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Security Overview

Security Overview

This chapter contains the following sections:

Preview the topics in this guide.
Learn tips and hints for creating a security policy for your organization. A security policy should be finalized and up to date before you configure any security features.
Identify common security risks that might be present in your network, and find the right Cisco  IOS security feature to prevent security break-ins.

About the Security Configuration Guide

The Security Configuration Guide describes how to configure Cisco IOS security features for your Cisco networking devices. These security features can protect your network against degradation or failure, and data loss or compromise, resulting from intentional attacks or from unintended but damaging mistakes by well-meaning network users.

This guide is divided into five parts:

Each of these parts is briefly described next.

Authentication, Authorization, and Accounting (AAA)

This part describes how to configure Cisco's authentication, authorization, and accounting (AAA) paradigm. AAA is an architectural framework for configuring a set of three independent security functions in a consistent, modular manner.

Remote security servers, such as RADIUS and TACACS+, authorize users for specific rights by associating attribute-value (AV) pairs, which define those rights, with the appropriate user. AAA authorization works by assembling a set of attributes that describe what the user is authorized to perform. These attributes are compared to the information contained in a database for a given user and the result is returned to AAA to determine the user's actual capabilities and restrictions.

Note You can configure authentication outside of AAA. However, you must configure AAA if you want to use RADIUS, Kerberos, or TACACS+ or if you want to configure a backup authentication method.

Security Server Protocols

In many circumstances, AAA uses security protocols to administer its security functions. If your router or access server is acting as a network access server, AAA is the means through which you establish communication between your network access server and your RADIUS, TACACS+, or Kerberos security server.

The chapters in this part describe how to configure the following security server protocols:

Traffic Filtering and Firewalls

This part describes how to configure your networking devices to filter traffic or to function as a firewall.

IP Security and Encryption

This part describes how to configure IP security and encryption in the following chapters:

This chapter describes how to configure Cisco Encryption Technology (CET). CET provides network data encryption that is used to prevent routed traffic from being examined or tampered with while it travels across a network. This feature allows IP packets to be encrypted at a Cisco router, routed across a network as encrypted information, and decrypted at the destination Cisco router.
This chapter describes how to configure IPSec. IPSec provides security for transmission of sensitive information over unprotected networks such as the Internet and provides a more robust security solution than CET. IPSec also provides data authentication and anti-replay services in addition to data confidentiality services, while CET provides only data confidentiality services.
This chapter describes how to configure Certification Authority (CA) Interoperability. CA Interoperability permits Cisco IOS devices and CAs to communicate so that your Cisco  IOS device can obtain and use digital certificates from the CA.
This chapter describes how to configure Internet  Key  Exchange (IKE). IKE is a key management protocol standard that is used in conjunction with the IPSec standard. IPSec can be configured without IKE, but IKE enhances IPSec by providing additional features, flexibility, and ease of configuration for the IPSec standard.

Other Security Features

This part describes three important security features in the following chapters:

This chapter describes how to configure static passwords stored on your networking device. These passwords are used to control access to the device's command line prompt to view or change the device configuration.
This chapter also describes how to assign privilege levels to the passwords. You can configure up to 16 different privilege levels, and assign each level to a password. For each privilege level you define a subset of Cisco  IOS commands that can be executed. You can use these different levels to allow some users the ability to execute all Cisco  IOS commands, and to restrict other users to a defined subset of commands.
This chapter also describes how to recover lost passwords.
This chapter describes the security benefits and operation of neighbor router authentication.
When neighbor authentication is configured on a router, the router authenticates its neighbor router before accepting any route updates from that neighbor. This ensures that a router always receives reliable routing update information from a trusted source.
This chapter describes how to configure IP Security Options (IPSO) as described in RFC 1108. IPSO is generally used to comply with the U.S. Government's Department of Defense security policy.

Creating Effective Security Policies

An effective security policy works to ensure that your organization's network assets are protected from sabotage and from inappropriate access---both intentional and accidental.

All network security features should be configured in compliance with your organization's security policy. If you do not have a security policy, or if your policy is out of date, you should ensure that the policy is created or updated before you decide how to configure security on your Cisco device.

The following sections provide guidelines to help you create an effective security policy:

The Nature of Security Policies

You should recognize these aspects of security policies:

With all security policies, there is some trade-off between user productivity and security measures which can be restrictive and time consuming. The goal of any security design is to provide maximum security with minimum impact on user access and productivity. Some security measures, such as network data encryption, do not restrict access and productivity. On the other hand, cumbersome or unnecessarily redundant verification and authorization systems can frustrate users and even prevent access to critical network resources.
Business needs should dictate the security policy; a security policy should not determine how a business operates.
Because organizations are constantly subject to change, security policies must be systematically updated to reflect new business directions, technological changes, and resource allocations.

Two Levels of Security Policies

You can think of a security policy as having two levels: a requirements level and an implementation level.

