Recent Entries

From Schneier on Security at 2022-09-29 12:14:11

Differences in App Security/Privacy Based on Country

Depending on where you are when you download your Android apps, it might collect more or less data about you.

The apps we downloaded from Google Play also showed differences based on country in their security and privacy capabilities. One hundred twenty-seven apps varied in what the apps were allowed to access on users’ mobile phones, 49 of which had additional permissions deemed “dangerous” by Google. Apps in Bahrain, Tunisia and Canada requested the most additional dangerous permissions.

Three VPN apps enable clear text communication in some countries, which allows unauthorized access to users’ communications. One hundred and eighteen apps varied in the number of ad trackers included in an app in some countries, with the categories Games, Entertainment and Social, with Iran and Ukraine having the most increases in the number of ad trackers compared to the baseline number common to all countries...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-09-28 12:19:01

Cold War Bugging of Soviet Facilities

Found documents in Poland detail US spying operations against the former Soviet Union.

The file details a number of bugs found at Soviet diplomatic facilities in Washington, D.C., New York, and San Francisco, as well as in a Russian government-owned vacation compound, apartments used by Russia personnel, and even Russian diplomats’ cars. And the bugs were everywhere: encased in plaster in an apartment closet; behind electrical and television outlets; bored into concrete bricks and threaded into window frames; inside wooden beams and baseboards and stashed within a building’s foundation itself; surreptitiously attached to security cameras; wired into ceiling panels and walls; and secretly implanted into the backseat of cars and in their window panels, instrument panels, and dashboards. It’s an impressive—­ and impressively thorough—­ effort by U.S. counterspies...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-09-27 12:15:04

New Report on IoT Security

The Atlantic Council has published a report on securing the Internet of Things: “Security in the Billions: Toward a Multinational Strategy to Better Secure the IoT Ecosystem.” The report examines the regulatory approaches taken by four countries—the US, the UK, Australia, and Singapore—to secure home, medical, and networking/telecommunications devices. The report recommends that regulators should 1) enforce minimum security standards for manufacturers of IoT devices, 2) incentivize higher levels of security through public contracting, and 3) try to align IoT standards internationally (for example, international guidance on handling connected devices that stop receiving security updates)...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-09-26 12:08:57

Leaking Passwords through the Spellchecker

Sometimes browser spellcheckers leak passwords:

When using major web browsers like Chrome and Edge, your form data is transmitted to Google and Microsoft, respectively, should enhanced spellcheck features be enabled.

Depending on the website you visit, the form data may itself include PII­—including but not limited to Social Security Numbers (SSNs)/Social Insurance Numbers (SINs), name, address, email, date of birth (DOB), contact information, bank and payment information, and so on.

The solution is to only use the spellchecker options that keep the data on your computer—and don’t send it into the cloud...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-09-20 12:29:41

Credit Card Fraud That Bypasses 2FA

Someone in the UK is stealing smartphones and credit cards from people who have stored them in gym lockers, and is using the two items in combination to commit fraud:

Phones, of course, can be made inaccessible with the use of passwords and face or fingerprint unlocking. And bank cards can be stopped.

But the thief has a method which circumnavigates those basic safety protocols.

Once they have the phone and the card, they register the card on the relevant bank’s app on their own phone or computer. Since it is the first time that card will have been used on the new device, a one-off security passcode is demanded...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-09-19 12:07:38

Large-Scale Collection of Cell Phone Data at US Borders

The Washington Post is reporting that the US Customs and Border Protection agency is seizing and copying cell phone, tablet, and computer data from “as many as” 10,000 phones per year, including an unspecified number of American citizens. This is done without a warrant, because “…courts have long granted an exception to border authorities, allowing them to search people’s devices without a warrant or suspicion of a crime.”

CBP’s inspection of people’s phones, laptops, tablets and other electronic devices as they enter the country has long been a controversial practice that the agency has defended as a low-impact way to pursue possible security threats and determine an individual’s “intentions upon entry” into the U.S. But the revelation that thousands of agents have access to a searchable database without public oversight is a new development in what privacy advocates and some lawmakers warn could be an infringement of Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-09-16 22:01:19

Friday Squid Blogging: Mayfly Squid

This is surprisingly funny.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-09-16 15:07:13

Massive Data Breach at Uber

It’s big:

The breach appeared to have compromised many of Uber’s internal systems, and a person claiming responsibility for the hack sent images of email, cloud storage and code repositories to cybersecurity researchers and The New York Times.

“They pretty much have full access to Uber,” said Sam Curry, a security engineer at Yuga Labs who corresponded with the person who claimed to be responsible for the breach. “This is a total compromise, from what it looks like.”

It looks like a pretty basic phishing attack; someone gave the hacker their login credentials. And because Uber has lousy internal security, lots of people have access to everything. So once a hacker gains a foothold, they have access to everything...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-09-15 16:28:52

Relay Attack against Teslas

Nice work:

Radio relay attacks are technically complicated to execute, but conceptually easy to understand: attackers simply extend the range of your existing key using what is essentially a high-tech walkie-talkie. One thief stands near you while you’re in the grocery store, intercepting your key’s transmitted signal with a radio transceiver. Another stands near your car, with another transceiver, taking the signal from their friend and passing it on to the car. Since the car and the key can now talk, through the thieves’ range extenders, the car has no reason to suspect the key isn’t inside—and fires right up...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-09-14 18:08:21

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

This is a current list of where and when I am scheduled to speak:

The list is maintained on this page.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-09-14 12:51:22

Weird Fallout from Peiter Zatko’s Twitter Whistleblowing

People are trying to dig up dirt on Peiter Zatko, better known as Mudge.

For the record, I have not been contacted. I’m not sure if I should feel slighted.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-09-13 12:51:39

FBI Seizes Stolen Cryptocurrencies

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the FBI has recovered over $30 million in cryptocurrency stolen by North Korean hackers earlier this year. It’s only a fraction of the $540 million stolen, but it’s something.

The Axie Infinity recovery represents a shift in law enforcement’s ability to trace funds through a web of so-called crypto addresses, the virtual accounts where cryptocurrencies are stored. These addresses can be created quickly without them being linked to a cryptocurrency company that could freeze the funds.

