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Data Loss Prevention - Systems, Software and Strategies

Thu 19 April 2018 | article infrastructure Written by Hannah Suarez

What is Data Loss Prevention (DLP)?

Data Loss Prevention (or DLP for short) is the application of technology and policies in order to detect and prevent potential data breaches and data ex-filtration. Data that is of particular interest include sensitive emails, documents and other information leaving the organizational boundary. Data Loss Prevention is one out of many options used in today's arsenal of defense against threats and attacks, and also a layer to harden overall data security.

While SANS may write that DLP is primarily concerned with identifying sensitive data, we have taken on board a more holistic look beyond identification.

Data loss prevention can be in the form of the following:

  • Network-based DLP.
  • Endpoint DLP which monitors on the application level such as email client used.
  • Network policies enforced for information leaving the network.
  • UI, for example in the form of pop up tips, that will help reinforce data protection awareness training.
  • Common dictionaries and regular expressions syntax used to create content protections rules.
  • Staff awareness training.
  • Using file tagging to secure data that can contain intellectual property or trade secrets.

The above is not an exhaustive list.

Data loss prevention tend to be interchanged with data leak prevention when the situation involves the lost data being acquired by an unauthorized third party. However for this article, we will also include both data loss and data leak scenarios under the overall DLP umbrella term.

Upon application of DLP, you can ensure compliance with regulations governing use of data and ensure obligations for best practices are being met. These compliance and regulations include Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), (Payment Card Industry) PCI compliance, and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to name a few.

Data loss prevention in file transfers

Within the territory of file transfer, data loss happens via information being inadvertently or intentionally sent to an unauthorized individual through the use of either file transfer software or file transfer protocols. It can also happen due to human ignorance or negligence - for example, uploading sensitive documents using an unapproved cloud provider.

Imagine a scenario where an employee in a large company has just transferred a series of files containing confidential data. Or another scenario where a small business owner has data residing on USB (unencrypted) and has since been lost.

It is with these two scenarios where we see data loss prevention not being applied for both data in transit (the transfer of files containing confidential information) and data at rest (the files residing within the USB).

Types of data in file transfers

As an introduction, the following paragraphs (from Wikipedia) summarizes the differences between data at-rest, data in-use and date in-motion.

Data at-rest

"Data at rest" specifically refers to old archived information. This information is of great concern to businesses and government institutions simply because the longer data is left unused in storage, the more likely it might be retrieved by unauthorized individuals. Protecting such data involves methods such as access control, data encryption and data retention policies.

Data in-use

"Data in use" refers to data that the user is currently interacting with. DLP systems that protect data in-use may monitor and flag unauthorized activities. These activities include screen-capture, copy/paste, print and fax operations involving sensitive data. It can be intentional or unintentional attempts to transmit sensitive data over communication channels.

Data in-motion

"Data in motion" is data that is traversing through a network to an endpoint destination. Networks can be internal or external. DLP systems that protect data in-motion monitor sensitive data traveling across a network through various communication channels.

Data Loss Prevention and SFTPPlus MFT

DLP monitoring network activity

The DLP software is integrated into the network using a network TAP (terminal access point) port to perform real-time scanning and analysis of network traffic.

In addition to DLP inspection for data in-transit, DLP inspection can also be applied for data at-rest, such as within an FTPS or SFTP file server.

DLP and SFTPPlus MFT configuration options

For managed file transfer, data in-motion is of priority concern and is within the realm of control for file transfer software. Data at-rest is also another concern, but controls can also be distributed to controls permissioned by the OS file system.

The use of secure file transfer protocols as well as other processes for secure file transfer should form part of the stock for data loss prevention - transmission security. These services and configuration options can be configured using SFTPPlus.

An SFTPPlus feature, Digital signature validation can be configured to check if files have a valid signature:

SIGNED_CONTENT,SIGNATURE

The signature validation process is based on the RSA Digital Signature Algorithm PKCS#1 v2.1 also known as RSASSA-PSS and documented in RFC 3447.

Post process actions may also be added as part of the automated, client transfer rule in order to contain policy rules. A file dispatcher can then be set so that a transfer is quarantined via a separate folder if it has failed a policy rule.

A UUID prefix can also be appended to a file name in order to create unique names so that for each data uploaded, even if duplicate, there is a unique filename.

For authorization control, SFTPPlus administrators can apply permissions to specific groups or users. These permissions will help determine the access to which resources within the file transfer home directory of that user, and other the specific access rights. Permissions can also be set depending on regular expressions (regex), such as disallowing certain file formats. Through the options covered above, administrators can secure data or set permissions to ensure certain resources are not being inappropriately accessed or changed.

For more details about the above configuration options, please consult our documentation or talk to the Support team.

Audit trails for DLP

While operating, SFTPPlus will emit a set of events. Each event has a unique ID and defines a specific operation carried out by the server.

An example of an audit trail upon first connection to an FTP service is below:

| 20076 2018-03-07 19:44:05 ftp-only-1 Process 0.0.0.0:0 Service “ftp”
  started on “0.0.0.0:10023” using “ftp” protocol.
| 10033 2018-03-07 19:44:10 ftp-only-1 Unknown 127.0.0.1:51290
  New FTP/FTPS client connection made.

