The RISKS Digest
Volume 27 Issue 83

Friday, 11th April 2014

Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems

ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy, Peter G. Neumann, moderator

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For once. a good-news story about social media
Mark Brader
Problems with Big Data
Gary Marcus and Ernest Davis
Clapper Acknowledges Backdoor Searches
Ellen Nakashima
"Beware: The cloud's Ponzi schemes are here"
David Linthicum via Gene Wirchenko
OpenSSL Heartbleed vulnerability
Alex Hern
TA14-098A: OpenSSL 'Heartbleed' vulnerability
Experts Find a Door Ajar in an Internet Security Method
Nicole Perlroth
"The Heartbleed OpenSSL flaw is worse than you think"
Roger A. Grimes via Gene Wirchenko
NSA monitors Wi-Fi on US planes 'in violation' of privacy laws
RT USA via Dewayne Hendricks
Yahoo breaks every mailing list in the world including the IETF's
John Levine via NNSquad
Technology's Man Problem
Claire Cain Miller via Lauren Weinstein
Details of how Turkey is intercepting Google Public DNS
Bortzmeyer via NNSquad
Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

For once. a good-news story about social media

Mark Brader
Sat, 5 Apr 2014 02:33:28 -0400 (EDT)
Someone looking at 3-year-old Rylee Taylor's photo on Facebook noticed a
difference in the way her eyes looked, and suggested an ophthalmic exam.
The girl turned out to have something called Coats' disease, and it may have
been detected in time to save her vision in the bad eye.  Story at:

Problems with Big Data (Gary Marcus and Ernest Davis)

"Peter G. Neumann" <>
Mon, 7 Apr 2014 18:09:56 PDT
Gary Marcus and Ernest Davis
Eight (No, Nine!) Problems with Big Data
*The New York Times*, Op-Ed, 7 April 2014

RISKS readers by now should be well aware that Big Data can create Big
Risks, Little Risks, and lots more.  This rather incisive op-ed piece
itemizes and discusses each of the following, which I have excerpted:

1. Although big data is good at detecting correlations,
   it is never tells us which correlations are meaningful

2. Big data can work well as an adjunct to scientific inquiry,
   but rarely succeeds as a wholesale replacement.

3. Many tools that are based on big data can be easily gamed.

4. Even when not intentionally gamed, they may be less robust
   than initially seemed.

5. The echo-chamber effect: When the source is itself a product of
   big data, vicious cycles can abound.

6. The risk of too many correlations, some of which are bogus.

7. Big data is prone to giving scientifically sounding solutions
   to hopelessly imprecise questions.

8. Big data is at its best when analyzing things that are extremely
   common, but often falls short when analyzing the less common.

   [PGN: and the authors add, sort of as an afterthought item 9]

9. Wait, we almost forgot the *hype*!!!

“Big data is here to stay, as it should be.  But let's be realistic:
It's an important resource for anyone analyzing data, not a silver bullet.

  [RISKS readers are likely to also recognize the pervasive hype associated
  with the wonders of big data and the great economies of storage in the
  clouds, especially that which is promulgated by vendors who cannot even
  spell the words *security*, *integrity*, *prevention of denials of
  service* and *prevention of insider misuse*, much less know what they
  might entail.  PGN]

Clapper Acknowledges Backdoor Searches (Ellen Nakashima)

David Farber <>
Wed, 2 Apr 2014 03:30:06 -0400
Ellen Nakashima, *The Washington Post*, 1 Apr 2014
NSA searched Americans' communications without a warrant, intelligence
director says

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. acknowledged that
the National Security Agency has searched for Americans' communications
without warrants in massive databases that gather e-mails and phone
calls of foreign targets.

Although recently declassified documents made clear that the NSA had
conducted such searches, no senior intelligence official had previously
acknowledged the practice.  [...]

