-03-19 (Washington, D.C.: August 6, 2003) for
OMB's 2003 FISMA reporting guidance.

15National Institute of Standards and Technology, Guide for Mapping
TypesofInformation and Information Systemsto Security Categories, NIST
Special Publication 800-60, Initial Public Draft, Version 1.0 (December
2003) and National Institute of Standards and
Technology,RecommendedSecurity ControlsforFederal InformationSystems,NIST
Special Publication 800-53, Initial Public Draft, Version 1.0 (October

objectives-confidentiality, integrity, and availability.16 NIST recommends
that three general classes of security controls be employed-management,
operational, and technical-to support these security objectives. The
number and type of controls should be commensurate with the level of
potential impact. Technical controls recommended by NIST should address
identification and authentication, logical access control, accountability,
and system communications protection.

Effective Implementation of Commercially Available Technologies Can
Mitigate Risks

To fulfill the requirements of FISMA and effectively implement the
technical controls discussed above, it is critical that federal agencies
consider whether they have adequately implemented available technologies.
A plethora of cybersecurity technologies offered in today's marketplace
can serve as safeguards and countermeasures to protect agencies' IT
infrastructures. To assist agencies in identifying and considering the
need to further implement such technologies, this document provides a
structured discussion of commercially available, state-of-the-practice
cybersecurity technologies that federal agencies can use to secure their
computer systems. It also discusses cybersecurity implementation

Typically, agencies' infrastructures are built upon multiple hosts,
including desktop personal computers (PCs), servers, and mainframes. Data
communications links and network devices such as routers, hubs, and
switches enable the hosts to communicate with one another through local
area networks (LANs) within agencies. Wide area networks (WANs) connect
LANs at different geographical locations. Moreover, agencies are typically
connected to the Internet-the worldwide collection of networks, operated
by some 10,000 Internet service providers (ISP). An example of a typical
IT infrastructure is illustrated in figure 1.

16Confidentiality refers to preserving authorized restrictions on
information access and disclosure, including the means for protecting
personal privacy and proprietary information. Integrity refers to guarding
against improper modification or destruction of information, including
ensuring information nonrepudiation and authenticity. Availability refers
to ensuring timely and reliable access to and use of information.

Figure 1: Typical IT Infrastructure

Remote users


Other business partners

Source: GAO.


Router Firewall Router

Router External

servers (Web, mail, etc.)

Local area network (LAN)

Desktop PCs Printers Servers LAN

Desktop PCs Printers Servers LAN

Desktop PCs Printers Servers

Remote Router access server

Remote dial-in Wide area users network (WAN)

                                 Remote offices

Commercially available cybersecurity technologies can be deployed to
protect each of these components. These technologies implement the
technical controls that NIST recommends federal agencies deploy in order
to effectively meet federal requirements. They can be used to test
effectiveness of the controls directly, monitor compliance with agency
policies, and account for and analyze security incidents. In addition,
current technologies can significantly assist an agency in reassessing
previously identified risks, identifying new problem areas, reassessing

appropriateness of existing controls and security-related activities,
identifying the need for new controls, and redirecting subsequent
monitoring efforts.

Cybersecurity Technologies Can Be Categorized by Control Functionality

We enumerate cybersecurity technologies in a framework that is based on
the five general categories of controls related to the security service or
functionality that available technologies provide:

1. 	Access controls restrict the ability of unknown or unauthorized users
to view or use information, hosts, or networks. Access control
technologies can help protect sensitive data and systems.

2. 	System integrity controls are used to ensure that a system and its
data are not illicitly modified or corrupted by malicious code.

3. 	Cryptography controls include encryption of data during transmission
and when data are stored on a system. Encryption is the process of
transforming ordinary data into code form so that the information is
accessible only to those who are authorized to have access.

4. 	Audit and monitoring controls help administrators to perform
investigations during and after an attack.

5. 	Configuration management and assurance controls help administrators to
view and change the security settings on their hosts and networks, verify
the correctness of security settings, and maintain operations in a secure
fashion under duress conditions.

We frame our discussions of specific technologies around these categories.
We introduce each general category and describe how the technologies work
and their reported effectiveness. Table 2 lists the five control
categories and a brief description of the technologies that support these

Table 2: Cybersecurity Technology Control Categories and Technologies Technology
                          What it does Access control

Boundary protection Firewalls Control access to and from a network or computer.

Content management 	Monitors Web and messaging applications for
inappropriate content, including spam, banned file types, and proprietary

Authentication   Biometrics    Uses human characteristics, such as         
                                  fingerprints, irises, and voices, to        
                                      establish the identity of the user.     
                   Smart tokens   Establish identity of users through an      
                                  integrated circuit chip in a portable       
                                       device, such as a smart card or a      
                                           time-synchronized token.           
Authorization                    Allow or prevent access to data, systems, 
                  User rights and           and actions of users based on the 

        privileges established policies of an organization. certificates

System integrity Antivirus software  Provides protection against malicious 
                                           computer code, such as viruses,    
                                              worms, and Trojan horses.       
                                        Monitor alterations to files that are 
                    Integrity checkers        considered critical to an       
                                        Use public key cryptography to        
                     Digital signatures provide: (1) assurance that both the  
     Cryptography                   and sender                                

and the recipient of a message or transaction will be uniquely identified,
(2) assurance that the data have not been accidentally or deliberately
altered, and (3) verifiable proof of the integrity and origin of the data.

Virtual private networks	Allow organizations or individuals in two or more
physical locations to establish network connections over a shared or
public network, such as the Internet, with functionality similar to that
of a private network.

Audit and monitoring	Intrusion detection systems

Detect inappropriate, incorrect, or anomalous activity on a network or
computer system.

Intrusion prevention Build on intrusion detection systems to detect attacks on a
network and take systems action to prevent them from being successful. Security
 event Monitor and document actions on network devices and analyze the actions
                               correlation tools

to determine if an attack is ongoing or has occurred. Enable an
organization to determine if ongoing system activities are operating
according to its security policy.

Computer forensics Identify, preserve, extract, and document
computer-based evidence. tools

Configuration management and assurance

Policy enforcement applications

Enable system administrators to engage in centralized monitoring and
enforcement of an organization's security policies.

Network management 	Allows for the control and monitoring of networks,
including management of faults, configurations, performance, and security.

Continuity of operations Provide a complete backup infrastructure to
maintain the availability of

tools 	systems or networks in the event of an emergency or during planned

Scanners Analyze computers or networks for security vulnerabilities.

Patch management 	Acquires, tests, and applies multiple patches to one or
more computer systems.

Source: GAO analysis.

Access Controls

Access control technologies ensure that only authorized users or systems
can access and use computers, networks, and the information stored on
these systems, and these technologies help to protect sensitive data and
systems. Access control simplifies network security by reducing the number
of paths that attackers might use to penetrate system or network defenses.
Access control includes three different control types: boundary
protection, authentication, and authorization.

Boundary protection technologies demark a logical or physical boundary
between protected information and systems and unknown users. Boundary
protection technologies can be used to protect a network (for example,
firewalls) or a single computer (for example, personal firewalls).
Generally, these technologies prevent access to the network or computer by
external unauthorized users. Another type of boundary protection
technology, content management, can also be used to restrict the ability
of authorized system or network users to access systems or networks beyond
the system or network boundary.

Authentication technologies associate a user with a particular identity.
People are authenticated by three basic means: by something they know,
something they have, or something they are. People and systems regularly
use these means to identify people in everyday life. For example, members
of a community routinely recognize one another by how they look or how
their voices sound-by something they are. Automated teller machines
recognize customers because they present a bank card-something they
have-and they enter a personal identification number (PIN)-something they
know. Using a key to enter a locked building is another example of using
something you have. More secure systems may combine two of more of these

While the use of passwords is an example of authentication based on
something users know, there are several technologies based on something
users have. Security tokens can be used to authenticate a user. User
information can be coded onto a token using magnetic media (for example,
bank cards) or optical media (for example, compact disk-like media).
Several smart token technologies containing an integrated circuit chip
that can store and process data are also available. Biometric technologies
automate the identification of people using one or more of their distinct
physical or behavioral characteristics-authentication based on something
that users are. The use of security tokens or biometrics requires the
installation of the appropriate readers at network and computer access

                         Boundary Protection: Firewalls

Once a user is authenticated, authorization technologies are used to allow
or prevent actions by that user according to predefined rules. Users could
be granted access to data on the system or to perform certain actions on
the system. Authorization technologies support the principles of
legitimate use, least privilege, and separation of duties. Access control
could be based on user identity, role, group membership, or other
information known to the system.

Most operating systems and some applications provide some authentication
and authorization functionality. For example, user identification (ID)
codes and passwords are the most commonly used authentication technology.
System administrators can assign users rights and privileges to
applications and data files based on user IDs. Some operating systems
allow for the grouping of users to simplify the administration of groups
of users who require the same levels of access to files and applications.

What the technology does

Firewalls are network devices or systems running special software that
controls the flow of network traffic between networks or between a host
and a network. A firewall is set up as the single point through which
communications must pass. This enables the firewall to act as a protective
barrier between the protected network and any external networks. Any
information leaving the internal network can be forced to pass through a
firewall as it leaves the network or host. Incoming data can enter only
through the firewall.

Firewalls are typically deployed where a corporate network connects to the
Internet. However, firewalls can also be used internally, to guard areas
of an organization against unauthorized internal access. For example, many
corporate networks use firewalls to restrict access to internal networks
that perform sensitive functions, such as accounting or personnel.

Personal computers can also have firewalls, called personal firewalls, to
protect them from unauthorized access over a network. Such personal
firewalls are relatively inexpensive software programs that can be
installed on personal computers to filter all network traffic and allow
only authorized communications. Essentially, a firewall can be likened to

protective fence that keeps unwanted external data out and sensitive
internal data in (see fig. 2).

Figure 2: A Typical Firewall Protecting Hosts on a Private Network from
the Public Network

Desktop PC

Server Local area network (LAN)

Source: GAO analysis.

How the technology works

Typically, a firewall is a network device or host with two or more network
interfaces-one connected to the protected internal network and the other
connected to unprotected networks, such as the Internet. The firewall runs
software that examines the network packets arriving at its network
interfaces and takes appropriate action based on a set of rules. The idea
is to define these rules so that they allow only authorized network
traffic to flow between the two interfaces. Configuring the firewall
involves setting up the rules properly. One configuration strategy is to
reject all network traffic and then enable only a limited set of network
packets to go through the firewall. The authorized network traffic would
include the connections necessary to perform functions like visiting Web
sites and receiving electronic mail.

NIST describes eight kinds of firewalls: packet filter firewalls, stateful
inspection firewalls, application proxy gateway firewalls, dedicated proxy
firewalls, hybrid firewall technologies, network address translation,
hostbased firewalls, and personal firewalls/personal firewall

Packet filter firewalls are routing devices that include access control
functionality for system addresses and communication sessions. The

17National Institute of Standards and Technology, Guidelines for Firewalls
andFirewall Policy, NIST Special Publication 800-41, (January 2002).

access control functionality of a packet filter firewall is governed by a
set of rules that allows or blocks network packets based on a number of
their characteristics, including the source and destination addresses, the
network protocol, and the source and destination port numbers. Packet
filter firewalls are usually placed at the outermost boundary with an
untrusted network, and they form the first line of defense. An example of
a packet filter firewall is a network router that employs filter rules to
screen network traffic.

Stateful inspection firewalls keep track of network connections that are
used by network applications to reliably transfer data. When an
application uses a network connection to create a session with a remote
host system, a port is also opened on the originating system. This port
receives network traffic from the destination system. For successful
connections, packet filter firewalls must permit inbound packets from the
destination system. Opening up many ports to incoming traffic creates a
risk of intrusion by unauthorized users, who may employ a variety of
techniques to abuse the expected conventions of network protocols such as
Transmission Control Protocol (TCP). Stateful inspection firewalls solve
this problem by creating a directory of outbound network connections,
along with each session's corresponding client port. This "state table" is
then used to validate any inbound traffic. The stateful inspection
solution is more secure than a packet filter because it tracks client
ports individually rather than opening all inbound ports for external

Application proxy gateway firewalls provide additional protection by
inserting the firewall as an intermediary between internal applications
that attempt to communicate with external servers such as a Web server.
For example, a Web proxy receives requests for external Web pages from
inside the firewall and relays them to the exterior Web server as though
the firewall were the requesting Web client. The external Web server
responds to the firewall and the firewall forwards the response to the
inside client as though the firewall were the Web server. No direct
network connection is ever made from the inside client host to the
external Web server.

Dedicated proxy servers are typically deployed behind traditional firewall
platforms. In typical use, a main firewall might accept inbound network
traffic, determine which application is being targeted, and then hand off
the traffic to the appropriate proxy server (for example, an e-mail proxy
server). The proxy server typically would perform filtering or logging
operations on the traffic and then forward it to internal systems. A

proxy server could also accept outbound traffic directly from internal
systems, filter or log the traffic, and then pass it to the firewall for
outbound delivery. Many organizations enable the caching of frequently
used Web pages on the proxy server, thereby reducing firewall traffic. In
addition to possessing authentication and logging functionality, dedicated
proxy servers are useful for Web and electronic mail content scanning.

Hybrid firewall technologies are firewall products that incorporate
functionality from several different types of firewall platforms. For
example, many vendors of packet filter firewalls or stateful inspection
packet filter firewalls have implemented basic application proxy
functionality to offset some of the weaknesses associated with their
firewall platforms. In most cases, these vendors implement application
proxies to provide improved logging of network traffic and stronger user
authentication. Nearly all major firewall vendors have introduced multiple
firewall functions into their products in some manner; therefore it is not
always a simple matter to decide which specific firewall product is the
most suitable for a given application or enterprise infrastructure.
Selection of a hybrid firewall product should be based on the supported
feature sets that an enterprise needs.

