Security UPDATE--Cleaning Up After Mass Password Changes--December 14, 2005

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1. In Focus: Cleaning Up After Mass Password Changes

2. Security News and Features

- Recent Security Vulnerabilities

- Windows Server 2003 R2 Ready to Go

- Two Microsoft Security Bulletins Released in December

- Easy 802.11g Security

3. Security Toolkit

- Security Matters Blog


- Security Forum Featured Thread

4. New and Improved

- Security Appliance Line Gets Software Upgrade, New Models


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==== 1. In Focus: Cleaning Up After Mass Password Changes ====

by Mark Joseph Edwards, News Editor, mark at ntsecurity / net

Last week, I mentioned ways to change passwords en masse. Hobbit (creator of the hugely popular netcat tool) wrote to remind me that I didn't mention the fact that storing plaintext passwords in scripts carries considerable risk. Obviously, the passwords might be recoverable by an intruder.

After you've performed mass password changes, don't leave password strings lying around in plaintext. You might use strong encryption to encrypt the data, or better yet, you might remove the passwords from your system completely. To do that, delete any password strings in your scripts or delete the scripts completely. Then securely erase your disk space to ensure that the passwords can't be recovered by intruders.

To wipe a disk clean, you need to overwrite all sectors on a drive in some fashion. Some disk-wiping tools can overwrite sectors numerous times to better ensure that the magnetic flux (which is the means by which data is recorded) is dramatically changed so that little if any flux remains to be used toward data recovery. You can use Stellar Information Systems' Stellar Wipe Safe Data Eraser, Heidi Computers' Eraser, or any number of other tools designed to destroy disk-based data. If you use Sunbelt Software's CounterSpy antispyware tool, you might know that it has a built-in file eraser utility that you could use.

If you're interested in some facts and theory about how someone might recover data from your disks and how disk-erasing technology can help prevent that from happening, read "Secure Deletion of Data from Magnetic and Solid-State Memory" by Peter Gutmann at

Instead of creating and running your scripts from a hard disk, you could run your script from a floppy disk drive and then burn the floppy disk when you're done. I can't think of a more secure method than this. But many systems these days don't even have floppy disk drives.

A long time ago, I used RAM disks to help some programs run much faster. A RAM disk would be great for helping to secure your passwords in scripts that are used to perform mass password changes. You can create a RAM disk, use it to develop and run your scripts, and when you're finished, repeatedly erase the RAM disk. Then uninstall the RAM disk drivers, shut down the system, power it off (which destroys anything in RAM), and reboot the computer. There's still a slim chance that someone might be able to recover passwords written to RAM, but it would be incredibly difficult, because the RAM space used by the RAM disk will be overwritten repeatedly by the OS and your applications. Using a RAM disk is probably much safer than relying on a tool to erase hard disk space.

When establishing a RAM disk, be sure that you immediately set permissions on the new disk drive to prevent unwanted access. You can find numerous RAM disk drivers for Windows 2000 and Windows XP (some of which are free) by using your favorite search engine. Use a search string similar to

RAMdisk +"Windows XP" +"Windows 2000"

If you don't want to trust somebody else's RAM disk code, download Microsoft's RAM disk source code, review it carefully to make sure you trust it, then compile it yourself. Keep in mind that Microsoft's sample RAM disk code works only on Windows 2000. The Microsoft article "FILE: Ramdisk.sys sample driver for Windows 2000" cautions that if you use the code on Windows XP, it could render the System Restore features useless.

Finally, you might use a thumb drive, which can essentially act like a RAM disk. Or you could use an MP3 player or digital camera as an additional disk drive on your system, then detach it when you're finished using it. As with hard disks and RAM disks, be absolutely certain that you delete any sensitive information the drive contains, then erase the unused space repeatedly.


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==== 2. Security News and Features ====

Recent Security Vulnerabilities

If you subscribe to this newsletter, you also receive Security Alerts, which inform you about recently discovered security vulnerabilities. You can also find information about these discoveries at

Windows Server 2003 R2 Ready to Go

Microsoft released Windows Server 2003 Release 2 (R2) to manufacturing. The updated version of the OS brings new features and functionality. A key security focus area for Microsoft is identity management, which is based on the capabilities of Active Directory (AD). R2 also brings improvements to virtual machine (VM) technology, branch office management, and storage management (first URL below). For a more-in-depth look at R2, see "R2 Moves Windows Server 2003 Forward" (second URL below).

Two Microsoft Security Bulletins Released in December

Microsoft released two security patches yesterday: one rated critical and the other, important. Microsoft also released five high-priority nonsecurity updates. As usual, the company also released an updated version of its Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT). For Randy Franklin Smith's analysis of the security bulletins, go to

Easy 802.11g Security

Many inexpensive wireless APs emphasize ease of setup at the expense of security. Jeff Fellinge helps you secure your wireless network in this article on our Web site.


==== Resources and Events ====

SQL Server 2005: Up & Running Roadshows Coming to Europe!

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Scripting and code don't have to be boring. Subscribe today to Scripting Central and get a down-and-dirty technical yet lighthearted look at scripts. You'll also get tools and tips for writing scripts for a variety of Windows applications, such as Exchange and SQL Server. Sign up today!

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Black Hat Federal Briefings and Trainings

January 23-26, 2006, Sheraton Crystal City, Washington, DC. This new show--with 4 Briefings tracks and 11 Training classes--focuses on the problems and issues that governments face in protecting their infrastructure. Content will be oriented toward attack and defense, rootkit detection to IDS evasion. Stellar speakers include Michael Lynn, Simson Garfinkel, Halvar Flake, and Dan Kaminsky. Visit for complete updates.


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==== 3. Security Toolkit ====

Security Matters Blog: Cisco Developers Might Be Up Late This Holiday Season

by Mark Joseph Edwards,

Mike Lynn encountered difficulty early this year in his attempts to discuss a flaw in Cisco hardware at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas. He apparently knows of 15 more flaws in Cisco hardware. But the story gets even worse. Read about it in this blog article on our Web site.


by John Savill,

Q: How do I enable HTTP Secure (HTTPS) traffic on my Microsoft IIS 6.0 Web server site by using my local forest Certificate Authority (CA)?

Find the answer at

Security Forum Featured Thread: Host-based Firewalls for Windows Server 2003

A forum participant wonders if someone can suggest a very powerful and easy to manage (locally and remotely) host-based firewall solution that runs on Windows Server 2003 and includes robust reporting and alerting features. Join the discussion at


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==== 4. New and Improved ====

by Renee Munshi, [email protected]

Security Appliance Line Gets Software Upgrade, New Models

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