[RndTbl] firewall/router in a VM

Daryl F wyatt at prairieturtle.ca
Thu Feb 18 21:09:26 CST 2010

Personally I find there is another aspect of data security that is often 
overlooked: data accuracy. As the owner of valuable data I want it 
protected from loss and private but I also want it to be correct.

There are many who believe that an application always crashes when there 
is an undetected memory error but that is not always the case. One of the 
most difficult problems to track down is caused when data resides in flaky 
RAM and then is written to disk where it is faithfully recorded 
inaccurately forever.

Hardly anyone writes code to see if their spreadsheet adds 2+2, comes up 
with 4, then saves it to disk as a 5 via a DMA transfer from bad RAM. 
Eventually some program blows up executing from the bad RAM and it is 
finally replaced but now we have some amount of bad data floating around 
on durable media.

I'm constantly astonished by the amount of corrected ECC memory errors I 
see over time in the servers I care for. The DIMMs eventually fail but I 
feel more secure knowing corrupt data was never transferred from place to 

While auditors may have convinced their customers it is really important 
to have data security and data durability have you ever heard any of them 
ask their customers if they are OK with data inaccuracy?

I think non-ECC memory should be illegal. Somebody's gonna lose an eye and 
it won't be funny any more.


On Thu, 18 Feb 2010, Sean Walberg wrote:

> What you say is not untrue, but the larger issues (IMHO) are that:
> 1. Most people design such that they avoid trouble and confrontation.
> 2. Most IT auditors have no IT experience.
> For #1, most people have lost the ability to rationally assess risk. No one
> wants to be the guy to say "I saved $xxxxx by specing a lower box that will
> still handle the load" or some variation of that when that's the first
> decision that's going to be looked at if there is a problem. In most cases
> the IT department has lost touch with the business value they provide. So we
> get this proliferation of redundant servers and network gear that sits idle.
> There is an aspect of hardware to it, though. Developers tend to assume they
> are writing to a machine that executes commands in zero clock cycles, has
> infinite memory, and has a network with zero latency and infinite bandwidth.
> Rather than try and correct these misunderstandings, IT will throw money at
> the problem to make it run and not get blamed.
> For #2, I'm not sure what else has to be said. I have only met one auditor
> who I respect and actually gets these kind of discussions. He explained to
> me that he understood some of these things made no technical difference, but
> the problem was to convince every other auditor. Sometimes it's easier just
> to bite the bullet and do things sub-optimally rather than having to spend
> several hours explaining it each time the (new) audit team comes around.
> Back to #1, the cost of being right is high and the benefits are almost nil.
> With respects to your arguments you're mixing data durability and data loss
> prevention. They are both aspects of security (eg, mitigating risk), but I'm
> sure that most IT departments would agree that they are more worried about a
> critical Excel spreadsheet getting in the hands of the media or competition
> than they are having Excel crash because of a memory error. The cost
> and likelihood of the former dwarf that of the latter.
> Sean
> On Wed, Feb 17, 2010 at 10:20 PM, Adam Thompson <athompso at athompso.net>wrote:
>> <soapbox>
>> That's because we don't, collectively, think about hardware.  And we don't
>> think about hardware being buggy.  And we especially don't think about
>> "hardware" having inherent security flaws.
>> (OK, yes, the security folks who crossed over *into* IT do.  They aren't
>> auditors, for better or worse.)
>> A Cisco router is "software" enough (and has had enough bugs :-) that it
>> crosses into our conscious awareness regarding security, but their switches?
>>  Nah.  Mature product, all hardware (despite running an OS), no bugs.
>>  Either works or it doesn't.
>> Bullshit.
>> Show me a hardware-accelerated device and I can show you half a dozen ways
>> it could fail unnoticed, (potentially) compromising security as it goes.
>> Notice that we install local firewalls on every PC but don't use ECC memory
>> to guard against random bit errors.  (I do, BTW - even on my PC.  It's one
>> small part of why I don't have a laptop.)  A HERF gun is a better DoS tool
>> than any virus or worm, by several objective measurements.
>> The entire IT industry has its head stuck up... you know where, in so many
>> different ways.
>> Yet, this isn't surprising.  Humans want instant gratification, a free
>> ride, and the illusion of control.  Those things are all way easier with
>> software than with hardware.  (Contemplate the difference between "soft" and
>> "hard", if you will, for a moment.)
>> Do I expect this to change any time before the heat death of the universe?
>>  No.  But I sure wish auditors took a wider view of the world.
>> "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by
>> stupidity." - Hanlon's Razor (among other attributions)
>> </soapbox>
>> -Adam

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