Tools of SAN mischief-makers

Contrary to the general impression that storage area networks are inherently secure, there are various ways that data stored on a storage-area network can be compromised or destroyed, according to Jim Hughes, a fellow at Storage Technology Corp. and co-chairman of the security working group at the Storage Networking Industry Association.

The most likely tools and techniques a hacker might use are:

* Accessing restricted data on the SAN by impersonating the worldwide name (a unique identifier assigned at the factory to every new piece of SAN equipment) of an authorized device — known as spoofing.

* Copying information to a tape the hacker can access by hijacking third party data copy, a common back-up feature designed to make it easy for system administrators to copy data from disks to tape across the SAN.

* Using hacker scripts, mini software programs available on hacker Web sites that can be used to disrupt networks and servers or destroy data. Hughes said he is not aware of any scripts available that target Fibre Channel storage networks, but there is no technical reason why they can't be developed.

* Network analyzers — also called network sniffers. These devices must be connected to the Fibre Channel network itself to monitor or sabotage data traffic. Off-the-shelf Fibre Channel analyzers cost about $50,000, a price tag that would discourage casual hackers, but someone with the right skills could build one for significantly less money, according to Hughes.

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