Security requires 'depth in datapath', AT&T researcher says

Wednesday, 11 September 2002, 1:14 AM EST

Distributed computing environments of the future require a “defense in depth” security architecture which cannot be implemented with single-point firewalls, an AT&T Labs researcher said at a Communications Design Conference NetSeminar on Aug. 9. Steve Bellovin, a Research Fellow at AT&T, said that inadequate funding is being provided in government and corporate worlds for operational security, such as system administration.

“Systems need to be designed from the assumption that things will fail, even those critical points designed not to fail,” Bellovin said. “This requires designing whole systems for security from the very beginning. Secure networks also have to scaleable and extendable, which we do not see very often nowadays.”

Bellovin said that both system designers and network managers make assumptions about nodes in their networks that allow weak links for hostile users to exploit. For example, developers should never assume that a software application or hardware node will never be connected to the Internet, because standalone applications invariably end up becoming Internet-connected, if only indirectly so. He said it was also “demonstrably untrue” to say that proprietary closed-source systems could not be penetrated.

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