In its effort to mask the stolen crypto, Lazarus Group used more than 12,000 different addresses, according to Chainalysis. Unlike bank transactions that happen through private networks, movement between crypto accounts is visible to the world on the blockchain...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-09-12 15:41:17

New Linux Cryptomining Malware

It’s pretty nasty:

The malware was dubbed “Shikitega” for its extensive use of the popular Shikata Ga Nai polymorphic encoder, which allows the malware to “mutate” its code to avoid detection. Shikitega alters its code each time it runs through one of several decoding loops that AT&T said each deliver multiple attacks, beginning with an ELF file that’s just 370 bytes.

Shikitega also downloads Mettle, a Metasploit interpreter that gives the attacker the ability to control attached webcams and includes a sniffer, multiple reverse shells, process control, shell command execution and additional abilities to control the affected system...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-09-09 22:03:31

Friday Squid Blogging: Colossal Squid in New Zealand Museum

It’s in Timaru.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-09-09 14:33:13

Responsible Disclosure for Cryptocurrency Security

Stewart Baker discusses why the industry-norm responsible disclosure for software vulnerabilities fails for cryptocurrency software.

Why can’t the cryptocurrency industry solve the problem the way the software and hardware industries do, by patching and updating security as flaws are found? Two reasons: First, many customers don’t have an ongoing relationship with the hardware and software providers that protect their funds­—nor do they have an incentive to update security on a regular basis. Turning to a new security provider or using updated software creates risks; leaving everything the way it was feels safer. So users won’t be rushing to pay for and install new security patches...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-09-08 16:14:57

Facebook Has No Idea What Data It Has

This is from a court deposition:

Facebook’s stonewalling has been revealing on its own, providing variations on the same theme: It has amassed so much data on so many billions of people and organized it so confusingly that full transparency is impossible on a technical level. In the March 2022 hearing, Zarashaw and Steven Elia, a software engineering manager, described Facebook as a data-processing apparatus so complex that it defies understanding from within. The hearing amounted to two high-ranking engineers at one of the most powerful and resource-flush engineering outfits in history describing their product as an unknowable machine...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-09-07 15:26:10

The LockBit Ransomware Gang Is Surprisingly Professional

This article makes LockBit sound like a legitimate organization:

The DDoS attack last weekend that put a temporary stop to leaking Entrust data was seen as an opportunity to explore the triple extortion tactic to apply more pressure on victims to pay a ransom.

LockBitSupp said that the ransomware operator is now looking to add DDoS as an extortion tactic on top of encrypting data and leaking it.

“I am looking for dudosers [DDoSers] in the team, most likely now we will attack targets and provide triple extortion, encryption + date leak + dudos, because I have felt the power of dudos and how it invigorates and makes life more interesting,” LockBitSupp wrote in a post on a hacker forum...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-09-02 14:18:37

Montenegro is the Victim of a Cyberattack

Details are few, but Montenegro has suffered a cyberattack:

A combination of ransomware and distributed denial-of-service attacks, the onslaught disrupted government services and prompted the country’s electrical utility to switch to manual control.

[…]

But the attack against Montenegro’s infrastructure seemed more sustained and extensive, with targets including water supply systems, transportation services and online government services, among many others.

Government officials in the country of just over 600,000 people said certain government services remained temporarily disabled for security reasons and that the data of citizens and businesses were not endangered...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-09-01 13:18:04

Clever Phishing Scam Uses Legitimate PayPal Messages

Brian Krebs is reporting on a clever PayPal phishing scam that uses legitimate PayPal messaging.

Basically, the scammers use the PayPal invoicing system to send the email. The email lists a phone number to dispute the charge, which is not PayPal and quickly turns into a request to download and install a remote-access tool.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-08-31 15:33:41

High-School Graduation Prank Hack

This is a fun story, detailing the hack a group of high school students perpetrated against an Illinois school district, hacking 500 screens across a bunch of schools.

During the process, the group broke into the school’s IT systems; repurposed software used to monitor students’ computers; discovered a new vulnerability (and reported it); wrote their own scripts; secretly tested their system at night; and managed to avoid detection in the school’s network. Many of the techniques were not sophisticated, but they were pretty much all illegal...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-08-30 12:58:07

FTC Sues Data Broker

This is good news:

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sued Kochava, a large location data provider, for allegedly selling data that the FTC says can track people at reproductive health clinics and places of worship, according to an announcement from the agency.

“Defendant’s violations are in connection with acquiring consumers’ precise geolocation data and selling the data in a format that allows entities to track the consumers’ movements to and from sensitive locations, including, among others, locations associated with medical care, reproductive health, religious worship, mental health temporary shelters, such as shelters for the homeless, domestic violence survivors, or other at risk populations, and addiction recovery,” ...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-08-29 15:30:04

Levels of Assurance for DoD Microelectronics

The NSA has has published criteria for evaluating levels of assurance required for DoD microelectronics.

The introductory report in a DoD microelectronics series outlines the process for determining levels of hardware assurance for systems and custom microelectronic components, which include application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and other devices containing reprogrammable digital logic.

The levels of hardware assurance are determined by the national impact caused by failure or subversion of the top-level system and the criticality of the component to that top-level system. The guidance helps programs acquire a better understanding of their system and components so that they can effectively mitigate against threats...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-08-26 22:08:19

Friday Squid Blogging: 14-foot Giant Squid Washes Ashore in Cape Town

It’s an Architeuthis dux, the second this year.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-08-26 12:54:39

Security and Cheap Complexity

I’ve been saying that complexity is the worst enemy of security for a long time now. (Here’s me in 1999.) And it’s been true for a long time.

In 2018, Thomas Dullien of Google’s Project Zero talked about “cheap complexity.” Andrew Appel summarizes:

The anomaly of cheap complexity. For most of human history, a more complex device was more expensive to build than a simpler device. This is not the case in modern computing. It is often more cost-effective to take a very complicated device, and make it simulate simplicity, than to make a simpler device. This is because of economies of scale: complex general-purpose CPUs are cheap. On the other hand, custom-designed, ...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-08-25 12:45:17

Man-in-the-Middle Phishing Attack

Here’s a phishing campaign that uses a man-in-the-middle attack to defeat multi-factor authentication:

Microsoft observed a campaign that inserted an attacker-controlled proxy site between the account users and the work server they attempted to log into. When the user entered a password into the proxy site, the proxy site sent it to the real server and then relayed the real server’s response back to the user. Once the authentication was completed, the threat actor stole the session cookie the legitimate site sent, so the user doesn’t need to be reauthenticated at every new page visited. The campaign began with a phishing email with an HTML attachment leading to the proxy server...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-08-24 12:40:08

Mudge Files Whistleblower Complaint against Twitter

Peiter Zatko, aka Mudge, has filed a whistleblower complaint with the SEC against Twitter, claiming that they violated an eleven-year-old FTC settlement by having lousy security. And he should know; he was Twitter’s chief security officer until he was fired in January.

