Mythic Monday – The Aging Lion and the Fox
Another one of Aesop’s fables that isn’t that well known is that of the aging lion and the fox. You can click the link and read it, but for those of you that are linkaphobic, here’s a short version:
A lion was getting old and having trouble hunting. He decided, instead, to pretend to be sick and went back to his cave, moaning all the way. Over time, as each of his neighbors stopped by to check on him, he ate them.
Then, one day a fox came by and asked how the lion was doing. The lion moaned and asked the fox to come closer. The fox then observed that the footprints all led into the cave, and none came out.
Clearly, the fox is the fable animal to be. He’s smart. He’s observant. He’s… umm… red and furry? (Are Greek foxes red? . . . Yes, after googling a bit, it seems that the red fox is global, and the grey fox is only native to the Americas… which has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog entry.)
No, the point of this blog entry is that of evidence. If the lion had been wise, he would have either wiped the tracks after each meal or (more preposterously) fabricated tracks going back out. The fact that he didn’t, is what allowed the fox to escape and presumably tell the other animals what the lion had been up to (and Aesop, since he wrote it down). So, not only was the lion caught, but he lost his lovely little racket and probably starved to death shortly thereafter.
Most attackers are aware of this story (sorta), and do take some effort to reduce evidence. A burglar usually wears gloves, a bank robber usually wears a mask, and a hacker usually clears system logs. So, if we want to make it hard for the lion to wipe away the footprints, we have a few options. The first is to replace the dirt outside his den with fast-setting concrete… which would prove somewhat troublesome if you analyze this ridiculous analogy too far. The second is to set up a camera trap and record everyone who enters the cave. (For those purists who would point out that there were no cameras in ancient Greece, let’s just say that Hephaestus is there cranking out a vase for each animal. (Happy now, picky people?))
In the modern world, we actually use both of these techniques. Instead of fast-setting concrete, we have a hard drive technology called WORM, or Write Once Read Many. With this drive, you can store the logs in such a way that they cannot be altered. They are, however, quite expensive and can be difficult to set up properly. Instead, we generally prefer to use the camera/vase trap system. For this, we use one of many remote-logging technologies. The simplest is probably the venerable syslog server.
This solution simply involves setting up a dedicated server and installing one of the many syslog systems on it. Then you do a bit of configuration on each of the other servers you have and basically tell them to go log over there. Whenever there is an event, it goes over the network and is stored off the server. That way, if an attacker gets in, even if they wipe their own traces, there is a backup elsewhere that is (in theory) a lot harder to alter.
Of course, you still have to actually be the fox and look at the logs now and then, but at least you’ll be safe from a smart lion.