Saturday, July 10, 2010

"Perfect Citizen" and winger freakouts

As a network administrator, I have an informal description of what a computer connected to my network needs to look like in order to be a "good citizen". Its networking must be properly configured (with the proper netmask and etc.) so that it is properly routable and does not create ARP storms or routing loops. It must have a currently-supported operating system on it (that is, one whose vendor still provides critical security fixes), and must have those critical security fixes applied. It must be properly licensed (i.e., the OS is not pirated), and all software on it must be properly licensed. All unnecessary services should be shut down, and it should have current antivirus protection and no spyware or viruses installed on it. If it contains critical information, firewall software must be running on it that restricts access to information to only those systems that have a "need to know", and there should be no extraneous user accounts on the system other than for those users that absolutely need it.

In short, it must comply with the NSA's security configuration guidelines as well as with my own personal guidelines. And I will regularly run network scanners looking for open ports (that may be viruses or unauthorized services) as well as run the Big Brother SNMP monitor program, which will verify that the systems are properly running and alert me if something goes wrong. And if everything is completely and properly set up... well, a system connected to my network might well be a Perfect Citizen.

Which is the name of a $100M program that has been set up by the NSA, which they insist is a program to secure critical infrastructure networks at utilities and other critical locations rather than a spy program. And you know what? I believe them. This is exactly the sort of thing that the NSA has been doing on the cybersecurity side of things ever since they were tasked with securing the government's networks back during the Clinton Administration.

In other words, after looking at the details, and with my background in network security, it appears that "Perfect Citizen" is exactly what the NSA says it is -- a voluntary program to secure and certify critical infrastructure networks. The words "perfect citizen" in the context of network security means a network node that is secured and configured 100% compliant with security standards... a completely different meaning than common usage, but this term has been in use amongst network security professionals for at least the ten years that I've been interested in network security. In other words, nothing to see here folks, move along... the left-wingers and right-wingers doing a collective freakout on this program need to get a grip. The NSA doesn't spy on Americans anyhow. They simply loan people to the FBI to do so :-).

-- Badtux the Snarky Network Security Penguin


  1. What to hell...It will employee some people. The damn Gov.knows when a shit anyway.

  2. Dude, your tech knowledge is a bit intimidating at times. I was just grateful to find out that I can call for technical advice because I bought Apple care. It's a wild concept for me. Wow, I can call and they know I don't know anything and they'll help me w/out being abusive??? I haven't even taken half the crap I bought out of the box, lol.

  3. ps, I miss your adventures with food posts. Find a decent Korean grocer yet or are you stuck in the suburbs where the food is corporate, corporate and more corporate?

  4. Nunya, I'm actually located in Koreatown now, two blocks from El Camino Real in Santa Clara (the main drag of Koreatown). I just haven't posted anything about my culinary adventures recently.

    As for my tech knowledge, it's how I make my living. I assume you have equally deep knowledge of whatever it is you do to make your living.

    Tim, pretty much my reaction too. We've known since the Carnivore and Omnivore days that there are black boxes all over the place snooping on our phone calls and Internet connections, the NSA doesn't need a new program in order to overhear our calls, the Chimperor even got a law passed retroactively making it legal when he got criticized for doing it. The NSA's explanation for "Perfect Citizen" makes perfect sense to me, the NSA has been doing a lot of work to secure infrastructure, it's one of their major roles now. Perhaps that should be broken out into a Cyber Security Agency, rather than the NSA be tasked with *two* roles (one of securing networks, and one of snooping on them), but when you think about it, it makes sense that the NSA would be the one who does both, since they know more than anybody about how easy it is to snoop on networks (heh!) and thus know more than anybody about how to secure them.

    - Badtux the Geek Penguin

  5. I have no job and no special knowledge, and I have had to wing it as a mom because my "training" there sucked. My husband, on the other hand has been working on aircraft engines for so long that he knows a few different kinds. The M-I-C still pays well but I'm sure that my attitude towards pay is relative because I never made enough to survive on in this city on my own. The car and the computers are big ticket items for me, and I don't spend the kind of money I regularly see some women spend. Clean fingernails are more important to me than fancy painted nails at $25 a pop, and I'm not exactly interested in a fashionable wardrobe, a big house to clean or $100 hair dye jobs.

    I've discovered lately that I am better at finding and purchasing the correct cables and converters for electronics than the men in my life, they get the wrong ones AND spend too much, lol


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