Poodle vulnerability

Poodle Vulnerability 

Padding Oracle On Downgraded Legacy Encryption (POODLE)

The poodle vulnerability has been around as an exploit since 2014.It led to an attack which led to completely disabling SSL 3.0 on the client and server-side to prevent hackers from making use of this man-in-the-middle attack. 2014 also brought us Heartbleed bug, BERserk, and FREAK exploits. That might seem like ancient history in cybersecurity. But history has a freaky way of repeating itself.poodle anime

In 2016 the DROWN attack took advantage of support for SSLv2 protocol and exposed the weakness in more than 81,000 of the top 1 million most popular websites.  As we get closer to 2017, the odds are increasing that the number of exploits will continue to rise.

Krebs is usually a good source of the most up to date info. But it remains a race, and I’m not always sure we’re winning.  http://krebsonsecurity.com/

Poodle in the Park
Black standard poodle

In the meantime, here’s some pictures of poodles to lighten the mood! This is Cleaver Black – destroyer of dragons (blue stuffed ones).

Sleepy Poodle
Let Sleeping Poodles Lie
Poodle in the park
Happy poodle

 

Portrait of a young poodle
Portrait of a young poodle
Cleaver - Destroyer of (toy) dragons
Cleaver – Destroyer of (toy) dragons

A culture of entitlement is corrosive

A culture of entitlement is corrosive in a government agency or any organisation

I’ve just come across a USA government document which is both fun to read and educational. Its called the Encyclopedia of ethical failure 2013, its published by the US Defense department. The dry title doesn’t do this piece justice, I think the title should be “A culture of entitlement in an organisation is corrosive”.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/twicepix/ - culture of entitlement is corrosive
A culture of entitlement is corrosive just like acid

The reason that you should be reading it is that it is a series of sometimes funny and tragic stories about how employees forget that the employee/employer relationship is a two-way street. Maybe it is also about how employers forget that their staff are human. They sometimes do dumb things and forget about the consequences of their actions.

Steven Dubner from Freakanomics interviewed the current and past editors Steve Epstein and Jeff Green. Interestingly they said that it was difficult to find common characteristics (M/F, race, religiosity, seniority) between the people who did these things. Green and Epstein suggested that they all didn’t think about the consequences of their actions properly. The other thing to notice is that security people, intelligence officers and lawyers commit these crimes too.

Maybe as a collection these are cases of a man or woman failing to identify the full consequences of their actions. I could put it in risk terms, individual failure to realise initial risk and downstream consequences when the they get caught.

The other observation that is interesting is that some people are cheap to bribe. Some of these people lost their careers and potential earnings of millions of dollars over a lifetime for hundreds of dollars in cash or kind. This is an sign that the perpetrators haven’t thought about personal risk and/or their decision-making is visceral. It makes me wonder whether one possible mitigation against fraud is teaching employees decision-making to improve the way that they weigh up alternatives. Maybe the SWOT analysis is the best preventative tool against fraud!

Because the document was written by the US Defense department, it has a military flavour, but the examples run the gamut of the US Federal public service. Here are some of my favourite excerpts. I’m sure you’ll get a laugh out of these and some food for thought. Maybe some of these are familiar in your organisation…..

FBI Undercover Parties

According to an FBI report, upon the retirement of a senior FBI official, FBI personnel from around the country journeyed to Washington to attend the official’s retirement party.  Many out-of-town G-men traveled on official orders and public expense. According to their travel orders, the purpose of the trip was to attend an ethics conference! According to the news report, only five people actually attended the ethics forum.

“But, Judge, I didn’t get anything!” 

 An offshore safety inspector found much of the Government’s equipment to be in need of repairs to meet safety standards. He then referred the business to his brother-in-law’s repair shop. The rig operators smelled a rat and called the FBI. They discovered that, in return for each referral, the brother-in-law was treating the inspector to an evening with a lady of dubious morals.

