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Practical UNIX and Internet Security, 3rd Edition by Alan Schwartz, Gene Spafford, Simson Garfinkel

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Story: A Failed Site Inspection

If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.

—Catherine Aird

Several years ago, a consumer-products firm with worldwide operations invited one of the authors to a casual tour of one of the company’s main sites. The site, located in an office park with several large buildings, included computers for product design and testing, and nationwide management of inventory, sales, and customer support. It included a sophisticated, automated voice-response system costing thousands of dollars a month to operate, hundreds of users, and dozens of T1 (1.44 Mbps) communications lines for the corporate network, carrying both voice and data communications.

The company thought that it had reasonable security, given the fact that it didn’t have anything serious to lose. After all, the firm was in the consumer-products business—no government secrets or high-stakes stock and bond trading there.

What We Found

After a brief, three-hour inspection, the company had some second thoughts about its security. Even without a formal site audit, the following items were discovered during our short visit.

Fire hazards

  • All of the company’s terminal and network cables were suspended from hangers above false ceilings throughout the buildings. Although smoke detectors and sprinklers were located below the false ceiling, none were located above, where the cables were located. If there were a short or an electrical fire, it could spread throughout a substantial ...

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