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Remote system's administration is usually performed according to the standard client-server model. A
service runs on the target system, either providing a remote view of the locally available administration
tools (e.g: remote terminal, remote desktop), or implementing a back-end for the execution of complex
commands received through a corresponding front-end (e.g.: web-based administration interfaces).
The service usually exposes a single access point, which is the obvious target of attacks like, for instance:
DoS or brute-force authentication attempts. Limiting the impact of these attacks is very difŪcult; usually
one or more reactive or proactive techniques are exploited, as brießy summarized hereinafter.
Access limitation solutions, like for example account lock-out and connection throttling, react to sus-
pect activity (in terms of failed login attempts or exceedingly high trafŪc) that could be the symptom
of an ongoing attack. In this way, however, they expose the legitimate administrator as well as the
attacker to the same risk of being cut out of the server.
Pre-authentication protocols, as port-knocking and Cryptographically Constantly Changing
Port Opening (C3PO), tackle instead the problem of hiding the administration port to everyone
but the legitimate administrator; the server recognizes a sequence of specially crafted packets sent by
the administrator, and subsequently allows the originating address to access the administration port.
The sequence is based on a shared secret, and usually involves sending several packets to the correct
TCP or UDP ports within a time-frame. This approach also suffers from various drawbacks: Ūrst,
temporary lock-out can again be triggered by any malicious or fortuitous event that lets the server
receive a wrong sequence; second, a special client is required to execute the protocol; third, trafŪc
directed to unusual ports could be blocked before it reaches the server.
Host- and network-based intrusion detection systems can help thwarting the attacks before they suc-
ceed, but can not guarantee security against the vastly distributed attacks that are presently possible,
especially considering the value of the target (that is full control of an Internet host).
However, there is a signiŪcant difference between the administration service and the others usually
provided by the same host. While the latter must typically be fairly visible to a varied audience, the former
is intended solely for the legitimate system administrator. This peculiarity can be leveraged to protect the
sensitive administration service from malicious exploitation attempts, by completely changing the access
The goal of this research is to devise an unconventional model of communication between the system
administrator and the remote administration interface. In the proposed solution, previously outlined in,
the intrinsic vulnerability of the traditional scheme is addressed by reversing the client-server relation; an
administration engine replaces the classical service, originating connections to an intermediate system rather
then listening for connections.
The immediate advantage arising from this design choice is that there is nothing to attack on the remote
host. On the other hand, the introduction of an additional system in the security chain must be carefully
evaluated, to avoid introducing unexpected attack paths, and eventually making the system less robust than
it originally was. We claim that, if properly modeled and implemented, a platform based on the meeting
of the server and its administrator on an intermediate system is expedient in terms of security, availability,
usability and opportunity for future extension.
In the following section, we outline the design guidelines for the proposed system and describe the
resulting architecture. Then, we proceed to discuss the deriving security issues. Finally, we draw conclusions
based both on the present theoretical analysis and on preliminary experimental results.
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When you install RoboAdmin you'll find, inside the crrect install directory, all the documentation. If you need more about project and Analysis
you shold click on "Documentation" bottom on the left side of this page.