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Most home routers don’t take advantage of Linux’s improved security features

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Linksys WRT32X, the router that scored the highest in the Cyber-ITL security-focused case study.


Image: Linksys

Many of today’s most popular home router models don’t take full advantage of the security features that come with the Linux operating system, which many of them use as a basis for their firmware.

Security hardening features such as ASLR (Address Space Layout Randomization), DEP (Data Execution Prevention), RELRO (RELocation Read-Only), and stack guards have been found to be missing in a recent security audit of 28 popular home routers.

Security experts from the Cyber Independent Testing Lab (Cyber-ITL) analyzed the firmware of these routers and mapped out the percentage of firmware code that was protected by the four security features listed above.

“The absence of these security features is inexcusable,” said Parker Thompson and Sarah Zatko, the two Cyber-ITL researchers behind the study.

“The features discussed in this report are easy to adopt, come with no downsides, and are standard practices in other market segments (such as desktop and mobile software),” the two added.

While some routers had 100 percent coverage for one feature, none implemented all four. Furthermore, researchers also found inconsistencies in applying the four security features within the same brand, with some router models from one vendor rating extremely high, while others had virtually no protection.

According to the research team, of the 28 router firmware images they analyzed, the Linksys WRT32X model scored highest with 100 percent DEP coverage for all firmware binaries, 95 percent RELRO coverage, 82 percent stack guard coverage, but with a lowly 4 percent ASLR protection.

The full results for each router model are available below. Researchers first looked at the ten home routers recommended by Consumer Reports (table 1), but then expanded their research to include other router models recommended by other news publications such as CNET, PCMag, and TrustCompass (table 2).

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Test results for Consumer Reports recommended routers

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Test results for CNET, PCMag, TrustCompass recommended routers

As a secondary conclusion of this study, the results also come to show that the limited hardware resources found on small home routers aren’t a valid excuse for failing to ship router firmware without improved security hardening features like ASLR, DEP, and others.

It is clear that some companies can ship routers with properly secured firmware, and routers can benefit from the same OS hardening features that Linux provides to desktop and server versions.

Last but not least, the study also showed an inherent weakness in routers that use a MIPS Linux kernel. The Cyber-ITL team says that during their analysis of the 28 firmware images (ten of which ran MIPS Linux and 18 of which ran ARM Linux) they also discovered a security weakness in MIPS Linux kernel versions from 2001 to 2016.

“The issue from 2001 to 2016 resulted in stack based execution being enabled on userland processes,” the researchers said –issue which made DEP protection impossible.

The 2016 MIPS Linux kernel patch re-enabled DEP protection for MIPS Linux, researchers said, but also introduced another bug that allows an attacker to bypass both DEP and ASLR protections. Researchers detailed this MIPS Linux bug in more detail in a separate research paper available here.

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GigaOm Radar for DDoS Protection

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With ransomware getting all the news coverage when it comes to internet threats, it is easy to lose sight of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks even as these attacks become more frequent and aggressive. In fact, the two threats have recently been combined in a DDoS ransom attack, in which a company is hit with a DDoS and then a ransom demanded in exchange for not launching a larger DDoS. Clearly, a solid mechanism for thwarting such attacks is needed, and that is exactly what a good DDoS protection product will include. This will allow users, both staff and customers, to access their applications with no indication that a DDoS attack is underway. To achieve this, the DDoS protection product needs to know about your applications and, most importantly, have the capability to absorb the massive bandwidth generated by botnet attacks.

All the DDoS protection vendors we evaluated have a cloud-service element in their products. The scale-out nature of cloud platforms is the right response to the scale-out nature of DDoS attacks using botnets, thousands of compromised computers, and/or embedded devices. A DDoS protection network that is larger, faster, and more distributed will defend better against larger DDoS attacks.

Two public cloud platforms we review have their own DDoS protection, both providing it for applications running on their public cloud and offering only cloud-based protection. We also look at two content delivery networks (CDNs) that offer only cloud-based protection but also have a large network of locations for distributed protection. Many of the other vendors offer both on-premises and cloud-based services that are integrated to provide unified protection against the various attack vectors that target the network and application layers.

Some of the vendors have been protecting applications since the early days of the commercial internet. These vendors tend to have products with strong on-premises protection and integration with a web application firewall or application delivery capabilities. These companies may not have developed their cloud-based protections as fully as the born-in-the-cloud DDoS vendors.