Network address translation (NAT) technology is an effective tool for
"hiding" the network addresses of an internal network behind a firewall
environment. In essence, NAT allows an organization to deploy a network
addressing plan of its choosing behind a firewall while still maintaining
the ability to connect to external systems through the firewall. Network
address translation is accomplished by one of three methods: static,
hiding, and port. In static NAT, each internal system on the private
network has a corresponding external, routable Internet protocol (IP)
address associated with it. This particular technique is seldom used
because unique IP addresses are in short supply. With hiding NAT, all
systems behind a firewall share the same external, routable IP address,
while the internal systems use private IP addresses. Thus, with a hiding
NAT system, a number of systems behind a firewall will appear to be a
single system. With port address translation, it is possible to place
hosts behind a firewall system and still make them selectively accessible
to external users.

Host-based firewalls are firewall software components that are available
in some operating systems or as add-ons. Because a network-based firewall
cannot fully protect internal servers, host-based firewalls can be used to
secure individual hosts.

Personal firewalls and personal firewall appliances are used to secure PCs
at home or remote locations. These firewalls are important because many
personnel telecommute or work at home and access sensitive data. Home
users dialing an ISP may potentially have limited firewall protection
available to them because the ISP has to accommodate many different
security policies. Therefore, personal firewalls have been developed to
provide protection for remote systems and to perform many of the same
functions as larger firewalls. These products are typically implemented in
one of two configurations. The first configuration is a personal firewall,
which is installed on the system it is meant to protect; personal
firewalls usually do not offer protection to other systems or resources.
Likewise, personal firewalls do not typically provide controls over
network traffic that is traversing a computer network-they protect only
the computer system on which they are installed. The second configuration
is a personal firewall appliance. In most cases, personal firewall
appliances are designed to protect small networks such as networks that
might be found in home offices. These appliances usually run on
specialized hardware and integrate some other form of network
infrastructure components into the firewall itself, including the
following: cable or digital subscriber line broadband modem with network
routing, network hub, network switch, dynamic host configuration protocol
(DHCP) server, simple network management protocol (SNMP) agent, and
application proxy agents. In terms of deployment strategies, personal
firewalls and personal firewall appliances normally address connectivity
concerns that are associated with telecommuters or branch offices.
However, some organizations employ these devices on their organizational
intranets, practicing a layered defense strategy.

Centrally managed distributed firewalls are centrally controlled but
locally enforced. A security administrator-not the end users-defines and
maintains security policies. This places the responsibility and capability
of defining security policies in the hands of a security professional who
can properly lock down the target systems. A centrally managed system is
scalable because it is unnecessary to administer each system separately. A
properly executed distributed firewall system includes exception logging.
More advanced systems include the capability to enforce the appropriate
policy, which is enforced depending on the location of the firewall.
Centrally managed distributed firewalls can be either software- or
hardware-based firewalls. Centrally managed distributed software firewalls
are similar in function and features to host-based or personal firewalls,
but their security policies are centrally defined and managed. Centrally
managed distributed hardware firewalls combine the filtering

capability of a firewall with the connectivity capability of a traditional

Effectiveness of the technology

When properly configured, all firewalls can protect a network or a PC from
unauthorized access through the network. Although firewalls afford
protection of certain resources within an organization, there are some
threats that firewalls cannot protect against: connections that bypass the
firewall, new threats that have not yet been identified, and viruses that
have been injected into the internal network. It is important to consider
these shortcomings in addition to the firewall itself in order to counter
these additional threats and provide a comprehensive security solution.
Each type of firewall platform has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Packet filter firewalls have two main strengths: speed and flexibility.
Packet filter firewalls can be used to secure nearly any type of network
communication or protocol. This versatility allows packet filter firewalls
to be deployed into nearly any enterprise network infrastructure. Packet
filter firewalls have several weaknesses: They cannot prevent attacks that
exploit application-specific vulnerabilities or functions; they can log
only a minimal amount of information-such as source address, destination
address, and traffic type; they do not support user authentication; and
they are vulnerable to attacks and exploits that take advantage of flaws
within the TCP/IP protocol, such as IP address spoofing.18

Stateful inspection firewalls share the strengths and weaknesses of packet
filter firewalls, but because of the state table implementation, they are
generally considered to be more secure than packet filter firewalls.
Stateful inspection firewalls can accommodate other network protocols in
the same manner that packet filters do, but stateful inspection technology
is relevant only to the TCP/IP protocol.

Application proxy gateway firewalls have numerous advantages over packet
filter firewalls and stateful inspection firewalls. First, application
proxy gateway firewalls are able to examine the entire network packet
rather than only the network addresses and ports. This enables these
firewalls to provide more extensive logging capabilities than packet

18IP address spoofing involves altering the address information in network
packets in order to make packets appear to come from a trusted IP address.

or stateful inspection firewalls do. Another advantage is that application
proxy gateway firewalls can authenticate users directly, while packet
filter firewalls and stateful inspection firewalls normally authenticate
users based on the network address of their system (i.e., source,
destination, and type). Given that network addresses can be easily
spoofed, the authentication capabilities inherent in application proxy
gateway architecture are superior to those found in packet filter or
stateful inspection firewalls. The advanced functionality of application
proxy gateway firewalls also results in several disadvantages when
compared with the functionality of packet filter or stateful inspection
firewalls. First, because of the "full packet awareness" found in
application proxy gateways, the firewall is forced to spend significant
time reading and interpreting each packet. Therefore, application proxy
gateway firewalls are generally not well suited to high-bandwidth or
real-time applications. To reduce the load on the firewall, a dedicated
proxy server can be used to secure less time-sensitive services, such as
e-mail and most Web traffic. Another disadvantage is that application
proxy gateway firewalls are often limited in terms of support for new
network applications and protocols. An individual, application-specific
proxy agent is required for each type of network traffic that needs to go
through the firewall. Most vendors of application proxy gateways provide
generic proxy agents to support undefined network protocols or
applications. However, those generic agents tend to negate many of the
strengths of the application proxy gateway architecture, and they simply
allow traffic to "tunnel" through the firewall.

Dedicated proxy servers allow an organization to enforce user
authentication requirements and other filtering and logging of any traffic
that goes through the proxy server. This means that an organization can
restrict outbound traffic to certain locations, examine all outbound
e-mail for viruses, or restrict internal users from writing to the
organization's Web server. Because most security problems originate from
within an organization, proxy servers can assist in foiling internally
based attacks or malicious behavior.

In terms of strengths and weaknesses, each type of NAT-static, hiding, or
port-is applicable in certain situations; the variable is the amount of
design flexibility offered by each type. Static NAT offers the most
flexibility, but it is not always practical because of the shortage of IP
addresses. Hiding NAT technology it is seldom used because port address
translation offers additional features. Port address translation is often
the most convenient and secure solution.

Boundary Protection: Content Management

Host-based firewall packages typically provide access control capability
for restricting traffic to and from servers that run on the host, and
logging is usually available. A disadvantage of host-based firewalls is
that they must be administered separately, and maintaining security
becomes more difficult as the number of configured devices increases.

Centrally managed distributed software firewalls have the benefit of
unified corporate oversight of firewall implementation on individual
machines. However, they remain vulnerable to attacks on the host operating
system from the networks, as well as to intentional or unintentional
tampering by users logging in to the system that is being protected.
Centrally managed distributed hardware firewalls filter the data on the
firewall hardware rather on than the host system. This can make the
distributed hardware firewall system less vulnerable than softwarebased
distributed firewalls. Hardware distributed firewalls can be designed to
be unaffected by local or network attacks via the host operating systems.
Performance and throughput of a hardware firewall system are generally
better than they are for software systems.

What the technology does

Content filters monitor Web and messaging applications for inappropriate
content, spam, intellectual property breach, noncompliance with an
organization's security policies, and banned file types.19 The filters can
help to keep illegal material out of an organization's systems, reduce
network traffic from spam, and stop various types of cyber attacks. They
can also keep track of which users are browsing the Web, when, where, and
for how long.

There are three main types of content filters: (1) Web filters, which
screen and exclude from access or availability Web pages that are deemed
objectionable or non-business related; (2) messaging filters, which screen
messaging applications such as e-mail, instant messaging, short message
service, and peer-to-peer for spam or other objectionable content; and

19Spam is electronic junk mail that is unsolicited and usually is
advertising for some product. An intellectual property breach can include
client information, trade secrets, ongoing research, and other such
information that has not been authorized for release.

(3) Web integrity filters, which ensure the integrity of an entity's Web
pages. 20

How the technology works

Figure 3: How a Web Filter Works

Source: GAO analysis.

Web filters screen and block objectionable Web pages by (1) intercepting a
user's request to view a Web page, (2) determining that the requested page
contains objectionable content, and (3) prohibiting the user from
accessing that Web page (see fig. 3). Web filters can observe and respond
to requests in two main ways. One method, pass-through technology,
requires the Web filtration software to be integrated with other network
devices such as proxies or gateways. This ensures that all requests pass
through the Web filter to be accepted or denied. Another method of
handling requests, known as pass-by technology, requires that the Web
filtration software be installed on a stand-alone server and placed on the

20Short message service is the transmission of short text messages to and
from a mobile phone, a fax machine, or an IP address. Messages must be no
longer than 160 alphanumeric characters and contain no images or graphics.
On the Internet, peer-to-peer (referred to as P2P) networks allow computer
users to share files from one another's hard drives. Napster, Gnutella,
and Kazaa are examples of peer-to-peer software.

network of machines that it is to filter. The Web filter then receives all
of the traffic that exists on the network, but it does not prevent the
network traffic from reaching its intended destination. If a request is
made for a restricted Web page, the Web filter will display an error
message stating that the user's access to the Web page has been denied.
The user's connection with the Web site is then closed to prevent the Web
server from sending additional information to the user's computer. Web
filters also vary in their methods of determining if a requested Web page
contains objectionable material:

o  	Site classification technology compares the requested Web site against
a database of Web pages that are considered objectionable. Typically,
vendors provide a basic database of objectionable Web pages as part of the
Web filter software, which may then be modified by an administrator.
Vendors often provide subscription services so customers' databases can be
automatically updated with new sites that have been found to be
objectionable. The database consists primarily of a list of Web site
addresses, typically categorized in groups such as gambling, adult
material, and sports. An administrator can then decide which sites should
be blocked, based on the category they fall into. If the requested Web
site is on the list of objectionable Web sites, the Web filter will
display a message informing the user that he or she has been denied access
to the Web page.

o  	Content classification uses artificial intelligence in conjunction
with site classification techniques to maintain an updated database.
Before a user can view a Web site, the Web filter examines the textual
content of the Web page, the source code, and metatags.21 Questionable
content is identified by the presence of key words or phrases or by a
combination of key word frequency and level of obscenity of the words. Web
sites found to be objectionable based on their content can then be added
to the database of objectionable sites, and the user would not be allowed
to view them. Web sites do not have to be blocked for an entire
organization, but can be blocked based on IP address ranges, host names,
or other criteria.

Messaging filters operate similarly to Web filters and can examine the
content of a message to filter out spam, offensive language, or
recreational e-mails that lower the productivity of workers. Messaging
filters also block

21The source code is the text of a program while it is still in its
programming language. The Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) metatag is used
to describe the contents of a Web page.

messages based on the types of file attachments and the senders of the
emails, as determined by an organization's policy. Files are excluded
based on their file extensions, or the last part of their name, which
indicates the file type. The files might be excluded to limit the
trafficking of illicit material, stop viruses from entering the network,
limit intellectual property breaches, or carry out other such functions
intended to increase the security of an organization. File extensions that
are typically excluded are MP3 (music files), JPG (graphic files), MPEG
(video files), and EXE (executable files), among others.

A Web integrity filter ensures the integrity of the content of a Web page.
If a Web server is attacked or becomes inaccessible to users, the Web
integrity filter attempts to keep unauthorized information from being
released to the public, and only the original content would still go out.
The content filter is a separate device on the network, located between
the Web server and the router or firewall. The device contains a
collection of digital signatures of authorized Web content that is known
to be legitimate. When a request is made to the Web server, each object's
digital signature is compared with the digital signature that the device
had previously collected.22 If the digital signatures do not match, the
page is considered to be unauthorized and it is immediately replaced with
a secure archived copy of the original page, and the software notifies the
appropriate personnel via phone, e-mail, or pager.

Effectiveness of the technology

Content filters have significant rates of both erroneously accepting
objectionable sites and blocking sites that are not objectionable. If
implemented correctly, filtering can reduce the volume of unsolicited and
undesired e-mails. However, it is not completely accurate, and legitimate
messages might get blocked. Also, some content filters do not work with
all operating systems.

While pass-through technology can be effective at stopping specified
traffic, there are several disadvantages to using it. First, because the
requests for Web sites are actually stopped at the gateway while the
filtering product analyzes the request against its rules, a certain amount

22An object can be an HTML page, a graphics file, a music file, and so

                           Authentication: Biometrics

latency can result, especially during periods of high traffic volume.23
Second, pass-through products might be considered a single point of
failure: If the product fails, so might Internet connectivity. Third,
because pass-through devices are dependent on another network device, if
an entity changes firewalls or proxy servers, it might have to purchase a
new content filter product as well. Pass-by technology can also be
effective at stopping specified traffic. Because traffic does not have to
be screened before it goes through, the pass-by technology does not cause
latency. Also, because pass-by products do not require integration with
other network devices, a change in a firewall or proxy would not result in
a need to change the content filtering product. However, a disadvantage of
the pass-by solution is that a separate server must be dedicated to
performing the monitoring and filtering functions.

