Using inexpensive off-the-shelf components (a Motorola RFID reader and antenna, and a PC) bought mostly on eBay and a self-developed Windows app, Chris Paget (``an information security expert'') built a mobile platform in his spare time that can clone large numbers of the unique RFID tag electronic identifiers used in U.S. passport cards and next generation drivers licenses. While driving around San Francisco for 20 minutes, he was able to harvest two passport tags without knowledge of their owners from up to 30 feet away. Demo and software at Shmoocon. (Paget says with some modifications, the range could be extended to more than a mile.) [Source: Dan Goodin, *The Register,* 4 Feb 2009; PGN-ed, noted by Ashish Gehani] http://www.securityfocus.com/news/11544 [URL fixed in archive. PGN] See RISKS-25.08 and 25.42 for other recent items on RFID cloning.
Fake parking tickets were placed on car windshields in several parking lots in Grand Forks, North Dakota. They showed a URL to check for further information, but the site required a download... and you can guess the rest. http://isc.sans.org/diary.html?storyid=5797 http://www.grandforksherald.com/articles/index.cfm?id=105232§ion=news Mark Brader, Toronto, email@example.com [I swiped the subject line pun from someone on the Internet.]
(from the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] website) Washington - The FAA today notified employees that an agency computer was illegally accessed and employee personal identity information was stolen electronically. All affected employees will receive individual letters to notify them about the breach. ... Two of the 48 files on the breached computer server contained personal information about more than 45,000 FAA employees and retirees who were on the FAA's rolls as of the first week of February 2006. The server that was accessed was not connected to the operation of the air traffic control system or any other FAA operational system, and the FAA has no indication those systems have been compromised in any way. http://www.faa.gov/news/press_releases/news_story.cfm?newsId=10394 [Also noted by Dres Zellweger. PGN]
"A child protection database containing the contact details for all under 18-year-olds in England will be accessible to 390,000 staff, say ministers." Opponents had already described the proposed project as "another expensive data disaster waiting to happen". Full story at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/7850871.stm http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowslive/events.aspx
My company provides me with a cell phone to use for business purposes. I only use it when traveling, so it sometimes goes 2 months at a time without being turned on. The bill arrives monthly and has various gibberish entries on it. For example, the entry "Mobile Messeng:31000#2109" has been there on my statement every month, starting with the very first bill, at a cost of $10 per month. I assumed that was AT+T's charge for enabling international text messaging. I didn't pick and choose the features that came with the phone... I got what the company chose for me. Comparing cell phone bills with a cubicle neighbor today it turned out that only SOME people have that on their bill. So I called AT+T to ask what that was. Turns out $10 is the charge for the "service" of receiving a "trivia alert" spam text message once a month. The AT+T customer-service agent told me that of course since I am receiving this extremely valuable service, it could only be because I requested it. When I turn on that phone at the start of a new trip I generally find I have half a dozen or so spam text messages to wade through. And, indeed, one of those was always a trivia question with an invitation to reply to find out the answer. As I worked through the spam erasing it, mildly annoyed at the hassle, I at least got to feel a slight twinge of smugness. Hah! Do you actually think I'm idiot enough to fall for wheezes such as a request to call a toll number in the Caribbean for an "important message"? Hah indeed: the joke's on me. Merely by cloaking their theft in computerese gibberish they got right past my defenses. And by the simple expedient of inserting the fictitious charge by computer, "so it must be right", they got right through AT+T's. A quick check on the internet revealed hundreds of similar stories. I wonder how many people at my company are victimized and still don't know it. I'd guess at a minimum several thousands. I turned the case over to corporate security for further investigation.
