Part II: Protect Your Data and Your Company From an Internal or External “Hack-Attack”

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James Holler, Founder, Abidance Consulting

In Part 1 of this series, we touched on some ways to make it so difficult to pull off a hack-attack, that the perpetrator will most likely want to go somewhere else and try their attack.

In this section, we’re going to address testing, maintaining and other important items that deserve your attention.


Once you have fixed all of the issues, you need to test everything to make sure it works the way it is supposed to. You must first create benchmarks in which you are testing against. Just to run a test for the sake of running a test is futile. Once the benchmark(s) have been set, you are ready to test:

  • Run port scans to ensure only required ports and services are open and/or running
  • Firewalls detect intrusions
  • Switches and routers have only active administrator accounts
  • Passwords adhere to compliance requirements etc

Be sure to document your test procedure(s) step-by-step as well as the test results. Note if the outcome of the test was expected or not. If there is anything that fails during your testing, you need to fix those issues and retest. Don’t skimp on testing…hackers are not forgiving and just like in dodge ball, there are no “do-overs”.


Once you have tested everything and are assured that your organization is where they need to be, you now need to create and maintain a testing program. Don’t try creating a maintenance program prior to everything being tested, as you will surely be making changes to the maintenance program, making are previous efforts null. Your maintenance program needs to have firm dates / times set for scheduled maintenance. You need to have multiple maintenance programs set up such as:

  • Patch management
  • Password management
  • Network account management
  • System management
  • Applications management
  • Operating system management
  • Security administration etc

By setting up multiple maintenance programs you are able to create “silo’s” for each area and assign personnel who are responsible for each of these areas. This allows for a better view should there be a failure in any of these areas…and makes it easier to see where the failure occurred and to fix the area faster.


Worth Considering

There are a few tricks that you can implement on your network that will make a hacker think twice about trying anything. The more difficult you make it for the hacker to attack, the more likely it is that they will go somewhere else to attack. As someone who has spent the better part of the past quarter of a century protecting companies against attackers, I have listed a few neat tricks you can implement:

Honey Pots

A honey pot is a trap set to detect, deflect, or in some manner counteract attempts at unauthorized use of information systems. Generally it consists of a computer, data, or a network site that appears to be part of a network, but is actually isolated, (un)protected, and monitored, and which seems to contain information or a resource of value to attackers. These honey pots can be used to track and in some cases trap and report a hacker.

Trace Routing

Having the attacker’s IP is all well and good, but what can you do with it? The answer is, a lot more! It’s not enough to have the address, you also need to know where the attacker’s connections are coming from. You may have used automated trace routing tools before, but do you know how they work?

Go back to MSDOS and type tracert *type IP address/hostname here*

Now, what happens is, the Trace route will show you all the computers in between you and the target machine, including blockages, firewalls etc. More often than not, the hostname address listed before the final one will belong to the hacker’s ISP company. It’ll either say who the ISP is somewhere in there, or else you run a second trace on the new IP/hostname address to see who the ISP Company in question is.

Reverse DNS Query

This is probably the most effective way of running a trace on somebody. If ever you’re in a chat room and you see someone saying that they’ve “hacked into a satellite orbiting the Earth, and are taking pictures of your house right now”, ignore them because that’s just bad movie nonsense. THIS method is the way to go, with regard to finding out what country (even maybe what state/city etc.) someone resides, although it’s actually almost impossible to find an EXACT geographical location without actually breaking into your ISP’s head office and running off with the safe.

To run an rDNS query, simply go back to MS-DOS and type netstat and hit return. Any active connections will resolve to hostnames rather than a numerical format.

DNS stands for Domain Name Server. These are machines connected to the Internet whose job it is to keep track of the IP Addresses and Domain Names of other machines. When called upon, they take the ASCII Domain Name and convert it to the relevant numeric IP Address. A DNS search translates a hostname into an IP address….which is why we can enter “” and get the website to come up, instead of having to actually remember Hotmail’s IP address and enter that instead.

Well, reverse DNS, of course, translates the IP address into a hostname (i.e., in letters and words instead of numbers, because sometimes the hacker will employ various methods to stop netstat from picking up a correct hostname).

While we’ve given you a very high level look at what needs to be done to better protect yourself from a hack attack, we believe it represents the best place to start in understanding what you need to do.

James Holler is founder of Abidance Consulting.

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