Administrators can gather a comprehensive picture of data-handling activities performed by users through the detailed, server-side audit trail. For example, see below audit trail for an attempt to access an authorized resource:

| 40007 2018-03-28 11:10:25 Process alice 127.0.0.1:52064 HTTP/HTTPS file access
  successfully started in "/ftps-folders/alice_files" as "/".

Through this online record of server events, organizations can be made aware for the purposes of any legal framework or compliance obligations.

Please see our Users Guides for specific examples pertaining to audit trails for HIPAA/HITECH, and GPG/PMO obligations. More articles are being written for other compliance and regulations.

Evaluating SFTPPlus MFT

The features listed in this article are just a select few out of many integration and configuration options that is available to teams today to ensure data loss prevention. Feel free to talk to the Support team with your DLP requirements with file transfer software.

SFTPPlus MFT Server supports FTP, Explicit FTPS, Implicit FTPS, SFTP, SCP, HTTP and HTTPS.

SFTPPlus MFT is available as an on-premise solution supported on Windows, Linux, AIX, MacOS, Solaris, HP-UX, and FreeBSD. Please add your email below to sign up for an evaluation trial.

• • •

Understanding the exchange between SFTP Client and SFTP Server

Thu 08 March 2018 | article Written by Hannah Suarez

Why read this?

As part of meeting the Accounting component of the AAA (Authorization, Authentication and Accounting) framework, each event and action on the server and/or the client-side are recorded by SFTPPlus. These events have an associated Event ID which is also publicly searchable both on our website and on the internal documentation included in the software package that you have downloaded.

System and network administrators touching on logs - be it in the most verbose format or not - may find this article describing the breakdown of such logs helpful.

For this example, we will be touching on SFTPPlus SFTP transfers from both the client-side and server-side only. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you are interested in learning more about other file transfer protocols.

SFTPPlus SFTP Server-side Perspective

Initial configuration notes

If you are currently evaluating SFTPPlus, please follow our documentation to learn more about how you can configure your database and event handlers to suit your specifications.

Read more about configuring databases with SFTPPlus.

Read more about configuring event handlers. These provide further ways to configure SFTPPlus to create logging actions based on the events recorded.

Even if you are an existing customer, you can follow our documentation links above in order to refresh your knowledge on configuring SFTPPlus version 3. For those on legacy versions, please consult the documentation relevant to your version.

Example logs from SFTPPlus

The following are snippets when logging in for the first time from a GUI client to an SFTPPlus 3.30.0 SFTP server.

A new connection has been made to the service sftp-1. Knowing the service name is useful in case there are multiple other SFTP services running:

| 30014 2018-02-27 17:28:53 sftp-1 Unknown 127.0.0.1:58032
  New SSH connection made.
| 2018-02-27 17:28:53 30014 New SSH connection made.

The following are authentication methods associated with the server and confirmation of which methods are not active. There may be more methods, depending on how many of these are set up and enabled. To simplify the login process, please make sure to disable all unused authentication methods.:

| 20138 2018-02-27 17:28:55 some-http-auth-uuid Unknown 127.0.0.1:58032
  Ignoring http authentication "auth-over-remote-http" for "user" since it
  is not active.
| 2018-02-27 17:28:55 20138 Ignoring http authentication "auth-over-remote-http"
  for "user" since it is not active.
| 20138 2018-02-27 17:28:55 ldap-uuid Unknown 127.0.0.1:58032 Ignoring
  ldap authentication "LDAP against local test server" for "user" since it
  is not active.

The following logs list out a successful authentication of user using the ssh-key:

| 20137 2018-02-27 17:28:55 test-server-uuid Unknown 127.0.0.1:58032
  Account "user" of type "application" authenticated as "user" by
  application authentication "Application Accounts" using ssh-key.
| 2018-02-27 17:28:55 20137 Account "user" of type "application"
  authenticated as "user" by application authentication "Application
  Accounts" using ssh-key.

The following log message confirms the type of permissions allowed for the account and an active transfer that is already running:

| 20182 2018-02-27 17:28:55 Process user 127.0.0.1:58032 Account "user"
  logged in with permissions [[u'allow-full-control'], [u'/main_folder/*', u'allow-full-control'],
  [u'*.PDF', u'allow-read']]. Files uploaded as: test.txt

The following confirms that the user has logged into and now has access to the folder as the root ("/") folder:

| 30011 2018-02-27 17:28:55 Process user 127.0.0.1:58032 Subsystem SFTP
  successfully started in "/root/home/node/user/" as "/".
| 2018-02-27 17:28:55 30011 Subsystem SFTP successfully started in
  "/root/home/node/user/" as "/".
| 30060 2018-02-27 17:28:55 Process user 127.0.0.1:58032 Canonical file
  name requested for ".".
| 2018-02-27 17:28:55 30060 Canonical file name requested for ".".
| 30060 2018-02-27 17:28:55 Process user 127.0.0.1:58032 Canonical file
  name requested for "/.".
| 2018-02-27 17:28:55 30060 Canonical file name requested for "/.".
| 30019 2018-02-27 17:28:55 Process user 127.0.0.1:58032 Listing folder "/".
| 2018-02-27 17:28:55 30019 Listing folder "/".
| 30020 2018-02-27 17:28:55 Process user 127.0.0.1:58032 Successfully
  listed folder "/".
| 2018-02-27 17:28:55 30020 Successfully listed folder "/".

