There are a myriad of hardware and software methods of protecting computers. Anti-virus software, firewalls, spyware and routers to name but a few yet perhaps the most important tools for keeping a network safe is often the most overlooked.
One of the reasons for this is that the network time server’s often referred to as the NTP time server (after the protocol Network Time Protocol) primary task is time synchronisation and not security.
The NTP server’s primary task is to retrieve a time signal from a UTC source (Coordinated Universal Time) which it then distributes it amongst the network, checking the clock on each system device and ensuring its running in synchronisation with UTC.
Here is where many network administrators fall down. They know that time synchronisation is vital for computer security. Without it, errors can not be logged (or even spotted) network attacks can’t be countered, data can be lost and if a malicious user does get into the system it is near impossible to discover what they were up to without all machines on a network corresponding to the same time.
Well, as the old saying goes there is no such thing as a free lunch or as it goes a free source of UTC time. Using internet time providers may be free but this is where many computer networks leave themselves open to abuse.
To utilise an internet source of time such as Microsoft’s, NIST or one of those on the NTP pool project may be free but they are also outside a networks firewall and these is where many network administrators come unstuck.