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How Syspeace licensing works

Syspeace licensing – a walkthrough

The licensing model for Syspeace is very flexible and easy to use and has been to designed to keep your administrative tasks to a minimum.

First of all, if you haven’t already, download a free trial and install it. Your servers are protected from brute force and dictionary attacks within minutes.

Regsiter your account with a valid email address and a license number will be emailed to you.

If you decide to continue using Syspeace for protecting your Windows servers, Exchange Servers OWA, Citrix, Terminal Server, CRM, RDWEB, Sharepoint and so on then ..

Simply login to the Syspeace licensing site with the mail address you used upon registration, buy your license and the trial license you’ve used earlier will be automatically converted into live license the next time your Syspeace client validates the license or the service is restarted.

So, there is no need to change the license number , you’ve already got it .

A main feature of the Syspeace licensing model is the flexibility – rethinking application licensing models

Instead of having to buy licenses for instance a 1 year licens at a time per server (which is not uncommon) or having to buy a new license / upgrade license when a major release is up , you buy licenses based on computer days and for how many servers you want.

As an example. If you’ve got a server today and you want to get a “classic” one year licese for it (everyone tends to think in terms of one year licenses I guess) , you login to the site, get your license and you’re good to go.

Two months later, you buy another server and of course you want that server also to be protected from brute force and dictionary attacks.

Ususally this would get you into the situation where you’d have two different license renewal-dates to remember and that’s just a hazzle for everyone.

With Syspeace though, you simply login and extend your existing license for 10 months and to two servers, thus enabling you to align your license renewal dates to tha same date and therefore simplifying your administration.

With Syspeace minor and major upgrades and even all new versions and patches are included in the license.
Should we release new features or a new major version, it’s already included.
No need to buy a license for version 1 thinking all is good and when version 2 comes along , you realize you’ll have to get an upgrade license to use all the new features.

Moving Syspeace licenses between servers

Also another feature that makes you life easier.

Within the licensing section of Syspeace, there is a “Reset license” button. Simply press that and the license is reset from the local server and the server is removed from the central database along with its affilation to the license number.

Next step is to install Syspeace on the new server where you want it, activate your license key and you’re good to go.

About Syspeace and it’s background

By Juha Jurvanen
Senior IT consultant in backup, IT security, server operations and cloud

Juha Jurvanen, Product Manager @ Syspeace CTO and Cloud Arctitect @ Red Cloud iT Independent consultant in backup, server operations, security and cloud @ JufCorp

Pic of Juha Jurvanen, Product Manager of Syspeace

The goal with Syspeace is to simplify security management and prevent brute force hacking, primarily in Microsoft Windows Server environments and is targeted at system administrators that manage servers, either ther own ones or for external customers or even in data centers such as cloud service providers.
Syspeace automates intrusion attempts, brute force attempts,  (eventid 4625) on Microsoft Exchange servers (including the OWA interface and protecting the receive connectors) , Microsoft Terminal Servers and basically any Windows server that uses Windows Authentication such as Sharepoint, Exchange, Terminal Server, Citrix, SQL Server and so on.Around the clock. .

Background and history
The background of the product is that within the Swedish-based cloud service, rCloud Office , from Red Cloud IT where I was the Cloud Architect and CTO , the realization of how many excessive login attempts generating eventid 4625 (failed login , unknown username or password ) from all around the world there really was and that this needed to be automated in aspects of the  administration of it and to tighten security since no brute force prevention is built into Windows. I also quickly realized that none of the other Cloud Service providers has any of this in place and this scared me.

A single attack could render in 5000-6000 login attempts and go on for 2-3 hours. This was a waste of bandwidth, server RAM and CPU since each login-attempt had to be validated and there was always the fear of someone actually succeeding to login or that a user account could be blocked out deliberately just to cause a DOS for the services.

For each brute force attempt most labour was manual and time consuming 

  • First, the log files had to be checked in Windows Server eventlog.
  • Second , the attack had to be manually blocked the incoming IP adress in the firewall.
  • As a third step attacker had to be traced with TRACERT and NSLOOKUP and WHOIS to determine from where it originated and decide when it would be suitable to handle it as a police matter or not.

At night, no one actually could handle an attack so it would be managed the next day which left us vulnerable during off-hours.

Of course this manual labour took quite some time the realization came quickly that it would become an absolute nightmare in the end if something wasn’t done. All customer expect these countermeasures to in place.

