The Risks Digest

The RISKS Digest

Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems

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

Volume 28 Issue 73

Friday 26 June 2015


PITA: How Encryption Keys Could Be Stolen by Your Lunch
Jeremy Kirk
"Critical flaw in ESET products shows why spy groups are interested in antivirus programs"
Lucian Constantin
"Samsung sneakily disables Windows Update on some PCs"
Jared Newman
Major Internet providers slowing traffic speeds for thousands across U.S.
The Guardian
High-5s for OPM from govts lusting for control of the Internet
Henry Baker
"Help, I'm Trapped in Facebook's Absurd Pseudonym Purgatory"
Michael Bacon
Bootleggers & Baptists; Spooks & Copyrights wrt anti-virus
Henry Baker
Allstate patents spying on driver's physio data
Henry Baker
Re: Weinstein on "L.A. plans potentially disastrous switch to 'electronic' voting"
John Sebes
Re: The Titanic and the Ark
Gary Hinson
Re: OPM Hack: L0pht Testifies 17 Years Ago
Henry Baker
Cyber Security Hall of Fame (
Gene Spafford
Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

PITA: How Encryption Keys Could Be Stolen by Your Lunch (Jeremy Kirk)

"ACM TechNews" <>
Mon, 22 Jun 2015 12:09:49 -0400 (EDT)
Jeremy Kirk, IDG News Service, via ACM TechNews, 22 Jun 2015

Israeli researchers from Tel Aviv University have developed a device that
can be concealed within pita bread and has the ability to deduce encryption
keys by sniffing the electromagnetic leakage from a computer.  The device is
an example of a side-channel attack, which relies on the tiny bits of
information that leak from computers as they perform computations.  The
device, dubbed PITA (Portable Instrument for Trace Acquisition) by the
researchers, was designed to target a laptop encrypted using the GnuPG 1.x
encryption tool.  The device consists of a copper unshielded loop antenna
and a capacitor designed to pick up the frequencies at which encryption key
information leaks.  PITA sends out multiple ciphertexts to the targeted
computer and then monitors the computer's electromagnetic emissions as it
decrypts the ciphertexts.  The signals are collected on an internal microSD
card for offline analysis, which can deduce the key from the data in a
matter of seconds.  Such side-channel attacks can be very difficult to
defend against and hardware solutions are unlikely to appear due to their
cost.  A more likely method of defending against them would be modifying
software so the information leaked when it runs will be of no use to an

Critical flaw in ESET products (Lucian Constantin)

Werner U <>
Thu, 25 Jun 2015 00:45:11 +0200
[ take a deep breath, RISKS readers... and don't forget to say "Me?
Surprised?!!? hah!" ]

Lucian Constantin. InfoWorld, 25 Jun 2015
Critical flaw in ESET products shows why spy groups are interested in
antivirus programs
IDG News Service <> | Jun 24, 2015

*The flaw could allow attackers to fully compromise systems via websites,
email, USB drives, and other methods*

Several antivirus products from security firm ESET had a critical
vulnerability that was easy to exploit and could lead to a full system
compromise.  The discovery of the flaw, which has now been patched, comes on
the heels of a report that intelligence agencies from the U.K. and the
U.S. are reverse engineering antivirus products in search for
vulnerabilities and methods to bypass detection.....

The vulnerability in ESET products was discovered by Google security
engineer Tavis Ormandy and was located in their emulator, the antivirus
component responsible for unpacking and executing potentially malicious code
inside a safe environment so that it can be scanned.  The ESET products
monitor disk input and output operations and when executable code is
detected they run it through the emulator to apply the detection
signatures.."Because it's so easy for attackers to trigger emulation of
untrusted code, it's critically important that the emulator is robust and
isolated," Ormandy said in a blog post

... The vulnerability found by the Google researcher allows a remote
attacker to execute arbitrary commands with the highest system privilege.
The flaw is particularly dangerous because it can be exploited in many
ways,... Because it's so easy to exploit, the flaw can be used to create a
computer worm that spreads from one computer to another, including on
"air-gapped" networks though USB thumb drives,..

The vulnerability affects ESET Smart Security for Windows, ESET NOD32
Antivirus for Windows, ESET Cyber Security Pro for OS X, ESET NOD32 For
Linux Desktop, ESET Endpoint Security for Windows and OS X and ESET NOD32
Business Edition.  The company released a scanning engine update
<> Monday to fix the flaw, so
users should make sure they update their products. The vulnerability was
located in the emulation routine used by a particular scanner for a specific
malware family and didn't affect the core emulation engine, ESET
said. ... As a result of code-rewriting efforts to improve product quality,
the company had already corrected the flaw, and it didn't exist in ESET's
"pre-release" engine, which is available to all customers, the company said.

