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Preventing Web Attacks with Apache 1st Edition
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From the Back Cover
“Ryan Barnett has raised the bar in terms of running Apache securely. If you run Apache, stop right now and leaf through this book; you need this information.”
–Stephen Northcutt, The SANS Institute
The only end-to-end guide to securing Apache Web servers and Web applications
Apache can be hacked. As companies have improved perimeter security, hackers have increasingly focused on attacking Apache Web servers and Web applications. Firewalls and SSL won’t protect you: you must systematically harden your Web application environment. Preventing Web Attacks with Apache brings together all the information you’ll need to do that: step-by-step guidance, hands-on examples, and tested configuration files.
Building on his groundbreaking SANS presentations on Apache security, Ryan C. Barnett reveals why your Web servers represent such a compelling target, how significant exploits are performed, and how they can be defended against. Exploits discussed include: buffer overflows, denial of service, attacks on vulnerable scripts and programs, credential sniffing and spoofing, client parameter manipulation, brute force attacks, web defacements, and more.
Barnett introduces the Center for Internet Security Apache Benchmarks, a set of best-practice Apache security configuration actions and settings he helped to create. He addresses issues related to IT processes and your underlying OS; Apache downloading, installation, and configuration; application hardening; monitoring, and more. He also presents a chapter-length case study using actual Web attack logs and data captured “in the wild.”
For every sysadmin, Web professional, and security specialist responsible for Apache or Web application security.
With this book, you will learn to
- Address the OS-related flaws most likely to compromise Web server security
- Perform security-related tasks needed to safely download, configure, and install Apache
- Lock down your Apache httpd.conf file and install essential Apache security modules
- Test security with the CIS Apache Benchmark Scoring Tool
- Use the WASC Web Security Threat Classification to identify and mitigate application threats
- Test Apache mitigation settings against the Buggy Bank Web application
- Analyze an Open Web Proxy Honeypot to gather crucial intelligence about attackers
- Master advanced techniques for detecting and preventing intrusions
About the Author
Ryan C. Barnett is a chief security officer for EDS. He currently leads both Operations Security and Incident Response Teams for a government bureau in Washington, DC. In addition to his nine-to-five job, Ryan is also a faculty member for the SANS Institute, where his duties include instructor/courseware developer for Apache Security, Top 20 Vulnerabilities team member, and local mentor for the SANS Track 4, “Hacker Techniques, Exploits, and Incident Handling,” course. He holds six SANS Global Information Assurance Certifications (GIAC): Intrusion Analyst (GCIA), Systems and Network Auditor (GSNA), Forensic Analyst (GCFA), Incident Handler (GCIH), Unix Security Administrator (GCUX), and Security Essentials (GSEC). In addition to the SANS Institute, he is also the team lead for the Center for Internet Security Apache Benchmark Project and a member of the Web Application Security Consortium.
Top customer reviews
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Author Ryan Barnett takes a wider look at the world of Web application security than Ivan Ristic. As a result I find their two books very complementary. You'll find coverage of topics in PWAWA that do not appear in AS. For example, Ryan explains how to use the Center for Internet Security Apache Benchmark Scoring Tool to evaluate your httpd.conf file. He uses the Apache Benchmark (ab) application (packaged with Apache) to measure Web server performance characteristics. He uses these tools in before-and-after situations to show how his recommended changes improve the defaults.
I thought PWAWA's coverage of the fundamentals of Web security was not as good as that of AS. That's ok, though, because PWAWA addresses areas not as well covered by AS. For example, PWAWA spends a lot of quality ink on mod_security filters. This is ironic, given that AS author Ivan Ristic coded mod_security! What's impressive about PWAWA's mod_security explanations are the many sample filters. These are developed after discussions of various attack techniques and serve as countermeasures one can implement until a patch is ready.
PWAWA is a mix of defense and offense, with a whole chapter showing how to attack and defend the WebMaven/Buggy Bank learning Web application. Attacks are nice, but showing development of defenses is excellent. PWAWA features some clever ideas too, like snort2modsec.pl and an Open Web Proxy Honeypot. I was not as keen on the inclusion of the Web Application Security Consortium's Web Security "Threat" Classification document. Please search my blog for a thorough discussion of why that guide should be an "attack, vulnerabilities, and exposures" document.
I found few technical nits. It's not correct that a NIDS protects its sniffing interface by "removing [the] IP stack" (p 299). Inline IDS isn't just for honeypots, either. I could have used inline packet rewriting to defend a Web hosting company that had lost control of its IIS customer sites. The customers were compromised and were unwittingly attaching malicious frames in their Web pages, thanks to an intruder.
I was also concerned by the author's statement that upon seeing a Snort Web attack alert, he connects to the Web server via SSH and begins reviewing logs (p 419). Proper network security monitoring wouldn't necessarily require immediate log review, and if log review is needed it should be done via a central log host. Connecting to a potential victim immediately after suspected compromise is a great way to alert the intruder and potentially alter evidence.
Overall, I liked PWAWA. The book is a mix of Apache security and Web application assessment, so if you are more interested in purely securing Apache you might prefer AS. If you want to learn about Web application hacking in general, your best bets are probably Hacking Exposed: Web Applications, 2nd Ed, and Professional Pen Testing for Web Applications. I will read and review those two books shortly.
Barnett offers inoculation. You can read this book as the sysadmin's manual to installing and running Apache. Where the overriding priority is to bolt down any known weaknesses from the get go.
There is a comprehensive list of attacks. Some might not necessarily be directed against Apache per se, but against any web server. But there are others that might scan for particular versions of Apache or the operating system, if these have bugs that can be exploited. The text suggests possibly providing disinformation. In an earlier, more innocent time, a web server might write its name and version at the bottom of a page that it publishes, for example. Now, you are shown how Apache can suppress this. Better yet, you can tell Apache to pretend to be another web server. A defensive fib that makes the cracker's job a little harder.
Buffer overflows, cross site scripting and SQL injection are possibly the most dangerous attacks explained. For each attack, examples are usually given. Followed by Apache countermeasures. Tangentially, you also get to cast scrutiny at your database and at the entire way your multitier server system is arranged.
The book is a sad but necessary commentary on the times we live in.