SFTPPlus SFTP Client-side Perspective

Initial configuration notes

If you are currently evaluating SFTPPlus, please follow our client side documentation.

The SFTPPlus Client software utilizes the command-line client-shell to access remote file servers using the interactive shell.

Even if you are an existing customer, you can follow our documentation links above in order to refresh your knowledge on configuring SFTPPlus version 3. For those on legacy versions, please consult the documentation relevant to your version.

Example logs from SFTPPlus

Let's connect with SFTPPlus Client using the SFTP protocol on port 10022. The following log details the UUID of the sftp service and confirms the connections:

| $ ./bin/client-shell.sh sftp://user@localhost:10022 -p pass
  --ssh-server-fingerprint 06:cb:46:2b:9a:9a:c4:10:54:f0:ea:2f:b6:05:cb:a0
| SFTPPlus (3.31.0) file transfer client shell
| > connect
| 20140 2018-03-05 16:40:59 51e1db00-8214-4b68-96fe-58470b8b2fc5 Process
  0.0.0.0:0 Connecting resource "sftp".
| 30072 2018-03-05 16:40:59 Process user localhost:10022 Location sftp
  connected to the SSH server.
| 30076 2018-03-05 16:40:59 Process user localhost:10022 Client SFTP
  subsystem initialized for location sftp.
| 20141 2018-03-05 16:40:59 51e1db00-8214-4b68-96fe-58470b8b2fc5 Process
  0.0.0.0:0 Resource "sftp" successfully connected.
| 20156 2018-03-05 16:40:59 51e1db00-8214-4b68-96fe-58470b8b2fc5 Process
  0.0.0.0:0 Successfully started location "sftp" of type sftp.

On the event that the SFTP connections fails, the log will state a number of details. The event ID is 30073. The event will communicat the host key algorithm that is in use to identify the server-side, the cipher used to receive data, the HMAC for both sent and received data, key exchange algorithm, cipher used for sent data and the name of the location associated for this event. Below is an example of the event that has been emitted has part of this new SFTP connection.:

| 30073 2018-03-05 16:36:16 Process user localhost:10022 Connection to
  SSH server was lost for location sftp. Protected using host-key:ssh-rsa key-exchange:
  diffie-hellman-group-exchange-sha256 in-hmac:hmac-sha2-256
  in-cipher:aes256-ctr out-hmac:hmac-sha2-256 out-cipher:aes256-ctr

Providing that the SFTP connection succeeds, supported actions are logged as either a success like below:

| > gattrs remote_get
| 60071 2018-03-05 16:41:22 Process Process 0.0.0.0:0 Successfully got
  attributes for "Reports_2018" on "sftp".
| name: Reports_2018
| path: Reports_2018
| size: 128
| modified: 2018-02-16 16:15:21
| is_file: False
| is_folder: True

Or error details are caught with an explanation message as to why:

| > get unknown_file
| 20145 2018-03-05 16:42:08 Process Process 0.0.0.0:0 Failed to resolve
  text for event id "60054" with data "{'path': 'unknown_file\xc8\x9bu',
  'location': u'sftp', 'avatar':
  <chevah.server.identity.avatar.ProcessAvatar object at 0x10efc3110>,
  'details': "'ascii' codec can't decode byte 0xc8 in position 9: ordinal
  not in range(128)"}". 'ascii' codec can't decode byte 0xc8 in position
  9: ordinal not in range(128)

SFTPPlus SFTP Exchange - Detailed Verbose OpenSSH Logs

Initial configuration notes

Following from that, you can use the built-in the client-side or server-side software that you are utilizing. SFTPPlus offers logging functionalities both for the client-side and server-side. Network administrators using other software, such as sftp -vvv, for client or server may wish to use additional logging functionalities.

Example with sftp -vvv output

These lines mean that SSH protocol 2.0 is being utilized with the version of OpenSSH:

debug1: Enabling compatibility mode for protocol 2.0
debug1: Local version string SSH-2.0-OpenSSH_7.6

This line indicates which protocol version is in use service-side and which version:

debug1: Remote protocol version 2.0, remote software version SFTPPlus_3.30.0

This indicates which algorithms are preferred. You may opt to only select the strongest availability supported in your system first. In this case the ordering is logical as it moves from the more secure algorithm down to a less secure algorithm.:

| debug3: order_hostkeyalgs: prefer hostkeyalgs:
  ssh-rsa-cert-v01@openssh.com,rsa-sha2-512,rsa-sha2-256,ssh-rsa

These are the key exchange algorithms that are available.:

| debug2: KEX algorithms: curve25519-sha256,curve25519-sha256@libssh.org,
  ecdh-sha2-nistp256,ecdh-sha2-nistp384,ecdh-sha2-nistp521,
  diffie-hellman-group-exchange-sha256,diffie-hellman-group16-sha512,
  diffie-hellman-group18-sha512,diffie-hellman-group-exchange-sha1,
  diffie-hellman-group14-sha256,diffie-hellman-group14-sha1,ext-info-c

