If you’ve ever been the victim of a burglary, the chances are you were at least partially responsible. It might be hard to admit, but an open window, an unlocked door, or an expensive item left alluringly are the most frequent reasons for home break-ins. While you can never be 100 percent certain of preventing a robbery, some basic precautions can significantly reduce your chances, as would-be thieves move on to easier targets.
The same principles apply to home network security. Sadly, almost no systems are entirely “hack proof” – but browser security tests, server safety measures, and network safeguards can make your set-up much more robust.
Using some free tools, you can quickly and easily identify which areas are your “weak spots”, thus giving yourself a chance to remedy them before a serious breach occurs. We take a look at some of the best ones:
After being named as the “Security Product of the Year” by Linux Journal and featuring in twelve different movies (including The Matrix Reloaded and Die Hard 4), it’d be impossible not to include Nmap.
The product – whose name is short for Network Mapper – is a free tool that works on Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X. It works by using raw IP packets to discover a wealth of data about a network’s configuration, including what hosts are available, what services are being offered, what operating systems are being run, and what type of firewalls are in use.
Once the scan is complete it’ll offer you a “map” of your network. From a security standpoint this has numerous benefits; you can audit the security of a device and firewall by finding out the connections it allows, you can assess the security of a network by identifying new servers, and you can find and exploit vulnerabilities in a network.
Nessus has recently become a closed-source program, but is still free for home users. It is reportedly the most popular vulnerability scanner in the world, and is used by more than 75,000 businesses around the globe.
It works on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, and can run on a home computer, in the cloud, or in a hybrid environment.
The main vulnerabilities it scans for are flaws that would allow a remote hacker to control or access a system, such an incorrectly configured network, failure to change default passwords, and common passwords and missing passwords. It also check for denials of service against the TCP/IP stack by using malformed packets and offers preparation for PCI DSS audits.
Cain and Abel describes itself as a password recovery tool for Windows. In reality, however, it is much more useful than that – it can capture and monitor network traffic for passwords, crack encrypted passwords using multiple methods, record VoIP conversations, and even recover wireless network keys. While its password recovery tool may be useful from time-to-time, you can flip the software on its head and use it to test the security of your own passwords.
The software can perform a dictionary attack test (trying every word in the dictionary), a brute force attack test (trying every possible combination of upper-case and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols) and a cryptanalysis attack test (trying to “beat” common password encryption techniques) – each of which is timed. It means you’ll easily be able to work out which passwords are the weakest and change them accordingly.
Ettercap, which works across all the major operating systems, is a comprehensive suite for man-in-the-middle attacks on LAN.
A man-in-the-middle attack occurs when an attacker relays and alters the communication between two users who believe they are directly and privately communicating. It can be a reasonably easy attack to perform, with users on unencrypted WiFi wireless access points being particularly vulnerable.
The software can sniff live connections and monitor content on the fly by either filtering packets based on IP addresses, filtering packets based on MAC addresses, putting the network interface into promiscuous mode, or by ARP poisoning the target machines.
Nikto is a web server scanner which can check for more than 6,700 potentially dangerous files or programs, for outdated versions of more than 1,250 servers, and for version-specific issues on more than 270 servers. Additionally, it will look at server configuration concerns such as multiple index files and various HTTP server options, and will even attempt to identify installed web servers and software.
Running tests such as those offered by Nitko is vital – hackers are increasingly turning their sights on web server vulnerabilities to find a route into an organisation, and everything from insecure WordPress implementations to outdated Apache servers have reportedly been targeted.
Wireshark is a packet analyzer that works on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. The first version was released in 1998, and since then it has become a de-facto standard in many industries. At different times is has won awards from eWeek, InfoWorld, and PC Magazine, and was the SourceForge “Project of the Month” in October 2010.
It lets you easily see what all users are doing on your network, but also gives you a way of identifying and remedying odd traffic that could be linked to a Trojan.
Data can be derived from a live network connection or read from a file of already-captured packets, it works on several different networks, including Ethernet, IEEE 802.11, PPP, and loop-back, and the captured data can be browsed via a user interface or via a command line terminal.
Have you checked your home network?
When was the last time you checked the door was locked on your own home network? If you are one of the majority of people who’ve never reviewed their security you should use some of these tools as a starting point.
Have you ever used any of the recommendations? What else would you add to the list? Perhaps you’ve were “burgled” and you’ve got a story to tell? We’d love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, and comments – just leave your feedback in the box below.
Image Credits: hacker in hooded jacket Via Shutterstock