The Washington Post has the scoop (with documents) and companion backgrounder. This CNN story is also comprehensive.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-08-23 12:30:40

Signal Phone Numbers Exposed in Twilio Hack

Twilio was hacked earlier this month, and the phone numbers of 1,900 Signal users were exposed:

Here’s what our users need to know:

  • All users can rest assured that their message history, contact lists, profile information, whom they’d blocked, and other personal data remain private and secure and were not affected.
  • For about 1,900 users, an attacker could have attempted to re-register their number to another device or learned that their number was registered to Signal. This attack has since been shut down by Twilio. 1,900 users is a very small percentage of Signal’s total users, meaning that most were not affected...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-08-22 12:38:30

Hyundai Uses Example Keys for Encryption System

This is a dumb crypto mistake I had not previously encountered:

A developer says it was possible to run their own software on the car infotainment hardware after discovering the vehicle’s manufacturer had secured its system using keys that were not only publicly known but had been lifted from programming examples.

[…]

“Turns out the [AES] encryption key in that script is the first AES 128-bit CBC example key listed in the NIST document SP800-38A [PDF]”.

[…]

Luck held out, in a way. “Greenluigi1” found within the firmware image the RSA public key used by the updater, and searched online for a portion of that key. The search results pointed to a common public key that shows up in online tutorials like “...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-08-19 22:05:09

Friday Squid Blogging: The Language of the Jumbo Flying Squid

The jumbo flying squid (Dosidicus gigas) uses its color-changing ability as a language:

In 2020, however, marine biologists discovered that jumbo flying squid are surprisingly coordinated. Despite their large numbers, the squid rarely bumped into each other or competed for the same prey. The scientists hypothesized that the flickering pigments allowed the squid to quickly communicate complex messages, such as when it was preparing to attack and what it was targeting.

The researchers observed that the squid displayed 12 distinct pigmentation patterns in a variety of sequences, similar to how humans arrange words in a sentence. For example, squid darkened while pursuing prey and then shifted to a half light/half dark pattern immediately before striking. The researchers hypothesized that these whole-body pigment changes signaled a precise action, such as “I’m about to attack.”...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-08-18 12:45:45

USB “Rubber Ducky” Attack Tool

The USB Rubber Ducky is getting better and better.

Already, previous versions of the Rubber Ducky could carry out attacks like creating a fake Windows pop-up box to harvest a user’s login credentials or causing Chrome to send all saved passwords to an attacker’s webserver. But these attacks had to be carefully crafted for specific operating systems and software versions and lacked the flexibility to work across platforms.

The newest Rubber Ducky aims to overcome these limitations. It ships with a major upgrade to the DuckyScript programming language, which is used to create the commands that the Rubber Ducky will enter into a target machine. While previous versions were mostly limited to writing keystroke sequences, DuckyScript 3.0 is a feature-rich language, letting users write functions, store variables, and use logic flow controls (i.e., if this… then that)...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-08-17 12:11:17

Zoom Exploit on MacOS

This vulnerability was reported to Zoom last December:

The exploit works by targeting the installer for the Zoom application, which needs to run with special user permissions in order to install or remove the main Zoom application from a computer. Though the installer requires a user to enter their password on first adding the application to the system, Wardle found that an auto-update function then continually ran in the background with superuser privileges.

When Zoom issued an update, the updater function would install the new package after checking that it had been cryptographically signed by Zoom. But a bug in how the checking method was implemented meant that giving the updater any file with the same name as Zoom’s signing certificate would be enough to pass the test—so an attacker could substitute any kind of malware program and have it be run by the updater with elevated privilege...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-08-16 12:59:20

Remotely Controlling Touchscreens

This is more of a demonstration than a real-world vulnerability, but researchers can use electromagnetic interference to remotely control touchscreens.

From a news article:

It’s important to note that the attack has a few key limitations. Firstly, the hackers need to know the target’s phone passcode, or launch the attack while the phone is unlocked. Secondly, the victim needs to put the phone face down, otherwise the battery and motherboard will block the electromagnetic signal. Thirdly, the antenna array has to be no more than four centimeters (around 1.5 inches) away. For all these reasons the researchers themselves admit that the “invisible finger” technique is a proof of concept that at this point is far from being a threat outside of a university lab. ...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-08-15 15:14:53

$23 Million YouTube Royalties Scam

Scammers were able to convince YouTube that other peoples’ music was their own. They successfully stole $23 million before they were caught.

No one knows how common this scam is, and how much money total is being stolen in this way. Presumably this is not an uncommon fraud.

While the size of the heist and the breadth of the scheme may be very unique, it’s certainly a situation that many YouTube content creators have faced before. YouTube’s Content ID system, meant to help creators, has been weaponized by bad faith actors in order to make money off content that isn’t theirs. While some false claims are just mistakes caused by automated systems, the MediaMuv case is a perfect example of how fraudsters are also purposefully taking advantage of digital copyright rules...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-08-14 18:04:13

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

This is a current list of where and when I am scheduled to speak:

The list is maintained on this page.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-08-12 22:06:08

Friday Squid Blogging: SQUID Acronym for Making Conscious Choices

I think the U is forced:

SQUID consists of five steps: Stop, Question, Understand, Imagine, and Decide.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-08-12 15:13:25

Twitter Exposes Personal Information for 5.4 Million Accounts

Twitter accidentally exposed the personal information—including phone numbers and email addresses—for 5.4 million accounts. And someone was trying to sell this information.