Not a computer-related risk as such, but an area many participants here will find of interest: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/02/02/0813202106 The paper "Strong profiling is not mathematically optimal for discovering rare malfeasors" looks at the question of how to best screen a population for "terrorists". Suppose you have a profile of likely terrorists, but that profile is just probabilistic, subject to both false positives and false negatives. Should you use the profile to select people to be screened? (Of course, there are all kinds of social and political questions here - this is just about the mathematical question.) You'd think the answer is "yes", and in fact it is - but there's a subtle problem. "Strong screening" - the obvious approach, where you select someone for detailed screening with a probability at least as high as your a priori estimate that they are actually a threat - means that you spend many of your resources repeatedly screening the same innocent people. In fact, the end result is shown to be no better than a simple random screening process. (This is in a memory-less situation, where you don't change your estimate as a result of the screen - essentially what TSA does today.) Interestingly, the optimal strategy in this situation can be calculated. It turns out that you want to choose people for detailed screening proportionally to the *square root* of your a priori estimate of how likely they are to be a threat. This result was apparently derived earlier in a much different setting (having to do with Monte Carlo methods for protein folding) but, according to the current author, is not widely known. There are certainly other settings - various computer security mechanisms; possibly testing and bug finding strategies - where this would apply.
INTEGO SECURITY ALERT - January 26, 2009 New Variant of Mac Trojan Horse iServices Found in Pirated Adobe Photoshop CS4 Exploit: OSX.Trojan.iServices.B Trojan Horse Discovered: January 25, 2009 Risk: Serious Description: Intego has discovered a new variant of the iServices Trojan horse that the company discovered on January 22, 2009. This new Trojan horse, OSX.Trojan.iServices.B, like the previous version, is found in pirated software distributed via BitTorrent trackers and other sites containing links to pirated software. OSX.Trojan.iServices.B Trojan horse is found bundled with copies of Adobe Photoshop CS4 for Mac. The actual Photoshop installer is clean, but the Trojan horse is found in a crack application that serializes the program. ... http://www.intego.com/news/ism0902.asp
> On the afternoon of Oct. 24, he was told he was being fired because > of a scripting error . . . Fired — for a scripting error? The FBI's affidavit in support of the criminal complaint adds little: 'MAKWANA erroneously created a computer script that changed the settings on the Unix servers without the proper authority of his supervisor ...' Where were controls? Other holes in the story abound. Fallout from the logic bomb may have obscured Risks in management.
"I haven't yet heard an apology from Fortran/C/C++/etc. creators over their inability to police array bounds" I think, rather, that it is Mr Baker who owes Ken Thompson and Denis Ritchie (the inventors of the C language) an apology. Complaining about the lack of array bounds checking to the inventors of C is like complaining to Henry Ford about not fitting ABS brakes to the Model T. Thompson and Ritchie developed C so that they could write the very early versions of the Unix system (circa 1970) in a language that was "higher-level" than assembler. In those days memory was at an absolute premium since it was very expensive. I Googled for some prices, and found that Bell Labs paid $65,000 for the PDP-11 on which Unix was developed, while an extra 4k bytes of core memory cost $4,000. Doesn't sound like a lot of money *now*, but when I graduated as an electrical engineer in 1972 my starting salary was a bit over Aus $4,000 a year, so a year's salary for 4k bytes of memory seems expensive to me ! At that time array bounds checking would have been one of the last things on the C developers' minds - just getting an operating system going that was small enough to leave room for useful programs to run was an amazing achievement. I do think that it's a pity that in the more than four decades since it's invention the C language standard hasn't been modified to mandate array bounds checking - after all what's a bit more software bloat on top of the gigantic software bloat we have now ? But NoBody *did* modify it, and now we are stuck with the consequences. If only we could track down that elusive Mr NoBody - he's got a lot to answer for !
The current set of replies to Tony Hoare: "Null References" remind me a little bit of Godel, a little bit of Flatland, and a little bit of Alice in Wonderland. You can't prove that a system is both correct and complete without going outside that system. In this instance, you have data, and then you have meta-data, where meta-data is reasoning about data. Any time you use data as meta-data within a system you introduce the risk of confusion between the two realms, but how can you ever use meta-data if not as data in another context? Similarly how can you relate meta-data in one context to data in another without having a back-reference (more meta-data) from that data in one context to a reasoning about that data (meta-data) in another? If you live in Godel's version of Flatland, as we appear to do, the correct and complete relationship between the data and meta-data contexts is mathematically/logically/physically impossible. And yet we can and do imagine this to be mathematically/logically/physically possible, and when we fail in our attempt, apologize for not living up to impossible ideals. One may as well apologize for being human and be done with it. "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things." "I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." - Alice in Wonderland.