These are the host key algorithms.:

| debug2: host key algorithms: ssh-rsa-cert-v01@openssh.com,rsa-sha2-512,
  rsa-sha2-256,ssh-rsa,ecdsa-sha2-nistp256-cert-v01@openssh.com,
  ecdsa-sha2-nistp384-cert-v01@openssh.com,
  ecdsa-sha2-nistp521-cert-v01@openssh.com,ssh-ed25519-cert-v01@openssh.com,
  ecdsa-sha2-nistp256,ecdsa-sha2-nistp384,ecdsa-sha2-nistp521,ssh-ed25519

These are the ciphers used from client to server (ctos) and from server to client (stoc):

| debug2: ciphers ctos: chacha20-poly1305@openssh.com,aes128-ctr,aes192-ctr,
  aes256-ctr,aes128-gcm@openssh.com,aes256-gcm@openssh.com

| debug2: ciphers stoc: chacha20-poly1305@openssh.com,aes128-ctr,
  aes192-ctr,aes256-ctr,aes128-gcm@openssh.com,aes256-gcm@openssh.com

These are the ciphers used from client to server (ctos) and from server to client (stoc):

| debug2: MACs ctos: umac-64-etm@openssh.com,umac-128-etm@openssh.com,
  hmac-sha2-256-etm@openssh.com,hmac-sha2-512-etm@openssh.com,
  hmac-sha1-etm@openssh.com,umac-64@openssh.com,umac-128@openssh.com,
  hmac-sha2-256,hmac-sha2-512,hmac-sha1

| debug2: MACs stoc: umac-64-etm@openssh.com,umac-128-etm@openssh.com,
  hmac-sha2-256-etm@openssh.com,hmac-sha2-512-etm@openssh.com,
  hmac-sha1-etm@openssh.com,umac-64@openssh.com,umac-128@openssh.com,
  hmac-sha2-256,hmac-sha2-512,hmac-sha1

These are the compression algorithms used from client to server (ctos) and from server to client (stoc):

debug2: compression ctos: none,zlib@openssh.com,zlib
debug2: compression stoc: none,zlib@openssh.com,zlib

This is the key exchange initialized proposal from the host server:

| debug2: peer server KEXINIT proposal
| debug2: KEX algorithms: diffie-hellman-group-exchange-sha256,
  diffie-hellman-group-exchange-sha1,diffie-hellman-group1-sha1,
  diffie-hellman-group14-sha1
| debug2: host key algorithms: ssh-dss,ssh-rsa
| debug2: ciphers ctos:
  aes256-ctr,aes256-cbc,aes192-ctr,aes192-cbc,aes128-ctr,aes128-cbc,
  3des-ctr,3des-cbc
| debug2: ciphers stoc:
  aes256-ctr,aes256-cbc,aes192-ctr,aes192-cbc,aes128-ctr,aes128-cbc,
  3des-ctr,3des-cbc
| debug2: MACs ctos: hmac-sha2-256,hmac-sha1
| debug2: MACs stoc: hmac-sha2-256,hmac-sha1
| debug2: compression ctos: none,zlib
| debug2: compression stoc: none,zlib

These are the key exchange algorithms used from server to client and client to server:

| debug1: kex: algorithm: diffie-hellman-group-exchange-sha256
| debug1: kex: host key algorithm: ssh-rsa
| debug1: kex: server->client cipher: aes128-ctr MAC: hmac-sha2-256
  compression: none
| debug1: kex: client->server cipher: aes128-ctr MAC: hmac-sha2-256
  compression: none

This is the SSH version 2 key exchange Diffie-Hellman Group Exchange request. This specifies the size of the SSH prime moduli being calculated by the SFTP server as indicated in the SFTPPlus /configuration/ file. When you first initialize SFTPPlus version 3, the Time Type Tests Tries Size Generator Modulus is generated and saved in ssh-service.moduli. This file contains primes ranging in size from 1023 to 8191 bits. An example of the contents for the .moduli file is below:

| 20060827134212 2 6 100 3071 2
  D3230D237572ECE9F92358715EBAC3A4D89F2D6B4DC39F056450263BEF1665FBD
  7B93916ABC867B7064802159D273C7EB01C5F9281A3D6DCCB7CF997D385998EC0E1FA3319AFE771A90ADBACEB414A02
  0630D7C7F161FAFEC6C9FC06D3205C712AAE8848A1B2C21DFF301C7FFC0B75D13F060A313C32AFEEAF1493F641760EB
  EF38829B3371699D2A3264D0ECEB4E5C19581ED8C57699F559B9828BBFE147952E289F0E171C9C60335DD2F492CB409
  A4DB97BDF86E2DBA605064DB040A3DF5678E24F66718CA115C95C892FF7AEDFAABC2E6414716298CEC1A604270FEADF
  191B7C8A59C238C395A65442C0B963BF83025BED3951A271B7440EC7687C31DE63355DA7FEAC15DC962C7BF7614EB59
  B077B9889AD8703DFE98AC99615B722A0ABE89956D1058E025C7733420CB51D7E1608EFF2C0A30C9A5EB77CCA02C6B0
  0CE781B172001C6C458630890062E27CE307D513A7686A69D1D548DE8334B13136D9E842A5E17FD67522C93823E03F0
  8AEE8024AF5D88B2EE01D4D9980084EFD5D943

