The Network Security Test Lab
The Network Security Test Lab is your complete, essential guide. MICHAEL GREGG is CEO of Superior Solutions. He is the author of twenty security books, including Security+ Street Smarts, and a regular contributor to Huffington Post, SearchNetworking.com, and other periodicals. During his twenty years working in security, networking, and Internet technology, he has testified before U.S. Congress and has developed a variety of learning tools for colleges and training organizations.
The Network Security Test Lab
Building a Hardware and Software Test Platform
This book is designed for those who need to better understand the importance of IT security. This chapter walks you through what you need to set up a hardware/software test platform. As a child, you may have loved to take things apart, TVs, radios, computers, and so on, in a quest to better understand how they worked. Your tools probably included soldering irons, screwdrivers-maybe even a hammer! That is similar to what you will be doing throughout this book. While you won't be using a hammer, you will be looking at protocols and applications to understand how they work. You will also examine some common tools that will make your analysis easier. The objective is to help you become a better network analyst, and improve and sharpen your IT security skills.
Because no two networks are the same, and because they change over time, it is impossible to come up with a one-size-fits-all list of hardware and software that will do the job for you. Networks serve the enterprises that own them, and enterprises must change over time. In addition, the scale of operation impacts security considerations. If you pursue a career as a security consultant, your goals (and inevitably your needs) will differ, depending on whether you work for a large multinational corporation (and even here, your goals and needs will depend on the type of industry) or a small office/home office (SOHO) operation or a small business. Clearly, a whole spectrum of possibilities exists here.
This chapter provides the first step in building your own network security lab. You will start to examine the types of hardware and gear that you can use to build such a test environment, and then look at the operating systems and software you should consider loading on your new equipment.
Why Build a Lab?
A laboratory is as vital to a computer-security specialist as it is to a chemist or biologist. It is the studio in which you can control a large number of variables that come to bear upon the outcome of your experiments. And network security, especially, is a field in which the researcher must understand how a diverse range of technologies behave at many levels. For a moment, just consider the importance of the production network to most organizations. They must rely on an always-on functioning, which means that many tests and evaluations must be developed in a lab on a network that has been specifically designed for such experiments.
NOTE A laboratory is a controlled environment in which unexpected events are nonexistent or at least minimized. Having a lab provides a consequence-free setting in which damage that might result from experimentation is localized (and can, it is hoped, be easily corrected).
Consider something as basic as patch management. Very few organizations move directly from downloading a patch to installing it in the production environment. The first step is to test the patch. The most agreed-upon way to accomplish this is to install it on a test network or system. This allows problems to be researched and compatibility ensured. You might also want to consider a typical penetration test. It may be that the penetration-testing team has developed a new exploit or written a specific piece of code for this unique assignment. Will the team begin by deploying this code on the client's network? Hopefully not. The typical approach would be to deploy the code on a test network to verify that it will function as designed. The last thing the penetration test team needs is to be responsible for a major outage on the client's network. These types of events are not good for future business.
Building a lab requires you to become familiar with the basics of wiring, signal distribution, switching, and routing. You also need to understand how you might tap into a data stream to analyze or, potentia