Instant Messenger Security with a focus on implementing security

Instant Messenger Security with a focus
on implementing security policies in
corporate IM services
Kaushal S Chandrashekar
CS 691
Dr. Edward Chow
• Instant Messaging
•Problems with IM in corporate environments
• General threats to IM
• Implementing security policies in IM
• Design details and problems
• Summary
• References
Instant Messaging
•Instant Messaging (IM) is the online chat medium that
allows people to connect and collaborate in real-time.
• Based on IP protocols
• 10 million enterprise users in 2002
• Expected to explode up to 180 million users by 2007
Problems with Free IM in
corporate environments
•Privacy concerns
•Security Concerns
•No central administration
•No integration with corporate IT
•Security and firewall problems
•Dependence on external infrastructure providers
General threats to IM
• Bypasses most anti-virus scanners
• Can resend itself to all on the buddy list
•Backdoor Trojan Horses
• Utilize IM app to send information about user
• Can modify configuration settings to make whole
HDD available for file sharing
General threats to IM Contd
•Hijacking and Impersonation
• Account information can be stolen and misused
• Man-in-the-middle attacks
•Denial of Service
• Flood attacks
Implementing security policies in
• Why?
• Most enterprise IMs provide only primitive control
• A more fine-grained approach required
• Common breaches of security
• Transfer of confidential files to unauthorized
• Unauthorized attendees in confidential
• Messages containing confidential information
Required features in corporate
• Secure log-in
• Chatting
• Internal, application based
• External, web based
• Conferencing
• File sharing
Basic IM Service architecture
No external IP
Protected against internal
DOS attacks
Access Control
Certificate handling
Internal Network
Security Clearance hierarchy
Mgmt Level 1
Mgmt Level 2
Regular Employee
Customer Support
• Essential because it determines security clearance
• Password-locked certificates
• Problems
• Weak passwords
• Vulnerable to software cracking and social
• Biometric keys
• Integration of IM login with terminal login
• Rules
• External chat only with employees with Ls >= lk, a
predetermined level
• If Ls(S1) >= Ls(S2), S1 can chat unchecked with
S2, but messages from S2 to S1 are monitored
• All chat messages are encrypted using mutually
negotiated session keys, except for ones with externals.
Chatting contd.
• Chat monitoring and logging
• All chat activity is monitored and logged to log files
that are accessible only to any non-sysadmin users
Suspect word list to raise alerts
• Problems
• Words split up, capitalized
• Sentences in unrecognized languages spelt in a
recognized language
•IM activity at unusual times could raise alerts
• Collaborative chatting with ability to record conversation
by attendees as minutes
• Rules
•Each conference has security level assigned to level l
• If Ls(Employee) <= l, employee can read/write
• Custom invitations to conferences also possible
• Downgrading of conference level after starting possible,
but is logged and all messages generated by users with
higher security clearances will be hidden to less secure
File Sharing
• All files that are shared are assumed to be at the
sender’s security level
• Levels can be changed by the system administrator
• If Lo >= Ls, the file can be transferred
• All manuals and public documents are tagged in a
central repository by the sys-admin with Lo >=
Ls(External) so that customer service can transfer
documents or parts of it to clients
• Conflict between restrictions imposed by security
policies and ease of use built into IM services
• No security policy is a match for human ingenuity.
• Further research is required and perhaps a new
model for enterprise IM services
• Unified messaging, currently getting popular, requires
a extremely vast and diverse security policy.
Computer Security – Art and Science by Matt Bishop