This is not the first time that security researchers have found serious
vulnerabilities in antivirus products. In 2012, Ormandy found critical
vulnerabilities in Sophos Antivirus
and last year he found a flaw that could be exploited to remotely disable
the protection engine
used in many Microsoft antimalware products.  Also last year, Joxean Koret,
a researcher at Coseinc, found dozens of remotely and locally exploitable
vulnerabilities in 14 antivirus engines.

Unlike some other software applications, antivirus programs have a very
large attack surface because they need to inspect many types of files and
code written in different languages from various sources, including the Web
and email; and file parsing has historically been a source of many
vulnerabilities.  For the past several years there's been a push to limit
the privileges of widely used software applications. Some programs like
Google Chrome or Adobe Reader use sandboxing mechanisms, making it
significantly harder for attackers to exploit remote code execution
vulnerabilities.  However, antivirus products need to run with high
privileges so they can effectively fight off threats, so it's very important
that their code is this allow attackers to gain full control of a
system by exploiting a single vulnerability, without having to worry about
bypassing sandboxes or escalating privileges (according to Carsten Eiram,
the chief research officer at vulnerability intelligence firm Risk Based
Security); 2.5% of the flaws recorded by Risk Based Security in its
vulnerability database last year were for security products, including
antivirus programs. The historical rate is 2.2% (of 10,000+).

The Intercept reported
Monday that in 2008 GCHQ filed requests to renew a warrant that would have
allowed the agency to reverse engineer antivirus products from Kaspersky Lab
to find weaknesses. The NSA also studied antivirus products to bypass their
detection (according to Edward Snowden).

Earlier this month, Kaspersky Lab announced that some of its internal
systems were infected with a new version of a sophisticated cyberespionage
tool called Duqu. The attackers, who the company strongly believes were
state-sponsored, were after Kaspersky's intellectual property, including
information on its latest technologies and ongoing investigations.

"It's neither new nor surprising that intelligence agencies are reverse
engineering security products to find vulnerabilities, as well as ways to
bypass their intended protection mechanisms," Eiram said. "It is, however,
pretty concerning that they are also compromising security companies in
order to steal intellectual property."

"Samsung sneakily disables Windows Update on some PCs" (Jared Newman)

Gene Wirchenko <>
Fri, 26 Jun 2015 09:00:06 -0700
Jared Newman, PCWorld, 25 Jun 2015
The switch supposedly helps maintain driver compatibility, but raises
security concerns in the process

opening text:
Samsung has allegedly been disabling Windows Update on some computers, so as
not to interfere with its own update tool.

Study: Major Internet providers slowing traffic speeds for thousands across U.S.

Lauren Weinstein <>
Tue, 23 Jun 2015 17:38:57 -0700

  Major Internet providers, including AT&T, Time Warner and Verizon, are
  slowing data from popular websites to thousands of US businesses and
  residential customers in dozens of cities across the country, according to
  a study released on Monday. The study, conducted by Internet activists
  BattlefortheNet, looked at the results from 300,000 Internet users and
  found significant degradations on the networks of the five largest
  Internet service providers (ISPs), representing 75% of all wireline
  households across the US.

High-5s for OPM from govts lusting for control of the Internet

Henry Baker <>
Thu, 25 Jun 2015 21:53:26 -0700
FYI—"the OPM breach would cause more damage to national security
operations and personnel than the leaks by Edward Snowden"

Those at the US NSA, UK GCHQ, Chinese govt, Russian govt, etc., are totally
thrilled by this OPM hack, because incidents like these provide the
political fuel for far greater govt control over the Internet.  Intelligence
agencies all over the world, from any and all sides, gain power when govts
move in to better "protect" their citizens from spies very like themselves.

The fact that the U.S. govt is criminally negligent w.r.t. not protecting
its employees own private data will be completely lost in all of the
hand-wringing.  The press has not been holding politicians' feet to the fire
on this issue, either.

Hackers Stole Secrets of U.S. Government Workers' Sex Lives. 24 Jun 2015

Infidelity.  Sexual fetishes.  Drug abuse.  Crushing debt.  They;re the most
intimate secrets of U.S. government workers.  And now they;re in the hands
of foreign hackers.

It was already being described as the worst hack of the U.S. government in
history.  And it just got much worse.

A senior U.S. official has confirmed that foreign hackers compromised the
intimate personal details of an untold number of government workers.  Likely
included in the hackers' haul: information about workers' sexual partners,
drug and alcohol abuse, debts, gambling compulsions, marital troubles, and
any criminal activity.

"Help, I'm Trapped in Facebook's Absurd Pseudonym Purgatory" (R 28.72)

Michael Bacon <>
Tue, 23 Jun 2015 05:22:40 +0100
Facebook has clearly forgotten that: "On the Internet, no-one knows you're a
dog"!—says the man whose FB Profile picture is a dog, and who uses a
pseudonym, albeit, with my given and family names below.