Site classification is effective in keeping users from accessing sites
that have been determined to have objectionable content. However, because
of the size and growth of the Internet, this technology faces challenges
in keeping full and accurate lists of objectionable sites, and the cost of
subscriptions for updates can be very expensive. Content classification
can assist in classifying new sites without the cost of subscribing to an
update service, but this method has its drawbacks as well. First, Web
sites that are predominantly graphical in nature may not contain enough
key words for the program to categorize the site. Second, there are some
topics that are so ambiguous that it is very difficult to classify them by
their content. Third, users may circumvent the filtered lists by using
proxy sites.

What the technology does

The term biometricscovers a wide range of technologies that are used to
verify identity by measuring and analyzing human characteristics.
Biometric technologies are authentication techniques that rely on
measuring and analyzing physiological or behavioral characteristics.
Identifying an individual's physiological characteristic involves
measuring a part of the body, such as fingertips or eye irises;
identifying behavioral characteristics involves deriving data from
actions, such as speech.

23Latency is the amount of time it takes a packet to travel from source to
destination. Together, latency and bandwidth define the speed and capacity
of a network.

Biometrics are theoretically very effective personal identifiers because
the characteristics they measure are thought to be distinct to each
person. Unlike conventional identification methods that use something you
have (for example, a smart card), or something you know (for example, a
password), these characteristics are integral to something you are.
Because they are tightly bound to an individual, they are more reliable,
cannot be forgotten, and are less easily lost, stolen, or guessed.

How the technology works

Although biometric technologies vary in complexity, capabilities, and
performance, they all share several elements. Biometric identification
systems are essentially pattern recognition systems. They use acquisition
devices such as cameras and scanning devices to capture images,
recordings, or measurements of an individual's characteristics, and they
use computer hardware and software to extract, encode, store, and compare
these characteristics. Because the process is automated, biometric
decision making is generally very fast, in most cases taking only a few
seconds in real time. The different types of biometric technologies
measure different characteristics. However, they all involve a similar
process, which can be divided into two distinct stages: (1) enrollment and
(2) verification or identification.

Enrollment stage. Acquisition devices such as cameras and scanners are
used to capture images, recordings, or measurements of an individual's
characteristics, and computer hardware and software are used to extract,
encode, store, and compare these characteristics. In the enrollment stage,
the captured samples are averaged and processed to generate a unique
digital representation of the characteristic, called a reference template,
which is stored for future comparisons. It is impossible to recreate the
sample, such as a fingerprint, from the template. Templates can be stored
centrally on a computer database, within the device itself, or on a smart

Verification or identification stage. Depending on the application,
biometric technologies can be used in one of two modes: verification or
identification. Verification is used to verify a person's identity,
answering the question "Is this person who she claims to be?"
Identification is used to establish a person's identity, comparing the
individual's biometric with all stored biometric records to answer the
question "Who is this person?"

Current biometric technologies that are used to protect computer systems
from unauthorized access include fingerprint recognition, iris

and speaker recognition. These technologies are used by some entities to
replace passwords as a way to authenticate individuals who are attempting
to access computers and networks

Fingerprint recognition technology extracts features from impressions that
are made by the distinctive ridges on the fingertips. An image of the
fingerprint is captured by a scanner, enhanced, and converted into a
template. Various styles of fingerprint scanners are commercially
available. The scanner can be built into the computer or into the mouse or
the keyboard that is attached to the computer, or it can be a hardware
device that is used exclusively for capturing fingerprints (see figs. 4
and 5).

Figure 4: An Example of Fingerprint Recognition Technology Built into a Keyboard

                        Source: Key Tronic Corporation.

 Figure 5: An Example of Fingerprint Recognition Technology Built into a Mouse

                          Source: Siemens PSE TechLab.

Iris recognition technology is based on the distinctly colored ring
surrounding the pupil of the eye. Made from elastic connective tissue, the
iris is a very rich source of biometric data, having approximately 266

distinct characteristics. Iris recognition systems use a small,
high-quality camera to capture a black-and-white, high-resolution image of
the iris. The boundaries of the iris are defined and a coordinate system
is established over the iris before visible characteristics are converted
into a template (see fig. 6).

Figure 6: A Desktop Iris Recognition System

Source: Matsushita Electric Corporation of America.

Speaker recognition technology uses the distinctive characteristics in the
sound of people's voices as a biometric identifier. These characteristics
result from a combination of physiological differences in the shape of
vocal tracts and learned speaking habits. Speaker recognition systems
capture samples of a person's speech by having him or her speak into a
microphone or telephone a number of times. Some systems require that a
predefined phrase, such as a name or a sequence of numbers, be used for
enrollment. This phrase is converted from analog to digital format, and
the distinctive vocal characteristics, such as pitch, cadence, and tone,
are extracted to create a template.

Effectiveness of the technology

The quality of the templates is critical in the overall success of a
biometric system. Minute changes in positioning, distance, pressure,
environment, and other factors influence the generation of a template. For
example, in a speaker recognition system, performance can be affected by
background noise, the use of different capture devices for enrollment and
verification, speaking softly, and poor placement of the capture device.
In addition, because biometric features can change over time, people may
have to reenroll to update their reference templates.

Furthermore, not all people can use biometric technologies. For example,
the capturing of fingerprints for about 2 to 5 percent of people is not
possible because the fingerprints are dirty or have become dry or worn
from age, extensive manual labor, or exposure to corrosive chemicals.
People who are mute cannot use speaker recognition systems, and people
lacking fingers or eyes from congenital disease, surgery, or injury cannot
use fingerprint or iris recognition systems.

The effectiveness of biometric technologies is affected by the quality of
the capture device. For example, some fingerprint recognition scanners can
be prone to error if there is a buildup of dirt, grime, or oil-producing
leftover fingerprints from previous users, known as latent prints. Severe
latent prints can cause the superimposition of two sets of prints and
degrade the capturing of the image. Similarly, the performance of speaker
recognition systems improves with higher-quality input devices.

Tests have shown that certain capture devices can be tricked into
accepting forgeries. Fingerprint scanners have been tricked into accepting
latent prints that were reactivated simply by breathing on the sensor or
by placing a water-filled plastic bag on the sensor's surface. It is
possible to reconstruct and authenticate latent fingerprints by dusting
the sensor's surface with commercially available graphite powder and
lifting the fingerprint with adhesive tape. A vulnerability of speaker
authentication is that the voice can be easily recorded and therefore
duplicated. However, some speaker verification systems provide safeguards
against the use of a recorded voice to trick the system. For these
systems, the electronic properties of a recording device, particularly the
playback speaker, will change the acoustics to such a degree that the
recorded voice sample will not match a stored voiceprint of a live voice.

Authentication: Smart Tokens

What the technology does

A smart token is an easily portable device that contains an embedded
integrated circuit chip that is capable of both storing and processing
data. Most smart tokens are used instead of static user IDs and passwords
to provide a stronger and more convenient means for users to identify and
authenticate themselves to computers and networks. When it is used for
this function, a smart token is an example of authentication based on
something a user possesses (in this case, the token itself). Although
authentication for some computer systems is based solely on the possession
of a token, typical smart token implementations also require a user to
provide something he or she knows (for example, a password) in order to
successfully utilize the smart token.24

How the technology works

In general, smart tokens can be classified according to physical
characteristics, interfaces, and protocols used. These classifications are
not mutually exclusive.

1. 	Physical characteristics. Smart tokens can be divided into two
physical groups: smart cards and other tokens. A smart card looks like a
credit card but includes an embedded microprocessor. Smart tokens that are
not smart cards can look like calculators, keys, or other small objects.

2. 	Interfaces. Smart tokens have either a human or an electronic
interface. Smart tokens that look like calculators usually have a human
interface, which allows humans to communicate with the device. Other smart
tokens, including smart cards, have an electronic interface that can only
be understood by special readers and writers. Two physical interfaces for
smart cards have been standardized through the International Organization
for Standardization, resulting in two types of smart cards. The first
type, known as contact cards, works by inserting the card in a smart card
reader, while the second type, known as contactless cards, uses radio
frequency signals, and the card needs

24See U.S. General Accounting Office, Electronic Government: Progressin
Promoting Adoptionof Smart CardTechnology,GAO-03-144 (Washington, D.C.:
January 3, 2003) for our report on the use of smart cards in the federal

only to be passed within proximity to a card terminal to transmit
information. Smart cards can be configured to include both contact and
contactless capabilities, but because standards for the two technologies
are very different, two separate interfaces would be needed.

3. 	Protocols. Smart tokens use three main methods for authentication,
based on different protocols. The first method, static password exchange,
requires users to first authenticate themselves to a token before the
token can then authenticate the user to the computer. The other two
methods are known as time-synchronized and challengeresponse, and are
based on cryptography. These methods generate a onetime password, which is
a password or pass code that can be used only once, for a brief interval,
and then is no longer valid. If it is intercepted in any way, the password
has such a limited life span that it quickly becomes invalid. The next
time the same user attempts to access a system, he or she must enter a new
onetime password that is generated by the security token.

Time-synchronized tokens generate a unique value that changes at regular
intervals (e.g., once a minute). A central server keeps track of the
tokengenerated passwords in order to compare the input against the
expected value. To log onto a system, users enter a onetime password that
consists of their personal PIN followed by the unique value generated by
their token. The PIN helps the central server to identify the user and the
password value that should be entered. If the number entered by the user
and the one generated by the server are the same, the user will be granted
access to the system. Figure 7 shows an example of a time-synchronized

                 Figure 7: Example of a Time-Synchronized Token

                           Source: RSA Security Inc.

Challenge-response tokens utilize a central server to generate a challenge
(such as a random string of numbers), which a user would then enter into
the token. The token then calculates a response that serves as a onetime
numeric password that is entered into the system. If the response from the
user is the same as the response expected by the server, the user will be
granted access to the system. In some implementations, the user must enter
a PIN before the server will generate a challenge. Figure 8 is an example
of a challenge-response token.

Figure 8: Example of a Challenge-Response Token

Source: (c) 2004 Secure Computing Corporation.

Effectiveness of the technology

If they are implemented correctly, smart tokens can help to create a
secure authentication environment. Onetime passwords eliminate the

Authorization: User Rights and Privileges

problem of electronic monitoring, or "password sniffing," and tokens that
require the use of a PIN help to reduce the risk of forgery.

However, smart tokens do not necessarily verify a person's identity; they
only confirm that a person has the token. Because tokens can be lost or
stolen, an attacker could obtain a token and attempt to determine the
user's PIN number or password. If an older algorithm is used to formulate
a onetime password, it is possible that modern computers could crack the
algorithm used to formulate the random numbers that are generated by a
token. For these reasons, these technologies are generally not considered
acceptable as stand-alone systems to protect extremely sensitive data, and
additional controls-such as biometric identification-may be required. As a
result, smart token systems are considered more effective when combined
with other methods of authentication.

In addition, at times the token could become unavailable to the user. For
example, tokens can be broken, their batteries eventually discharge, and
users could simply forget to bring tokens to work. For these reasons,
organizations need to have an effective policy on how legitimate users can
access systems without a token. If the policy is weak or poorly
implemented, the security of the authentication system is weakened.

A problem that can arise with time-synchronized tokens is that the token
and the central authentication server can get out of sync. If the token's
clock drifts significantly ahead of or behind the server's clock, the
authentication server may be vulnerable to a cryptographic attack.

What the technology does

User rights and privileges grant or deny access to a protected resource,
whether it is a network, a system, an individual computer, a program, or a
file. These technologies authorize appropriate actions for users and
prevent unauthorized access to data and systems. Typically, user rights
and privileges are capabilities that are built into an operating system.
For example, most operating systems include the concept of read, write, or
read-and-write privileges for files and the capability to assign these
privileges to users or groups of users.

Mainframe-based access control software controls users' entry to the
system, their access to data on the system, and the level of usage
available to them with program and other logical resources on the system.

Administrators can use these software tools to perform many access control
functions-including identifying system users and authorizing user access
to protected resources-while also ensuring individual accountability and
logging unauthorized attempts at gaining access to the system and
protected resources.

Additionally, some communication protocols can be used to control dialup
access into networks. Protocols that provide these services include
Terminal Access Controller Access System (TACACS+), which centrally
manages multiple connections to a single user, a network or subnetwork and
interconnected networks, and Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service
(RADIUS), which provides central authentication, authorization, and

How the technology works

Mainframe-based access control software uses algorithms to determine
whether to grant a user access to specific files, programs, or other
defined resources (such as a printer queue or disk space to run a
program). These algorithms are typically customized by a security
administrator and result in access rules that are either user- or
resource-based. User-based rules can be created to specify access for
individuals or for groups. When access is requested, the software first
identifies and authenticates the user, then it determines what resource
that the user is requesting access to, and then it refers to the access
rules before permitting the user to gain access to protected system
resources. Access is denied to unauthorized users, and any authorized or
unauthorized attempt to gain access can be logged.

Technologies that use resource-based rules assign a security
classification to both users and data files in the form of security levels
and categories. The levels and categories of a user and a resource are
compared to determine whether the user has sufficient privileges to access
a file or other resource.

The TACACS+ protocol allows a separate access server to independently
provide the services of authentication, authorization, and accounting: The
authentication service allows a user to use the same user name and
password for multiple servers, which may employ different communication
protocols. TACACS+ forwards the user's user name and password information
to a centralized database that also has the TACACS+ protocol. This
database then compares the log-in information to determine whether to
grant or deny access to the user.

RADIUS is implemented in a client/server network architecture, where a
centralized server using the RADIUS protocol maintains a database of all
user authentication and network service access information for several
client computers that also use the protocol. When a user logs on to the
network via a RADIUS client, the user's password is encrypted and sent to
the RADIUS server along with the user name. If the user name and password
are correct, the server sends an acknowledgment message that includes
information on the user's network system and service requirements. If the
log-in process conditions are met, the user is authenticated and is given
access to the requested network services.

Effectiveness of the technology

An operating system's built-in user rights and privileges can be effective
when they are used with a well-defined security policy that guides who can
access which resources.