In January 2022, we received a report through our bug bounty program of a vulnerability in Twitter’s systems. As a result of the vulnerability, if someone submitted an email address or phone number to Twitter’s systems, Twitter’s systems would tell the person what Twitter account the submitted email addresses or phone number was associated with, if any. This bug resulted from an update to our code in June 2021. When we learned about this, we immediately investigated and fixed it. At that time, we had no evidence to suggest someone had taken advantage of the vulnerability. ...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-08-12 12:38:10

A Taxonomy of Access Control

My personal definition of a brilliant idea is one that is immediately obvious once it’s explained, but no one has thought of it before. I can’t believe that no one has described this taxonomy of access control before Eyal Ittay laid it out in this paper. The paper is about cryptocurrency wallet design, but the ideas are more general. Ittay points out that a key—or an account, or anything similar—can be in one of four states:

safe Only the user has access,
loss No one has access,
leak Both the user and the adversary have access, or
theft Only the adversary has access...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-08-11 14:23:11

Hacking Starlink

This is the first—of many, I assume—hack of Starlink. Leveraging a string of vulnerabilities, attackers can access the Starlink system and run custom code on the devices.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-08-08 12:20:29

NIST’s Post-Quantum Cryptography Standards

Quantum computing is a completely new paradigm for computers. A quantum computer uses quantum properties such as superposition, which allows a qubit (a quantum bit) to be neither 0 nor 1, but something much more complicated. In theory, such a computer can solve problems too complex for conventional computers.

Current quantum computers are still toy prototypes, and the engineering advances required to build a functionally useful quantum computer are somewhere between a few years away and impossible. Even so, we already know that that such a computer could potentially factor large numbers and compute discrete logs, and break the RSA and Diffie-Hellman public-key algorithms in all of the useful key sizes...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-08-05 22:13:36

Friday Squid Blogging: New Squid Species

Seems like they are being discovered all the time:

In the past, the DEEPEND crew has discovered three new species of Bathyteuthids, a type of squid that lives in depths between 700 and 2,000 meters. The findings were validated and published in 2020. Another new squid species description is currently in review at the Bulletin of Marine Science.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-08-04 12:56:22

SIKE Broken

SIKE is one of the new algorithms that NIST recently added to the post-quantum cryptography competition.

It was just broken, really badly.

We present an efficient key recovery attack on the Supersingular Isogeny Diffie­-Hellman protocol (SIDH), based on a “glue-and-split” theorem due to Kani. Our attack exploits the existence of a small non-scalar endomorphism on the starting curve, and it also relies on the auxiliary torsion point information that Alice and Bob share during the protocol. Our Magma implementation breaks the instantiation SIKEp434, which aims at security level 1 of the Post-Quantum Cryptography standardization process currently ran by NIST, in about one hour on a single core...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-08-03 12:50:32

Drone Deliveries into Prisons

Seems it’s now common to sneak contraband into prisons with a drone.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-08-02 12:49:11

Surveillance of Your Car

TheMarkup has an extensive analysis of connected vehicle data and the companies that are collecting it.

The Markup has identified 37 companies that are part of the rapidly growing connected vehicle data industry that seeks to monetize such data in an environment with few regulations governing its sale or use.

While many of these companies stress they are using aggregated or anonymized data, the unique nature of location and movement data increases the potential for violations of user privacy.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-08-01 12:09:39

Ring Gives Videos to Police without a Warrant or User Consent

Amazon has revealed that it gives police videos from its Ring doorbells without a warrant and without user consent.

Ring recently revealed how often the answer to that question has been yes. The Amazon company responded to an inquiry from US Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.), confirming that there have been 11 cases in 2022 where Ring complied with police “emergency” requests. In each case, Ring handed over private recordings, including video and audio, without letting users know that police had access to—and potentially downloaded—their data. This raises many concerns about increased police reliance on private surveillance, a practice that has long gone unregulated...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-07-29 22:19:19

Friday Squid Blogging: Evolution of the Vampire Squid

Short article on the evolution of the vampire squid.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-07-29 16:08:09

Microsoft Zero-Days Sold and then Used

Yet another article about cyber-weapons arms manufacturers and their particular supply chain. This one is about Windows and Adobe Reader zero-day exploits sold by an Austrian company named DSIRF.

There’s an entire industry devoted to undermining all of our security. It needs to be stopped.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-07-28 12:16:52

New UFEI Rootkit

Kaspersky is reporting on a new UFEI rootkit that survives reinstalling the operating system and replacing the hard drive. From an article:

The firmware compromises the UEFI, the low-level and highly opaque chain of firmware required to boot up nearly every modern computer. As the software that bridges a PC’s device firmware with its operating system, the UEFI—short for Unified Extensible Firmware Interface—is an OS in its own right. It’s located in an SPI-connected flash storage chip soldered onto the computer motherboard, making it difficult to inspect or patch the code. Because it’s the first thing to run when a computer is turned on, it influences the OS, security apps, and all other software that follows. ...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-07-27 13:03:57

Securing Open-Source Software

Good essay arguing that open-source software is a critical national-security asset and needs to be treated as such:

Open source is at least as important to the economy, public services, and national security as proprietary code, but it lacks the same standards and safeguards. It bears the qualities of a public good and is as indispensable as national highways. Given open source’s value as a public asset, an institutional structure must be built that sustains and secures it.

This is not a novel idea. Open-source code has been called the “roads and bridges”...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-07-26 13:57:55

Apple’s Lockdown Mode

I haven’t written about Apple’s Lockdown Mode yet, mostly because I haven’t delved into the details. This is how Apple describes it:

Lockdown Mode offers an extreme, optional level of security for the very few users who, because of who they are or what they do, may be personally targeted by some of the most sophisticated digital threats, such as those from NSO Group and other private companies developing state-sponsored mercenary spyware. Turning on Lockdown Mode in iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura further hardens device defenses and strictly limits certain functionalities, sharply reducing the attack surface that potentially could be exploited by highly targeted mercenary spyware...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-07-21 14:36:20

Critical Vulnerabilities in GPS Trackers

This is a dangerous vulnerability:

An assessment from security firm BitSight found six vulnerabilities in the Micodus MV720, a GPS tracker that sells for about $20 and is widely available. The researchers who performed the assessment believe the same critical vulnerabilities are present in other Micodus tracker models. The China-based manufacturer says 1.5 million of its tracking devices are deployed across 420,000 customers. BitSight found the device in use in 169 countries, with customers including governments, militaries, law enforcement agencies, and aerospace, shipping, and manufacturing companies...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-07-20 16:32:30