In the following example below, a SSH moduli prime from 2048 to 8192 bits are used. Specifically, a moduli with a range from 4092 to 8192 are sent for the SSH message key exchange Diffie-Hellman group exchange request as indicated on debug1 line below (SSH2_MSG_KEX_DH_GEX_REQUEST(2048<8192<8192)) Once sent, the server uses the moduli file, the same file that was initialized as part of the SFTPPlus installation steps, in order to crack the shared secret. The server provides its host key back to the client along with the algorithm used as indicated by the final line as Server host key: ssh-rsa SHA256:hdSfa7gb2O984malHerkwerj3m20dHb6Yuwl0&hbxFj.

See the rest of the output below:

| debug1: SSH2_MSG_KEX_DH_GEX_REQUEST(2048<8192<8192) sent
| debug3: receive packet: type 31
| debug1: got SSH2_MSG_KEX_DH_GEX_GROUP
| debug2: bits set: 4092/8192
| debug3: send packet: type 32
| debug1: SSH2_MSG_KEX_DH_GEX_INIT sent
| debug3: receive packet: type 33
| debug1: got SSH2_MSG_KEX_DH_GEX_REPLY
| debug1: Server host key: ssh-rsa
  SHA256:hfSfa0gb2O884malLerkwerj3m20dBb6Yuwl0&hbxGj

The client then checks to see if the host key is located within the known_hosts file:

| debug3: hostkeys_foreach: reading file "/root/home/node/.ssh/known_hosts"
| debug3: record_hostkey: found key type RSA in file
  /root/home/node/.ssh/known_hosts:8
| debug3: load_hostkeys: loaded 1 keys from [12.345.678.90]:10022

A few more steps occur to verify this server host name and port:

ddebug1: Host '12.345.678.90]:10022' is known and matches the RSA host key.
ddebug1: Found key in /root/home/node/.ssh/known_hosts:8

This is the server rekey interval:

debug1: rekey after 4294967296 blocks
debug1: SSH2_MSG_NEWKEYS sent
debug1: expecting SSH2_MSG_NEWKEYS
debug3: receive packet: type 21
debug1: SSH2_MSG_NEWKEYS received
debug2: set_newkeys: mode 0
debug1: rekey after 4294967296 blocks

The following are SSH keys found:

debug2: key: imported-openssh-key (0x7e403ff95550), agent
debug2: key: /root/home/node/.ssh/id_rsa (0x0)
debug2: key: /root/home/node/.ssh/id_dsa (0x0)
debug2: key: /root/home/node/.ssh/id_ecdsa (0x0)
debug2: key: /root/home/node/.ssh/id_ed25519 (0x0)

The following are authentication methods that can continue, the preferred authentication order, remaining preferred:

| debug3: send packet: type 5
| debug3: receive packet: type 6
| debug2: service_accept: ssh-userauth
| debug1: SSH2_MSG_SERVICE_ACCEPT received
| debug3: send packet: type 50
| debug3: receive packet: type 51
| debug1: Authentications that can continue: password,publickey
| debug3: start over, passed a different list password,publickey
| debug3: preferred publickey,keyboard-interactive,password
| debug3: authmethod_lookup publickey
| debug3: remaining preferred: keyboard-interactive,password
| debug3: authmethod_is_enabled publickey
| debug1: Next authentication method: publickey
| debug1: Offering public key: RSA
  SHA256:F8zPRFytcYU8PERggkPDs+D32TRgvVm4H3BBJduo+de
  /root/home/node/.ssh/id_rsa
| debug3: send_pubkey_test
| debug3: send packet: type 50
| debug2: we sent a publickey packet, wait for reply

The server will go through the exchange to authenticate until the final preferred method is reached - the password method. Upon success, the client enters an interactive session with the server.

There will also be additional verbose logs after entering an interactive session, such as a brief snippet below:

debug2: fd 6 setting TCP_NODELAY
debug3: ssh_packet_set_tos: set IP_TOS 0x08
debug2: client_session2_setup: id 0
debug1: Sending environment.
debug3: Ignored env _system_type
debug1: Sending env LANG = en_CA.UTF-8
debug2: channel 0: request env confirm 0
debug3: send packet: type 98
debug3: Ignored env _system_arch
debug3: Ignored env XPC_FLAGS
debug3: Ignored env _system_version
debug3: Ignored env XPC_SERVICE_NAME
debug3: Ignored env rvm_version
debug3: Ignored env _system_name
debug1: Sending subsystem: sftp

Evaluating SFTPPlus MFT

This article was written as of SFTPPlus version 3.31.0.

SFTPPlus MFT Server supports FTP, Explicit FTPS, Implicit FTPS, SFTP, SCP, HTTP and HTTPS.

Install SFTPPlus MFT today either as an on-premise solution supported on Windows, Linux, AIX, OS X, Solaris, HP-UX, FreeBSD or on the cloud as Docker containers or AWS instances.