A key component in implementing adequate access controls is ensuring that
appropriate user rights and privileges have been assigned. If any one user
has too many rights or has rights to a few key functions, the organization
can be susceptible to fraud. Limiting user rights and privileges ensures
that users have only the access they need to perform their duties, that
very sensitive resources are limited to a few individuals, and that
employees are restricted from performing incompatible functions or
functions that are beyond their responsibilities. Excluding both roles and
user rights reduces the possibility of fraudulent acts against the

                                System Integrity

System integrity technologies are used to ensure that a system and its
data are not illicitly modified or corrupted by malicious code. Malicious
code includes viruses, Trojan horses, and worms. A virus is a program that
infects computer files, usually executable programs, by inserting a copy
of itself into the file. These copies are usually executed when a user
takes some action, such as opening an infected e-mail attachment or
executing a downloaded file that includes the virus. When executed, the
virus can infect other files. Unlike a computer worm, a virus requires
human involvement (usually unwitting) to propagate. A Trojan horse is a
computer program that conceals harmful code. A Trojan horse usually
masquerades as a useful program that a user would wish to execute. A worm
is an independent computer program that reproduces by copying itself from
one system to another. Unlike a computer virus, a worm does not require
human involvement to propagate.

                               Antivirus Software

Antivirus software and integrity checkers are two types of technologies
that help to protect against malicious code attacks. Antivirus software
can be installed on computers to detect either incoming malicious code or
malicious code that is already resident on the system-and to repair files
that have been damaged by the code. Integrity checkers are usually applied
to critical files or groups of files on a computer system. These programs
typically take a snapshot of the files of interest and periodically
compare the files with the snapshot to ensure that no unauthorized changes
have been made.

What the technology does

Antivirus software provides protection against viruses and malicious code,
such as worms and Trojan horses, by detecting and removing the malicious
code and by preventing unwanted effects and repairing damage that may have
resulted. Antivirus software uses a variety of techniques- such as
signature scanners, activity blockers, and heuristic scanners-to protect
computer systems against potentially harmful viruses, worms, and Trojan

How the technology works

Antivirus software products can use a combination of the following

Signature scanners can identify known malicious code. Scanners search for
"signature strings" or use algorithmic detection methods to identify known
code. They rely on a significant amount of prior knowledge about the
malicious code. Therefore, it is critical that the signature information
for scanners be current. Most scanners can be configured to automatically
update their signature information from a designated source, typically on
a weekly basis; scanners can also be forced to update their signatures on

Activity (or behavior) blockers contain a list of rules that a legitimate
program must follow. If the program breaks one of the rules, the activity
blockers alert the users. The idea is that untrusted code is first checked
for improper behavior. If none is found, the code can be run in a
restricted environment, where dynamic checks are performed on each
potentially dangerous action before it is permitted to take effect. By
adding multiple

layers of reviews and checks to the execution process, activity blockers
can prevent malicious code from performing undesirable actions.

Heuristic scanners work to protect against known viruses and are also able
to detect unknown viruses. Heuristic scanners can be classified as either
static or dynamic. Static heuristic scanners use virus signatures, much
like standard signature scanners, but instead of scanning for specific
viruses, they scan for lines of code that are associated with viruslike
behaviors. These scanners are often supplemented by additional programs
that search for more complex, viruslike behavior patterns. Dynamic
heuristic scanners identify suspicious files and load them into a
simulated computer system to emulate their execution. This allows the
scanner to determine whether the file is infected.

Effectiveness of the technology

Signature scanners require frequent updates to keep their databases of
virus signatures current. This updating is necessary to safeguard computer
systems against new strains of viruses. When they are properly updated,
scanners effectively combat known viruses. However, they are less
effective against viruses that change their code each time they infect
another computer system.

Activity blockers are generally ineffective against many viruses,
including macro viruses that make use of the programming features of
common applications such as spreadsheets and word processors. Macro
viruses constitute the majority of today's viruses and are encoded within
a document as macros-sequences of commands or keyboard strokes that can be
stored and then recalled with a single command or keystroke. The macro
generally modifies a commonly used function (for example, opening or
saving a file) to initiate the effect of the virus. Activity blockers are
generally more successful against Trojan horses and worms than they are
against viruses.

Heuristic scanners have the primary advantage of being able to detect
unknown viruses. Static heuristic scanners, when supplemented with
additional programs, can detect behaviors associated with more complex
viruses. Dynamic heuristic scanners consume more time and system resources
than static heuristic scanners.

File Integrity Checkers

What the technology does

File integrity checkers are software programs that monitor alterations to
files that are considered critical either to the organization or the
operation of the computer (including changes to the data in the file,
permissions, last use, and deletion). Because both authorized and
unauthorized activities alter files, file integrity checkers are designed
for use with critical files that are not expected to change under normal
operating conditions.

File integrity checkers are valuable tools with multiple uses, including

o  	Intrusion detection. File integrity checkers can help detect system
compromises, because successful intruders commonly modify system files to
provide themselves with a way back into the system (backdoor), hide the
attack, and hide their identity.

o  	Administration. Some file integrity checkers have the ability to
collect and centralize information from multiple hosts, an ability that
assists system administrators in large network environments.

o  	Policy enforcement. System administrators can use file integrity
checkers as policy enforcement tools to check whether users or other
administrators have made changes that should not have been made or of
which the system administrator was not notified.

o  	Identification of hardware or software failure. Integrity checkers
might also notice a failing disk. File integrity checkers can also be used
to determine if an application had changed files because of design faults.

o  	Forensic analysis. If a system was compromised, a "snapshot" of the
system could be taken, which would assist in forensic activities and in
prosecuting offenders.

How the technology works

Integrity checkers identify modifications to critical files by comparing
the state of a file system against a trusted state, or baseline.25 The
baseline is set to reflect the system's state when it has not been
modified in any unauthorized way. First, critical files are encrypted
through a one-way hash function, making it nearly impossible to derive the
original data from the string.26 The hash function results in a fixed
string of digits, which are stored in a database along with other
attributes of the files. The database of the original state of critical
files is considered the baseline. To be effective, a baseline should be
established immediately after the operating system is installed, before an
attacker would have the ability to modify the file system.

After a baseline is created, the integrity checker can then compare the
current file system against the baseline. Each critical file's hash is
compared with its baseline value. Differences between the hashes indicate
that the file has been modified. The user can then determine if any
detected changes were unauthorized. If so, the user can take action, for
example, assessing the damage and restoring the file or system to a good
known state.

Effectiveness of the technology

The effectiveness of file integrity checkers depends on the accuracy of
the baseline. Comparisons against a corrupted baseline would result in
inaccuracy in identifying modified files. The baseline database should be
updated whenever significant changes are made to the system. Care must be
taken to ensure that a baseline is not taken of a compromised system.

Also, although they monitor modifications to files, integrity checkers do
not prevent changes from occurring. An administrator will notice that the
change has occurred only after the integrity checker has been run. Because
of the amount of time it can take to check a file system and the

25The file system is one of the most important parts of an operating
system; it stores and manages user data on disk drives and ensures that
data read from storage are identical to the data that were originally
written. In addition to storing user data in files, the file system
creates and manages metadata-information about how, when, and by whom a
particular set of data was collected and how the data are formatted

26A less secure method uses checksums instead of a hash function.

system resources that requires, these tools are typically run at regularly
scheduled intervals.

In addition, integrity checkers may generate false alarms when authorized
changes are made to monitored files. Not only can investigating false
alarms be time consuming, it could also lead a system administrator to be
unwilling to investigate future alarms. As a result, unauthorized changes
could go unnoticed.


Cryptography is used to secure transactions by providing ways to ensure
data confidentiality (assurance that the information will be protected
from unauthorized access), data integrity (assurance that data have not
been accidentally or deliberately altered), authentication of the
message's originator, electronic certification of data, and nonrepudiation
(proof of the integrity and origin of data that can be verified by a third
party). Accordingly, cryptography has an important role in protecting
information both within a computer system and when information is sent
over the Internet and other unprotected communications channels.
Encryption is the process of transforming ordinary data (commonly referred
to as plaintext) into code form (ciphertext) using a special value known
as a key and a mathematical process called an algorithm. Cryptographic
algorithms are designed to produce ciphertext that is unintelligible to
unauthorized users. Decryption of ciphertext is possible only by using the
proper key.

A basic premise in cryptography is that good systems depend only on the
secrecy of the key used to perform the operations and not on the secrecy
of the algorithm. The algorithms used to perform most cryptographic
operations over the Internet are well known. However, because the keys
used by these algorithms are kept secret, the process is considered

Cryptographic techniques can be divided into two basic types: secret key
cryptography and public key cryptography. Each type has its strengths and

weaknesses, and systems that utilize both forms are used to take advantage
of the strengths of a given type.27

o  	Secret key, or symmetric, cryptography employs algorithms in which the
key that is used to encrypt the original plaintext message can be
calculated from the key that is used to decrypt the ciphertext message,
and vice versa. With most symmetric algorithms, the encryption key and the
decryption key are the same, and the security of this method rests upon
the difficulty of guessing the key. In order to communicate securely, the
sender and the receiver must agree on a key and keep the key secret from
others. Figure 9 depicts encryption and decryption using a symmetric
algorithm. Common symmetric key algorithms include the Triple Digital
Encryption Standard (3DES) and the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).

Figure 9: Encryption and Decryption with a Symmetric Algorithm

                             Source: GAO analysis.

Public key, or asymmetric, cryptography employs algorithms designed so
that the key that is used to encrypt the original plaintext message cannot
be calculated from the key that is used to decrypt the ciphertext message.
These two keys complement each other in such a way that when one key is
used for encryption, only the other key can decrypt the ciphertext. One of
these keys is kept private and is known as the private key, while the

27For additional information on how cryptography works and on some of the
issues associated with this technology, see U.S. General Accounting
Office, Information Security: Advances andRemaining Challenges to Adoption
ofPublic Key Infrastructure Technology, GAO-01-277 (Washington, D.C.:
February 26, 2001) and U.S. General Accounting Office,
InformationSecurity:StatusofFederal PublicKey Infrastructure Activities at
Major Federal DepartmentsandAgencies, GAO-04-157 (Washington, D.C.:
December 15, 2003).

other key is widely publicized and is referred to as the public key.
Figure 10 depicts one application of encryption and decryption using a
public key algorithm. In this process, the public key is used by others to
encrypt a plaintext message, but only a specific person with the
corresponding private key can decrypt the ciphertext. For example, if
fictional character Bob gives his public key to fictional character Alice,
only Bob has the private key that can decrypt a message that Alice has
encrypted with his public key. Public key algorithms can also be used in
an inverse process, whereby the private key is used to encrypt a message
and the public key is made freely available. In this process, those who
decrypt the message using the corresponding public key can be confident
that the message came from a specific person. For example, if Alice
decrypts a message that was encrypted with Bob's private key, she has
assurance that the message came from Bob. The most popular public key
algorithm is RSA, named for its creators-Rivest, Shamir, and Adleman.

Source: GAO analysis.

Key-based encryption fails if the plaintext or the key is not kept secret
from unauthorized users. Such failures often occur not because of a
weakness in the technology itself, but rather as a result of poor security
policies or practices or malicious insiders.

Secret key cryptography has significant limitations that can make it
impractical as a stand-alone solution for securing electronic
transactions, especially among large communities of users who may have no
preestablished relationships. The most significant limitation is that some
means must be devised to securely distribute and manage the keys that are
at the heart of the system; such a means is commonly referred to as key
management. When many transacting parties are involved, key

management may create immense logistical problems and delays. Furthermore,
in order to minimize the damage that could be caused by a compromised key,
the keys may need to be short-lived and therefore frequently changed,
adding to the logistical complexity.

Public key cryptography can address many of the limitations of secret key
cryptography regarding key management. There is no need to establish a
secure channel or physical delivery services to distribute keys. However,
public key cryptography has its own challenges, involving the methods of
ensuring that the links between the users and their public keys are
initially valid and are constantly maintained. For example, it is
impractical and unrealistic to expect that each user will have previously
established relationships with all of the other potential users in order
to obtain their public keys. Digital certificates (discussed further in
this appendix) are one solution to this problem. Furthermore, although a
sender can provide confidentiality for a message by encrypting it with the
recipient's publicly available encryption key using public key algorithms
for large messages, this is computationally time-consuming and could make
the whole process unreasonably slow.28

Instead, it can be better to combine secret and public key cryptography to
provide more efficient and effective means by which a sender can encrypt a
document so that only the intended recipient can decrypt it. In this case,
the sender of a message would generate a onetime secret encryption key
(called a session key) and use it to encrypt the body of her message and
then encrypt this session key using the recipient's public key. The
encrypted message and the encrypted session key necessary to decrypt the
message would then be sent to the recipient. Because the recipient has the
information necessary to decrypt the session key, the sender of a message
has reasonable assurance in a properly administered system that only the
recipient would be able to successfully decrypt the message.

Cryptographic modules implement algorithms that form the building blocks
of cryptographic applications. Using a cryptographic system with
cryptographic modules that have been approved by an accredited
cryptographic certification laboratory (for example, the NIST
Cryptographic Module Validation Program) can help provide assurance

28Most public key cryptographic methods can be used for both encryption
and digital signatures. However, certain public key methods-most notably
the Digital Signature Algorithm-cannot be used for encryption, but only
for digital signatures.