The need for something to automatically block the intrusion attempt, notify us the IP address and from where the attack was made popped up

I started searching the Internet for a cost effective, easily administered with  graphical interface and  yet effective solution.

There were a few simple script solutions out there but unfortunately, none of them really matched what was to be accomplished  i.e. block the intrusion attempt based on rules, track down the attacker geographically and unblocking the IP automatically and reporting the attack.

It had to have the ability to easily manage WHITE LISTS, preemptive BLACK LIST,  handle SMTP AUTH attacks and quite a few other features as well that just couldn’t be accomplished with scripts. It had to be easy to use with a graphical management interface to keep the administration and the learning process to a minimum and the autoblocker had to run as an integrated Windows service for optimal performance.

The idea and concepts takes shape

I came up the idea and a concept on how to get the job done, wrote down a few technical ideas and specs, wrote some proof of concepts  and thought about the idea and how to actually accomplish it and came across the guys of the Syspeace develepment team at Treetop and work began. Since I’m not a developer myself, I thought I’d leave the hardcore development to people who actually know what they’re doing.
I’m the guy with concepts and ideas but when it comes to actually writing code.. well.. I’m not a first hand choice. I’ve got a few a more ideas up my sleeve but let me get back to you on that 🙂

After the first alpha test we also realized quickly we needed to add some more intelligence to it as,  for instance, if an IP fails to log in x number of times during x amount of time and then succeeds, the system shouldn’t remember it as a possible attacker and be blocked further down the road for a failed attempt. People are still human and sometimes people type in the wrong password. A lot of work has beent put into the intelligence “under the hood” of Syspeace.

We also realized that the software works just as well protection your servers from LAN connections, giving you a better understanding of what really goes on woith your users and if someone on your LAN is trying to access resources they’re not supposed to or if someone has been infected with some kind of brute force – virus.

Syspeace today

Today, we get an email stating from where the attack originated (the DNS name if found, the IP address and from which country the attack originated). We’ve got reporting, separated mail notifications depending on events and we’re adding more and more features all the time.

We also get username that was tried which is extremely helpful since we immediately can see if it is just “background noise attack” or if it is targeted specifically  or even worse, a competitor tries to login to the central systems without explicit permission or an ex-employee/ex-customer  is trying to access an account that they no longer are authorized to.

See for yourself and download a free trial

Have a look at the Syspeace website to see what we came up with and download a free trial for yourself.

So far Syspeace has successfully blocked over 2,5 Million  brute force attacks worldwide and I dare say it has decreased the workload for quite a few system administrators out there.
Syspeace supports Windows Servers 2003 – 2012 R2.

Juha Jurvanen

Senior IT consultant in backup, IT security, server operations and cloud

Syspeace - brute force protection for Windows servers

Syspeace – brute force protection for Windows servers

Various brute force prevention methods for Windows servers – pros and cons

Intro on brute force prevention tactics and some misconceptions

Protection from brute force attempts on Windows servers has always been a nightmare and would continue to be so if not .. Yes, I admit, I will come up with a solution further down.

Most system administrators with selfrespect start off with the best of intentions to actually keep track of brute force attempts but eventually give up because of the sheer number of attacks that occur daily.

Others, unfortunately, believe that a firewall takes care of the problem which it doesn’t or that an account lockout policy is the answer. Neither of them is and I’ll show you why.

The firewall approach:

Think about it. What does a firewall actually do ? The role of the firewall is to block traffic on unwanted ports and to drop portscans and variuos SYN FLOOD attacks. That’s about it. A firewall is basically a harsch doorman deciding who gets in to speak with the guys on the inside and who doesn’t.

If an attacker actually connects on a valid port , the traffic is redirected/port forwarded to the server in question let’s say the webmail interface of a Microsoft Exchange Server or a Microsoft Windows Terminal Server or a Citrix Server. Once the attacker is there, the actual logon request is handled by the server,not the firewall. The logon process is managed by the Windows Authentication process (which in turn may be validated against Active Directoy or a local user database using SAM). The firewall is already out of the picture really since it has no connection with the Windws server apart from  the TCP connection and keeping it alive really. They don’t communicate the result of the logon process between eachother.

Also, a changing of from standard ports won’t help you much, will it ? The logon process is still managed by the Windows Server although you will get rid a of a lot of portscans and “lazy background, script kiddie attempts” if you’re using non standard ports. Basically you get rid of the script kiddies but the problem isn’t solved, the traffic is still redirected/port forwarded to the server that does the actual authentication.