When creating a policy, define security requirements before defining security implementations so that you do not end up merely justifying particular technical solutions that might not actually be required.

Tips for Developing an Effective Security Policy

To develop an effective security policy, consider the recommendations in the following sections:

Identify Your Network Assets to Protect

The first step to developing a security policy is to understand and identify your organization's network assets. Network assets include the following:

You must both identify your network's assets and determine the degree to which each of these assets must be protected. For example, one subnetwork of hosts might contain extremely sensitive data that should be protected at all costs, while a different subnetwork of hosts might require only modest protection against security risks because there is less cost involved if the subnetwork is compromised.

Determine Points of Risk

You must understand how potential intruders can enter your organization's network or sabotage network operation. Special areas of consideration are network connections, dial-up access points, and misconfigured hosts. Misconfigured hosts, frequently overlooked as points of network entry, can be systems with unprotected login accounts (guest accounts), employ extensive trust in remote commands (such as rlogin and rsh), have illegal modems attached to them, and use easy-to-break passwords.

Limit the Scope of Access

Organizations can create multiple barriers within networks, so that unlawful entry to one part of the system does not automatically grant entry to the entire infrastructure. Although maintaining a high level of security for the entire network can be prohibitively expensive (in terms of systems and equipment as well as productivity), you can often provide higher levels of security to the more sensitive areas of your network.

Identify Assumptions

Every security system has underlying assumptions. For example, an organization might assume that its network is not tapped, that intruders are not very knowledgeable, that intruders are using standard software, or that a locked room is safe. It is important to identify, examine, and justify your assumptions: any hidden assumption is a potential security hole.

Determine the Cost of Security Measures

In general, providing security comes at a cost. This cost can be measured in terms of increased connection times or inconveniences to legitimate users accessing the assets, or in terms of increased network management requirements, and sometimes in terms of actual dollars spent on equipment or software upgrades.

Some security measures inevitably inconvenience some sophisticated users. Security can delay work, create expensive administrative and educational overhead, use significant computing resources, and require dedicated hardware.

When you decide which security measures to implement, you must understand their costs and weigh these against potential benefits. If the security costs are out of proportion to the actual dangers, it is a disservice to the organization to implement them.

Consider Human Factors

If security measures interfere with essential uses of the system, users resist these measures and sometimes even circumvent them. Many security procedures fail because their designers do not take this fact into account. For example, because automatically generated "nonsense" passwords can be difficult to remember, users often write them on the undersides of keyboards. A "secure" door that leads to a system's only tape drive is sometimes propped open. For convenience, unauthorized modems are often connected to a network to avoid cumbersome dial-in security procedures. To ensure compliance with your security measures, users must be able to get their work done as well as understand and accept the need for security.

Any user can compromise system security to some degree. For example, an intruder can often learn passwords by simply calling legitimate users on the telephone claiming to be a system administrator and asking for them. If users understand security issues and understand the reasons for them, they are far less likely to compromise security in this way.

Defining such human factors and any corresponding policies needs to be included as a formal part of your complete security policy.

At a minimum, users must be taught never to release passwords or other secrets over unsecured telephone lines (especially through cordless or cellular telephones) or electronic mail. They should be wary of questions asked by people who call them on the telephone. Some companies have implemented formalized network security training for their employees in which employees are not allowed access to the network until they have completed a formal training program.

Keep a Limited Number of Secrets

Most security is based on secrets; for example, passwords and encryption keys are secrets. But the more secrets there are, the harder it is to keep all of them. It is prudent, therefore, to design a security policy that relies on a limited number of secrets. Ultimately, the most important secret an organization has is the information that can help someone circumvent its security.

Implement Pervasive and Scalable Security

Use a systematic approach to security that includes multiple, overlapping security methods.

Almost any change that is made to a system can affect security. This is especially true when new services are created. System administrators, programmers, and users need to consider the security implications of every change they make. Understanding the security implications of a change takes practice; it requires lateral thinking and a willingness to explore every way that a service could potentially be manipulated. The goal of any security policy is to create an environment that is not susceptible to every minor change.

Understand Typical Network Functions

Understand how your network system normally functions, know what is expected and unexpected behavior, and be familiar with how devices are usually used. This kind of awareness helps the organization detect security problems. Noticing unusual events can help catch intruders before they can damage the system. Software auditing tools can help detect, log, and track unusual events. In addition, an organization should know exactly what software it relies on to provide auditing trails, and a security system should not operate on the assumption that all software is bug free.

Remember Physical Security

The physical security of your network devices and hosts cannot be neglected. For example, many facilities implement physical security by using security guards, closed circuit television, card-key entry systems, or other means to control physical access to network devices and hosts. Physical access to a computer or router usually gives a sophisticated user complete control over that device. Physical access to a network link usually allows a person to tap into that link, jam it, or inject traffic into it. Software security measures can often be circumvented when access to the hardware is not controlled.

