By Steve Jones, 2013/01/02
This editorial was originally published on Jan 2, 2013. It is being rerun as Steve is out of the office.
I’ve been hacked before. My personal web site has been hacked with a variety of injection and XSS attacks over the years. None too serious, and I’ve had backups that allowed me to fix things fairly easily, especially once I had a copy of Data Compare, which saved me a lot of time. At SQLServerCentral, we’ve been hacked as well, though not in a long time. I think we’ve closed most of the security holes, and I haven’t had any issues to deal with in quite some time.
However as I was reading a note from Richard Douglas about being hacked, it brought back memories of working at JD Edwards. Richard was hacked at work, on his personal system. At JD Edwards, we were required to lock our workstations at all times when we were not physically in front of them. We also had two accounts: a normal user and a domain admin “privileged” user. As you might expect, there were numerous lapses of people walking to the kitchen or bathroom and forgetting to lock their workstations. It was considered fair game to change settings, send email to our group, even place semi-SFW pictures on someone’s desktop. It was quite embarrassing to be caught, and was much more a an effective security reminder than a reprimand from our boss.
However there is a serious security problem here. Many of us would use our privileged account all too often, since it was a hassle to log out and back in. The “run as” option didn’t work well for some applications, and we were less secure than we probably should have been. If someone walking by, whether an employee, guest, consultant, or someone else noticed SSMS running, how long would it take them to type:
sp_addlogin 'joeuser', 'joeuser' sp_addrole 'joeuser', sysadmin
I type quickly and that took me less than 30 seconds. I’m sure even a slow typist could get that entered, and erased, inside of a minute. That might result in a serious security breech, if the system to which you were connected contained HIPAA, PCI, or any identity information. Perhaps even worse these days is the chance someone might attach a USB key logger to your keyboard.
You might be safe in your environment, but you can never be sure. A little care in ensuring you are not unnecessarily exposing security holes, and making sure that outsiders are always escorted can prevent embarrassing incidents from occurring.