Dec 27 2007

How to bypass a network security policy without hacking into Active Directory

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Sometimes the ingenuity of users amazes me. I have never seen anything like the following scenario. More on that in a second.

As an IT Professional, I have to enforce certain network policies from time to time. I have had to implement Web filtering (I am not a fan, I assure you), email retention policies, disk quotas, and many other unpopular policies.

I have never received much whining and complaining until I implemented a policy that would lock the Windows computers after 20 minutes of inactivity. It doesn’t log the user off, it just locks the computer. This does not shut down any programs that were open. However, you would think I cut off the users’ hands.

When I implemented this policy, I heard it all. I had comments flying at me like:

“Do you realize that 8 minutes of my day are now wasted?”

Mess with people’s convenience and you have a riot on your hands. Guess what? Security is not meant to be convenient. It is just a byproduct of the world that we now live in. *Steps off the soapbox…*

As I promised at the beginning of this post, here is why the ingenuity of users amazes me. I work with some engineers that do component level electronics repair work (I work at a television station). One particular user decided that he was not going to put up with the locking console policy.

Did he edit the registry? NO. Did he hack into Active Directory and change the group policy? NO. Did he lock himself to his desk and refuse to work or eat until the policy was revoked? NO, but that would have been funny.

He modified his keyboard. WHAT!?! You say.

The console locking policy works when there are 20 consecutive minutes of inactivity. So, he put a 555 timer, a resistor, and a relay in his keyboard so that every few seconds, the Scroll Lock key would electronically turn on. So, as far as Windows was concerned, there was activity every few seconds.

Yep, a keyboard was responsible for bypassing a network security policy, but no typing was involved ;) . I thought the whole scenario was very funny and I would like to thank the user for giving me a great story to tell. The modified keyboard has since, been removed. There is a lesson to be learned here. The lesson is not about network security, computers, or even Information Technology. It is about management.

If you can figure out what motivates people, they will come up with some pretty creative solutions. Our user just happened to be motivated by a need to improve efficiency for “8 minutes a day.”

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  1. XDEV said:

    I use VBScript and make cmd window pop-up every 14mins (our are set to 15min inactivity) pretty simple script too! :)

    May 7th, 2011 at 9:52 pm

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