Bootleggers & Baptists; Spooks & Copyrights wrt anti-virus

Henry Baker <>
Mon, 22 Jun 2015 20:55:03 -0700
FYI—“If you write an exploit for an anti-virus product you're likely
going to get the highest privileges (root, system or even kernel) with just
one shot.''


Who watches the watchers ?  (In this case virus-watchers...)

"Software makers, fearing piracy, hacking and intellectual property theft,
often forbid the practice in licensing agreements and sometimes protect the
most sensitive inner workings of their software with encryption.
Governments have passed laws, with digital media in mind, that strictly
circumscribe tampering with this encryption.  Software companies have also
sued to block reverse engineering as copyright infringement..."

Strange bedfellows: intelligence agencies team with "copyright maximalists"
(DMCA, etc.), while reverse engineering like crazy.  So much for "protecting
the intellectual property of ordinary citizens".  Mr. Comey doth protest too
much, methinks.

Andrew Fishman and Morgan Marquis-Boire, FirstLook, 22 Jun 2015
Popular Security Software Came Under Relentless NSA and GCHQ Attacks

The National Security Agency and its British counterpart, Government
Communications Headquarters, have worked to subvert anti-virus and other
security software in order to track users and infiltrate networks, according
to documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The spy agencies have reverse engineered software products, sometimes under
questionable legal authority, and monitored web and email traffic in order
to discreetly thwart anti-virus software and obtain intelligence from
companies about security software and users of such software.  One security
software maker repeatedly singled out in the documents is Moscow-based
Kaspersky Lab, which has a holding registered in the U.K., claims more than
270,000 corporate clients, and says it protects more than 400 million people
with its products.

British spies aimed to thwart Kaspersky software in part through a technique
known as software reverse engineering, or SRE, according to a top-secret
warrant renewal request.  The NSA has also studied Kaspersky Lab's software
for weaknesses, obtaining sensitive customer information by monitoring
communications between the software and Kaspersky servers, according to a
draft top-secret report.  The U.S. spy agency also appears to have examined
emails inbound to security software companies flagging new viruses and

The efforts to compromise security software were of particular importance
because such software is relied upon to defend against an array of digital
threats and is typically more trusted by the operating system than other
applications, running with elevated privileges that allow more vectors for
surveillance and attack.  Spy agencies seem to be engaged in a digital game
of cat and mouse with anti-virus software companies; the U.S. and U.K. have
aggressively probed for weaknesses in software deployed by the companies,
which have themselves exposed sophisticated state-sponsored malware.

  [Long item truncated for RISKS.  PGN]

Allstate patents spying on driver's physio data

Henry Baker <>
Mon, 22 Jun 2015 16:20:09 -0700
FYI—"George Orwell wrote this, right?", says Bob Hunter, insurance
director for Consumer Federation of America.

"The invention also teaches the monitoring and recording of data from
onboard cameras and proximity sensors, as well as driver physiological
monitoring systems.  Also included within the invention is predictive
modeling of future behavior as a function of recorded data an individual
driver compared with other drivers within a database."

"This analysis can allow assessment and comparison of a variety of life
style/health factors"

We're going to need "driving gloves" and/or a "driving wheel condom" before
driving such Allstate-equipped cars.

I wonder if capturing your physio data will become a requirement for renting
a car?

Note that the exact same information may already be available to companies
like Fitbit, who can correlate physio data with cellphone data & report to
insurance companies like Allstate.

Insurer monitoring your heart rate?  Allstate's patent makes it possible
*Sun Sentinel*, 18 Jun 2015

A new patent secured by insurer Allstate reveals an invention that has the
potential to evaluate drivers' physiological data, including heart rate,
blood pressure and electrocardiogram signals, which could be recorded from
steering wheel sensors.

Becky Yerak , *The Chicago Tribune*

An insurance company monitoring your heart rate through the steering wheel?
Allstate's new patent opens door

Could your bank or potential employer someday use data from your car?

Attention tailgaters: Someday a bank or a potential employer considering
your loan or your job application might become privy to your tendencies for
aggressive driving.

  [Anthr lng itm trnctd. P.]

Re: Weinstein on "L.A. plans potentially disastrous switch to 'electronic' voting" (RISKS-28.71)

John Sebes <>
Tue, 23 Jun 2015 14:56:26 -0700
I respectfully disagree with Lauren's assessment of LA's Dean Logan's plans
for future voting systems.

First, let me agree on a couple points:
1) There are several privacy and integrity issues to be addressed, and
the devil is in the details.
2) Whether or not the software involved is open-source does not, by
itself, impart any amount of security, privacy, etc. for the system
built from that source code.
3) Internet voting is still crazy, and there is nothing, nothing at all
about Internet voting in the plans of the LA CC-RR for electronic voting.