Email us at sales@proatria.com or fill in the form below to start your evaluation version today.

• • •

SFTPPlus is not affected by the Meltdown and Spectre Vulnerabilities

Wed 21 February 2018 | article security Written by Adi Roiban

Meltdown and Spectre are vulnerabilities based on CPU design flaws which require the attacker to be able to execute application code which is created to exploit these vulnerabilities.

SFTPPlus secure file transfers does not allow any arbitrary application code execution. It will only read and write data without executing it. This is standard behaviour for doing file transfers over FTPS or HTTPS.

The SSH implementation of SFTPPlus is only allowed for the SFTP and SCP protocols. Shell access or any other SSH execution is denied. The SCP protocol is implemented using an embedded SCP protocol and no external scp application is called.

For the purpose of managed file transfers, SFTPPlus allows the execution of pre-configured application code with the pre and post transfer hooks. As long as the SFTPPlus is configured with trusted applications, this does not constitute an attack vector.

If you are running SFTPPlus Itanium architectures, for example with HPUX, you are not affected by these vulnerabilities, no mater what other software is in used on those systems.

SPARC architecture (example with Solaris 10) and POWER (example with AIX 7.1) are affected by the Spectre, while not being affected by Meltdown.

The embedded devices based on ARM64 CPUs are also affected by Spectre.

Administrators using the SFTPPlus MFT Client with pre and post transfer hooks should review the configuration and make sure that the hooks will trigger calls to trusted applications.

This article was written as of SFTPPlus version 3.31.0.

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Tips to managing your file transfer requirements

Fri 16 February 2018 | article Written by Hannah Suarez

Designing a file transfer system can be a difficult task. Which file transfer protocols should I use? Do I need server-side or client-side software or both? How do I authenticate my file transfer users securely?

Your first step in this journey is to understand your requirements. In this post, we summarize the requirements into sections for you to consider and think about.

After you have determined these requirements, feel free to contact the team or sign up for your evaluation of SFTPPlus MFT below!

Assess your requirements for a file transfer software

The first step is to list down all of your requirements for file transfer technology. While this may be obvious, there may be some items that you have not even considered when hunting for options.

1. What are your protocol requirements?

There are a number of file transfer protocols in place, with certain protocols being more secure than others. We have a guide about file transfer protocols which will help you make more informed decisions.

2. What are your workflow requirements?

Will the file transfer software be able to sync with your current workflow? Will there be any impediments or considerations that need to be taken into account when migrating your workflow into a file transfer solution? Will you be automating any transfer scenarios?

It is questions like these where it helps to get in touch with our Support team with your transfer scenarios. And from there, we can convert these scenarios into the basis of an actual configuration for you to use with our software.

3. What are your programmability requirements?

Will you require access to the API and will the developers be knowledgeable of the API codebase? What are your integration requirements that is required to be programmed as part of the file transfer solution?

4. What are your security requirements?

Will you require an AV programme to run post-process actions after transfers? Will you be able to specify exactly which ciphers should be used? Will the file transfer software meet your AAA framework? Having these requirements in mind will help meet your organization's security goals and will also help us in ensuring that the software is delivered in the most secure manner as possible.

5. What are your operational requirements?

Does the file transfer software support your operating system? Are there any upgrades required in order to run the required packages? Can the software be integrated with resilient and highly available systems?

These five questions are just the beginning in terms of thinking about your file transfer requirements. Please read on for more advice.

Assess proprietary or non-proprietary solutions

Do you require a solution with vendor lock-in and only proprietary protocols? If you are looking for a solution that has vendor lock-in, then you may want to think twice and reconsider the benefits of open standards.

SFTPPlus operates with open and standard protocols, as supported by RFCs, making portability an ease when moving between using one protocol (such as FTPES) in favor of another (such as SFTP).

With the use of permissive free frameworks, such as Twisted Python, our developers also contribute to the upstream libraries that we use.

SFTPPlus is supported across both proprietary (such as Windows) and non-proprietary OS' (such as FreeBSD). The list of supported platforms are available here.

Optimize performance with costs

In terms of costs, SFTPPlus marks at the more affordable side with the focus on being cost effective while also delivering a high-end functional product. While there are larger software suites available on the market, many of these incorporate a number of overhead and other additional costs in order to operate that is not related to the file transfer software itself. Our focus is only on delivering our main product offering and services in secure file transfer and to deliver it well.

Consider the IT infrastructure that will house your file transfer system

You will want to select an option that will integrate with your current IT workflow requirements.

If your users are already authenticating with Windows Domain Accounts on servers running Active Directory, then you will want to use the same authorization mechanism for authorizing file transfer users.

Will you be implementing file transfers within specialized environments such as a high availability network?

Part of your IT infrastructure may also include legacy systems. Are you running on Unix system or do you need an SFTP server for your AIX system? Or what about Solaris 10 which has OpenSSL 0.9.7? Our software has integrated with the above requirements, and more.

Choosing a solution that suits and integrates with your existing IT infrastructure will also reflect positively on sunk costs in terms of still being able to maintain operations with these infrastructures.