Russia Creates Malware False-Flag App

The Russian hacking group Turla released an Android app that seems to aid Ukrainian hackers in their attacks against Russian networks. It’s actually malware, and provides information back to the Russians:

The hackers pretended to be a “community of free people around the world who are fighting russia’s aggression”—much like the IT Army. But the app they developed was actually malware. The hackers called it CyberAzov, in reference to the Azov Regiment or Battalion, a far-right group that has become part of Ukraine’s national guard. To add more credibility to the ruse they hosted the app on a domain “spoofing” the Azov Regiment: cyberazov[.]com...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-07-19 15:40:34

NSO Group’s Pegasus Spyware Used against Thailand Pro-Democracy Activists and Leaders

Yet another basic human rights violation, courtesy of NSO Group: Citizen Lab has the details:

Key Findings

  • We discovered an extensive espionage campaign targeting Thai pro-democracy protesters, and activists calling for reforms to the monarchy.
  • We forensically confirmed that at least 30 individuals were infected with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware.
  • The observed infections took place between October 2020 and November 2021.
  • The ongoing investigation was triggered by notifications sent by Apple to Thai civil society members in November 2021. Following the notification, multiple recipients made contact with civil society groups, including the Citizen Lab. ...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-07-18 15:49:11

Facebook Is Now Encrypting Links to Prevent URL Stripping

Some sites, including Facebook, add parameters to the web address for tracking purposes. These parameters have no functionality that is relevant to the user, but sites rely on them to track users across pages and properties.

Mozilla introduced support for URL stripping in Firefox 102, which it launched in June 2022. Firefox removes tracking parameters from web addresses automatically, but only in private browsing mode or when the browser’s Tracking Protection feature is set to strict. Firefox users may enable URL stripping in all Firefox modes...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-07-15 22:04:37

Friday Squid Blogging: Squid Inks Fisherman

Short video.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-07-15 12:17:43

San Francisco Police Want Real-Time Access to Private Surveillance Cameras

Surely no one could have predicted this:

The new proposal—championed by Mayor London Breed after November’s wild weekend of orchestrated burglaries and theft in the San Francisco Bay Area—would authorize the police department to use non-city-owned security cameras and camera networks to live monitor “significant events with public safety concerns” and ongoing felony or misdemeanor violations.

Currently, the police can only request historical footage from private cameras related to specific times and locations, rather than blanket monitoring. Mayor Breed also complained the police can only use real-time feeds in emergencies involving “imminent danger of death or serious physical injury.”...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-07-14 18:02:32

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

This is a current list of where and when I am scheduled to speak:

The list is maintained on this page.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-07-14 15:31:04

New Browser De-anonymization Technique

Researchers have a new way to de-anonymize browser users, by correlating their behavior on one account with their behavior on another:

The findings, which NJIT researchers will present at the Usenix Security Symposium in Boston next month, show how an attacker who tricks someone into loading a malicious website can determine whether that visitor controls a particular public identifier, like an email address or social media account, thus linking the visitor to a piece of potentially personal data.

When you visit a website, the page can capture your IP address, but this doesn’t necessarily give the site owner enough information to individually identify you. Instead, the hack analyzes subtle features of a potential target’s browser activity to determine whether they are logged into an account for an array of services, from YouTube and Dropbox to Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, and more. Plus the attacks work against every major browser, including the anonymity-focused Tor Browser...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-07-13 12:00:34

Post-Roe Privacy

This is an excellent essay outlining the post-Roe privacy threat model. (Summary: period tracking apps are largely a red herring.)

Taken together, this means the primary digital threat for people who take abortion pills is the actual evidence of intention stored on your phone, in the form of texts, emails, and search/web history. Cynthia Conti-Cook’s incredible article “Surveilling the Digital Abortion Diary details what we know now about how digital evidence has been used to prosecute women who have been pregnant. That evidence includes search engine history, as in the case of the prosecution of Latice Fisher in Mississippi. As Conti-Cook says, Ms. Fisher “conduct[ed] internet searches, including how to induce a miscarriage, ‘buy abortion pills, mifepristone online, misoprostol online,’ and ‘buy misoprostol abortion pill online,'” and then purchased misoprostol online. Those searches were the evidence that she intentionally induced a miscarriage. Text messages are also often used in prosecutions, as they were in the prosecution of Purvi Patel, also discussed in Conti-Cook’s article...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-07-12 13:23:24

Security Vulnerabilities in Honda’s Keyless Entry System

Honda vehicles from 2021 to 2022 are vulnerable to this attack:

On Thursday, a security researcher who goes by Kevin2600 published a technical report and videos on a vulnerability that he claims allows anyone armed with a simple hardware device to steal the code to unlock Honda vehicles. Kevin2600, who works for cybersecurity firm Star-V Lab, dubbed the attack RollingPWN.

[…]

In a phone call, Kevin2600 explained that the attack relies on a weakness that allows someone using a software defined radio—such as HackRF—to capture the code that the car owner uses to open the car, and then replay it so that the hacker can open the car as well. In some cases, he said, the attack can be performed from 30 meters (approximately 98 feet) away...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-07-11 12:35:06

Nigerian Prison Break

There was a massive prison break in Abuja, Nigeria:

Armed with bombs, Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPGs) and General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMG), the attackers, who arrived at about 10:05 p.m. local time, gained access through the back of the prison, using dynamites to destroy the heavily fortified facility, freeing 600 out of the prison’s 994 inmates, according to the country’s defense minister, Bashir Magashi….