"Beware: The cloud's Ponzi schemes are here" (David Linthicum)

Gene Wirchenko <>
Fri, 04 Apr 2014 09:47:48 -0700
David Linthicum | InfoWorld, 04 Apr 2014
The SEC shuts down a cloud computing scam—and more could be on the way

OpenSSL Heartbleed vulnerability (Alex Hern, *The Guardian*)

"Peter G. Neumann" <>
Thu, 10 Apr 2014 12:11:04 PDT
Alex Hern, *The Guardian*, 9 Apr 2014

Internet security researchers say people should not rush to change their
passwords after the discovery of a widespread "catastrophic" software flaw
that could expose website user details to hackers.

The flaw, dubbed "Heartbleed", could reveal anything which is currently
being processed by a web server—including usernames, passwords and
cryptographic keys being used inside the site. Those at risk include
Deutsche Bank, Yahoo and its subsidiary sites Flickr and Tumblr,
photo-sharing site Imgur, and the FBI.

About half a million sites worldwide are reckoned to be insecure.
"Catastrophic is the right word," commented Bruce Schneier, an independent
security expert. "On the scale of 1 to 10, this is an 11."

But suggestions by Yahoo and the BBC that people should change their
passwords at once—the typical reaction to a security breach—could make
the problem worse if the web server hasn't been updated to fix the flaw,
says Mark Schloesser, a security researcher with Rapid7, based in Atlanta,

Doing so "could even increase the chance of somebody getting the new
password through the vulnerability," Schloesser said, because logging in to
an insecure server to change a password could reveal both the old and new
passwords to an attacker.

The bug exists in a piece of open source software called OpenSSL, which is
meant to encrypt communications between a user's computer and a web server.
But security researchers have no way to prove whether or not the flaw,
which has existed since at least March 2012, has been exploited.

The bug's age, and its presence in software to which anyone can submit an
update, has led to speculation that it could have been inserted and then
exploited by government spy agencies such as the US's National Security
Agency, which is known to have programs aiming to collect user data. "My
guess is accident, but I have no proof," Schneier commented.

Tumblr, which is affected, issued a warning to its users on Tuesday night.
Although the firm said it had "no evidence of any breach", and has now
fixed the issue on its servers, it recommends users take action.

“This might be a good day to call in sick and take some time to change your
passwords everywhere—especially your high-security services like email,
file storage, and banking, which may have been compromised by this bug,'' it
says. The advice to change passwords was repeated elsewhere, by groups
including the BBC.

But Rapid7's Schoessler cautioned against doing that. "The estimate is that
the larger providers all get patched within the next 24-48 hours [Thursday
to Friday afternoon] and I would agree that people should change their
credentials when a provider has updated their OpenSSL versions."

Users can check whether a specific site remains vulnerable to Heartbleed
with a tool put together by developer Filippo Valsorda.

The Heartbleed vulnerability is only found in a few recent releases of
OpenSSL, a software library that lets web servers initiate secure

In affected versions, it lets attackers potentially read content out from
the active memory of a web server.

While some servers have fixed the OpenSSL flaw, the cascading nature of the
problem means that they may not be fully safe. The flaw lets a determined
attacker steal the private key to a site's SSL certificate, the code that
enables all communications with the server to be held securely.

Sites which have updated OpenSSL but are still using the same certificate as
before—such as Deutsche Bank's main consumer portal in Germany—may
show up as secure on initial inspection, but remain easy for attackers to

"Risk to users exist until organisations have updated OpenSSL, acquired a
new certificate, generated and deployed new SSL keys, and revoked old keys
and certs," says Trey Ford, global security strategist at Rapid7. "Until
this is done, attacks may still be able to steal cookies, sessions,
passwords, and the key material required to masquerade as the website."

Yahoo was one of the sites worst affected by Heartbleed, but the firm has
now fixed its main properties, including subsidiaries Flickr and Tumblr,
and says it is "working to implement the fix across the rest of our sites".

"We're focused on providing the most secure experience possible for our
users worldwide and are continuously working to protect our users' data," a
Yahoo spokesperson added.