Using for instance a Remote Desktop Gateway won’t handle the problem either. Using a RDP Gateway minimizes the attack surface, yes, but it is still reachable and the user logons still have to be validated. The problem is with any server that services logon request basically, regardless of on what ports and how they get there. That is Microsoft Windows server, Exchange Server, Citrix, Sharepoint, CRM , Terminal server and so on . The list can probably go on and on.

There’s also the risk of stuff stops working each time you apply some updates or patches to your Windows Servers if you start changing standard ports or standard configurations. It’s happened to me a few times and it’s not that amusing to be honest when you’ve got 1000 users not being able to log in beacuse you’ve just done your job and patched the servers to keep peolpe datas safe. Trust me, that’s not a good Monday morning.

The VPN approach:

Yes. That’s a safer approach but also here we do have some issues. First of all, it’s not that easy to keep track of VPN certificates, to set all of it up and manage all the licensing costs (that can be quite significant really ) and (sometimes costly) hardware you need to have in place. Historically there has also always been performance issues with most VPN solutions since all traffic is directed through one or a few VPN servers / connectors. Some of them also charge you for the bandwidth you want it to be able to use for VPN connections or charge you for the number of simultaneous VPN connections, A VPN solution can be quite costly as an initial investment and taking into account all of the administration involved in it.

You also probably won’t be demanding your users to have a VPN connection to the Microsoft Exchange OWA etiher snce the whole idea of the OWA i that it’s supposed to easy to reach from anywhere. I know there are some companies actually requiring VPN even for OWA and that’s just fine I guess but the more we’re moving our data and applications to cloud services, this hassle with different VPNs and stuff will eventually be fading into the dark corners of the Internet (that’s my personal belief anyways). The thing is that your users don’t want to be tied down by complicated VPN clients and stuff, users nowdays are used “stuff just working” and it has to be easy and intuititive for them. The days of the “System Administrators from Hell” implementing all kinds of complex solutions to keep stuff secure and forcing users to having very specific and complex ways of accessing data are over. They were good times, good times but they’re over. Deal with it.

The IDS/IPS approach:

Using a centralized IDS/IPS This is a more efficient method, yes. The downside is, most of these systems require you to change your infrastructure and get specific, costly hardware, licenses and costly consultants to get it up and running. And someone needs to monitor it, take care of it and so on. There are parllells to the VPN approach here although an IDS/IPS does a while lot more such as examines all the network traffic, examines it for malicious code and so on. I’m not sure actually if an IDS/IPS can communicate with the Windows Server Authentication Process so I’ll actually won’t say anything about that. I would presume they can, otherwise I fail to see the point (from the brute force logon prespective, that is) and you’d still need to handle the logon attempt on the Windows server.

The Account Lockout Policy approach:

The acccount lockout method is also flawed due to the fact that an attacker can quite easily cause a DOS (Denial of Service) simply by hammering your server with invalid logon request but with valid usernames, thus rendering the accounts unusable for the valid users. Basically, all he (or she)  needs to know is the user logon name and in many system , it’s not tha hard to guess (try the companynameusername or the mail address for the user since it’s quite often also a valid logon name if you have a look at the properties of the user in Active Directory Users and Group snap-in)

The Cloud Computing approach

We are shifting  more and more of our data and applications into various Cloud Services (like it or not but, it’s a fact and you know it). This way we do get rid of some of these problems on our own servers and hopefully, your Cloud Service provider actually has a plan for these scenarios and has the necessary surveillance software and systems in place. If you’re using a Cloud Computing platform based on Windows Servers, you should actually ask your provider how they handle brute force attempts on their servers. Most likely they will give you one or more of the scenarios described above and, as I’ve showed you, they are not adequate to handle the task at hand. They’re just not up for the job. Feel free to ask your own provider and see what answer you get. My guess is .. mumbo jumbo but basically , they don’t have anything in place really, more or less.
You could even try logging into you own account with your own username but the wrong password loads of times and see what happens. Will it be locked out? Will your machine be locked out? How does your Cloud Srvice Provider respond and are you informed in any way that an intrsuion attempt has been made using your account ? How many times can anypne try to access your account without you being notifed of it? And from where are they trying to get to your data and why?
Personally I know of only one Cloud Service Provider that has also taken these questions into account and that’s Red Cloud IT in Sweden.

Is there a solution then?

