Security with Obscurity is Great

For decades, inexperienced programmers have tried jury-rigging security

onto software by implementing simplistic tricks that rely on obscurity

rather than tried-and-true security measures. The assumption is that an

attacker won't know to try something, and thus would not be able to get

access to the software.

For example, lets say we have some fictitious Web-enabled device with

an administrative interface living at,

where XXXXXXX is the device's serial number. The manufacturer figures

that only the administrator would be able to look on the back of the

device and read the serial number, and thus this should be 'secure


The Problem

An attacker could easily discover that the admin interface is based on

the serial number. Perhaps she has one of these units herself, or she

finds newsgroup message from someone asking a question about the

device. Regardless, the attacker need only whip up a quick 3 line shell

script to try all possible URLs until they stumble on the correct one,

and then there's nothing stopping them from taking over.

Had the manufacturer implemented some sort of password authentication,

then the URL could have been something standard, say '/admin/'. Knowing

the URL would do the cracker no good as she'd still need to know the


Security Through Obscurity

This kind of 'security' is called 'Security through Obscurity' and it

is anything but. Ask any security guru and they'll constantly remind

you that relying on Security through Obscurity is a vulnerability

waiting to happen. To develop a solid security foundation, you must

determine exactly what bits need to be secret and make sure that they

are both secret and something that can be changed. In general, we're

talking about passwords, keys, certificates, etc

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