  [According to Alex Hern in today's *Guardian* article , the programmer
  responsible for the flaw was Robin Segglemann, at one minute before
  midnight (the time zone is unspecified) on New Year's Eve, the last minute
  of 2011.  PGN]

  [And even later today, Segglemann denies he did it deliberately (e.g., at
  someone else's behest?).  PGN]

  [As noted by the CERT notice that follows, the only systems affected were
  those using OpenSSL 1.0.1 through 1.0.1f or OpenSSL 1.0.2-beta.  Yahoo!
  used 1.0.1.  For a graphic example, see

TA14-098A: OpenSSL 'Heartbleed' vulnerability (CVE-2014-0160)

"US-CERT" <>
Tue, 08 Apr 2014 15:10:05 -0500

National Cyber Awareness System:

TA14-098A: OpenSSL 'Heartbleed' vulnerability (CVE-2014-0160) ] 04/08/2014

Systems Affected

  * OpenSSL 1.0.1 through 1.0.1f
  * OpenSSL 1.0.2-beta


A vulnerability in OpenSSL could allow a remote attacker to expose sensitive
data, possibly including user authentication credentials and secret keys,
through incorrect memory handling in the TLS heartbeat extension.


OpenSSL versions 1.0.1 through 1.0.1f contain a flaw in its implementation
of the TLS/DTLS heartbeat functionality. This flaw allows an attacker to
retrieve private memory of an application that uses the vulnerable OpenSSL
library in chunks of 64k at a time. Note that an attacker can repeatedly
leverage the vulnerability to retrieve as many 64k chunks of memory as are
necessary to retrieve the intended secrets. The sensitive information that
may be retrieved using this vulnerability include:

  * Primary key material (secret keys)
  * Secondary key material (user names and passwords used by vulnerable
  * Protected content (sensitive data used by vulnerable services)
  * Collateral (memory addresses and content that can be leveraged to bypass
    exploit mitigations)

Exploit code is publicly available for this vulnerability.  Additional
details may be found in CERT/CC Vulnerability Note VU720951
[ ].


This flaw allows a remote attacker to retrieve private memory of an
application that uses the vulnerable OpenSSL library in chunks of 64k at a


OpenSSL 1.0.1g [ ] has been
released to address this vulnerability.  Any keys generated with a
vulnerable version of OpenSSL should be considered compromised and
regenerated and deployed after the patch has been applied.

US-CERT recommends system administrators consider implementing Perfect
Forward Secrecy [ ] to
mitigate the damage that may be caused by future private key disclosures .


  * OpenSSL Security Advisory [ ]
  * The Heartbleed Bug [ ]
  * CERT/CC Vulnerability Note VU720951 [ ]
  * Perfect Forward Secrecy [ ]
  * RFC2409 Section 8 Perfect Forward Secrecy [ ]

Experts Find a Door Ajar in an Internet Security Method (Nicole Perlroth)

"Peter G. Neumann" <>
Wed, 9 Apr 2014 15:01:01 PDT
Flaw Found in Key Method for Protecting Data on the Internet

Flaw Found in Key Method for Protecting Data on the Internet

On Monday, several security researchers, including from Google, uncovered a
major vulnerability called Heartbleed in the technology that powers
encryption across the Internet.

Screenshot via

On Monday, several security researchers, including from Google, uncovered a
major vulnerability called Heartbleed in the technology that powers
encryption across the Internet.

The tiny padlock icon that sits next to many web addresses, suggesting
protection of users' most sensitive information—like passwords, stored
files, bank details, even Social Security numbers—is broken.

A flaw has been discovered in one of the Internet's key encryption
methods, potentially forcing a wide swath of websites to swap out the
virtual keys that generate private connections between the sites and their

On Tuesday afternoon, many organizations were heeding the warning.
Companies like Lastpass, the password manager, and Tumblr, the social
network owned by Yahoo, said they had issued fixes and warned users to
immediately swap out their usernames and passwords.