Then, in the "however" part:
3) LA's plans, as described in this article, are about in-person voting
2) Open source would however help with independent assessment of whether
those devilish details have been handled well.
1) I myself prefer not to leap to judgment with "they never learn" but
instead closely follow the development. My personal experience with the
LA CC-RR organization is that they are well aware of these issues and
quite diligent.

Secondly, let me provide an explanation of why the QR-code idea is not
by itself anything to worry about from an Internet voting perspective.
Let's take this by steps from current practice (step 0).

0) Ballot-marking devices (BMDs) in polling places, that present a voter's
ballot in that precinct, visually, collecting voter choices, then presenting
all the choices for voter approval (or modification) and producing a paper
ballot of record that is: reviewed by the voter, opscanned, and later part
of a risk-limiting audit.

1) A similar BMD that operates in "vote center" mode capable of presenting
any ballot style in the county to a voter. Just as in a precinct polling
place there must be measures to ensure that each voter gets the proper
ballot style, there must be similar measures in vote centers.

2) A similar BMD where the "collect the voter's choices" step is a pre-load
of voter choices done by scanning a voter-presented paper item or screen
content item. The same steps of presenting all the choices for review, etc.,
is followed as in (0). Local election officials might even choose to make
the voter step through the ballot items sequentially with the pre-loaded
choices, rather than skip to the "present all choices for approval or
correction" step.

There's nothing inherently Internet-voting-risky about this progression.
That applies whether the paper item or screen content item is a QR code, bar
code, or mass of human readable text that's OCR'd in the "pre load" step.

There are, however, a separate set of issues about the process of a voter
producing that paper item or screen content item, as a result of interacting
with an "interactive sample ballot (ISB)" application that does a similar
ballot presentation as a BMD, but produces that paper item or screen content
item as a result. The ISB could be a native application like the Oregon
"Alternative Format Ballot" tool that doesn't require a network
connection. Or it could be a, ISB web application that's carefully
constructed to deal with personal privacy and ballot anonymity issues.

For a proposal of the latter system (which I contributed to) please see: and

That's intended to be in stark contrast to the existing online ballot
marking tools that have some significant problems that some RISKS readers
will be familiar with.

Final point: it is possible to do this right, and I personally am confident
that LA RR-CC will have the opportunity to do so.

John Sebes
CTO, OSET Foundation

Re: The Titanic and the Ark (Bacon, RISKS-28.72)

"Gary Hinson" <>
Thu, 25 Jun 2015 13:19:30 +1200
  "... very few employers seem interested in factoring [IT certifications]
  into their hiring process."

With respect, Michael, your argument doesn't hold water.  While I agree that
real-world experience often trumps theoretical study, to disregard anyone
out of hand merely because they possess a certificate (as you imply) is
crazy.  What about those of us who have both?  Do you not even accept that
someone making the effort to study and improve their knowledge,
understanding and competence is a good thing?  The certificate itself is
just a piece of paper, but it represents something worthwhile.  Given the
choice, I'd personally be more confident about taking on a candidate with
relevant certifications than one without - all else being equal.

Dr Gary Hinson PhD MBA CISSP
CEO of IsecT Ltd., New Zealand

Re: OPM Hack: L0pht Testifies 17 Years Ago

Henry Baker <>
Fri, 26 Jun 2015 06:03:06 -0700
FYI—The Cassandra Files, Part Whatever.

Watch this hour-long video from 1998 and weep (again).

Hackers Testifying at the United States Senate, May 19, 1998 (L0pht Heavy

L0pht Heavy Industries testifying before the United States Senate Committee
on Governmental Affairs, Live feed from CSPAN, May 19, 1998.  Starring Brian
Oblivion, Kingpin, Tan, Space Rogue, Weld Pond, Mudge, and Stefan von

This is the infamous testimony where Mudge stated we could take down the
Internet in 30 minutes.  Although that's all the media took from it, much
more was discussed.  See for yourself.

  [PGN testified in the same session, with similar conclusions!]

Cyber Security Hall of Fame

Gene Spafford <>
Thu, 25 Jun 2015 22:06:36 -0400
Do you know of someone who should be nominated for the Cyber Security
Hall of Fame?

You have until the end of the day July 5 to submit a nomination!>

Please spread the word.

Hall of Fame Inductees 2012
	F. Lynn McNulty
	Martin Hellman
	Ralph Merkle
	Whit Diffie
	Dorothy Denning
	Roger Schell
	Peter Neumann
	Carl Landwehr
	Ron Rivest
	Adi Shamir
	Len Adleman

Hall of Fame Inductees 2013
	David E. Bell
	Jim Bidzos
	Eugene Spafford
	James Anderson
	Willis H. Ware

Hall of Fame Inductees 2014
	Paul Kocher
	Vint Cerf
	Phil Zimmerman
	Steve Bellovin
	Richard A. Clarke

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