Mistakes were made

New York City meets Munich

As the wire turns

January 9th, 2003 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Our home network was compromised yesterday. It was a pretty low-tech denial-of-service attack, but it was effective, knocking us off-line for most of the afternoon. Conny View definition in a new window was basically stuck with no Internet access until I could get home and try to sort things out.

The first thing I had to do was figure out what was going on. It was a learning experience for me. It brought home some important lessons about network security.

  • Most security breaches are exploits of known problems.
    True enough in this case. One other brief incident earlier had shown me a problem, but instead of addressing it properly, I applied a temporary fix – then I forgot about it.
  • Security is only as strong as the weakest point.
    Typically the weakest points are vulnerabilities to internal, trusted people. Like most folks, my home network is a lot less secure to anyone with physical access to it. I simply didn’t think anyone in my apartment could be viewed as a risk to my home network. Sadly, that was not the case.

Whether the attacker was malicious, bored or trying to pull a prank, I’ll never know. What I do know is someone managed to get under the end table where the ethernet cable runs from the cable modem to the primary router and proceeded to chew clear through the wire. Like I said, low-tech but damn effective. The attack was indimscrinate as well, not only shearing through the Ethernet cable, but also some speaker wires that lead to the surround sound speakers behind the couch. As if shutting the network down wasn’t enough, the hacker, or chewer I should say, was out to get our home theatre system too.

I didn’t have any more ethernet cables of sufficient length to replace the destroyed one, but I didn’t want to replace it. I knew I’d have to reconfigure the network so that anyone else wanting to chew through cables would be thwarted. We’re back up now, and most of our essential machines are back on-line (the Clan Lord Census is down for now because of this).

I can’t even begin to think of who might have done this. Usually when things like this happen, there’s no justice. All you can do is try to fix things and move on, hopefully a little wiser from the experience.

That’s what we’ve done.

On an unrelated note, our dog Leo got very sick last night. After dinner he started throwing up, and it slowly went downhill from there. Much dog vomit was made, and little sleep was had. He threw up some junk that looked strangely like some speaker wire, and afterwards looked like he was getting better.

Then this morning he started throwing up blood, which meant an immediate trip to the vet.

Two x-rays later, I didn’t know if we needed the help of a vet or an electrician. I thought I was viewing a radiogram of the bionic dog. The vet dismissed my suggestion of spinning Leo around by his hind legs until the wire came spooling out of his mouth, but I think he was motivated by his own financial interests.

We were given one option: surgery. Conny shot down the idea of selling Leo on eBay as a “Deluxe Aibo” so we told the vet to get out his scalpel and his needle nose pliers and get to work fetching all that copper and plastic from the dog’s gut. As I write this he is there recovering from the operation, and we’ll be able to collect him on Saturday.

Leo may miss being able to receive FM radio on his stomach, but I know he won’t miss the vomiting. Perhaps when he gets home from this ordeal, he’ll be able to get DSS on his elizabethan collar.

The bad news is this fine adventure in alternative wiring is going to set us back $2,000. The less bad news is the insurance I just got Leo a few weeks ago will cover a good part of that. Too bad the insurance won’t cover installing a zipper on the dog, so in the future we can just unzip his gut and pull out the crap he shouldn’t hoover up like a canine shopvac.

In the meantime, we’ve gone from LeoCon 3 to LeoCon 2 in our state of dog-proofing. LeoCon 1 would involve wiring his jaw shut, so we’re going to hold off on that for now, but we haven’t ruled it out.

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