Rootkit Defenses

As with prevention for any kind of attack, the first and best line of defense against rootkits is a fully patched box. This will filter out most of the low-hanging fruit frequently exploited by script-kiddie attackers.

Next, significant kernel mode rootkit protection is already built into a fully patched 2.6 Linux kernel. There are, of course, rootkits that will operate in a 2.6 environment, but most of the legacy rootkits that operated on the 2.4 kernel are not compatible with the changes and security enhancements made in the 2.6 kernel. So, keeping the kernel up-to-date is an integral part of rootkit prevention and security compromises, in general.

Another huge factor in preventing rootkits, especially kernel mode rootkits, is to follow the advice in Chapter 4. Eliminate—or restrict as much as possible—anything that can be used to alter, debug, or reverse engineer a system or its applications. This makes installing a rootkit very difficult, especially since numerous prerequisites would first have to be installed.

Also, implement appropriate network access controls, configure chrooting, and restrict any viable service. This will go a long way toward preventing compromises.

A final tool in protecting against rootkits, and in identifying them, is to use a file integrity checker on a regular, scheduled basis. If a file integrity checker is running against a system regularly, preferably with its database backed up in a separate location, it can act as an early warning sign that something on a system has happened or is in the process of happening.

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