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Intruders' Technical Knowledge

Intruders are demonstrating increased understanding of network topology, operations, and protocols, resulting in the infrastructure attacks described in the previous section on Internet infrastructure attacks. Instead of simply exploiting well-known vulnerabilities, intruders examine source code to discover weaknesses in certain programs, such as those used for electronic mail. Much source code is easy to obtain from programmers who make their work freely available on the Internet. Programs written for research purposes (with little thought for security) or written by naive programmers become widely used, with source code available to all. Moreover, the targets of many computer intrusions are organizations that maintain copies of proprietary source code (often the source code to computer operating systems or key software utilities). Once intruders gain access, they can examine this code to discover weaknesses. Intruders keep up with new technology. For example, intruders now exploit vulnerabilities associated with the World Wide Web to gain unauthorized access to systems. Other aspects of the new sophistication of intruders include the targeting of the network infrastructure (such as network routers and firewalls) and the ability to cloak their behavior. Intruders use Trojan horses to hide their activity from network administrators; for example, intruders alter authentication and logging programs so that they can log in without the activity showing up in the system logs. Intruders also encrypt output from their activity, such as the information captured by packet sniffers. Even if the victim finds the sniffer logs, it is difficult or impossible to determine what information was compromised.

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