Digital Signatures and Certificates

that the system will be effective. However, designing, building, and
effectively implementing full-featured cryptographic solutions will remain
a difficult challenge because it involves more than just "installing the
technology." Encryption technology is effective only if it is an integral
part of an effectively enforced information security policy that includes
good key management practices. For example, current public key products
and implementations suffer from significant interoperability problems,
which make it difficult for officials to make decisions about how to
develop a public key infrastructure (PKI) that can be used to perform such
functions as encrypting data and providing data integrity.29

Cryptographic solutions will continue to be used to help provide basic
data confidentiality, data integrity, authentication of message
originator, electronic certification of data, and nonrepudiation.
Technologies that use cryptographic algorithms can be used to encrypt
message transmissions so that eavesdroppers cannot determine the contents
of a message. Hash technologies use cryptography to provide assurance to a
message recipient that the contents of the message have not been altered.
For example, operating systems use cryptography to protect passwords.
Protocols such as IP Security protocol (IPSec) and Secure Sockets Layer
(SSL) use cryptographic technologies for confidential communications. SHA
and MD5 are examples of hash technology implementations. Digital signature
technologies use cryptography to authenticate the sender of a message.
Virtual private networks (VPN) use cryptography to establish a secure
communications link across unprotected networks.

What the technology does

Properly implemented digital signatures use public key cryptography to
provide authentication, data integrity, and nonrepudiation for a message
or transaction. Just as a physical signature provides assurance that a
letter has been written by a specific person, a digital signature confirms
the identity of a message's sender. Digital signatures are often used in

29A PKI is a system of hardware, software, policies, and people that can
provide a set of information assurances (identification and
authentication, confidentiality, data integrity, and nonrepudiation) that
are important in conducting electronic transactions. For more information
on PKI, see U.S. General Accounting Office, Information Security:Advances
and RemainingChallengestoAdoptionof Public Key InfrastructureTechnology,
GAO-01-277 (Washington, D.C.: February 26, 2001).

conjunction with digital certificates. A digital certificate is an
electronic credential that guarantees the association between a public key
and a specific entity. The most common use of digital certificates is to
verify that a user sending a message is who he or she claims to be and to
provide the receiver with a means to encode a reply. Certificates can be
issued to computer equipment and processes as well as to individuals. For
example, companies that do business over the Internet can obtain digital
certificates for their computer servers. These certificates are used to
authenticate the servers to potential customers, who can then rely on the
servers to support the secure exchange of encrypted information, such as
passwords and credit card numbers.

How the technology works

The creation of a digital signature is a two-step process based on public
key cryptography, as illustrated in figure 11. As previously noted, for
performance reasons, public key cryptography is not used to encrypt large
amounts of data. Therefore, the first step involves reducing the amount of
data that needs to be encrypted. This is typically accomplished by using a
cryptographic hash algorithm, which condenses the data into a message
digest.30 Then the message digest is encrypted, using the sender's private
signing key to create a digital signature. Because the message digest will
be different for each signature, each signature will also be unique; if a
good hash algorithm is used, it is computationally infeasible to find
another message that will generate the same message digest.

30A hash algorithm compresses the bits of a message to a fixed size.
Because any change in the message or the algorithm results in a different
value, it is not possible to reverse this process and arrive at the
original information.

Source: National Institute of Standards Technology and Corel Galley.

For example, if Bob wishes to digitally sign an electronic document, he
can use his private key to encrypt the message digest of the document. His
public key is freely available, so anyone with access to his public key
can decrypt the document. Although this may seem backwards because anyone
can read what is encrypted, the fact that Bob's private key is held only
by Bob provides the proof that Bob's digital signature is valid.

Source: National Institute of Standards Technology and Corel Galley.

Alice (or anyone else wishing to verify the document) can compute the
message digest of the document and decrypt the signature using Bob's
public key (see fig. 12). Assuming that the message digests match, Alice
then has three kinds of security assurance. First, the digital signature
ensures that Bob actually signed the document (authentication). Second, it
ensures that Bob in fact sent the message (nonrepudiation). And third,
because the message digest would have changed if anything in the message
had been modified, Alice knows that no one tampered with the contents of
the document after Bob signed it (data integrity). Of course, this assumes
that (1) Bob has sole control over his private signing key and (2) Alice
is sure that the public key she used to validate Bob's messages really
belongs to Bob.

Digital certificates address this need to link an individual to his or her
public key. A digital certificate is created by placing the individual's
name, the individual's public key, and certain other identifying
information in a small electronic document that is stored in a directory
or other database. Directories may be publicly available repositories kept
on servers that act like telephone books in which users can look up
others' public keys. The digital certificate itself is created by a
trusted third party called a certification authority, which digitally
signs the certificate, thus providing assurance that the public key
contained in the certificate does indeed belong to the individual named in
the certificate. Certification authorities are a main component of a PKI,
which uses cryptographic techniques to generate and manage digital

Effectiveness of the technology

Within an organization, separate key pairs are necessary to support both
encryption and digital signatures, and a user's private encryption key
should normally be copied to a safe backup location. This provides the
organization with the ability to access encrypted data if the user's
original private encryption key becomes inaccessible. For example, the
organization would have an interest in decrypting data should the private
key be destroyed or lost or if the user were fired, incapacitated, or
deceased. However, copies of the private keys used for digital signatures
should never be made, because they could fall into the wrong hands and be
used to forge the owners' signatures.

By linking an individual to his or her public key, digital certificates
help to provide assurance that digital signatures are used effectively.
However, digital certificates are only as secure as the public key
infrastructure that they are based on. For example, if an unauthorized
user is able to obtain a private key, the digital certificate could then
be compromised. In addition, users of certificates are dependent on
certification authorities to verify the digital certificates. If a valid
certification authority is not used, or a certification authority makes a
mistake or is the victim of a cyber attack, a digital certificate may be

Virtual Private Networks

                            What the technology does

                             Source: GAO analysis.

A VPN is a private network that is maintained across a shared or public
network, such as the Internet, by means of specialized security
procedures. VPNs allow organizations or individuals to connect a network
between two or more physical locations (for example, field offices and
organization headquarters) without incurring the costs of purchasing or
leasing dedicated telephone lines or frame relay circuits.31 (See fig.
13.) Through measures like authentication and data encryption,
cryptographic VPNs can establish a secure virtual connection between
physical locations.

VPNs can be implemented through hardware, existing firewalls, and
standalone software applications. To a user, VPNs appear no different than
traditional networks and can be used normally whether the user is dialing
in from home or accessing a field office from headquarters. VPNs are
typically used in intranets and in remote access connections.

o  	Intranetsare interlinked private networks within an enterprise that
allow information and computer resources to be shared throughout an
organization. Some organizations have sensitive data on a LAN that is
physically disconnected from the rest of the organization's intranet. This
lack of connectivity may cause data on that LAN to be inaccessible to
users. A VPN can be used in this situation to allow the sensitive LAN to
be physically connected to the intranet-but separated by a VPN server.
Only authorized users would be able to establish a VPN connection with the
server to gain access to the sensitive LAN, and all communication across
the VPN could be encrypted for data confidentiality.

o  	Remote access VPNssimplify the process of remote access, allowing
offsite users to connect, via the Internet, to a VPN server at the
organization's headquarters. Digital subscriber line (DSL) or cable modem
services allow remote VPN users to access the organization's network at
speeds comparable to those attained with on-site access.

How the technology works

A VPN works by using shared public networks while maintaining privacy
through security procedures and protocols that encrypt communications
between two end points. To provide an additional level of security, a VPN
can encrypt not only the data, but also the originating and receiving
network addresses. There are two main VPN technologies, which differ in

31Frame relay is a packet-switching protocol for connecting devices on a

their methods of encrypting data for secure transmission over Internet
connections. The first method is based on "tunneling" protocols that
encrypt packets at the sending end and decrypt them at the receiving end.
This process is commonly referred to as encapsulation, because the
original, unsecured packet is placed within another packet that has been
secured by encryption. The encapsulated packets are then sent through a
"tunnel" that can only be traveled by data that have been properly
encrypted. Figure 14 is a depiction of tunneling.

Source: GAO analysis.

A commonly used tunneling protocol is IPSec.32 IPSec VPNs connect hosts to
entire private networks, encrypt IP packets, and ensure that the packets
are not deleted, added to, or tampered with during transmission. Because
they are based on the IP protocol, IPSec VPNS can secure any IP traffic
and can be configured to support any IP-based application.

In addition to tunneling protocols, VPNs can use the SSL protocol, which
uses a limited form of public key cryptography. SSL VPNs connect users to
services and applications inside private networks, but they secure only
the applications' services or data. SSL is a feature of commonly available
commercial Web browsers (such as Microsoft's Internet Explorer and America
Online's Netscape Navigator), and SSL VPNs use standard browsers instead
of the specialized client software that is required by IPSec VPNs.

Effectiveness of the technology

VPNs can be a cost-effective way to secure transmitted data across public
networks. However, the cost of implementing IPSec VPNs includes the

32Other tunneling protocols include Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol
(PPTP) and Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP).

installation and configuration of specialized software that is required on
every client computer. SSL VPNs use standard Web browsers, eliminating the
need for client administration, but the SSL protocol often requires that
applications be customized.

In addition, VPNs are only as secure as the computers that are connected
to them. Because of the interconnected environment, any unsecured client
computer could be used to launch an attack on the network. In particular,
VPNs may be susceptible to man-in-the-middle attacks, message replay
attacks, and denial-of-service attacks.33

                              Audit and Monitoring

Audit and monitoring technologies can help security administrators to
routinely assess computer security, perform investigations during and
after an attack, and even recognize an ongoing attack.

We describe four types of audit and monitoring technologies: intrusion
detection systems, intrusion prevention systems, security event
correlation tools, and computer forensics. Intrusion detection and
intrusion prevention systems monitor and analyze events occurring on a
system or network and either alert appropriate personnel or prevent an
attack from proceeding. Audit logs are produced by many operating systems
and software applications. Depending on the configuration of the logging
functions, critical activities-such as access to administrator
functions-are logged and can be monitored for anomalous activity. Security
event correlation tools can help to detect security events and examine
logs to determine the method of entry that was used by an attacker and to
ascertain the extent of damage that was caused by the attack. Because of
the volume of data collected on some systems and networks, these tools can
help to consolidate the logs and to identify key information using
correlation analysis. Computer forensics involves the identification,
preservation, extraction, and documentation of computerbased evidence.
Computer forensics tools are used during the

33A man-in-the-middle attackis one in which the attacker intercepts
messages in a public key exchange and then retransmits them, substituting
his or her own public key for the requested one, so that the two original
parties still appear to be communicating with each other directly. A
message replay attackis one in which an attacker eavesdrops, obtains a
copy of an encrypted message, and then re-uses the message at a later time
in an attempt to trick the cryptographic protocol. A
denial-of-serviceattack is one in which an attack from a single source
overwhelms a target computer with messages, denying access to legitimate
users without actually having to compromise the targeted computer.

Intrusion Detection Systems

investigation of a computer crime to identify the perpetrator and the
methods that were used to conduct the attack.

What the technology does

An intrusion detection system (IDS) detects inappropriate, incorrect, or
anomalous activity that is aimed at disrupting the confidentiality,
availability, or integrity of a protected network and its computer
systems. An IDS collects information on a network, analyzes the
information on the basis of a preconfigured rule set, and then responds to
the analysis.

A special type of IDS, known as a honeypot, acts as a decoy server or
system that gathers information about an attacker or intruder-such as the
method of intrusion and the vulnerabilities exploited-in order to improve
security methods. To attract attackers, honeypots appear to contain
important data, but instead they contain false information. A honeypot can
be set up to alert a system administrator of an attack via e-mail or
pager, allowing the administrator to ensure that the honeypot is not used
as a springboard for future attacks.

How the technology works

There are three common types of IDS, classified by the source of
information they use to detect intrusion: network-based, host-based, and

Network-based IDSs detect attacks by capturing and analyzing network
packets. When placed in a network segment, one network-based IDS can
monitor the network traffic that affects multiple hosts that are connected
to that network segment. Network-based IDSs often consist of a set of
single-purpose sensors or hosts, placed at various points in a network.
These units monitor network traffic, performing local analysis of that
traffic and reporting attacks to a central management console. Because
these sensors are limited to running the IDS application only, they can
more easily be secured against attacks. Many of these sensors are designed
to run in "stealth" mode, making it more difficult for an attacker to
detect their presence and location.

Host-based IDSs collect information from within an individual computer
system and use that information to detect intrusions. Host-based IDSs can
determine exactly which processes and user accounts are involved in a

particular attack on the system. Furthermore, unlike network-based IDSs,
host-based IDSs can more readily "see" the intended outcome of an
attempted attack, because they can directly access and monitor the data
files and the system processes that are usually targeted by attacks.
Hostbased IDSs normally use two types of information sources: operating
system audit trails and system logs. Operating system audit trails are
usually generated at the innermost level of the operating system;
therefore these trails are more detailed and better protected than system
logs. Some host-based IDSs are designed to support a centralized IDS
management and reporting infrastructure that can allow a single management
console to track many hosts. Others generate messages in formats that are
compatible with a network management system.

Application-based IDSs are a special subset of host-based IDSs that
analyze the events occurring within a specific software application. The
most common information sources used by application-based IDSs are the
application's transaction log files. Because they directly interface with
the application and use application-specific knowledge, application-based
IDSs can detect the actions of authorized users who are attempting to
exceed their authorization. This is because such problems are more likely
to appear in the interaction among the user, the data, and the

These IDSs are characterized by four primary qualities: source of
information, method of analysis, timing, and response.

IDSs have two primary methods of performing analysis. Signature-based
(sometimes referred to as knowledge-based or pattern-based) analysis
relies on previous known attacks to detect an attack that is occurring.
The IDS analyzes system activity, looking for events that match a
predefined pattern of events that describes known attacks. If the analysis
of data reveals that an attack is ongoing or that a vulnerability is being
exploited, an alarm is generated. Anomaly-based (also referred to as
behavior-based) analysis compares the current operation of a system or
network against a valid or accepted system behavior. An anomaly-based IDS
creates a baseline of normal (valid or accepted) behavior through various
collection methods. If the current behavior of the system were not within
the normal boundaries of behavior, then it would be interpreted by the IDS
as an attack.