What’s interesting to me is how the defenders got the threat model wrong. That attack isn’t normally associated with a prison break; it sounds more like a military action in a civil war...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-07-08 22:09:53

Friday Squid Blogging: Fishing for Squid

Foreign Policy has a three-part (so far) podcast series on squid and global fishing.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

EDITED TO ADD: I accidentally posted this on Wednesday. I deleted the post Thursday morning, but not before the first four comments.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-07-08 15:18:23

Apple’s Lockdown Mode

Apple has introduced lockdown mode for high-risk users who are concerned about nation-state attacks. It trades reduced functionality for increased security in a very interesting way.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-07-07 19:18:28

Ubiquitous Surveillance by ICE

Report by Georgetown’s Center on Privacy and Technology published a comprehensive report on the surprising amount of mass surveillance conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Our two-year investigation, including hundreds of Freedom of Information Act requests and a comprehensive review of ICE’s contracting and procurement records, reveals that ICE now operates as a domestic surveillance agency. Since its founding in 2003, ICE has not only been building its own capacity to use surveillance to carry out deportations but has also played a key role in the federal government’s larger push to amass as much information as possible about all of our lives. By reaching into the digital records of state and local governments and buying databases with billions of data points from private companies, ICE has created a surveillance infrastructure that enables it to pull detailed dossiers on nearly anyone, seemingly at any time. In its efforts to arrest and deport, ICE has ­ without any judicial, legislative or public oversight ­ reached into datasets containing personal information about the vast majority of people living in the U.S., whose records can end up in the hands of immigration enforcement simply because they apply for driver’s licenses; drive on the roads; or sign up with their local utilities to get access to heat, water and electricity...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-07-06 17:49:42

NIST Announces First Four Quantum-Resistant Cryptographic Algorithms

NIST’s post-quantum computing cryptography standard process is entering its final phases. It announced the first four algorithms:

For general encryption, used when we access secure websites, NIST has selected the CRYSTALS-Kyber algorithm. Among its advantages are comparatively small encryption keys that two parties can exchange easily, as well as its speed of operation.

For digital signatures, often used when we need to verify identities during a digital transaction or to sign a document remotely, NIST has selected the three algorithms CRYSTALS-Dilithium...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-07-01 15:33:05

Analyzing the Swiss E-Voting System

Andrew Appel has a long analysis of the Swiss online voting system. It’s a really good analysis of both the system and the official analyses.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-06-30 21:04:28

ZuoRAT Malware Is Targeting Routers

Wired is reporting on a new remote-access Trojan that is able to infect at least eighty different targets:

So far, researchers from Lumen Technologies’ Black Lotus Labs say they’ve identified at least 80 targets infected by the stealthy malware, including routers made by Cisco, Netgear, Asus, and DrayTek. Dubbed ZuoRAT, the remote access Trojan is part of a broader hacking campaign that has existed since at least the fourth quarter of 2020 and continues to operate.

The discovery of custom-built malware written for the MIPS architecture and compiled for small-office and home-office routers is significant, particularly given its range of capabilities. Its ability to enumerate all devices connected to an infected router and collect the DNS lookups and network traffic they send and receive and remain undetected is the hallmark of a highly sophisticated threat actor...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-06-29 12:19:15

Ecuador’s Attempt to Resettle Edward Snowden

Someone hacked the Ecuadorian embassy in Moscow and found a document related to Ecuador’s 2013 efforts to bring Edward Snowden there. If you remember, Snowden was traveling from Hong Kong to somewhere when the US revoked his passport, stranding him in Russia. In the document, Ecuador asks Russia to provide Snowden with safe passage to come to Ecuador.

It’s hard to believe this all happened almost ten years ago.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-06-28 12:22:17

When Security Locks You Out of Everything

Thought experiment story of someone who lost everything in a house fire, and now can’t log into anything:

But to get into my cloud, I need my password and 2FA. And even if I could convince the cloud provider to bypass that and let me in, the backup is secured with a password which is stored in—you guessed it—my Password Manager.

I am in cyclic dependency hell. To get my passwords, I need my 2FA. To get my 2FA, I need my passwords.

It’s a one-in-a-million story, and one that’s hard to take into account in system design.

This is where we reach the limits of the “Code Is Law” movement...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-06-27 12:42:24

2022 Workshop on Economics and Information Security (WEIS)

I did not attend WEIS this year, but Ross Anderson was there and liveblogged all the talks.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-06-24 22:04:55

Friday Squid Blogging: Squid Cubes

Researchers thaw squid frozen into a cube and often make interesting discoveries. (Okay, this is a weird story.)

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-06-24 12:13:01

On the Dangers of Cryptocurrencies and the Uselessness of Blockchain

Earlier this month, I and others wrote a letter to Congress, basically saying that cryptocurrencies are an complete and total disaster, and urging them to regulate the space. Nothing in that letter is out of the ordinary, and is in line with what I wrote about blockchain in 2019. In response, Matthew Green has written—not really a rebuttal—but a “a general response to some of the more common spurious objections…people make to public blockchain systems.” In it, he makes several broad points:

  1. Yes, current proof-of-work blockchains like bitcoin are terrible for the environment. But there are other modes like proof-of-stake that are not. ...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-06-23 12:05:08

On the Subversion of NIST by the NSA

Nadiya Kostyuk and Susan Landau wrote an interesting paper: “Dueling Over DUAL_EC_DRBG: The Consequences of Corrupting a Cryptographic Standardization Process“:

Abstract: In recent decades, the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which develops cryptographic standards for non-national security agencies of the U.S. government, has emerged as the de facto international source for cryptographic standards. But in 2013, Edward Snowden disclosed that the National Security Agency had subverted the integrity of a NIST cryptographic standard­the Dual_EC_DRBG­enabling easy decryption of supposedly secured communications. This discovery reinforced the desire of some public and private entities to develop their own cryptographic standards instead of relying on a U.S. government process. Yet, a decade later, no credible alternative to NIST has emerged. NIST remains the only viable candidate for effectively developing internationally trusted cryptography standards...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-06-22 12:07:27

Symbiote Backdoor in Linux

Interesting:

What makes Symbiote different from other Linux malware that we usually come across, is that it needs to infect other running processes to inflict damage on infected machines. Instead of being a standalone executable file that is run to infect a machine, it is a shared object (SO) library that is loaded into all running processes using LD_PRELOAD (T1574.006), and parasitically infects the machine. Once it has infected all the running processes, it provides the threat actor with rootkit functionality, the ability to harvest credentials, and remote access capability...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-06-21 12:34:58

Hidden Anti-Cryptography Provisions in Internet Anti-Trust Bills

Two bills attempting to reduce the power of Internet monopolies are currently being debated in Congress: S. 2992, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act; and S. 2710, the Open App Markets Act. Reducing the power to tech monopolies would do more to “fix” the Internet than any other single action, and I am generally in favor of them both. (The Center for American Progress wrote a good summary and evaluation of them. I have written in support of the bill that would force Google and Apple to give up their monopolies on their phone app stores.)...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-06-20 12:23:53

Hartzbleed: A New Side-Channel Attack

Hartzbleed is a new side-channel attack that works against a variety of microprocressors. Deducing cryptographic keys by analyzing power consumption has long been an attack, but it’s not generally viable because measuring power consumption is often hard. This new attack measures power consumption by measuring time, making it easier to exploit.

