Best Practices

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As mentioned, a defense- in-depth architecture protects a storage network's critical data. However, a layered security model can be subverted if simple best practices are not followed when designing storage security. For example, consider the home security example. The homeowner had spent several thousand dollars buying locks and security systems for her home. However, a simple best practice, such as not locking the house garage door, could negate all the other strong security measures that she had placed in the home.

Simple best practices in storage security can help prevent many of the common security attacks that unauthorized users will attempt. Adhering to the majority of these best practices can leave an attacker frustrated or bored and motivate him to move to another target or stop the attack altogether.

Following are some basic best practices to follow:

  • Strong passwords

  • Configuration

  • Strong management

  • Clear-text management

  • Remote connectivity

  • Operating system security

  • Storage appliance services


Using strong passwords and changing default passwords on storage devices is good security practice. Whether it is an EMC Cellera, a Network Appliance filter, or a Brocade switch, basic and simple passwords can be easily obtained and guessed. In addition, because most storage appliances have some sort of web management capability that is enabled by default, accessing the storage appliance and guessing passwords is not difficult for an accomplished attacker. Several tools exist to brute-force web-based authentication forms that can attempt more than 100 passwords in only a few minutes.

Weak passwords lead to a bigger problem, subscribing to the myth that storage networks are isolated and cannot be accessed from regular corporate networks. Many storage administrators believe that the storage network is not easily accessible. However, one of the primary purposes of a storage network is to connect devices on the network to back up data. Therefore, since these connections are permitted, storage networks are accessible, either indirectly or directly.

Using weak passwords can also significantly cripple storage security. While many organizations change weak passwords from prom or password to admin or manage , both admin and manage are common passwords that are contained in most tools that attackers use to crack accounts.

Following is a list of some common passwords. If these passwords are used in your storage network, consider changing your password policy for storage devices:



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Good configuration practices can build a solid security foundation in a storage environment. Furthermore, poor configuration practices, an abundance of configuration errors, or the lack of configuration options can significantly decrease the security posture in a storage network.

Most often, an attacker will complete a successful attack not because of some elite security problem that she has discovered on the spot, but rather because of poor configuration decisions and/or configuration errors that lead to wide open and unprotected devices. For example, a minor configuration error, such as a storage administrator allocating the incorrect LUN to a given WWN, can expose data that is not authorized. A major configuration error, such as a storage appliance backing up an entire file system with world-readable access permissions, can also expose all data to unauthorized users. Both have a significant impact on the security posture of the storage network, despite one being major and one being minor.

The lack of understanding of security options and/or features in existing storage products may also lead to poor configuration decisions. For example, many end users are not aware of several security options that are readily available on their storage appliances and/or storage switches today. Not only are these security features not well advertised by vendors , but end users do understand how to use them. This combination often leads to end users making configuration decisions that don't work for security and not considering configuration decisions that are secure.


Management is a critical component to storage security architecture. Since functional storage networks rely heavily on storage management practices, it is imperative that a strong management environment exist. Because storage network management contains a significant amount of control, a compromise of any management entity would give an attacker a considerable amount of privileges.

Protecting management interfaces for a storage network is a significant best practice. It is possible to attack many storage solutions through the Web, Telnet, or SNMP management interfaces. In many cases, gaining access to management interfaces is as simple a wire sniffing, session hijacking, and replay attacks. In other cases, it is as simple as loading an appropriate management program and logging in to the management application.

Many storage devices and applications rely on unsafe and clear-text protocols (such as Telnet, SNMP, FTP, CIFS, or NFS) to communicate both data and management commands to and from storage devices. Support for encrypted data channels, such as SSH, have not been adopted universally . Issues also exist with the networking devices that are used to support the storage environment. These devices are subject to attack and may be managed in unsafe ways.

In addition to using unsecure protocols, many organizations make a common mistake by plugging their management interfaces on storage devices, such as switches and storage appliances, into the internal corporate network. Connecting the management interface of a storage appliance into the internal LAN potentially gives any internal employee, external VPN user , third-party business partner, or external onsite contractor/ consultant the ability to connect to the device and attempt to log in. In addition, if the management methods use clear-text technology, such as Telnet or web browsers (HTTP), the exposure is amplified. Table 25-2 lists a set of best practices for storage security.