Investigate how file transfers will be initiated

Will you be searching for a proactive or a reactive solution? Will you be looking to initiate file transfers (for example, via a user logging in) or will the solution require the transfer to be initiated (for example, by a rule or an event)?

What types of transfer scenarios will you be working with? Push scripts? Pull scripts? Will there be additional processing required?

What types of rules do you need support for the file transfers? Will there be events-based rules? Scheduling? Will there be a filter requirement?

With managed file transfer, you can set many rules to initiate a transfer and automate these actions. If you have not faced these requirements until now, feel free to contact the Support team with your questions and scenarios.

Figure out your authorization, accounting and auditing implementation

Similar to considering the existing IT infrastructure, you will also need to figure out that your authorization, account and auditing implementation is supported by the secure file transfer software.

Will the accounts be authorized with the correct set of permissions?

Will you be able to utilize existing authentication mechanisms with the file transfer product?

Will you be able to conduct the appropriate auditing as required for compliance and obligations purposes?

All of these requirements should be on the table while searching for a secure file transfer solution.

Evaluate options to further secure your file transfer system

Compliance is a requirement for a number of organizations today, especially in regulated industries such as banking and healthcare. You will need to enquire to see if the secure file transfer product has features in place to help with compliance. Whether it is only allowing FIPS 140-2 ciphers, ensuring that you are compliant with PCI or GDPR standards, or checking that the audit trail is HIPAA compatible, you will want to ensure that the options to be compliant and secure are available to you.

What is the approach to quality assurance?

How is the secure file transfer tested? Is it run against an automated test suite, manually tested with smoke test scenarios? Is it tested against the platform that you are using?

What considerations do you also need to undertake testing from your test lab? Soak, systems integration and unit integration testing may also be required. This is to evaluate the file transfer product as an additional check to see that it meets the actual systems, environments, processes and interactions that are specific to your requirements.

Consider any required upgrade paths for the future

While this requirement may be far from your mind when you are looking for a new solution, you may want to take note of what the required upgrade paths are.

How will you export the configuration from one system to another? What happens if an OS upgrade or a patch is made to a system?

Our upgrade paths are well documented and we work with our customers that are working on upgrading their systems that may affect the file transfer component. We have worked with many scenarios - whether it is a full OS upgrade, new nodes or a small patch to fix a vulnerability.

Part of the upgrade may require you having a functional system. In this case, our licensing allows for some time in between testing the new system with the upgraded version and allowing the system to run with the current version.

Evaluating SFTPPlus MFT

Thank you for reading this article! We hope that you find the information useful. This article was written as of SFTPPlus version 3.30.0.

Are you ready to evaluate SFTPPlus? Our product supports FTP, Explicit FTPS, Implicit FTPS, SFTP, SCP, HTTP and HTTPS.

Install SFTPPlus MFT today either as an on-premise solution supported on Windows, Linux, AIX, OS X, Solaris, HP-UX, FreeBSD or on the cloud as Docker containers or AWS instances.

Email us at sales@proatria.com or fill in the form below to start your evaluation version today.

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Introducing SFTPPlus to high availability and resiliency

Tue 23 January 2018 | article infrastructure Written by Hannah Suarez

Where does SFTPPlus sit in your IT infrastructure

The SFTPPlus software stands at the OSI Layer 7 or the TCP Layer 4. In order to have a fully fault tolerant system, you need to implement resilience at all the other layers including the OS. SFTPPlus can be integrated with external tools in order to meet the requirements for a fault tolerant infrastructure.

For those not familiar with OSI and TCP please read on.

SFTPPlus on the OSI

The OSI model is a model that characterizes and standardizes communication functions. The layers range from layer 1 right through to layer 7. In the OSI, or Open Systems Interconnection model, SFTPPlus sits in the OSI Layer 7 or on the application layer.

The application layer sits at the top of the OSI model and is the software, hence the name application, layer between the end-user and the networking layers underneath.

In order to have a fault tolerant system, SFTPPlus on the upper layer 7 will need to be integrated with the bottom layers.

SFTPPlus on the TCP

In addition to the OSI model, another way of understanding where SFTPPlus plays a role in your infrastructure is via the TCP layer. SFTPPlus sits in the TCP Layer 4 or the application layer. This is the topmost layer which defines the TCP/IP application protocols and how SFTPPlus interfaces with the Transport layer, the layer below the application layer, and other services that use the network.

Installing SFTPPlus in high availability and resilient environments

The following are introductory information for this topic.

About high availability

High availability means creating a system that is always available for use. It could be a percentage of 99.99% uptime guaranteed. In this case, you will be looking at a downtime of merely five minutes of time over the course of the year.

There are extra items that one can add to ensure that this system is available at the guaranteed uptime rate. In this case, one can look into active-active or active-passive scenarios. To build a system that is highly available means that there may be an additional cost associated with ensuring this.

About resilience

The following can be deduced as a definition of a resilient control system:

"A resilient control system is one that maintains state awareness and an accepted level of operational normalcy in response to disturbances, including threats of an unexpected and malicious nature"

High availability and resilience tend to be used interchangeably. However, having a highly available system does not necessarily mean that all required functions are still in use and available. This is where having a resilient system come into action. Even if a system has high availability, can it still function to a required level of standard, operational normalcy? You will still wish to utilize a system with the same users, storage and database as found in the usual system.