The team discovered that dynamic voltage and frequency scaling (DVFS)—a power and thermal management feature added to every modern CPU—allows attackers to deduce the changes in power consumption by monitoring the time it takes for a server to respond to specific carefully made queries. The discovery greatly reduces what’s required. With an understanding of how the DVFS feature works, power side-channel attacks become much simpler timing attacks that can be done remotely...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-06-20 12:23:53

Hertzbleed: A New Side-Channel Attack

Hertzbleed is a new side-channel attack that works against a variety of microprocressors. Deducing cryptographic keys by analyzing power consumption has long been an attack, but it’s not generally viable because measuring power consumption is often hard. This new attack measures power consumption by measuring time, making it easier to exploit.

The team discovered that dynamic voltage and frequency scaling (DVFS)—a power and thermal management feature added to every modern CPU—allows attackers to deduce the changes in power consumption by monitoring the time it takes for a server to respond to specific carefully made queries. The discovery greatly reduces what’s required. With an understanding of how the DVFS feature works, power side-channel attacks become much simpler timing attacks that can be done remotely...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-06-17 22:05:25

Friday Squid Blogging: Signature Steamed Giant Squid with Thai Lime Sauce

From a restaurant in Singapore. It’s not actually giant squid.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-06-17 12:06:09

Tracking People via Bluetooth on Their Phones

We’ve always known that phones—and the people carrying them—can be uniquely identified from their Bluetooth signatures, and that we need security techniques to prevent that. This new research shows that that’s not enough.

Computer scientists at the University of California San Diego proved in a study published May 24 that minute imperfections in phones caused during manufacturing create a unique Bluetooth beacon, one that establishes a digital signature or fingerprint distinct from any other device. Though phones’ Bluetooth uses cryptographic technology that limits trackability, using a radio receiver, these distortions in the Bluetooth signal can be discerned to track individual devices...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-06-16 12:02:36

Attacking the Performance of Machine Learning Systems

Interesting research: “Sponge Examples: Energy-Latency Attacks on Neural Networks“:

Abstract: The high energy costs of neural network training and inference led to the use of acceleration hardware such as GPUs and TPUs. While such devices enable us to train large-scale neural networks in datacenters and deploy them on edge devices, their designers’ focus so far is on average-case performance. In this work, we introduce a novel threat vector against neural networks whose energy consumption or decision latency are critical. We show how adversaries can exploit carefully-crafted sponge examples, which are inputs designed to maximise energy consumption and latency, to drive machine learning (ML) systems towards their worst-case performance. Sponge examples are, to our knowledge, the first denial-of-service attack against the ML components of such systems. We mount two variants of our sponge attack on a wide range of state-of-the-art neural network models, and find that language models are surprisingly vulnerable. Sponge examples frequently increase both latency and energy consumption of these models by a factor of 30×. Extensive experiments show that our new attack is effective across different hardware platforms (CPU, GPU and an ASIC simulator) on a wide range of different language tasks. On vision tasks, we show that sponge examples can be produced and a latency degradation observed, but the effect is less pronounced. To demonstrate the effectiveness of sponge examples in the real world, we mount an attack against Microsoft Azure’s translator and show an increase of response time from 1ms to 6s (6000×). We conclude by proposing a defense strategy: shifting the analysis of energy consumption in hardware from an average-case to a worst-case perspective...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-06-15 12:05:22

M1 Chip Vulnerability

This is a new vulnerability against Apple’s M1 chip. Researchers say that it is unpatchable.

Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, however, have created a novel hardware attack, which combines memory corruption and speculative execution attacks to sidestep the security feature. The attack shows that pointer authentication can be defeated without leaving a trace, and as it utilizes a hardware mechanism, no software patch can fix it.

The attack, appropriately called “Pacman,” works by “guessing” a pointer authentication code (PAC), a cryptographic signature that confirms that an app hasn’t been maliciously altered. This is done using speculative execution—a technique used by modern computer processors to speed up performance by speculatively guessing various lines of computation—to leak PAC verification results, while a hardware side-channel reveals whether or not the guess was correct...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-06-14 18:01:46

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

This is a current list of where and when I am scheduled to speak:

The list is maintained on this page.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-06-14 13:19:10

Hacking Tesla’s Remote Key Cards

Interesting vulnerability in Tesla’s NFC key cards:

Martin Herfurt, a security researcher in Austria, quickly noticed something odd about the new feature: Not only did it allow the car to automatically start within 130 seconds of being unlocked with the NFC card, but it also put the car in a state to accept entirely new keys­with no authentication required and zero indication given by the in-car display.

“The authorization given in the 130-second interval is too general… [it’s] not only for drive,” Herfurt said in an online interview. “This timer has been introduced by Tesla… in order to make the use of the NFC card as a primary means of using the car more convenient. What should happen is that the car can be started and driven without the user having to use the key card a second time. The problem: within the 130-second period, not only the driving of the car is authorized, but also the [enrolling] of a new key.”...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-06-13 12:48:14

Cryptanalysis of ENCSecurity’s Encryption Implementation

ENCSecurity markets a file encryption system, and it’s used by SanDisk, Sony, Lexar, and probably others. Despite it using AES as its algorithm, it’s implementation is flawed in multiple ways—and breakable.

The moral is, as it always is, that implementing cryptography securely is hard. Don’t roll your own anything if you can help it.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-06-09 20:33:15

Friday Squid Blogging: Squid Changes Color from Black to Transparent

Neat video.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-06-09 15:30:02

Twitter Used Two-Factor Login Details for Ad Targeting

Twitter was fined $150 million for using phone numbers and email addresses collected for two-factor authentication for ad targeting.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-06-09 12:22:14

Smartphones and Civilians in Wartime

Interesting article about civilians using smartphones to assist their militaries in wartime, and how that blurs the important legal distinction between combatants and non-combatants:

The principle of distinction between the two roles is a critical cornerstone of international humanitarian law­—the law of armed conflict, codified by decades of customs and laws such as the Geneva Conventions. Those considered civilians and civilian targets are not to be attacked by military forces; as they are not combatants, they should be spared. At the same time, they also should not act as combatants—­if they do, they may lose this status...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-06-08 12:17:47

Leaking Military Secrets on Gaming Discussion Boards

People are leaking classified military information on discussion boards for the video game War Thunder to win argumentsrepeatedly.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-06-06 16:33:36

Long Story on the Accused CIA Vault 7 Leaker

Long article about Joshua Schulte, the accused leaker of the WikiLeaks Vault 7 and Vault 8 CIA data.

