Essays in the Category "Computer and Information Security"

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Taking Backups out of Users' Hands

  • Bruce Schneier
  • MacWEEK
  • October 19, 1992

Convincing people to back up their hard disks is a universal struggle. Most people make backups irregularly, if at all. And whether or not the backups are labeled or even if they can be used to restore data in the event of a disk crash is usually the responsibility of the individual user.

As companies downsize their computing centers, more critical applications are moving from mainframe computers to networked microcomputers.

The data on these microcomputers can be crucial to the life of the company, and network managers are loathe to leave the important task of backup to chance…

System 7's Security Shortcomings

  • Bruce Schneier
  • MacWEEK
  • July 27, 1992

System 7 and the Mac were designed for ease of use, not security. Networked Macs suffer from many security risks that stand-alone machines don’t and, unlike mainframe systems, there is no central computing machine from which to control access.

AppleTalk is a dynamic “plug-and-play” system – any Mac can plug into an existing network and immediately become part of it. AppleTalk also is a peer-to-peer system – any Mac can access resources on, send files to and exchange messages with any other machine. “Macintosh users are used to having an open platform and freely sharing files,” said Andrew Sneed, computer coordinator at The Analytical Services Corp. (TASC) in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. That openness is not conducive to network security, he added. “They want to be able to get any file on any machine painlessly and effortlessly.”…

Keeping Viruses Off Net a Battle

  • Bruce Schneier
  • MacWEEK
  • June 22, 1992

Macs sitting alone on desert islands don’t catch viruses. Even Macs whose users frequently trade disks with each other can be protected easily. With Macs on large networks, however, virus prevention can be a lot more complicated.

“If you have a published volume on your hard disk, someone can drop a virus on your machine without your knowledge,” said Jeffrey Shulman, author of Virus Detective and Virus Blockade and president of Shulman Software Co. of Morgentown, W.Va.

Many holes.

Shared disk space, on servers and local disks using System 7’s file sharing, are an often unprotected means through which viruses can spread…

'Fire Walls' Stand as a Protectant Between Trouble and the Network.

  • Bruce Schneier
  • MacWEEK
  • June 8, 1992

Large buildings are often built with fire walls — fire-resistant barriers between vital parts. A fire may burn out one section of the building, but the fire wall will stop it from spreading. The same philosophy can protect Macintosh networks from unauthorized access and network faults.

A network fire wall usually is nothing more than a router configured to prevent certain network packets from traveling between parts of the network. For instance, a router can partition off the machines in the R&D department, so other network users can’t access secret information. Some routers can be programmed to transfer electronic mail but restrict remote-terminal log-ons. And the chairman of the board’s laser printer could be hidden from the rest of the network, so the average user can’t print on that machine…

Sharing Secrets Among Friends

Whether you're protecting a nuclear missile or your new recipe for burger sauce, polynomial encryption can prevent people from stealing your secrets.

  • Bruce Schneier
  • Computer Language
  • April 1992

Let’s say you’ve invented a new, extra-gooey, extra-sweet, creme filling; or a burger sauce that is even more tasteless than before. This stuff is important; you have to keep the recipe secret. You can tell only your most trusted employees the exact mixture of ingredients, but what if one of them defects to the competition? Before, long every grease palace on the block would be making burgers as tasteless as yours. That just wouldn’t do.

You can take a message and divide it up into secure pieces. Each of the pieces by itself means nothing, but put them all together and the message appears. If each employee has a piece of the recipe, then only together can they make the sauce (employees could type their portion into a central sauce-making computer or something). If any employee jumps ship with a piece of the recipe, the portion is useless by itself…

Computer Security: Key Management Issue

MacWEEK Special Report: Emerging Technologies

  • Bruce Schneier
  • MacWEEK
  • March 16, 1992

Back when computers stood alone on desks, unconnected to the rest of the world, computer security was simply a matter of locking an office door, putting a lock on the power supply or installing a security software package. Today, the rules of computer security are changing, and in years to come, it’s going to be a whole new ball game.

What used to be the concern solely of the military is required by more and more companies. “Between LANs, file servers and dial-up connections, it’s hard to regulate who has access to what,” said Steven Bass, principal software engineer at Codex Corp., a division of Motorola Inc. in Canton, Mass…

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.