The NCSA Guide to PC & LAN Security


Stephen Cobb, CISSP

Chapter 7: Secure Access


This chapter is about: Controls, passwords, and encryption

...the chapter focuses on the task of controlling access to personal computer systems and the programs and data which they contain. The preceding chapter was concerned with techniques and wares, both hard and soft, that deny access to computers by unauthorized personnel. These included barriers to physical access and unauthorized system startup. This chapter continues this theme but also looks at how you control what people do once they go beyond preliminary barriers. Because some strategies for providing this type of access control use encryption, this chapter will discuss what this is and how it works. Because many of the access controls in this and the preceding chapter rely on passwords, this chapter examines the finer points of password selection and management.

Encryption Update

Probably the area of greatest, fastest change in network security has been encryption. As with many phenomena, this is change is reflected at many different levels, for example, the popular and the technical. The average citizen today knows a lot more about encryption, or is at least much more familiar with its terminology and aware of its use, than even five years ago. On the technical side, there have been major developments in both public- and private-key encryption. On the public-key side, deployment has become extremely widespread, RSA patents have expired, and elliptic curve has entered the field. On the private-key side, DES has been "defeated," and a replacement has emerged. I will try to post links these developments as soon as possible. In the meantime, you might enjoy the Crypto 101 presentation I developed a few years ago.

The Story So Far

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