The vulnerability involves a serious bug in OpenSSL, the technology that
powers encryption for two-thirds of web servers. It was revealed Monday by a
team of Finnish security researchers who work for Codenomicon, a security
company in Saratoga, Calif., and two security engineers at Google.

Researchers are calling the bug Heartbleed because it affects the heartbeat
portion of the OpenSSL protocol, which pings messages back and forth. It can
and has been exploited by attackers.

The bug allows attackers to access the memory on any web server running
OpenSSL and take information like customer usernames and passwords,
sensitive banking details, trade secrets and the private encryption keys
that organizations use to communicate privately with their customers.

What makes the Heartbleed bug particularly severe is that it can be used by
an attacker without leaving any digital crumbs behind.

“It's a serious bug in that it doesn't leave any trace,'' said David
Chartier, the chief executive at Codenomicon. “Bad guys can access the
memory on a machine and take encryption keys, usernames, passwords, valuable
intellectual property, and there's no trace they've been there.''

Three security researchers at Codenomicon's offices in Oulu, Finland,
first discovered the bug last Thursday. The researchers, Antti Karjalainen,
Riku Hietamäki and Matti Kamunen, immediately alerted the Finnish
authority that is charged with responsibly disclosing security bugs. As it
turned out, a security researcher at Google, Neel Mehta, had also discovered
the bug and the Google security team had been working on a fix.

On Monday, the open-source team that oversees OpenSSL issued a warning to
people and organizations about the bug, and encouraged anyone using the
OpenSSL library to upgrade to the latest version, which fixes the problem.

Security researchers say it is impossible to know for sure whether an
attacker used the bug to steal a victim's information, but they found
evidence that suggests attackers were aware of the bug and had been
exploiting it. Researchers monitoring various honeypots—stashes of fake
data on the web aimed at luring hackers so researchers can learn more about
their tools and techniques—found evidence that attackers had used the
Heartbleed bug to access the fake data.

But actual victims are out of luck. “Unless an attacker blackmails you, or
publishes your information online, or steals a trade secret and uses it, you
won't know if you've been compromised,'' Mr. Chartier said.  “That' what
makes it so vicious.''

Security researchers are warning organizations to get new private encryption
keys as quickly as possible, and warning people to start changing their
usernames and passwords immediately, particularly for sensitive accounts
like their online banking, email, file storage and e-commerce accounts.

"The Heartbleed OpenSSL flaw is worse than you think" (Roger A. Grimes)

Gene Wirchenko <>
Thu, 10 Apr 2014 11:18:32 -0700
Roger A. Grimes | InfoWorld, 10 Apr 2014
On a scale of 1 to 10, this vulnerability is an 11. Here are the
steps to take to thoroughly protect yourself from this OpenSSL bug

  [Thus, we are giving multiple reports on this fiasco.  PGN]

NSA monitors Wi-Fi on US planes 'in violation' of privacy laws

*Dewayne Hendricks* <>
Thursday, April 10, 2014
  [RT USA, via Dave Farber]

NSA monitors Wi-Fi on US planes 'in violation' of privacy laws, 10 Apr 2014

Companies that provide WiFi on US domestic flights are handing over their
data to the NSA, adapting their technology to allow security services new
powers to spy on passengers. In doing so, they may be in violation of
privacy laws.

In a letter leaked to Wired, Gogo, the leading provider of inflight WiFi in
the US, admitted to violating the requirements of the Communications
Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA). The act is part of a wiretapping
law passed in 1994 that requires telecoms carriers to provide law
enforcement with a backdoor in their systems to monitor telephone and
broadband communications.

Gogo states in the letter to the Federal Communications Commission that it
added new capabilities to its service that go beyond CALEA, at the behest of
law enforcement agencies.

“In designing its existing network, Gogo worked closely with law
enforcement to incorporate functionalities and protections that would serve
public safety and national security interests,'' Gogo attorney Karis
Hastings wrote in the leaked letter, which dates from 2012. He did not
elaborate as to the nature of the changes, but said Gogo “worked with
federal agencies to reach agreement regarding a set of additional
capabilities to accommodate law enforcement interests.''