In the end, you need a DDoS protection platform equal to the DDoS threat that faces your business, keeping in mind that such threats are on the rise.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

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GigaOm Radar for Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) Solutions

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The security information and event management (SIEM) solution space is mature and competitive. Most vendors have had well over a decade to refine their products, and the differentiation among basic SIEM functions is fairly small.

In response, SIEM vendors are developing advanced platforms that ingest more data, provide greater context, and deploy machine learning and automation capabilities to augment security analysts’ efforts. These solutions deliver value by giving security analysts deeper and broader visibility into complex infrastructures, increasing efficiency and decreasing the time to detection and time to respond.

Vendors offer SIEM solutions in a variety of forms, such as on-premises appliances, software installed in the customers’ on-premises or cloud environments, and cloud hosted SIEM-as-a-Service. Many vendors have developed multi-tenant SIEM solutions for large enterprises or for managed security service providers. Customers often find SIEM solutions challenging to deploy, maintain, or even operate, leading to a growing demand for managed SIEM services, whether provided by the SIEM vendor or third-party partners.

SIEM solutions continue to vie for space with other security solutions, such as endpoint detection and response (EDR), security orchestration automation and response (SOAR), and security analytics solutions. All SIEM vendors support integrations with other security solutions. Many vendors also offer tightly integrated solution stacks, allowing customers to choose the solutions they need most, whether just a SIEM, a SIEM and a SOAR, or some other combination. Other vendors are incorporating limited EDR- or SOAR-like capabilities into their SIEM solutions for customers who want the extra features but are not ready to invest in multiple solutions.

With so many options, choosing a SIEM solution is challenging. You will have to consider several key factors, starting with your existing IT infrastructure. Is an on-premises SIEM the right choice for you, or do you want a cloud-based or hybrid solution? Which systems and devices will be sending data to your SIEM, and how much data will it need to collect, correlate, analyze, and store? You should also consider the relative importance of basic capabilities and advanced features, bearing in mind that the basic capabilities may be considerably easier to deploy, maintain, and operate. Will your IT and security teams be able to deploy, maintain, and operate the solution on their own, or should you look for managed services to handle those tasks?

This GigaOm Radar report details the key SIEM solutions on the market, identifies key criteria and evaluation metrics for selecting a SIEM, and identifies vendors and products that excel. It will give you an overview of the key SIEM offering and help decision-makers evaluate existing solutions and decide where to invest.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

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Key Criteria for Evaluating a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Solution

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Although ransomware is making all the headlines today, it’s not the only kind of attack that can intrude between you and your customers. Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, in which a target website is overwhelmed with spurious traffic, have become increasingly common.

Websites and online applications have become critical to how businesses communicate with their customers and partners. If those websites and applications are not available, there is a dollars and cents cost for businesses, both directly in business that is lost and indirectly through loss of reputation. It doesn’t matter to the users of the website whether the attacker has a political point to make, wants to hurt their victim financially, or is motivated by ego—if the website is unavailable, users will not be happy. Recent DDoS attacks have utilized thousands of compromised computers and they can involve hundreds of gigabits per second of attack bandwidth. A DDoS protection platform must inspect all of the traffic destined for the protected site and discard or absorb all of the hostile traffic while allowing legitimate traffic to reach the site.

Often the attack simply aims vast amounts of network traffic at the operating system under the application. These “volumetric” attacks usually occur at network Layer 3 or 4 and originate from compromised computers called bots. Few companies have enough internet bandwidth to mitigate this much of an attack on-premises, so DDoS protection needs to be distributed to multiple data centers around the world to be effective against these massive attacks. The sheer scale of infrastructure required means that most DDoS platforms are multi-tenant cloud services.

Other attacks target the application itself, at Layer 7, with either a barrage of legitimate requests or with requests carefully crafted to exploit faults in the site. These Layer 7 attacks look superficially like real requests and require careful analysis to separate them from legitimate traffic.

Attackers do not stand still. As DDoS protection platforms learn to protect against one attack method, attackers will find a new method to take down a website. So DDoS protection vendors don’t stand still either. Using information gathered from observing all of their protected sites, vendors are able to develop new techniques to protect their clients.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

Continue Reading

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