Security

Web site review: Find answers to security prayers at Church of the Swimming Elephant

We may be preaching to the choir, but network security is a topic that requires review to keep up with developments. Check out this review of the Church of the Swimming Elephant, a Web site that can be a security salvation for busy IT pros.


Do you find yourself praying your network will remain safe from hackers? The Church of the Swimming Elephant (known as Cotse.com) is the Web site you need to visit to find the answers to those prayers.

Cotse.com offers a multitude of Internet security tools and resources targeted for IT managers. The site includes:
  • References containing links to dictionaries, RFCs, and command references for different operating systems.
  • Downloads on subjects such as CGI scripts, sniffers, packet tools, and steganography (the art of concealing messages behind other messages or images).
  • Privacy resources, including an extensive set of links, a Web proxy for cookie haters, and Cotse’s Webmail for privacy-shielded Web mail and Usenet posting.

Security consultant Steve Gielda is the founder of the security consulting firm, Packetderm, LLC, in Worcester, MA, and the creator of Cotse.com. Packetderm performs penetration testing and security forensics, along with other security services.

The peculiar name for the site was born when Gielda was watching a Discovery Channel program while participating in an online chat about religion. The show was about elephants, and the online discussion focused on the theory that fear is the basis of many religions. That combination of ideas morphed into Cotse, or the Church of the Swimming Elephant.

What’s there?
At first, the sheer volume of material presented on the Cotse.com home page looks daunting, but the information is well organized.

The focal point of the Web site is divided into four sections including:
  1. Featured Sections, which contains archives of message threads and notices from Bugtraq Archive, NT Bugtraq Archive, CERT Archive, CIAC Archive, and Bulletins Released Today.
  2. The news section, which includes press releases and stories from various sources divided into Privacy Watch, Technical, White House Reports, Privacy, Biotech, Win2k, Security/Exploits/Bugs, Legal, and General.
  3. Cotse Columns, which includes a series of discussion threads based on security issues.
  4. The Cotse Labs section, which includes freeware (for noncommercial use) and offers three programs, two of which are utilities and the third a script.

While each of these four featured sections provides copious amounts of timely information, I found many of the most valuable parts of the site in the small links running down the left frame of the home page.

The left frame includes a downloads section with 24 categories brimming with executables. If you don’t have time to scour the Internet for pinging tools or vulnerability scanners, you’ll find them here.

Catch your breath
Cotse.com covers network security in exhaustive detail for several operating systems, including Windows, UNIX, Linux, and others.

Gielda said he has spent eight to 10 hours a day for the past two years, on top of his regular job, to build the site in a labor of love. “Well, maybe computer addiction too,” he said.

Cotse Labs has three new software offerings in the works aimed at corporate users, and a privacy service is about to launch, Gielda said. All of this, he hopes, will make Packetderm a very profitable company.

“We are wrapping up our business plan and shopping for venture capital. Early response to our plan has been very positive. We are hoping for funding soon so we can jump up to that next level, and we are fairly confident we will get it,” Gielda said.

Final thoughts
Cotse.com is a Web site full of resources targeted for anyone who has to worry about network security issues.

There are a number of other security sites out there, but Cotse.com is distinguished by its depth of information and the casual way it is presented.

It is obvious that Gielda has taken a great deal of time and effort to compile the information, links, and downloads available on the site. Gielda said he hopes Web site visitors will offer suggestions on other material they would like to see posted.
Now it’s your turn to review the Cotse.com site. Just click on the Rate this Site button above and tell us what you think of Cotse.com. Is it good, bad, or ugly? It only takes a minute or two to complete your rating, so visit the site and then tell us what you think.

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