Well worth reading.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-06-03 22:03:12

Friday Squid Blogging: More on the “Mind Boggling” Squid Genome

Octopus and squid genes are weird.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-06-03 20:01:46

Me on Public-Interest Tech

Back in November 2020, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, I gave a virtual talk at the International Symposium on Technology and Society: “The Story of the Internet and How it Broke Bad: A Call for Public-Interest Technologists.” It was something I was really proud of, and it’s finally up on the net.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-06-02 21:59:09

Remotely Controlling Touchscreens

Researchers have demonstrated controlling touchscreens at a distance, at least in a laboratory setting:

The core idea is to take advantage of the electromagnetic signals to execute basic touch events such as taps and swipes into targeted locations of the touchscreen with the goal of taking over remote control and manipulating the underlying device.

The attack, which works from a distance of up to 40mm, hinges on the fact that capacitive touchscreens are sensitive to EMI, leveraging it to inject electromagnetic signals into transparent electrodes that are built into the touchscreen so as to register them as touch events...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-06-01 19:25:36

Clever — and Exploitable — Windows Zero-Day

Researchers have reported a still-unpatched Windows zero-day that is currently being exploited in the wild.

Here’s the advisory, which includes a work-around until a patch is available.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-05-31 12:06:03

The Limits of Cyber Operations in Wartime

Interesting paper by Lennart Maschmeyer: “The Subversive Trilemma: Why Cyber Operations Fall Short of Expectations“:

Abstract: Although cyber conflict has existed for thirty years, the strategic utility of cyber operations remains unclear. Many expect cyber operations to provide independent utility in both warfare and low-intensity competition. Underlying these expectations are broadly shared assumptions that information technology increases operational effectiveness. But a growing body of research shows how cyber operations tend to fall short of their promise. The reason for this shortfall is their subversive mechanism of action. In theory, subversion provides a way to exert influence at lower risks than force because it is secret and indirect, exploiting systems to use them against adversaries. The mismatch between promise and practice is the consequence of the subversive trilemma of cyber operations, whereby speed, intensity, and control are negatively correlated. These constraints pose a trilemma for actors because a gain in one variable tends to produce losses across the other two variables. A case study of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict provides empirical support for the argument. Qualitative analysis leverages original data from field interviews, leaked documents, forensic evidence, and local media. Findings show that the subversive trilemma limited the strategic utility of all five major disruptive cyber operations in this conflict...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-05-31 10:12:43

Security and Human Behavior (SHB) 2022

Today is the second day of the fifteenth Workshop on Security and Human Behavior, hosted by Ross Anderson and Alice Hutchings at the University of Cambridge. After two years of having this conference remotely on Zoom, it’s nice to be back together in person.

SHB is a small, annual, invitational workshop of people studying various aspects of the human side of security, organized each year by Alessandro Acquisti, Ross Anderson, Alice Hutchings, and myself. The forty or so attendees include psychologists, economists, computer security researchers, sociologists, political scientists, criminologists, neuroscientists, designers, lawyers, philosophers, anthropologists, geographers, business school professors, and a smattering of others. It’s not just an interdisciplinary event; most of the people here are individually interdisciplinary...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-05-26 12:55:29

Malware-Infested Smart Card Reader

Brian Krebs has an interesting story of a smart ID card reader with a malware-infested Windows driver, and US government employees who inadvertently buy and use them.

But by all accounts, the potential attack surface here is enormous, as many federal employees clearly will purchase these readers from a myriad of online vendors when the need arises. Saicoo’s product listings, for example, are replete with comments from customers who self-state that they work at a federal agency (and several who reported problems installing drivers).

From Schneier on Security at 2022-05-25 16:30:25

Manipulating Machine-Learning Systems through the Order of the Training Data

Yet another adversarial ML attack:

Most deep neural networks are trained by stochastic gradient descent. Now “stochastic” is a fancy Greek word for “random”; it means that the training data are fed into the model in random order.

So what happens if the bad guys can cause the order to be not random? You guessed it—all bets are off. Suppose for example a company or a country wanted to have a credit-scoring system that’s secretly sexist, but still be able to pretend that its training was actually fair. Well, they could assemble a set of financial data that was representative of the whole population, but start the model’s training on ten rich men and ten poor women drawn from that set ­ then let initialisation bias do the rest of the work...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-05-24 12:11:23

The Justice Department Will No Longer Charge Security Researchers with Criminal Hacking

Following a recent Supreme Court ruling, the Justice Department will no longer prosecute “good faith” security researchers with cybercrimes:

The policy for the first time directs that good-faith security research should not be charged. Good faith security research means accessing a computer solely for purposes of good-faith testing, investigation, and/or correction of a security flaw or vulnerability, where such activity is carried out in a manner designed to avoid any harm to individuals or the public, and where the information derived from the activity is used primarily to promote the security or safety of the class of devices, machines, or online services to which the accessed computer belongs, or those who use such devices, machines, or online services...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-05-23 12:09:25

Forging Australian Driver’s Licenses

The New South Wales digital driver’s license has multiple implementation flaws that allow for easy forgeries.

This file is encrypted using AES-256-CBC encryption combined with Base64 encoding.

A 4-digit application PIN (which gets set during the initial onboarding when a user first instals the application) is the encryption password used to protect or encrypt the licence data.

The problem here is that an attacker who has access to the encrypted licence data (whether that be through accessing a phone backup, direct access to the device or remote compromise) could easily brute-force this 4-digit PIN by using a script that would try all 10,000 combinations…...

From Schneier on Security at 2022-05-20 22:07:10

Friday Squid Blogging: Squid Street Art

Pretty.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

From Schneier on Security at 2022-05-20 20:05:40

The Onion on Google Map Surveillance

Google Maps Adds Shortcuts through Houses of People Google Knows Aren’t Home Right Now.”

Excellent satire.