Identifying Security Risks and Cisco IOS Solutions

Cisco IOS software provides a comprehensive set of security features to guard against specific security risks.

This section describes a few common security risks that might be present in your network, and describes how to use Cisco IOS software to protect against each of these risks:

Preventing Unauthorized Access into Networking Devices

If someone were to gain console or terminal access into a networking device, such as a router, switch, or network access server, that person could do significant damage to your network---perhaps by reconfiguring the device, or even by simply viewing the device's configuration information.

Typically, you want administrators to have access to your networking device; you do not want other users on your local-area network or those dialing in to the network to have access to the router.

Users can access Cisco networking devices by dialing in from outside the network through an asynchronous port, connecting from outside the network through a serial port, or connecting via a terminal or workstation from within the local network.

To prevent unauthorized access into a networking device, you should configure one or more of these security features:

Preventing Unauthorized Access into Networks

If someone were to gain unauthorized access to your organization's internal network, that person could cause damage in many ways, perhaps by accessing sensitive files from a host, by planting a virus, or by hindering network performance by flooding your network with illegitimate packets.

This risk can also apply to a person within your network attempting to access another internal network such as a Research and Development subnetwork with sensitive and critical data. That person could intentionally or inadvertently cause damage; for example, that person might access confidential files or tie up a time-critical printer.

To prevent unauthorized access through a networking device into a network, you should configure one or more of these security features:

Cisco uses access lists to filter traffic at networking devices. Basic access lists allow only specified traffic through the device; other traffic is simply dropped. You can specify individual hosts or subnets that should be allowed into the network, and you can specify what type of traffic should be allowed into the network. Basic access lists generally filter traffic based on source and destination addresses, and protocol type of each packet.
Advanced traffic filtering is also available, providing additional filtering capabilities; for example, the Lock-and-Key Security feature requires each user to be authenticated via a username/password before that user's traffic is allowed onto the network.
All the Cisco  IOS traffic filtering capabilities are described in the chapters in the "Traffic Filtering and Firewalls" part of this document.
You can require users to be authenticated before they gain access into a network. When users attempt to access a service or host (such as a web site or file server) within the protected network, they must first enter certain data such as a username and password, and possibly additional information such as their date of birth or mother's maiden name. After successful authentication (depending on the method of authentication), users will be assigned specific privileges, allowing them to access specific network assets. In most cases, this type of authentication would be facilitated by using CHAP or PAP over a serial PPP connection in conjunction with a specific security protocol, such as TACACS+ or RADIUS.
Just as in preventing unauthorized access to specific network devices, you need to decide whether or not you want the authentication database to reside locally or on a separate security server. In this case, a local security database is useful if you have very few routers providing network access. A local security database does not require a separate (and costly) security server. A remote, centralized security database is convenient when you have a large number of routers providing network access because it prevents you from having to update each router with new or changed username authentication and authorization information for potentially hundreds of thousands of dial-in users. A centralized security database also helps establish consistent remote access policies throughout a corporation.
Cisco IOS software supports a variety of authentication methods. Although AAA is the primary (and recommended) method for access control, Cisco IOS software provides additional features for simple access control that are outside the scope of AAA. For more information, refer to the "Configuring Authentication" chapter.

Preventing Network Data Interception

When packets travel across a network, they are susceptible to being read, altered, or "hijacked." (Hijacking occurs when a hostile party intercepts a network traffic session and poses as one of the session endpoints.)
If the data is traveling across an unsecured network such as the Internet, the data is exposed to a fairly significant risk. Sensitive or confidential data could be exposed, critical data could be modified, and communications could be interrupted if data is altered.
To protect data as it travels across a network, configure network data encryption, as described in the chapter "Configuring Cisco Encryption Technology."
Cisco Encryption Technology (CET) prevents routed traffic from being examined or tampered with while it travels across a network. This feature causes IP packets to be encrypted at a Cisco router, routed across a network as encrypted information, and decrypted at the destination Cisco router. In between the two routers, the packets are in encrypted form and therefore the packets' contents cannot be read or altered. You define what traffic should be encrypted between the two routers, according to what data is more sensitive or critical.
If you want to protect traffic for protocols other than IP, you can encapsulate those other protocols into IP packets using GRE encapsulation, and then encrypt the IP packets.
Typically, you do not use CET for traffic that is routed through networks that you consider secure. Consider using CET for traffic that is routed across unsecured networks, such as the Internet, if your organization could be damaged if the traffic is examined or tampered with by unauthorized individuals.

Preventing Fraudulent Route Updates

All routing devices determine where to route individual packets by using information stored in route tables. This route table information is created using route updates obtained from neighboring routers.
If a router receives a fraudulent update, the router could be tricked into forwarding traffic to the wrong destination. This could cause sensitive data to be exposed, or could cause network communications to be interrupted.
To ensure that route updates are received only from known, trusted neighbor routers, configure neighbor router authentication as described in the chapter "Neighbor Router Authentication: Overview and Guidelines."

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