Feeds

SSH an ill-managed mess says SSH author Tatu Ylonen

IETF draft a first step to new version

Security for virtualized datacentres

Tatu Ylonen, author of the SSH protocol, isn't afraid of criticising his own work: he's calling for a new version of the Secure Shell to make it more manageable and get rid of the problem of undocumented rogue keys.

In this IETF Draft, Ylonen proposes a regime for key management, including key discovery, to overcome the problem. The draft, co-authored by NIST's Murugiah Souppaya and Secure IT's Greg Kent, proposes guidelines for “discovering, remediating, and continuously managing SSH user keys and other authentication credentials”.

The draft notes that there are often a great many more SSH keys in existence in an organisation than there are users – “hundreds of thousands, even over a million SSH keys authorising access have been found … [in] many large organizations. This is many times more than they have interactive users.”

Of course, having credentials wandering around loose in a company “present a real risk to information security”, the draft notes – and places a premium on finding out just what's out there.

This draft, open for comment until October, focuses on processes and key management, but according to Ylonen, a new SSH will be needed (the current version, SSH-2, dates from 2006).

Some of the recommendations in the draft appear to reveal a surprising state of affairs, at least among companies whose SSH implementations have been reviewed by Ylonen's company, SSH Security. The draft recommends:

  • Moving keys to protected locations;
  • Removing unused keys;
  • Associating authorised keys with a business process or application;
  • Removing keys for which no valid purpose can be found;
  • Rotating keys;
  • Restricting what can be done with each authorised key;
  • Establishing a process for approving new keys.

The list looks somewhat like what companies should already have been doing in managing their SSH access – but it's probable that someone configuring new kit finds it simpler to create such things ad-hoc. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
NASTY SSL 3.0 vuln to be revealed soon – sources (Update: It's POODLE)
So nasty no one's even whispering until patch is out
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
Forget passwords, let's use SELFIES, says Obama's cyber tsar
Michael Daniel wants to kill passwords dead
FBI boss: We don't want a backdoor, we want the front door to phones
Claims it's what the Founding Fathers would have wanted – catching killers and pedos
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.