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2.4. Threats to Workstation and Home PC Security

Workstations and home PCs may not be as prone to attack as networks or servers, but since they often contain sensitive data, such as credit card information, they are targeted by system crackers. Workstations can also be co-opted without the user's knowledge and used by attackers as "slave" machines in coordinated attacks. For these reasons, knowing the vulnerabilities of a workstation can save users the headache of reinstalling the operating system, or worse, recovering from data theft.

2.4.1. Bad Passwords

Bad passwords are one of the easiest ways for an attacker to gain access to a system. For more on how to avoid common pitfalls when creating a password, refer to Section 4.3 Password Security.

2.4.2. Vulnerable Client Applications

Although an administrator may have a fully secure and patched server, that does not mean remote users are secure when accessing it. For instance, if the server offers Telnet or FTP services over a public network, an attacker can capture the plain text usernames and passwords as they pass over the network, and then use the account information to access the remote user's workstation.

Even when using secure protocols, such as SSH, a remote user may be vulnerable to certain attacks if they do not keep their client applications updated. For instance, v.1 SSH clients are vulnerable to an X-forwarding attack from malicious SSH servers. Once connected to the server, the attacker can quietly capture any keystrokes and mouse clicks made by the client over the network. This problem was fixed in the v.2 SSH protocol, but it is up to the user to keep track of what applications have such vulnerabilities and update them as necessary.

Chapter 4 Workstation Security discusses in more detail what steps administrators and home users should take to limit the vulnerability of computer workstations.

 
 
  Published under the terms of the GNU General Public License Design by Interspire