About fault tolerance

On the event of failure, the system remains available in order to maintain the high uptime. There may be a performance break or slow down but the services are still available.

You may add additional devices or protocols for a fault tolerant system - RAID set up, multiple network paths for fault tolerance (on the event of a failed network path) and load balancers are such examples.

About clustering

Clustering involves creating a cluster of two or more nodes or members that work together in order to perform an action. They can be grouped in the following major types; storage, high availability, load balancing and high performance clusters.

The main clusters that relates to SFTPPlus in a given system are high availability and load balancing types of clusters.

High availability clusters involve the provision of highly available services by ensuring that any single points of failure are eliminated. This is done by failing over services from one cluster node to another should that node be no longer in operation. This ensures the ability to maintain data integrity.

Load balancing clusters sends off network requests to a number of cluster nodes in order to balance the request load among the cluster nodes. This ensures scalability of a network since administrators can match the number of nodes according to load requirements through load balancing algorithms.

How can SFTPPlus be integrated in these environments

Diagram example: Integration for load balancing

Integration for load balancing

Diagram example: Integration for high availability

Integration for high availability

Active-Active and Active-Passive Scenarios

Active-active and Active-passive are two types of cluster configurations in a high availability scenario.

The details between these two scenarios are laid out below from Sybase.

Active-Passive configurations

Setup: A single Adaptive Server runs either on the primary node or on the secondary node. The Adaptive Server runs on the primary node before a fail over and the secondary node after fail over.

Failover: When a system fails over, the Adaptive Server and its associated resources are relocated to, and restarted on, the secondary node.

Failback: Failback is a planned fail over or relocation of the Adaptive Server and its resources to the primary node. Failback is not required, but can be done for administrative purposes.

Client Connection failover: During failover and failback, clients connect to the same Adaptive Server to resubmit uncommitted transactions. Clients with the failover property reestablish their connections automatically.

How to set up SFTPPlus in active-passive scenarios

In this infrastructure scenario, the second system is offline and only commences when the main SFTPPlus system is down.

Since the server.ini configuration is stored in a single file, you can create a file copy task to keep the system configurations in sync. Make sure to also transfer additional files that are required - such as SSH keys, and SSL keys and certificates - to ensure a smooth transition. When it is time to use the secondary system, the SFTPPlus instance will then read the latest server.ini configuration file.

Active-Active configurations

Setup: Two Adaptive Servers are configured as companion servers, each with independent workloads. These companions run on the primary and secondary nodes, respectively, as individual servers until one fails over.

Failover: When fail over occurs, the secondary companion takes over the devices, client connections, and so on from the primary companion. The secondary companion services the failed-over clients, as well as any new clients, until the primary companion fails back and resumes its activities.

Failback: Failback is a planned event during which the primary companion takes back its devices and client connections from the secondary companion to resume its services.

Client Connection failover: During failover, clients connect to the secondary companion to resubmit their uncommitted transactions. During failback, clients connect to the primary companion to resubmit their transactions. Clients with the failover property reestablish their connections automatically.

How to set up SFTPPlus in active-active scenarios

In this infrastructure scenario, both SFTPPlus systems are receiving and processing requests. If one system goes down, the other will handle all the requests.

To implement SFTPPlus in this scenario, a simple file copy will not work. This is because running SFTPPlus instances will not check changes in the local file configuration (server.ini) in order to reconfigure. In addition, there are other files that are also required - such as all SSH keys in use and other related files, all SSL certificates required, any logs that need to be kept for auditing purposes, any externally referenced scripts used in pre- and post- transfer processing, and so on.

One method of achieving an active/active implementation is to manually set up the 2 nodes to rely on a single external authentication method (HTTP or LDAP). In this way, accounts are managed in the single external system, and those accounts will be automatically available for both SFTPPlus instances.

Installing SFTPPlus for disaster recovery

Disaster recovery is part of business continuity plans (or business continuity and resiliency plans) which is the process of creating systems of prevention and recovery to deal with potential threats to a company. The use of the term “recovery” has also been used when talking about resiliency.

Providing that the server configuration and related configuration files are properly maintained and backed-up, you can integrate SFTPPlus as part of your disaster recovery plans.

Conclusion and next steps

The application of these does not immediately guarantee results in achieving high availability or resiliency. Please consider these guides merely as a layer within multiple others when implementing a high available, resilient and secure managed file transfer solution.

Since features are constantly changed, we did not touch on any specifics within SFTPPlus. Please consult our documentation for the configuration and operations information, as well as practical users guides.

Evaluating SFTPPlus MFT

SFTPPlus MFT Server supports FTP, Explicit FTPS, Implicit FTPS, SFTP, SCP, HTTP and HTTPS.

Install SFTPPlus MFT today either as an on-premise solution supported on Windows, Linux, AIX, OS X, Solaris, FreeBSD, HP-UX or on the cloud as Docker containers or AWS instances.

Email us at sales@proatria.com to start your evaluation version today.

For licensing queries please contact sales@proatria.com.

Addendum

This resource is written as of SFTPPlus version 3.29.0.

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