Yeah. I told you so in the beginning and even if choose not to use what I suggest, I highly recommend that you start thinking about these things properly because these problem will accelerate in the future. Just take a look at all the hacktivism witj DDOS attacks,going on out there. It’s just a start because the Internet is still young.

First of all, and this is extremely important you realize, , it doesn’t matter if you hosting your own servers or if you’re using VPS (Virtual Private Servers) hosted somewhere else or even if you’re a Cloud Service Provider. The basic principal stands: if you are providing any kind of service to users using the Windows Authentication mechanism you should be reading this and hopefully my point has come across.

If you’re having brute force attacks on your Windows systems today and I’m pretty sure you do (just turn on logon auditing and I’m sure you’ll see you have more than you actually thought you did, *for some odd reason this is NOT turned on by defaut in Windows*) there’s a few things you should be doing (that I’m guessing you’re not beacuse you’re not a cyborg and you need to sleep, meet your friends and family and actually be doing something productive during your work hours). On the other hand, if you are doing all of these things I’m guessing you have quite a large IT staff with a lot of time on their hands. Good for you. Call me and I’ll apply for a position.

First of all. Block the attack.

You need the attack to stop! Instantly. This is of course your first priority That’s basically blocking it in the firewall, either in the local Windows firewall or the external one, it’s actually up to you which way is the easiest one. The reason is that you don’t want to be wasting CPU and RAM and bandwidth on these people (or botnets)  and of course, you don’t want them to actually succeed in logging on (should you have a lousy password policy in place ) or even them disguising a real intrusion attempt behind a DDOS attack to fill your logfiles and hide themselves in there. (Yes, it’s not an uncommon method). There’s also quite a few reports of DDOS attacks being used to disguise the actual reason for it which is to find out what security measures are in places for future reference. The “know your enemy principal”.

Second. Trace the attack. From where did it come?

Second , you need to find out from where the attack originated and what username was used. This is because you want to know if it is a competitor trying to hack you and access your corporate data or if you find yourself in the interesting position of your own username trying to login from sunny Brazil and you’re just not in Brazil (although you’d love to be) . You’re in Chicago looking at winter. Somethng’s up.
You also want to see if it’s a former employee trying to log on and so on .. This is stuff you need to know and keep track of since there may be legal issues involved further down the line.

Points one and two , you want to be handled in real time. There’s no use for you to find out two days after the attack that something actually happened. You want it stopped, reported and handled as it happens.

The legal stuff.

Third, you need to decide what to do with your information. Should it be handed over to the legal departement, your boss, the police or is it just “nothing” and can be discarded ?

So. “What would you suggest as a solution then” ? 

The easiest and most cost efficient way to handle brute force attacks on Windows server is to have an automated sysem to block, track and report each attack and that’s where Syspeace comes into play.

Syspeace is a locally installed Windows service, thus using a minimum of system resources,  that monitors the server for unwanted logon attempts and blocks the intruders in real time in the local firewall based on the rules you’ve set up. For instance “if this IP address has failed logging on 20 times during the last 30 minutes then block it completely for 5 hours and send me an email about it”

This means that you can for instance set up a blocking rule that is you “Account lockout policy – 1” in your rules and that way simply blocking the bruteforce attack but not locking your users accounts and causing them unecesseray disruption.

Since Syspeace monitors the Windows Authentication logon oprocess, it doesn’t matter what firewall your using or what ports you’re using, the monitoring and blocking is done where the actual login attempts is made and therefore caught and handled automatically.

Once the intruders IP address is blocked, it’s blocked on ALL ports from that server which means that if you have other services also running on it (like FTP or well.. anyhting really) those ports and services are also protected instantly from the attacker. Not giving them the chance to find other ways of gaining access to that server through exploits.

A few other features in Syspeace

A few other nice features with Syspeace is for instance the GBL (Global BlackLlist) where every Syspeace installation around the world , reports each attack to a databse where they are examined and weighed and , if deemed “meneace to Internet and all of mankind” the database is then propagated to all other Syspeace installations. In this way, you’re preemptively protected when the bad guys come knocking on your door. So far , there has been over 200 000 brute force attcks blocked by Syspeace worldwide (and that’s just since mid July 2012) and some of them have made it to the GBL. Lucky them.
Of course there are white lists and stuff, giving you the ability to have your customers or internal users keep hammering you servers all day long if they (and you) want  without being blocked out.