IDSs can use either an interval-based or a real-time timing method. The
interval-based timing method analyzes the data on a predetermined
schedule. This method allows an IDS to collect a large amount of data. The

real-time method analyzes and responds to the data as they come in,
allowing administrators to respond in real time to attacks.

IDSs can respond to possible attacks using either an active or a passive
response strategy. An active response IDS is referred to as an intrusion
prevention system (IPS). A passive response IDS will typically generate an
alarm for an administrator. The alarm may appear on the administrator's
screen and provide the administrator with information such as the type of
attack, the location of the attack, the threat level, how it should be
responded to, and possibly whether the attack is successful. A passive
response IDS relies on a human to take action in response to the alert.

Effectiveness of the technology

IDSs cannot instantaneously detect, report, or respond to an attack when
there is a heavy network or processing load. Therefore, IDSs are
vulnerable to denial-of-service attacks; a malicious individual could send
large amounts of information through a network to overwhelm the IDS,
allowing the individual to launch another attack that would then go
unnoticed by the IDS. IDSs rely on available attack information, and they
are not as effective when protecting against unknown attacks, newly
published attacks, or variants of existing attacks. In addition, IDSs are
not always able to automatically investigate attacks without human

The effectiveness of an IDS can be somewhat determined by the number of
false positives and false negatives that it generates. A false positive
occurs when the IDS alerts that there is an attack occurring, when in fact
there is no attack. A false negative occurs when the IDS fails to alert
that an attack is occurring. With anomaly-based IDSs, false positives are
numerous because of the unpredictable behaviors of users and networks.
Administrators must devote a fair amount of time to regularly reviewing
the IDS logs and to fine-tuning the IDS to limit the number of false
alarms. If excessive false alarms occur, future alarms are increasingly
likely to be ignored. Sometimes the IDS may be disabled for the sake of
convenience. An attacker could exploit this vulnerability by slowly
changing the accepted operation of the system or network recognized by the
IDS, allowing for a larger attack to occur at a future time. The attacker
could accomplish this by affecting the baseline as it is being created or
by later slowly attacking the system so that the baseline moves to a new
threshold of accepted behavior. Also, if an anomaly-based IDS is used
while an attack is occurring, the normal behavior accepted by the IDS will
include behaviors that are characteristic of an attack. Anomaly-based IDSs

                          Intrusion Prevention Systems

take a varying amount of time to compute the valid or accepted behavior,
so that for a period of time the IDS will not be an effective method of
detecting attacks.

What the technology does

As we have described, intrusion prevention systems are IDSs with an active
response strategy. This means that IPSs not only can detect an intrusive
activity, they also can attempt to stop the activity-ideally before it
reaches its targets. Intrusion prevention is much more valuable than
intrusion detection, because intrusion detection simply observes events
without making any effort to stop them. IPSs often combine the best of
firewall, intrusion detection, antivirus, and vulnerability assessment
technologies. Their focus, however, is on the prevention of detected
attacks that might exploit an existing vulnerability in the protected
network or host system.

How the technology works

Like IDSs, IPSs are either network-based or host-based. They perform IDS
functions and when they detect an intrusion, take action such as blocking
the network traffic to prevent the attack from proceeding. Network-based
IPSs may simply monitor the network traffic or they may actually be "in
line," which means that activity must pass through them. For example, an
IPS includes a network-based IDS that is integrated with a firewall and a
host-based IDS that integrates the detection and prevention
functionalities into the kernel of the operating system. Network-based
IPSs thoroughly inspect data traffic, typically using specialized hardware
to compensate for the processing overhead that inspection consumes.

IPSs actively respond to possible attacks by collecting additional
information, changing the current environment, and taking action against
the intruder. One of their common responses is to adjust firewall rules to
block the offending network traffic. If an IPS responds to an attack by
taking action against the intruder (a mode of operation commonly referred
to as attack-back or strike-back), it may launch a series of attacks
against the attacker. In another aggressive response, called trace-back,
the IPS attempts to find the source of the attack.

Security Event Correlation Tools

Effectiveness of the technology

Intrusion prevention systems are the logical evolution of intrusion
detection systems. Instead of dealing with the constant warning alarms of
IDSs, IPSs can prevent attacks by blocking suspicious network traffic. A
key value of some IPSs is their ability to "learn" what constitutes
acceptable behavior and to halt activity that is not based on rules that
were generated during the learning, or profiling, stage.

Network-based IPSs offer in-line monitoring of data streams throughout the
network and provide the capability to prevent intrusion attempts.
Host-based IPSs allow systems and applications to be configured
individually, preventing attacks against the operating system or
applications. These IPSs are suitable measures to help guard unpatched and
exploitable systems against attacks, but they require substantial user

Unfortunately, IPSs are susceptible to errors in detecting intrusions. If
the detection of incidents is not accurate, then an IPS may block
legitimate activities that are incorrectly classified as malicious. Any
organization that wants to utilize intrusion prevention should pay
particular attention to detection accuracy when selecting a product.

Users of IPSs also face the challenge of maintaining a database of recent
attack signatures so that systems can be guarded against recent attack
strategies. Furthermore, IPSs cause bottlenecks in network traffic,
reducing throughput across the network.

What the technology does

Security event correlation tools collect logs, or lists of actions that
have occurred, from operating systems, firewalls, applications, IDSs, and
other network devices. Then the correlation tools analyze the logs in real
time, discern whether an attack has occurred, and respond to a security

Review and analysis of logs can provide a dynamic picture of ongoing
system activities that can be used to verify that the system is operating
according to the organization's policies. Analyzing a single device's logs
is insufficient to gain a full understand of all system activity, but the
size, number, and difficulty of reading through every tool's log files is

daunting task for an administrator. Security event correlation tools
address the need for an administrator to investigate an attack in a
realtime setting, through analysis and correlation of all the different
IDS, firewall, and server logs. Automated audit tools provide a means to
significantly reduce the required review time, and they will print reports
(predefined and customized) that summarize the log contents from a set of
specific activities (see fig. 15).

Source: GAO analysis.

How the technology works

Security event correlation tools first consolidate the log files from
various sources, such as operating systems, firewalls, applications, IDSs,
antivirus programs, servers, and virtual private networks. Often, the logs
from the various sources come in a variety of proprietary formats that
make comparisons difficult. As part of the consolidation process, security
event correlation tools normalize the logs into a standard format-for
example, Extensible Markup Language (commonly referred to as XML).34 After
the normalization process, unnecessary data can be eliminated in order to
decrease the chance of errors.

34XML is a flexible, nonproprietary set of standards for tagging
information so that it can be transmitted over a network such as the
Internet and be readily interpreted by disparate computer systems.

The normalized logs are then compared (or correlated) to determine whether
attacks have occurred. A variety of correlation methods can be used,
including sophisticated pattern-based analysis, which can identify similar
activity on various logs that have originated from an attack. For example,
an IDS might not raise a flag if a single port was being scanned. However,
if that port were being scanned on multiple systems, that activity might
indicate an attack. By consolidating the logs from the various IDSs,
correlation tools may detect this type of attack. A second method of
analysis is called anomaly detection. In this method, a baseline of normal
user activity is taken, and logged activities are compared against this
baseline. Abnormal activity can then be interpreted as potentially
indicating an attack. Another correlation method considers the
significance of the logged event, which can be calculated as the
probability that the attack would have succeeded.

If an attack is detected, the tools can then respond either passively or
actively. A passive response means that no action is taken by the tool to
stop the threat directly. For example, notifications can be sent to system
administrators via pagers or e-mail, incidents can be logged, and IP
addresses can be added to intruder or asset watch lists. An active
response is an automated action taken by the tool to mitigate the risk.
For example, one active response is to block the attack through interfaces
with firewalls or routers.

Effectiveness of the technology

Correlation tools are limited in their ability to interface with numerous
security products; they may not be able to collect and correlate logs from
certain products. In addition, these tools rely on the sufficiency and
accuracy of the logs, and they cannot detect attacks that have bypassed
the various security devices, such as the firewall and IDS. If an attacker
were able to compromise the logs, then the security event correlation tool
could be analyzing false information. Encryption and authentication to
ensure the security and integrity of the data may mitigate this risk.

Computer Forensics Tools

What the technology does

Computer forensics tools are used to identify, preserve, extract, and
document computer-based evidence. They can identify passwords, logons, and
other information in files that have been deleted, encrypted, or damaged.
During the investigation of a computer crime, these tools are

used to determine the perpetrator and the methods that were used to
conduct the attack.

There are two main categories of computer forensics tools: (1) evidence
preservation and collection tools, which prevent the accidental or
deliberate modification of computer-related evidence and create a logical
or physical copy of the original evidence, and (2) analysis tools, which
provide data recovery and discovery functions. A few commercially
available computer forensics products incorporate features of both
categories and claim to provide a complete suite of forensics tools.

How the technology works

Evidence Preservation and Collection Tools

Write protection and disk-imaging software are used to preserve and copy
computer evidence while preserving its integrity.

There are several techniques that are used by write protection software,
which prevents or disables a user's attempts to modify data (or perform
the "write" operation) on a computer's hard drive or on other computer
media. In one method, the write protection software attempts to gain
exclusive access to the media through mechanisms specific to the operating
system. If exclusive access can be gained, all other software applications
will be prevented from accessing and modifying the locked media. Another
method utilizes a separate software component that is installed as part of
the operating system and is loaded when the operating system starts (and
before any other application can execute).

Disk imaging is a process that attempts to copy every bit of data from one
physical computer medium to another, similar medium. This type of
duplication is known as a physical disk copy, and it involves copying all
data, including files, file names, and data that are not associated with a
file. Disk-imaging tools may also perform varying degrees of integrity
checking to verify that all data have been copied without error or
alteration. The most common technique used to verify data integrity is a
digital signature or a checksum algorithm.

Analysis Tools

These tools can recover deleted files by taking advantage of a common
technique that is typically employed by commercial operating systems. When
a user deletes a file from a computer medium (such as a floppy disk

or hard drive), many operating systems do not destroy the data contained
in the files. Instead, the space occupied by the deleted file is marked as
available, or unallocated, so it can be reused as new files are created.
The unallocated data contained in those deleted files may still remain on
the medium. Analysis tools that recover unallocated data examine a
specific structure and organization of information (called a file system)
as it is stored on computer media. Because common operating systems
maintain data in unique file systems that vary greatly, these analysis
tools are typically designed for a specific file system.

Other analysis tools examine text files to identify the occurrence and
frequency of specific words or patterns. They can generate a word index by
creating a database of every word or delimited string that is contained
within a single file, a collection of files, or an entire medium. They can
also search multiple files or entire media for the occurrence of specified
strings or words, as well as perform advanced searches using Boolean
expressions.35 Some tools have the capability to perform fuzzy logic
searches, which search for derivatives of a word, related words, and
misspelled words. For example, when searching for files containing the
word "bomb," files that contain "bombed," "explosive," or "bommb" may also
be considered as matches.

Other analysis tools identify files by their type or individual identity,
a method that can reduce the volume of data that an investigator must
analyze. File type identification is based on a file signature-a unique
sequence of values stored within a file that may be as short as 2
characters or longer than 12 characters. The longer the sequence, the
greater the uniqueness of the signature and the less likely it is that a
file will be mislabeled. Individual file identification is also
signature-based, but the method calculates a signature over an entire file
or data unit. One approach utilizes a representation that is both
efficient in storage requirements and reliable in terms of its uniqueness,
such as a hashing algorithm.

35In Boolean searches, an "and" operator between two words or other values
(for example, "pear AND apple") means one is searching for documents
containing both of the words or values, not just one of them. An "or"
operator between two words or other values (for example, "pear OR apple")
means one is searching for documents containing either of the words.

Effectiveness of the technology

There are many different automated tools that are routinely used by law
enforcement organizations to assist in the investigation of crimes
involving computers. These tools are employed to generate critical
evidence that is used in criminal cases. However, there are no standards
or recognized tests by which to judge the validity of the results produced
by these tools. Computer forensics tools must meet the same standards that
are applied to all forensic sciences, including formal testable theories,
peer-reviewed methodologies and tools, and replicable empirical research.
Failing to apply standards may result in contaminating or losing critical
evidence. It is important to obtain legal advice and consult with law
enforcement officials before undertaking any forensic activities in
situations where criminal or civil investigation or litigation is a
potential outcome.

Configuration Management and Assurance

Configuration management and assurance technologies help security
administrators to view and change the security settings on their hosts and
networks, verify the correctness of the security settings, and maintain
operations in a secure fashion under duress. Technologies that assist
configuration management and assurance include policy enforcement tools,
network management tools, continuity of operations tools, scanners for
testing and auditing security, and patch management tools.

Policy enforcement tools help administrators define and ensure compliance
with a set of security rules and configurations, such as a password
policy, access to systems and files, and desktop and server
configurations. Management and administration tools are used to maintain
networks and systems. These tools incorporate functions that facilitate
central monitoring of the security posture of networks and systems.
Network management tools obtain status data from network components, make
configuration changes, and alert network managers to problems.

To provide continuity of operations, there are secure backup tools that
can restore system functionality and data in the event of a disruption.
These products are used to account for naturally occurring problems, such
as power outages, and are now also being applied to help address problems
resulting from malicious cyber attacks. Tools are also available to help
systems and networks continue to perform during an attack.

Scanners are common testing and audit tools that are used to identify
vulnerabilities in networks and systems. As part of proactive security
testing, scanners are available that can be used to probe modems, Internet

Policy Enforcement Applications

ports, databases, wireless access points, and Web pages and applications.
These tools often incorporate the capability to monitor the security
posture of the networks and systems by testing and auditing their security

Patch management tools help system administrators with the process of
acquiring, testing, and applying fixes to operating systems and
applications. Software vendors typically provide these fixes to correct
known vulnerabilities in their software.

