Security Tests – SCAP Content

While the SCAP technologies are interesting, they have limited value without security content – the actual set of security tests run by SCAP. Fortunately there is a good set of content available that can be used as a starting point.

The US Government has released a set of SCAP content that covers the baseline security required – the United States Government Configuration Baseline (USGCB), which contains the security configuration baselines for a variety of computer products which are widely deployed across federal agencies. USGCB content covers Internet Explorer, Windows, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux Desktop 5.

Also from the US Government is the Department of Defense STIG or Security Technical Implementation Guides. A specific example of this would be downloadable SCAP Content for RHEL 6, the Red Hat 6 STIG Benchmark, Version 1, Release 4.

A number of vendors include SCAP content in their products. This is often a sample or an example – it is enough to get you started, but does not provide a comprehensive security scan.

While the available SCAP content is a good start, most organizations will have additional needs. This can be addressed in two ways: by tailoring existing SCAP content and by writing new SCAP content.

Tailoring SCAP content involves choosing which SCAP rules will be evaluated and changing parameters.

An example of changing parameters is minimum password length. The default value might be 12 characters. You can change this in a tailoring file, perhaps to 8 characters or to 16 characters for a highly secure environment.

A common way to use SCAP is to have a large SCAP benchmark (content) which is used on all systems, and to select which rules will be used for each scan. This can be changed for each system and each run. You do this by providing the SCAP benchmark, an SCAP Tailoring file, and running the SCAP scanner.

Writing new SCAP content can be a daunting task. SCAP is a rich enterprise framework – in other words, it is complex and convoluted… If you are going to be writing SCAP content (and you really should), I suggest starting with Security Automation Essentials, getting very familiar with the various websites we’ve mentioned, studying the existing SCAP content, and being prepared for a significant learning curve.

About Russell Doty

A technology strategist and product manager at Red Hat, working on the next generation of open source systems.
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