from Backdoor to Backdoor

While the FBI was accused to set a backdoor to OpenBSD, the NSA clears the record on DES.
There are many stories about sneaking sophisticated chunks of code that make perfectly good encryption system to leak information. Something like this is extremely difficult to do without nobody noticing it and I think that it must be considered as a lot of unnecessary trouble for the guys that rather will nicely ask for the keys to your front door.


Check the strength of passwords

A cool application for checking the strength of passwords Tags: ,

Secure Processors, the ultimate battlefield

Continuing with the main theme my last two posts, hacking, I am going to wrap up with this post about Secure Processors.

A secure processor is meant to protect the information and the communications, validate the communications channel and be tamper-resistant, should it falls into the adversary’s hands.  

Successful hacking of secrets has the duality of being a happy/sad event, depending on which team are you playing for. The design of secure processors makes this duality patent as, in practice, the most important evaluation criterion is that the resulting product should resist the designer’s best attempts at hacking it.

The current research and development efforts are guided by U.S. DoD Anti-Tamper specifications. To prevent reverse engineering, architectures of secure processors are based on a combination of hardware and encrypted software in such a way that if the hardware is captured, its exact functions cannot be guessed without knowing the encryption keys. During WWII, the capture of an ENIGMA machine paved the way for the breaking of the enciphering by the allied forces. These historical lessons are incorporated into today’s design criteria. Some design even incorporate sensors that will detect attempts at using physical means to force the hardware and destroy the critical information upon detection (often called zeroization).

A new dimension to the problem is added by procurement system. Electronic chips are nowadays a commodity and absolute control over the manufacturing of  chips is not possible. Therefore it is essential to ensure that the critical parts, that is the processors, are designed and made in controlled facilities.

The lessons learned in military applications are now being applied to commercial system. This is where the lines blurred because in the interconnected world the enemy can wreak havoc on the infrastructure without firing a shot. Communication and control networks associated with utilities will become more resistant to attacks by using computers fitted with secure processors.


New Chip Brings Military Security to Commercial Processors

The Hunt for the Kill Switch

Secure Processors – IBM

Acalis White Paper


The Dark Face of Facebook

The popularity of networking sites such as facebook (and others of the same kind) is certainly a magnet for people with not-so-kind intentions. For starters, the place can be considered as a gold mine of personal information and ID thieves would love to work overtime to put their stakes on the ground, like in any good old day’s gold-rush.
I do not necessarily oppose the idea of networking sites, moreover I think they can provide a lot of value for most users. However I was intrigued by a comment my wife made about being able to look at pictures of somebody that is not in her list of friends. It looks like the security settings used by most people will allow a friend of a friend to look at your pictures or profile by just sharing a collection of pictures.
I setup my own account to see first hand how it works. I went through the security setups and found the BIG problem with the security in facebook. That is, by default, facebook leaves everything open, you are supposed to go and explicitly forbade the system to share information about you with third parties. This goes against the common-sense approach in security, that is, forbade sharing by default and let the user explicitly share (in an item by item fashion). Although this approach has the disadvantage of being annoying to most people, there is the only way to make sure you don’t end up sharing your dearest secrets with a stranger or maybe even an enemy.
A little bit of Googling around turn out a lot of references of bad thing that can happen: for example, many applications ask you permission to override certain security settings and it looks like the system allow third party companies to write applications. I do not know the process that facebook uses to vet these applications. I will not comment on that.
Below, a scary short video form the BBC, facebook’s answer to it and a bunch of links to keep you aware of the issues.

Here is the answer form facebook

Related and highly recommended
Safety Tips
The danger of facebook identity theft
facebook ignores huge security hole for four months
3 ways to protect yourself from social networking malware
For a Change Spammers get Whacked
The perils of sharing

Internet Explorer Security Hole

There is an important  Microsoft advisory regarding a security gap in Internet Explorer 7. More details here and there.

The main thing is that the defect can be exploited by hackers by luring user to go to a website containing the malware. By exploiting a zero-day flaw in IE the malicious site execute a Java Script in the users computer that downloads a trojan.

Be very careful when you follow links in e-mails. Microsoft have some workarounds to stay safe. Other browsers are not affected. 

Cryptool 2.0 Beta available for download


The latest stable version of cryptool is 1.4.21. I highly recommend to download both 😉

Security Blues

I’ve been experiencing some trouble with the latest two security updates from Microsoft.
The offenders, (KB956841 and KB956803) work fine on a Compaq desktop running XP Pro. When installed on a Gateway desktop running XP Media Edition, the machine hangs when trying to start Windows after the required re-boot. I manage to get Windows to start in safe mode and restored to a time previous to installation and the machine works fine.
The security updates are related to a vulnerability that could allow malware to elevate its privilege level. As per Microsoft documentation:

A local attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could take complete control of an affected system. An attacker could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights.

The only known issue is some negative interaction with Zone Alarm. I found only one reference to a Laptop that hangs on reboot, I’ll keep looking.

Update In the process of restoring and trying again, KB956803 somehow got installed. I will not try KB956841… wait for the next Service Pack.