What the technology does

Policy enforcement technologies allow system administrators to perform
centralized monitoring of compliance with an organization's security
policies.36 These tools examine desktop and server configurations that
define authorized access to specified devices and compare these settings
against a baseline policy. They typically provide multilevel reports on
computer configurations, and some products have the capability to fix
various identified problems. They also provide information that can help
centralized administrators more effectively use other security
technologies, such as access control and security event and correlation

How the technology works

Policy enforcement tools generally have four main functions:

Policy definition. These tools can help establish baseline policy
settings. Policies can include features like minimum password requirements
and user and group rights to specific applications. Some products include
policy templates that can be customized and distributed to users for
review and signatures.

Compliance checking. After a security policy has been defined, these tools
can compare current system configurations with the baseline settings.
Compliance can be monitored across multiple administrative

36Policy is defined as a set of configurations and access controls that
affect the overall security stance of a user, group, device, or

domains and operating systems from a central management console. For
example, compliance checking could include testing for a particular
setting in multiple systems' configuration files, checking the audit
configuration on a subset of computers, or checking that console password
settings fit the policies of the organization (for example, using the
correct number of characters in a password, using alphanumeric characters,
and periodically changing passwords). The tools often allow customized
checks to be defined.

Reporting. Basic reporting templates are generally included with these
tools, such as templates for configurations, user accounts, access
controls, and software patch levels. In addition, users can often
customize reports and create ad hoc queries for specific information on
particular computers. These reports can consolidate information, such as
which users have not recently logged on to a system and which computers
are running unpatched applications. The reports can be tailored
differently for security personnel and management.

Remediation. Some policy enforcement tools allow problems that have been
discovered to be fixed proactively. For example, if the latest security
software patch for a particular application has not been installed, some
tools automatically download patches from a vendor's Web site and either
alert an administrator or install the patches directly onto the system.

Effectiveness of the technology

Policy enforcement software can provide for centralized monitoring,
control, and enforcement. However, the software's effectiveness is largely
governed by the security policies of the organization. These tools can
only assist in monitoring and enforcing those policies that organizations
choose to implement. As a result, they can be only as good as the policies
that the organization defines. In addition, some policy enforcement tools
do not work on all operating systems, and installation and configuration
can be arduous.

Network Management

What the technology does

Network management is the ability to control and monitor a computer
network from a central location. Network management systems consist of
software and dedicated computer hardware that view the entire network as a
unified architecture in order to obtain status data from network

components, make configuration changes, and alert network managers to
problems. The International Organization for Standardization defines a
conceptual model for describing the five key functional areas of network
management (and the main functions of network management systems):

o  	Fault management identifies problems in nodes, the network, and the
network's operation to determine their causes and to take remedial action.

o  	Configuration management monitors network configuration information so
that the effects of specific hardware and software can be managed and

o  	Accounting management measures network utilization by individual users
or groups in order to provide billing information, regulate users or
groups, and help keep network performance at an acceptable level.

o  	Performance management measures various aspects of network
performance, including gathering and analyzing statistical system data so
that performance may be maintained at an acceptable level.

o  	Security management controls access to network resources by limiting
access to network resources, and by providing notification of security
breaches and attempts, so that information cannot be obtained without

How the technology works

A network management system typically consists of managed devices (the
network hosts); software agents, which communicate information about the
managed devices; a network management application, which gathers and
processes information from agents; and a network management station, which
allows an operator to view a graphical representation of the network,
control managed devices on the network, and program the network management
application. Figure 16 is an example of a typical network management

Source: GAO analysis.

The network management station receives and processes events from network
elements and acts as the main console for network operations. The network
management station displays a graphical network map that highlights the
operational states of critical network devices such as routers and
switches. Each network device is represented by a graphical element on the
management station's console, and different colors are used to represent
the current operational status of network devices, based on status
notifications sent by the devices. These notifications (usually called
events) are placed in a log file.

The functionality of network management software (network management
applications and agents) depends on the particular network management
protocol that the software is based on. Most systems use open protocols.
However, some network management software is based upon vendorspecific
proprietary protocols. The two most common network management protocols
are the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) and Common Management
Information Protocol (CMIP). SNMP is

                         Continuity-of-Operations Tools

widely used in most LAN environments. CMIP is used in telecommunication
environments, where networks tend to be large and complex.

Effectiveness of the technology

Network management systems can be quite expensive and they are often
complex. The complexity is primarily in the network management protocols
and data structures that are associated with the network management
information. Also, these systems require personnel with the specialized
training to effectively configure, maintain, and operate the network
management system.

Many network management systems cannot support network devices that use
vendor-specific protocols.

What the technology does

Continuity-of-operations tools provide a complete backup infrastructure to
keep the enterprise's data resources online and available at multiple
locations in case of an emergency or planned maintenance, such as system
or software upgrading. They maintain operational continuity of the storage
devices and host and database levels. Continuity-of-operations tools
include high-availability systems, which link two or more computers
together to provide continuous access to data through systems redundancy
(known as clustering); journaling filesystems, which maintain specific
information about data to avoid file system errors and corruption;
load-balancingtechnology, which distributes traffic efficiently among
network servers so that no individual server is overburdened; and
redundant array of independent disk(RAID) technology, which allows two or
more hard drives to work in concert for increased fault tolerance and
improved performance. 37

37Fault tolerance is the ability of a system to respond gracefully to an
unexpected hardware or software failure.

How the technology works

High-availability systems use clustering, which refers to two or more
servers set up in such a way that if an application running on one server
fails, it can then be automatically restarted or recovered on another
server. This is referred to as failoverfrom one server or node in the
cluster to another. High-availability systems utilize fail-over operations
to automatically switch to a standby database, server, or network if the
primary system fails or is temporarily shut down for servicing. Some
highavailability systems can also perform remote backups, remote mutual
takeovers, concurrent access operations, and remote system recoveries.
These functions are described below:

o  	In a remote backup, a remote geographic site is designated as a hot
backup site that is live and ready to take over the current workload. This
backup site includes hardware, system, and application software and
application data and files. In the event of a failure, the failed site's
application workload automatically moves to the remote hot backup site.

o  	In a remote mutualtakeover,geographically separated system sites are
designated as hot backups for each other. Should either site experience a
failure, the other acts as a hot backup and automatically takes over the
designated application workload of the failed site. Two different
workloads running at two different sites are protected.

o  	In concurrent access,systems at both sites are concurrently updating
the same database.

o  	In remote systemrecovery, data can be resynchronized, and a failed
system that has been restored to operation can be reintegrated with the
remote hot backup. In a process known as file mirroring, the failed system
is updated with current application data and files that were processed by
the backup system after the failed system ceased operations. Upon
completing restoration of an up-to-date data and file mirror, the
highavailability system will resume synchronized system operations,
including the mirroring of real-time data and files between the system
sites. This can occur while the remote backup is in use.

A journaling file systemensures that the data on a disk have been restored
to their prefailure configuration. It also recovers unsaved data and
stores them in their intended locations (had the computer not failed),
making the journaling file system an important feature for
mission-critical applications. A journaling file system transaction treats
a sequence of changes as a single operation and tracks changes to file
system metadata

and user data. The transaction guarantees that either all or none of the
file system updates are done.

For example, the process of creating a new file modifies several metadata
values. Before the file system makes those changes, it creates a
transaction to record the intended changes. Once the transaction has been
recorded on disk, the file system modifies the metadata and the
transaction that are stored on the journaling file system. In the event of
a system failure, the file system is restored to a consistent state by
repeating the transactions listed in the journal. Rather than examining
all metadata, the file system inspects only those portions of the metadata
that have recently changed.

Load-balancingtechnology distributes processing and communications
activity evenly across a computer network by transferring the tasks from
heavily loaded processors to the ones with lighter loads. Load-balancing
decisions are based on three policies: an information policy, which
specifies the amount of load information to be made available; a transfer
policy, which specifies the current workload of the host and the size of
the job; and a placement policy, which specifies proper allocation of
processes to the different computer processors.

RAID systems provide large amounts of storage by making the data on many
smalls disks readily available to file servers, host computers, or the
network as a single unit (known as an array). The design of the array of
disks is an important determinant of performance and data availability in
a RAID system. In addition to deploying an array of disks, RAID systems
include a controller-an intelligent electronic device that routes,
buffers, and manages data flow between the host computer and the network
array of disks. RAID controllers can organize data on the disks in several
ways in order to optimize the performance and reliability of the system
for different types of applications. RAID can also be implemented in

Effectiveness of the technology

Continuity-of-operations technologies can help an agency increase the
availability of its mission-critical applications. Some of the
technologies- such as RAID and journaling file systems-increase the
ability of a single server to survive a number of failures. For many
agencies, the combination of RAID, journaling file system, and redundant
power supply can provide adequate protection against disruptions.


Organizations that cannot tolerate an application outage of more than a
few minutes may deploy a high-availability system that uses clustering.
Clustering has a proven track record as a good solution for increasing
application availability. However, clustering is expensive because it
requires additional hardware and clustering software, and it is more
complex to manage than a single system.

What the technology does

Scanners help to identify a network's or a system's security
vulnerabilities. There are a variety of scanning tools, including port
scanners, vulnerability scanners, and modem scanners.38

Port scanners are used to map networks and identify the services running
on each host by detecting open TCP and user datagram protocol (UDP) ports.
Vulnerability scanners are used to identify vulnerabilities on computer
hosts and networks and to make use of the results that were generated by a
port scanner. These tools have reporting features to list the
vulnerabilities that they identified, and may provide instructions on how
to reduce or eliminate the vulnerability. Many scanners are now equipped
to automatically fix selected vulnerabilities.

Modem scanners, also known as war dialers, are programs that identify
phone numbers that can successfully make a connection with a computer
modem. Unauthorized modems can provide a means to bypass most or all of
the security measures in place to stop unauthorized users from accessing a
network-such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems.

How the technology works

Port scanners use methods known as ping sweepsand port scansto map
networks and identify services that are in use. Ping sweeps are considered
the most basic technique for scanning a network. A ping sweep determines
which range of IP addresses map to computers that are turned on by sending
communication requests (known as Internet Control Message Protocol [ICMP]
ECHO requests) to multiple IP addresses. If a computer at

38Other scanning tools include database scanners, Web application
scanners, and wireless packet analyzers.

a target address is turned on, it will return a specific ICMP ECHO reply.
In port scanning, the scanner sends a message to a specific port on a
target computer and waits for a response. The responses to a scan can
allow the scanner to determine (1) which ports are open and (2) the
operating system the computer is running (certain port scans only work on
certain operating systems). The type of message that is sent and the
information the scanner receives can distinguish the various types of port

Vulnerability scanners are software applications that can be used to
identify vulnerabilities on computer hosts and networks. Host-based
scanners must be installed on each host to be tested, and they typically
require administrative-level access to operate. Network-based scanners
operate on an organization's network and identify vulnerabilities on
multiple computers. Whether host-based or network-based, vulnerability
scanners automatically identify a host's operating system and active
applications; they then compare these with the scanners' database of known
vulnerabilities. Vulnerability scanners employ large databases of known
vulnerabilities to identify the vulnerabilities that are associated with
commonly used operating systems and applications. When a match is found,
the scanner will alert the operator to a possible vulnerability. Figure 17
shows a sample screen from a vulnerability scanner.

Source: GAO.

Modem scanners are software programs that automatically dial a defined
range of phone numbers and track successful connections in a database.
Some modem scanners can also identify the particular operating system
running on the computer, and they may be configured to attempt to gain
access to the system by running through a predetermined list of common
user names and passwords.

Effectiveness of the technology

Port-scanning applications have the capability to scan a large number of
hosts, but they do not directly identify known vulnerabilities. However,
some vulnerability scanners can perform a port scan to target specific
network hosts for vulnerability scanning. Vulnerability scanners can
identify vulnerabilities and suggest how to fix them, but they may not
themselves have the capability to fix all identified vulnerabilities. They
have been known to generate false positives (i.e., detecting a
vulnerability that does not exist) and false negatives (i.e., not
detecting a vulnerability that does exist). While false positives are
irrelevant warnings that can be ignored, false negatives can result in
overlooking critical security

                                Patch Management

vulnerabilities. Also, their effectiveness is linked to the quality of the
database of known vulnerabilities; if the database is not up to date,
vulnerability scanners might not identify newly discovered

What the technology does

Patch management tools automate the otherwise manual process of acquiring,
testing, and applying patches to multiple computer systems.39 These tools
can be either stand-alone patch management products or the patch component
of systems management products. Patch management tools are used to
identify missing patches on each system, deploy patches to a single or to
multiple computers, and generate reports to track the status of a patch
across a number of computers. Some tools offer customized features,
including automated inventorying and immediate notification of new
patches. While patch management tools primarily support the Windows
operating system, they are expanding to support multiple platforms.

How the technology works

Patch management tools have various system requirements, such as specific
applications, servers, and service pack levels, depending on the tool
selected. Patch management tools can be either scanner-based(nonagent) or
agent-based. Agent-based tools place small programs, or agents, on each
computer. The agents periodically poll a patch database-a server on a
network-for new updates and apply the patches pushed out by the
administrator. This architecture allows for either the client or the
server to initiate communications, which means that individual computers
can either query the patch database or allow the server to perform a scan
to determine their configuration status. Some patch management vendors
have contractual agreements with software vendors to receive
prenotification of vulnerabilities and related patches before they are
publicly released. These patch management vendors test the patch before it
is made available at a designated location (for example, a server), where
it can be automatically downloaded for deployment. The agents will then
install the patches for the systems meeting the patch requirements.

39A patch is an upgrade designed to fix a serious flaw (that is, a
vulnerability) in a piece of software and is typically developed and
distributed as a replacement for or an insertion in compiled code.

Scanner-based tools can scan the computers on a network according to
provided criteria, such as domain or IP range, to determine their
configurations. The server initiates communication with the client by
logging in and querying each machine as a domain or local administrator.
Patches are downloaded from the vendor's Web site and stored at a
designated location to be installed to the target machine.

