Wednesday May 09, 2007

SPOTD: Security Puzzle Of The Day - Answers/Discussion

So I posted this:
A man is going on vacation (ie: on holiday) - and he's worried about the possibility of someone breaking into his house whilst he's away; so he checks all the window locks from inside the house, steps outside, walks around the house to inspect for anything he's missed - checking that patio doors, etc, are locked - then locks his front door and drives off. What's he done wrong?
...which is my usual schtick for trying to explain the importance of doing things in the right order, because even if you have the right security-ingredients you can still mess up by not using them properly, or not laying them out in a sensible manner. I was blown away by some of the creativity that was provided in the responses - the person who went for the jugular and got my typically sought-for answer was Andy Paton:
While he was busy checking the windows and backdoor he left the front door unlocked!!
...which is the obvious flaw in the process; it's astonishing how many people completely miss that. That said - and thank you Andy - this being an open question there is always room for a different perspective, eg: trojan horses:
Wes W:
Apparently he's assumed someone hasn't already broken in or compromised existing security already. For example, your vacation man didn't seem to check the interior for a trojan horse (stowaway) and he didn't change the locks.

Mark Musante:
He hasn't checked the first floor?
...the systemic:
Neil:
My first thought was that it has to relate to the "then locks his front door" i.e. he hasn't 'tested' his security from the outside in the state it will actually be in. As the other comment mentions, he ahs also left the door unlocked while checking! And the second thought was around "and drives off" - the car present/missing is a clue of his absence but I can't see much that you can do about that unless you religously use the garage (which isn't stated either way, so I supect it isn't that).
...the architectural and integrational:
Forrest:
assuming it's a single story house without any other mean of entrance except doors and windows and all access will need separate keys; so he checks all the window locks from inside the house - should check/test the locks from the outside. steps outside - How, through what? - Lock it from the outside before proceed. Checking that patio doors - How does he protect it? it's a big visual vulnerability. Does he taken steps to make like the house has someone living [in it and is] not abandoned. interactive :)
...and the slightly tongue-in-cheek operational risk:
Tom Hawtin:
He hasn't checked that the iron is switched off. He returns to find a perfectly secure but somewhat charred house. With two weeks worth of milk on the doorstep.
...all of these are legitimate and interesting answers; even the last one by analogy of the occasion I saw someone enable system-auditing in a particularly nitpicky mode, only to see the machine crash from filling its root partition two days later. This is related to the reason I generally put /var/log and /var/adm on a partition completely separate from root and the normal /var - it's a signature perversity of a Muffett-specified machine, but your machine is at less risk from log-flooding.

So, next time I have to stand up and give this talk to somebody, I'll have something extra to say. Thank you folks, and thank you for sharing. Thank you also to Tom for this little gem which made me smile:

He should check that the front door is locked, from the inside? My father's old front door you could open the lock through the letterbox using a handily located small crowbar.
...which just goes to prove that security can be perfectly acceptable if it fits your environment; I still know places where nobody bothers to lock their doors when they go out for the day, but nowadays they seem somehow fewer and further between...

-alec

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