(was Re: Earthquake Alert System Failed To Work Properly, Power, RISKS-25.54) > THERE IS NO WIKIPEDIA PAGE ON THIS TOPIC, as there is little if any > official research. I am alarmed by such a statement. It reminds me of an increasing trend by today's researchers to say that "if you can't find it in Google, it doesn't exist". Unless we make sure that this does not become the norm, complete sections of knowledge are likely to "disappear" because they are published in formats which have not been ported online. Rather than expanding knowledge, we are currently risking shrinking it. Olivier MJ Crépin-Leblond, PhD http://www.gih.com/ocl.html
Last night I literally awoke from a nightmare about my iPhone getting hacked, spewing spam and doing other nasty things. The nightmare was that I had no way to shut it off, and no way to disconnect it from the Internet. I've stopped many misbehaving computing devices from causing more damage by "pushing the big red button" or "pulling the plug" (power or network cables). This was a simple, direct, easy-to-do-when-panicked scheme to stop further damage. Examples include printers spewing paper, runaway tape drives, and hacked servers. I've had to unplug power *and* remove batteries from laptops, PDAs, and smart phones. Recently released devices like the Apple iPhone, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro, have these features in common: - Software-controlled power switches - Long-life batteries that can't be removed - Continuous wireless Internet access via WiFi or mobile phone networks I'm not picking on Apple, their devices are just high profile examples of a growing trend. These devices might have some magic combination of button pushes to turn the device off. I would not be able to recall these rarely used incantations during an emergency, and they might not work if the software is badly compromised or hung in tight loops. I don't normally carry around Faraday cages to cut off wireless Internet access, which would solve only one class of problems. I could smash them to smithereens, but that gets expensive. I love the convenience, long battery life, and ubiquitous Internet access of these devices. But we have a new risk from not having a positive, easy to find method of keeping these devices from doing more damage when all else fails.
I just came across a post telling of the Security and Human Behavior workshop (or conference). http://www.crypto.com/blog/shb08/ Other posts about it: http://www.lightbluetouchpaper.org/2008/06/30/security-psychology/ http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2008/06/security_and_hu.html As some of you may be aware, I've been researching this subject for about two years now, and I am very excited that a conference has now happened! It means I did not waste the last two years of my life after all! :) This is very exciting, and I am very thankful to these guys for making it happen. Here's a post I wrote about something similar, although syndicated from early on with an ancient post, in my exploration of the subject matter: http://gadievron.blogspot.com/2008/09/im-interested-but-in-you.html I hope that more researchers will start looking into this subject, which as of the last six months I've been calling Humexp. I am currently engaged in research looking into the Estonian cyber war from a social psychology perspective, which turned out to be quite interesting. More on that when I can share, though.
2009 New Security Paradigms Workshop The Queen's College, University of Oxford, UK September 8-11, 2009 Read the full call at http://www.nspw.org/current/cfp.shtml The submission deadline: April 17, 2009, 23:59 (UTC -12, or Y time). The New Security Paradigms Workshop (NSPW) is seeking papers that address the current limitations of information security. Today's security risks are diverse and plentiful--botnets, database breaches, phishing attacks, distributed denial-of-service attacks--and yet present tools for combatting them are insufficient. To address these limitations, NSPW welcomes unconventional, promising approaches to important security problems and innovative critiques of current security practice. We are particularly interested in perspectives from outside computer security, both from other areas of computer science (such as operating systems, human-computer interaction, databases, programming languages, algorithms) and other sciences that study adversarial relationships such as biology and economics. We discourage papers that offer incremental improvements to security and mature work that is appropriate for standard information security venues. To facilitate research interactions, NSPW features informal paper presentations, extended discussions in small and large groups, shared activities, and group meals, all in attractive surroundings. By encouraging researchers to think ``outside the box'' and giving them an opportunity to communicate with open-minded peers, NSPW seeks to foster paradigm shifts in the field of information security. Kosta Beznosov, NSPW Publicity Chair, Assistant Professor, Laboratory for Education and Research in Secure Systems Engineering Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of British Columbia http://lersse.ece.ubc.ca http://www.ece.ubc.ca/~beznosov/ 4047-2332 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z4 Phone: +1 604 822 9181
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