Gogo, which provides WiFi services to the biggest US airlines, are not the
only ones to adapt their services to enable spying. Panasonic Avionics also
added `additional functionality' to their services as per an agreement with
US law enforcement, according to a report published in December.

The deals with security services have civil liberties organizations up in
arms. They have condemned the WiFi providers' deals with authorities as

"Having ISPs [now] that say that CALEA isn't enough, we're going to be even
more intrusive in what we collect on people is, honestly, scandalous," Peter
Eckersley, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Wired.

The powers of the National Security Agency and other US law enforcement
agencies have come under harsh criticism since the data leaks from
whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the extent to which they monitor
citizens' communications. In particular, critics have taken issue with the
NSA's mass, indiscriminate gathering of metadata which has been described
as"almost Orwellian in nature" and a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Judge Richard Leon of the US District Court for the District of Columbia has
filed a lawsuit against the US agency and is pushing to have the case heard
in the US Supreme Court. Last week the Supreme Court said that Leon would
have to wait for a ruling from the lower court before his case could be
heard. [...]

Yahoo breaks every mailing list in the world including the IETF's

Lauren Weinstein <>
Mon, 7 Apr 2014 15:35:50 -0700  (IETF / John Levine via NNSquad)

  "The problem for mailing lists isn't limited to the Yahoo subscribers.
  Since Yahoo mail provokes bounces from lots of other mail systems,
  innocent subscribers at Gmail, Hotmail, etc. not only won't get Yahoo
  subscribers' messages, but all those bounces are likely to bounce them off
  the lists.  A few years back we had a similar problem due to an overstrict
  implementation of DKIM ADSP, but in this case, DMARC is doing what Yahoo
  is telling it to do."

Technology's Man Problem (Claire Cain Miller)

Lauren Weinstein <>
Sat, 5 Apr 2014 18:48:04 -0700
Claire Cain Miller in *The New York Times*, 5 Apr 2014

  "Today, even as so many barriers have fallen - whether at elite
  universities, where women outnumber men, or in running for the presidency,
  where polls show that fewer people think gender makes a difference -
  computer engineering, the most innovative sector of the economy, remains
  behind. Many women who want to be engineers encounter a field where they
  not only are significantly underrepresented but also feel pushed away.
  Tech executives often fault schools, parents or society in general for
  failing to encourage girls to pursue computer science. But something else
  is at play in the industry: Among the women who join the field, 52 percent
  leave by midcareer, a startling attrition rate that is double that for
  men, according to research from the Harvard Business School.  A culprit,
  many people in the field say, is a sexist, alpha-male culture that can
  make women and other people who don't fit the mold feel unwelcome,
  demeaned or even endangered."

Details of how Turkey is intercepting Google Public DNS

Lauren Weinstein <>
Sun, 30 Mar 2014 09:45:00 -0700  (Bortzmeyer via NNSquad)

 "If you try another well-known DNS resolver, such as OpenDNS, you'll get
 the same problem: a liar responds instead.  So, someone replies,
 masquerading as the real Google Public DNS resolver. Is it done by a
 network equipment on the path, as it is common in China where you get DNS
 responses even from IP addresses where no name server runs? It seems
 instead it was a trick with routing: the IAP announced a route to the IP
 addresses of Google, redirecting the users to an IAP's own impersonation of
 Google Public DNS, a lying DNS resolver. Many IAP already hijack Google
 Public DNS in such a way, typically for business reasons (gathering data
 about the users, spying on them). You can see the routing hijack on erdems'
 Twitter feed, using Turkish Telecom looking glass: the routes are no normal
 BGP routes, with a list of AS numbers, they are injected locally, via the
 IGP (so, you won't see it in remote BGP looking glasses, unless someone in
 Turkey does the same mistake that Pakistan Telecom did with YouTube in
 2008). Test yourself: ... Of course, DNSSEC would solve the problem, if and
 only if validation were done on the user's local machine, something that
 most users don't do today."

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