Risk Rating:


In security sciences, trust is any unauthenticated interactivity between targets within a scope. For example, a web application may interact with a database server without requiring authentication or specifically identifying itself. (Actually, the request's IP address may be considered weak identification criteria much like a nametag on a person's shirt is unqualified identification of a specific person.) Where an attacker finds visibility as opportunity and access as direct interaction, trust is useful for indirect interaction. As it is, criminals have two ways to steal anything: take it or have somebody take it for them. Exploiting trust is getting somebody to steal it for them and just hand it over.

Anyone securing anything should know that those who have access to assets are as much a weakness to security as not having security at all. Of course, the risk numbers say if the people with access are properly configured (training combined with habit), then they are safer than the unknown. People, however, tend to express free will or irrational behavior at times, leaving them basically unconfigurable over the long term. Luckily, computer systems can remain configured for years. However, the rigidity of system configuration leaves it more open to being fooled. So where a person can be dangerous to grant trusts in a secure environment because he or she expresses too much freedom, a computer system is dangerous to grant trusts because it has too little environmental sensitivity and can be much more gullible. Consider the following scenarios.

A criminal calls a bank's customer service center and using some basic information gleaned from a victim asks to have an account PIN changed on a stolen bankcard. The customer service representative is not satisfied with one of the answers to the security questions and denies the change. The criminal pleads with the representative and gives a wonderful sob story. So the representative tries a few more "security" questions, and when the representative asks the favorite color question, the criminal successfully answers "blue," and the representative changes the PIN.

A computer system would have not have asked more security questions and would have discontinued interaction after the first failure requiring a new login on behalf of the criminal. After the login fails, the criminal tries another card from another account. After hundreds of tries against a whole database of cards, the criminal is finally successful at guessing the answer to one of the random security questions. The system allows this because it does not discriminate about the same user making the query from the same location or IP address again and again using different identities. You can even imagine a criminal trying 100 ATM cards at the same machine and entering 1234 as each card's PIN. At no time does the ATM machine stop and say, "Hey, don't I know you?" If the criminal tries that with a bank teller, by the time he or she gets to the third incorrect ATM card PIN, the teller will be calling the police.

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