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"...we'd be willing to bet most large companies are more vulnerable through poorly inventoried modem lines than via firewall-protected Internet gateways."1
These aren't our words, but from some of the most-respected experts in network security. What's more, they have been saying the same thing since 1999.
In the 7th edition of their book, published in 2012, they go on to say: "Strangely enough, even today, many companies still have various dial-up connections into their private networks of infrastructure."
IT professionals are increasingly of the view that with the rise of broadband Internet access, the threats posed by modems have largely gone away. Nothing could be further from the truth. With the rapid advancement (and commoditisation) of computer hardware, all kinds of devices that would have once been controlled by dumb electronics are now based around computers. What's more, not only are they often very capable devices (running flavours of mainstream operating systems, such as Linux or Microsoft Windows), but they are also all-pervasive. Computerisation has found its way into everything. From the vending machine to the network printer. From network switches to the telephone system. Everywhere there is an embedded computer, there is scope for an embedded modem. Why? Because there is intense downward pressure on support costs. An embedded modem allows a device to be maintained efficiently. Remotely, off-site, and via the telephone system.
Modems are often configured deliberately to offer a direct route into your network precisely for these support reasons. The telephone number to which a modem is attached need not even be publicised to make it vulnerable to attack. All a malicious hacker needs to know is the number of your switchboard. With that, they can guess at the likely range of numbers that you use and just dial each of them in turn until they hit lucky. Not so lucky for you, however.
Your firewall is going to provide no protection. A modem will just bypass it completely.
Your intrusion detection or prevention system may be similarly redundant. It's definitely won't spot a direct attack on a printer or building-level uninterruptible power supply, for example. But equally, it might not spot a direct attack on a key legacy business system that is incompatible with host-based monitoring, and that still requires remote maintenance access through an analogue modem line.
At the very least, an unauthorised modem bought for a throwaway cost can seriously undermine the substantial investment that you have made on procuring, configuring and monitoring your firewall and intrusion detection & prevention systems.
At worst, it can mean a significant disruption to business operations at one of many levels, leading to a significant loss of money or prestige. Or, as the experts put it "...even an ancient 9600-baud modem can bring the Goliath of network and system security to its knees."2
Xiscan helps you protect your investment.
(2Hacking Exposed 7: Network Security Secrets and Solutions. Kurtz, Scambray & McClure. McGraw-Hill, 2012)
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