Most tools also have built-in knowledge repositories that compare the
systems' established versions against lists that contain the latest
vulnerabilities and notifications of fixes. They also have the capability
to make recommendations on which patches to deploy on given machines.
Additionally, these tools can analyze whether the relevant patch has been
deployed to all affected systems. Many tools can also prioritize patch
deployment and dependencies on each system. This capability can allow for
logical grouping of target machines in order to streamline the patch
installation process.

Effectiveness of the technology

While patch management tools can automate patch delivery, it is still
necessary to determine whether a particular patch is appropriate to apply.
In addition, patches may need to be tested against the organization's
specific systems configurations. The complexity of the organization's
enterprise architecture determines the difficulty of this task. Also, some
of these tools are not consistently accurate in that they will incorrectly
report that a patch is missing when it has actually been installed (that
is, a false negative) or report that patches have been installed on
unpatched systems (that is, a false positive). Furthermore, the automated
distribution of patches may be a potential security exposure, because
patches are a potential entry point into an organization's infrastructure.

Agent-based products can reduce network traffic, because the processing
and analysis are offloaded to the target system and are not done on the
network. In this kind of implementation, the work is performed at the
client, which offloads the processing and analysis to the individual
computers and saves the data until it needs to report to the central
server. Agent-based products, however, require more maintenance,
deployment, and labor costs because of their distributed architecture.
Additionally, the task of installing agents on each machine requires more
work on the front end. Agent-based tools are better suited for larger
networks because they can provide a real-time network view.

Implementation Considerations


Should Be
Addressed  o 

Scanner-based tools are easier and faster to deploy and do not present
distributive management concerns. However, they can significantly increase
network traffic, because tests and communications travel over the network
whenever a scan is requested. Additionally, computers that are not
connected to the network at the time scans are performed are not accounted
for. Because of these shortcomings, scanner-based tools are recommended
only for smaller, static networks.

The selection and effective implementation of cybersecurity technologies
require adequate consideration of a number of key factors, including

implementing technologies through a layered, defense-in-depth strategy;

considering the agency's unique IT infrastructure when selecting

o  	utilizing results of independent testing when assessing the
technologies' capabilities;

o  	training staff on the secure implementation and utilization of these
technologies; and

o  ensuring that the technologies are securely configured.

Implementing Multiple Technologies Provides Defense in Depth

According to security experts, a best practice for protecting systems
against cyber attacks is for agencies to build successive layers of
defense mechanisms at strategic points in their IT infrastructures. This
approach, commonly referred to as defense in depth, entails implementing a
series of protective mechanisms such that if one mechanism fails to thwart
an attack, another will provide a backup defense. Because of the
interconnectivity of an agency's IT infrastructure, each of the components
represents a potential point of vulnerability to cyber attacks. Moreover,
because there is a wide variety of attack methods available to exploit
these vulnerabilities and there are many potential attackers, both
external and internal, no single technical solution can successfully
protect the information systems of federal agencies from potential cyber
attacks. By utilizing the strategy of defense in depth, agencies can
reduce the risk of a successful cyber attack. For example, multiple
firewalls could be deployed to prevent both outsiders and trusted insiders
from gaining unauthorized access to systems: one firewall could be
deployed at the network's Internet connection to control access to and
from the Internet, while

another firewall could be deployed between WANs and LANs to limit employee

In addition to deploying a series of similar security technologies at
multiple layers, deploying diverse technologies at different layers also
mitigates the risk of successful cyber attacks. Because cybersecurity
technology products have different capabilities and inherent limitations,
it is only a matter of time before an adversary will find an exploitable
vulnerability. If several different technologies are deployed between the
adversary and the targeted system, the adversary must overcome the unique
obstacle presented by each of the technologies. For example, firewalls and
intrusion detection technologies can be deployed to defend against attacks
from the Internet, and antivirus software can be utilized to provide
integrity protection for data transmitted over the network. In this way,
defense in depth can be effectively implemented through multiple security
measures among hosts, LANs and WANs, and the Internet.

Defense in depth also entails implementing an appropriate network
configuration, which can in turn affect the selection and implementation
of cybersecurity technologies. For example, configuring the agency's
network to channel Internet access through a limited number of connections
improves security by reducing the number of points that can be attacked
from the Internet. At the same time, the agency can focus technology
solutions and attention on protecting and monitoring the limited number of
connections for unauthorized access attempts.

Figure 18 depicts how applying a layered approach to security through
deploying both similar and diverse cybersecurity technologies at multiple
layers can deflect different types of attacks.

                      Source: GAO analysis and Corel Draw.

Product Selection Depends on Security Infrastructure

The selection of multiple technologies can be made in the context of the
overall security infrastructure and not aimed solely at specific
components of the system or the network. When selecting cybersecurity
technologies, it is important to consider the effects of the technologies
and processes on the agency's mission. For example, if a security
mechanism makes a process difficult or inconvenient, users may try to
bypass the process or conduct their business in different ways. Agencies
can balance their use of security technologies against the level of
service that the computers and network must provide. Products that are
appropriate for an agency will vary based on a number of factors, such as
the agency's specific IT infrastructure, security objectives, costs,
performance requirements, schedule constraints, and operational
constraints. Agencies may choose to perform a cost-benefit analysis,
including a life-cycle cost estimate for each product and a calculation of
the benefits associated with each product that can be identified in terms
of dollar savings or cost avoidance.

NIST has developed a guide for use by federal agencies in selecting
cybersecurity products.40 This guide builds upon previous NIST guidance
for the acquisition and use of security-related products as well as

40National Institute of Standards and Technology, Guide toSelecting
Information Technology SecurityProducts, NIST Special Publication 800-36
(October 2003).

numerous other NIST publications dedicated to individual cybersecurity
technologies. 41

The Capabilities of Security Technologies Can Be Independently Tested and

Instead of relying on vendors' claims regarding the capabilities of their
products, agencies can procure technologies that have been independently
tested and evaluated, to ensure that the products meet security standards.
By doing so, agencies may gain greater confidence that the products work
as advertised by the vendor. Testing also provides a way to demonstrate
that the product complies with security requirements.

Two prominent security testing and evaluation programs are in place to
assess the security features and assurances of commercial off-the-shelf
(COTS) products. The National Information Assurance Partnership (NIAP) is
a collaborative effort by NIST and NSA to produce comprehensive security
requirements and security specifications for technologies that will be
used to secure IT systems. NIAP licenses and approves laboratories to
evaluate security technologies against the Common Criteria, a unified set
of international security standards. Some of the product types they have
validated are firewalls, VPNs, antivirus software, and IDSs.42 National
Information Assurance Acquisition Policy requires all IT security products
purchased by the federal government for systems that enter, process,
store, display, or transmit national security information to be Common

In addition to supporting Common Criteria certification of products, NIST
operates the Cryptographic Module Validation Program, which uses
independent, accredited, private-sector laboratories to perform security
testing of cryptographic modules for conformance to Federal Information
Processing Standards Publication (FIPS) 140-2-Security Requirements for
Cryptographic Modules-and related federal cryptographic algorithms
standards. When agencies have determined that they need to protect

41National Institute of Standards and Technology, Guidlines toFederal
Agencies on Security Assurance and Acquisition/Use of Tested/Evaluated
Products, NIST Special Publication 800-23 (August 2000).

42The full list of validated products can be found at the NIAP Web site:

43Committee on National Security Systems, National Security
Telecommunications and Information Systems Security Policy (NSTISSP) No.
11, Subject: National Policy Governing the Acquisition of Information
Assurance (IA) and IA-Enabled Information Technology (IT) Products
(January 2000, revised June 2003).

information via cryptographic means, they are required by FIPS 140-2 to
select only from validated cryptographic modules.

The results of such evaluations can help agencies decide whether an
evaluated product fulfils their security needs. Agencies can also use
available evaluation results to compare different products. This is a
valueadded for technologies such as computer forensics tools that
currently have no standards against which to test.

Well-Trained Staff Are Essential

FISMA recognizes that technology and people must work together to
implement policies, processes, and procedures that serve as
countermeasures to identified risks. Breaches in security resulting from
human error are more likely to occur if personnel do not understand the
risks and the policies that have been put in place to mitigate them.
Training is an essential component of a security management program.
Personnel who are trained to exercise good judgment in following security
procedures can successfully mitigate vulnerabilities. For example, an
agency that has identified a risk of external intruders gaining access to
a sensitive system may implement an access policy to mitigate this risk.
The policy may specify that all external connections to the agency network
must pass through a firewall. However, unless users of the sensitive
system understand the risks of not complying with the access policy, they
may unknowingly activate rogue modems that allow intruders to bypass the
firewall and gain access.

In addition, having the best available security technology cannot ensure
protection if people have not been trained in how to use it properly.
Agencies need people who understand the risks and have the necessary
technological expertise to deploy technologies so as to maximize their
effectiveness. Training is particularly essential if the technology
requires personnel to master certain knowledge and skills to securely
implement it.

Proper Technology To effectively implement cybersecurity technologies,
such technologies

Configuration Is Critical 	must be securely configured. In our reviews of
cybersecurity controls at federal agencies, we have found several
instances where the effectiveness

of technology was limited because it was improperly configured.44 For
example, failing to remove default passwords that are commonly known can
lead to the exploitation of vulnerabilities, resulting in compromised
computers and networks.

The effectiveness of various technologies, including firewalls and
intrusion detection systems, is highly dependent on proper configuration.
To illustrate, deploying a firewall with its "out-of-the-box" security
settings may be equivalent to installing a steel door, yet leaving it wide
open. The firewall must be properly configured to effectively implement
the agency's policies and procedures.

There are a number of federal sources for guidance on the configurations
of several of these technologies. As discussed above, NIST is required to
develop checklists to assist agencies in configuring technologies. In
addition, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) and NSA have
prepared implementation guides to help their administrators configure
their systems in a secure manner.45 In configuring technologies, it is
important to consider this and other available guidance, adapting it as
necessary to reflect the particular circumstances of its implementation.

As agreed with your offices, unless you publicly announce the contents of
the report earlier, we plan no further distribution until 30 days from the
report date. At that time, we will send copies of this report to the
Ranking Minority Members of the Committee on Government Reform and the
Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental
Relations, and the Census and other interested parties. In addition, the
report will be made available at no charge on GAO's Web site at

44U.S. General Accounting Office, Information Security:Fundamental
Weaknesses Place EPA Data andOperationsatRisk, GAO/AIMD-00-215
(Washington, D.C.: July 6, 2000); Information Security:Weaknesses Place
Commerce Dataand Operations atSerious Risk, GAO-01-751 (Washington, D.C.:
August 13, 2001); FDICInformation Security: ImprovementsMade but
Weaknesses Remain, GAO-02-689 (Washington, D.C.: July 15, 2002);
FDICInformation Security: Progress Madebut Existing Weaknesses Place Data
at Risk, GAO-03-630 (Washington, D.C.: June 18, 2003); and Information
Security:Computer Controls overKey Treasury InternetPayment System,
GAO-03-837 (Washington, D.C.: July 30, 2003).

45For DISA's security technical implementation guides, see For NSA's security recommendation
guides, see

If you have any questions regarding this report, please contact Robert
Dacey at (202) 512-3317, Keith Rhodes at (202) 512-6412, or Elizabeth
Johnston, Assistant Director, at (202) 512-6345. We can also be reached by
e-mail at [email protected], [email protected], and [email protected]
respectively. Key contributors to this report are listed in appendix II.

Robert F. Dacey
Director, Information Security Issues

Keith A. Rhodes
Chief Technologist

Appendix I: Objective, Scope, and Methodology

Our objective was to identify commercially available,
state-of-the-practice cybersecurity technologies that federal agencies can
use to secure their computer systems. To gather information on available
tools and products, we conducted an extensive literature search and
obtained and perused technical reports from government and independent
organizations, articles in technical magazines, market analyses, and
vendor-provided information. We discussed aspects of newer technologies
with industry representatives at a major government security exposition
and conference where these technologies were demonstrated.

To organize the information we collected for our catalog, we researched
existing frameworks for describing cybersecurity technologies that have
been developed by other federal agencies, industry groups, and independent
organizations.1 Using this information, we developed a taxonomy that
categorizes technologies according to the functionality they provide and
then specifies types within those categories. However, there is a plethora
of cybersecurity products and tools on the market, many of which provide a
range of functions. Moreover, the marketplace is dynamic: New products are
constantly being introduced, and general-purpose products often integrate
the functionalities of special-purpose tools once they have been proven
useful. Consequently, we recognize that this

1NIST's Guide to Selecting Information TechnologySecurity
Productsdiscusses security products according to the following categories:
identification and authentication, access control, intrusion detection,
firewall, public key infrastructure, and malicious code protection. The
Institute for Information Infrastructure Protection, in its National
Information InfrastructureProtection Researchand Development Agenda
Initiative Report, groups security cybersecurity technologies into the
following categories: audit and postevent analysis, authorization/access
control, boundary protection, cryptographic controls, identification and
authentication, integrity protection, intrusion/anomaly detection,
nonrepudiation and related controls, secure configuration management and
assurance, security administration, and secure

Appendix I: Objective, Scope, and Methodology

taxonomy is neither exhaustive nor perfect. Nevertheless, it does provide
a framework for grouping and discussing the most pervasive technologies we
discovered in our research. Finally, we relied on previous GAO work on
information technology security. We performed our work from June 2003
through February 2004.

Appendix II: Staff Acknowledgments

Acknowledgments 	Key contributors to this report were Edward Alexander
Jr., Scott Borre, Lon Chin, Joanne Fiorino, Richard Hung, Elizabeth
Johnston, Christopher Kovach, Anjalique Lawrence, Min Lee, Stephanie Lee,
and Tracy Pierson.

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