Home > General Rants & Raves, Jackassery, Network Access Control, Punditry > It’s a sNACdown! Cage Match between Captain Obvious and Me, El Rational.

It’s a sNACdown! Cage Match between Captain Obvious and Me, El Rational.

CAUTION:  I use the words "Nostradramatic prescience" in this blog posting.  Anyone easily offended by such poetic buggery should stop reading now.  You have been forewarned.

That’s it.  I’ve had it.  I’ve taken some semi-humorous jabs at Mr. Stiennon before, but my contempt for what is just self-serving PFD (Pure F’ing Dribble) has hit an all time high.  This is, an out-and-out, smackdown.  I make no bones about it.

Richard is at it again.  It seems that stating the obvious and taking credit for it has become an art form. 

Richard expects to be congratulated for his prophetic statements that
are basically a told-you-so to any monkey dumb enough to rely only on
Network Admission Control (see below) as his/her only security defense.  Furthermore, he has the gaul to suggest that by obfuscating the bulk of the arguments made to the contradiction of his point, he wins by default and he’s owed some sort of ass-kissing:

And for my fellow bloggers who I rarely call out using my own blog:
are you ready to retract your "founded on quicksand" statements and
admit that you were wrong and Stiennon was right once again?  🙂

Firstly, there’s a REASON you "rarely call out" other people on your blog, Richard. It has something to do with a lack of frequency of actually being right, or more importantly others being wrong.  

I mean the rest of us poor ig’nant blogger folk just cower in the shadows of your earth-shattering predictions for 2007: Cybercrime is on the rise, identify theft is a terrible problem, attacks against financial services companies will increase and folks will upload illegal videos to YouTube. 

I’m sure the throngs of those who rise up against Captain Obvious are already sending their apology Hallmarks.  I’ll make sure to pre-send those congratulatory balloons now so I can save on shipping, eh?

Secondly, suggesting that others are wrong when you only present 1/10th of the debate is like watching two monkeys screw a football.  It’s messy, usually ends up with one chimp having all the fun and nobody will end up wanting to play ball again with the "winner."  Congratulations, champ.

What the heck am I talking about?  Way back when, a bunch of us had a debate concerning the utility of NAC.  More specifically, we had a debate about the utility, efficacy and value of NAC as part of an overall security strategy.  The debate actually started between Richard and Alan Shimmel. 

I waded in because I found them both to be right and both to be wrong.  What I suggested is that NAC by ITSELF is not effective and must be deployed as part of a well-structured layered defense.  I went so far as to  suggest that Richard’s ideas that the network ‘fabric’ could also do this by itself were also flawed.  Interestingly, we all agreed that trusting the end-point ALONE to report on its state and gain admission to the network was a flawed idea.

Basically, I suggested that securing one’s assets came down to common sense, the appropriate use of layered defense in both the infrastructure and on top of it and utilizing NAC when and how appropriate.  You know, rational security.

The interesting thing to come out of that debate is that to Richard, it became clear that the acronym "NAC" appeared to only mean Network ADMISSION Control.  Even more specifically, it meant Cisco’s version of Network ADMISSION Control.  Listen to the Podcast.  Read the blogs.  It’s completely one dimensional and unrealistic to group every single NAC product and compare it to Cisco.  He did this intentionally so as to prove an equally one dimensional point.  Everyone already knows that pre-admission control is nothing you solely rely on for assured secure connectivity.

To the rest of us who participated in that debate, NAC meant not only Network ADMISSION Control, but also Network ACCESS Control…and not just Cisco’s which we all concluded, pretty much sucked monkey butt.  The problem is that Richard’s assessment of (C)NAC is so myopic that he renders any argument concerning NAC (both) down to a single basal point that nobody actually made.

It goes something like this and was recorded thusly by his lordship himself from up on high on a tablet somewhere.  Richard’s "First Law of Network Security":

Thou shalt not trust an end point to report its own state

Well, no shit.  Really!?  Isn’t it more important to not necessarily trust that the state reported is accurate but take the status with a grain of salt and use it as a component of assessing the fitness of a host to participate as a citizen of the network?   Trust but verify?

Are there any other famous new laws of yours I should know about?  Maybe like:

Thou shalt not use default passwords
Thou shalt not click on hyperlinks in emails
Thou shalt not use eBanking apps on shared computers in Chinese Internet Cafes
Thou shalt not deploy IDS’ and not monitor them
Thou shalt not use "any any any allow" firewall/ACL rules
Thou shalt not allow SMTP relaying
Thou shalt not use the handle hornyhussy in the #FirewallAdminSingles IRC channel

{By the way, I think using the phrase ‘…shalt not’ is actually a double-negative?} [Ed: No, it’s not]

Today Richard blew his own horn to try and reinforce his Nostradramatic prescience when he commented on how presenters at Blackhat further demonstrated that you can spoof reporting compliance checks of an end-point to the interrogator using Cisco’s NAC product using a toolkit created to do just that. 

Oh, the horror!  You mean Malware might actually fake an endpoint into thinking it’s not compromised or spoof the compliance in the first place!?  What a novel idea.  Not.  Welcome to the world of amorphous polymorphic malware.  Been there, done that, bought the T-Shirt.  AV has been dealing with this for quite a while.  It ain’t new.  Bound to happen again.

Does it make NAC useless.  Nope.  Does it mean that we need greater levels of integrity checking and further in-depth validation of state.  Yep.   ‘Nuff said. 

Let me give you Hoff’s "First Law of Network Security" Blogging:

Thou shalt not post drivel bait, Troll.

It’s not as sexy sounding as yours, but it’s immutable, non-negotiable and 100% free of trans-fatty acids.


(Written from the lobby of the Westford Regency Hotel.  Drinking…nothing, unfortunately.)

  1. April 3rd, 2007 at 21:40 | #1

    Chris, well said. My only question is about the picture above, it looks like someone is about to get a crotch full. Are you trying to insinuate that Richard is about to perform some kind of immoral and possibly illegal act?

  2. April 3rd, 2007 at 21:55 | #2

    Tis the season for the ten commandments

    I was going to get around to writing about Richard Stiennon's recent article regarding the hole found in Cisco NAC (I will write more about the hole itself in a later article and why it does not apply to all

  3. April 4th, 2007 at 13:41 | #3

    This was a comment from one "adhils" on Richard's blog. You can find the original here: http://talkback.zdnet.com/5208-11744-0.html?forum
    Beautifully written:
    You're correct, sir. CNAC is a ponderous construct that requires a lot of stuff no right-thinking security or network professional will deploy.
    That said, your philosophical objection to endpoint NAC is grounded in ideological purity, not reality. Yes, asking an endpoint to report it's own health is on its face absurd, and can be fraught with problems if that is the sum of your network security.
    Have you ever seen a security tool that can't be compromised, especially when taken as a single solution?
    Yes, the market is over-hyped. No, it's not creating billionaires. Yea, DHCP approach has flaws. Verily, some start-ups have been sold for scrap or shut their doors. Indeed, CNAC sucks as the solution wrapper for endpoint NAC.
    Endpoint NAC is not perfect, but it is worthy of evaluation as one considers layering security to deal with known users.

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