There’s also the Attack Cintrol section that gives you the ability to sort out information about successful and failed logons, findind the ones that are trying to stay under the radar, viewing reports.
You get daily and weekly reports email to you and each attack is also mailed to you with detailed but easy to understand information from where the attack originated including country, what username was used and how many times they actually tried to hack or overload you. This gives you the ability to quickly see of it’s something you should be taking care of or just carry on with your working day and leave it be with a smile on your face.

The GUI is easy to use (and there’s an even easier coming up in the next version) so there’s no need to hire costly consultants to be up & running or start using various scripts and change parameters in them to suite you needs and hope for the best and hope they don’t hang your servers.

Syspeace also protects the Microsoft Exchange Server Connectors from being attacked.

There is a Windows 2003 version coming out and there will be more features added as we go. The roadmap and to-do list is ..well.. extensive to put it mildly.

The licensing is not steep, I’d even dare say cheap and it’s extremely flexible.

As an example. If you buy yourself a new server today (evereybody loves new toys ) , you install Syspeace on it and then you get yourself a second server in 4 months. You can easily align the licensing renewal dates for both servers , not having to keep track of licensing renewals scattered over the entire year. If you’re up for , you could even byt yourslef just a one months license. Or a week. I’s up to you and what needs you have.

Download a free trial and see for yourself.
We know it works and so does all of the people around the world who are already running it.

Syspeace – let the silence do the talking

Syspeace logo

Syspeace – bruteforce prevention for Windows servers

 

Blog post written by Juha Jurvanen
Senior IT consultant in backup, IT securiy, server operations and cloud

New Syspeace 1.1.30 with brand new analysis feature released

Hi, Everyone.
As always we are trying to come up with new ideas and implement stuff we’ve had in our roadmap for a long time now.

Today we’ve released a new version of Syspeace with a few new features.

The major news is that there’s now a new feature in the Attack Control Section for further analysis.

The analysis section enables you to create reports on specific IP addresses, usernames or domain or do the reversed, i.e. find out all of the ones who are NOT a specific IP address, domain or username. Or sort out the ones with successful logins or only the ones with failed logins.

As a side note , we’re also happy to tell you that we’ve so far, since July 15th, have helped you guys block 73 000 + brute force attempts, gathered them, classified them, added some of them to the GBL that we introduced in 1.1.10 and thus helped you to be preemptively defended by getting this distrubited to all of the other Syspeace installations around the world.

ABOUT OLDER VERSIONS

Those of you still running an older version (prior to  1.20) we would highly recommend you had a look at the newer versions and the stuff we’ve put in there.

Here’s a list of what we’ve been up to so far:

Date Version Updates
19/9 1.1.30 Upgraded the Attack control: improved search and added analysis of login statistics.
11/9 1.1.23 Fixed bug where new installations would have problems with the reporting feature.
10/9 1.1.22 Updated registration process in GUI.
4/9 1.1.21 Fixed e-mail bug.
3/9 1.1.20 Added daily and weekly reporting.
7/8 1.1.10 Added global blacklist.
29/7 1.1.5 Fixed SMTP to work with Gmail.
15/7 1.1.0 First version! Basic functionality for securing a server from unauthorized login-attempts.

To download the newest version for trial or purchas pleas visit Syspeace download page

As we’ve stated earlier, the older version will run until 2012-12-31 but maybe you would be interested in the new features we’ve added?

For anyone running 1.20 + we’d highly recommend upgrading if you have the possibility and since we’ve also taken care some minor bugs in the Global Black list function.

 

ABOUT THE FUTURE OF SYSPEACE AND OUR ROADMAP

Our roadmap for the nearest future is to start looking more closely into a Windows 2003 version since it’s been frequently asked by you guys.

While on the subject of our roadmap!

We’ve decided to start using Uservoice to gather you inputs, ideas and feature requests.

You’re all welcome to join us and share your ideas  in there.

The ones that gets the highest rating and scores will of course get a faster pace in our roadmap since our goal is to make Syspeace something that helps everyone to make their everyday Windows server administration easier and more secure

Have a look at the Uservoice site at http://syspeace.uservoice.com

Of course, you’re always welcome to mail us also as you’ve done before. We’re here and we love getting your feedback.

 

Thanks for taking the time to read this and have a peaceful, brute force-free day!

 Cheers
Juha Jurvanen & The Syspeace team
Syspeace - brute force protection for Windows servers

Syspeace – brute force protection for Windows servers