Table 25-2: Best practices for storage security



Insecure channels for management

Use encrypted management protocols such as SSH and SSL. SSH with port forwarding can be used with many storage applications. HTTPS (SSL) is available on some storage devices that offer web management. Also, HTTPS provides the ability to wrap clear-text web management, such as HTTP, around an SSL tunnel.

Hard coded (a user name/password that does not change) or weak username and passwords

Enforce two-factor authentication for all management to reduce the likelihood of compromise due to a username and password being lost.

Shared channels for management

Do not plug management connections to normal, internal networks. Segment the management network by isolating it from any other network in the organization, especially the internal LAN.

Shared accounts

When possible, limit authenticated users to perform functions within the job responsibility (e.g., backup administrators versus storage administrators). Avoid complete authorization of all management functions to every authenticated user.

Share applications

When possible, use filtering to restrict management of storage devices to a limited number of management clients . Filtering can occur at the operating system or application level, limiting the accessibility of any users loading a management application and managing the storage network.

Remote Connectivity

Remote connectivity, such as dial-in lines, modems, and call-home capabilities of storage devices, are often overlooked when considering security issues in storage networks. Many storage network engineers have not explored the remote side of dial-in lines, modems, or call-home devices to ensure that the security of the remote network is not undermining the security of the storage network. Remote connectivity can leave a well-secured storage network vulnerable to an attack.

It is important to know and understand which storage devices can perform what network actions without any user interaction. The following questions should be asked when using any kind of device that uses remote connectivity:

  • Are the storage devices using secure protocols?

  • Do the remote connections require two-factor authentication?

  • What kinds of controls are placed on the remote connections (other than username and password)?

  • Are any IP address limitations or requirements necessary to attempt a valid connection?

Operating System Security

Operating system security is a best practice that is often ignored in storage networks. An operating system can act as a gateway into the storage network since it is connected to the internal LAN and to the back-end SAN. However, little concentration of security is placed on these systems-it's similar to having a firewall that connects the outside, untrusted Internet with the internal corporate network with a rule that allows any IP address to access any IP address.

In a storage network, operating systems are often the only 'firewalls' that protect access to data. A compromised operating system can enable an unauthorized user to attack storage devices, such as switches and storage appliances, directly, and to attempt sniffing techniques. This makes the operating system an easy attack target. For example, consider a Fibre Channel SAN that has an HBA in an operating system for backup purposes. In addition to the HBA, the operating system also has a NIC that is plugged into the internal LAN. If proper operating system security has not been placed on the server that has both a connection to the storage network and a connection to any other network, the operating system may be responsible for partial or even complete unauthorized access to the SAN.

Many storage networks consist of unsecured and default installations of several types of operating systems, from all flavors of UNIX to all versions of Windows. Many environments do not contain a host hardening or a secure build process for operating systems that exist in storage networks. This gives an attacker an opportunity to compromise a system in such a way that he can be placed directly inside the storage network, making further attacks easier. Figure 25-11 is a graphical representation of the importance of operating system security.

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Figure 25-11: Operating system security in storage networks

Storage Appliance Services

Storage devices such as Network Appliance (NetApp) and EMC devices contain a significant amount of system services that are not all storage related . For example, most storage vendors support storage protocols such as CIFS and NFS. However, in addition to running CIFS or NFS services, it would not be unusual to see FTP (File Transfer Protocol), Telnet, Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), mount, portmapper , Domain Name System (DNS), HTTP, NetBIOS, RSH, syslog, and others running on these storage devices.

Similar to an operating system with default installations, storage devices can be unsecure in the default state. As a best practice, storage devices, such as filers, data movers, and NAS heads, should be deployed with a minimal amount of services and with unnecessary default modules disabled. This process not only secures the storage device, but it also allows the core service of the system, such as the storage protocol, to run as the sole module. A minimalist approach to storage devices leaves less room for error and less possibility of security exposure. An accidentally enabled SNMP daemon could leave the storage appliance vulnerable to information disclosure. Even a general SNMP vulnerability, which would affect all SNMP devices, would leave the storage node vulnerable to direct compromise from this single service enabled. In general, it is best practice to disable all storage device services except the required storage protocols and management protocols.

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Storage Networks
Storage Networks: The Complete Reference
ISBN: 0072224762
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 192 © 2008-2017.
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