The case was brought to trial. In his defense, the inspector claimed that he had not received a “thing of value” in return for the referral. The judge didn’t buy it – and neither did his wife.

Courting Trouble

A former official of the U.S. Tax Court, Fred Fernando Timbol Jr., was sentenced to 18 months in prison and three years of supervised release in connection with a bribery conspiracy.

Timbol was a facilities services officer in the Facilities Management Section of the U.S. Tax Court.  Timbol was responsible for assisting in the award of contracts to contractors who provided maintenance, construction, and other related service to the Court.  Timbol admitted to soliciting and accepting over $12,000 from a government contractor in exchange for rigging the award of at least six inflated contracts.  As part of a plea agreement and by order of the court, Timbol also agreed to pay restitution  of $24,143.

DVD Bootleggers MIA During Government Work Hours

A Federal employee used his Government computer to make illegal copies of commercial DVDs in violation of copyright laws.  He and another employee also used their Government computers and duty time to watch the movies.  The other employee took lunches lasting up to three hours in order to watch the DVDs and take naps.  Initially the employees’ supervisors signed off on this behavior, even assigning extra work to others to make up for the employees’ time wasted napping and movie watching.  The employee who copied the DVDs received a written reprimand.  The supervisor received an oral admonishment for failing to address the misconduct, and another employee received a Letter of Counseling for knowingly accepting a pirated DVD.  In a similar case, a civilian employee working for the U.S. Army in Germany was involved in selling pirated DVDs.  He used the profits from his illegal operation to buy vacation homes and luxury cars and to pay for frequent European ski vacations.  He devoted some of his duty time to the marketing and selling of the bootleg videos, including taking payments while on the job.  Even though the employee had left Federal service by the time the accusations against him were substantiated, administrative action was taken to bar him from US Army Europe installations.

This next one is interesting because of the recent Asiana crash 

FAA Employee Sentenced for Bribery

A former employee of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was convicted of bribery.  In carrying out his primary responsibility of reviewing and processing applications for FAA-issued pilot certificates, the employee accepted bribes of $2,000 and an all-expense paid trip to Korea in exchange for preferential treatment of applications for Korean pilots from the flight school, Wings Over America.

The employee was sentenced to pay a $2,000 fine and serve four months in prison, followed by three years probation for violating 18 U.S.C. 201(b)(2).  Bribery occurs when a public official seeks or accepts anything of value in return for being influenced in the performance of an official act.

government Lawyer  in Tucson Illegally Possesses Sheep Skull and Horns

The Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) prosecuted an individual for illegally killing a bighorn sheep on an Indian Reservation. As a result of the prosecution, the hunter forfeited the bighorn sheep and trophy (skull and horns), valued at approximately $5,000, to the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Pursuant to a request from the AUSA, the Arizona Game and Fish Department entered into an agreement with the AUSA allowing him to publicly display the skull and horns in his office, but requiring their return upon request. However, after leaving employment with the U.S. Attorney’s office, the AUSA took the skull and horns with him and treated them as his personal property. When the former AUSA was questioned a year later about his possession of the skull and horns, he claimed that an unspecified Indian had sent the skull and horns to him in appreciation for his work on the prosecution of the hunter. Investigation showed that such a gift would have been contrary to tribal practices and no member of the tribe could be found who knew anything about the alleged gift.

CIA Employee Drives Overseas Auto Scheme

As a U.S. Federal employee residing in Egypt, the CIA agent discovered that he could purchase an imported vehicle in Egypt without having to pay the normal 150% excise tax. This fact had created a black market in which Egyptian car brokers would pay U.S. employees to register luxury cars in their names in order to allow the dealers to evade import taxes. Investigators found that while in Cairo, Egypt, the employee had agreed to accept $25,000 in exchange for changing the status of his personally-owned vehicle with the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which would allow him to participate in the scheme

———————–

So there’s some of the highlights from my perspective. You can download the full document here (163 pages). You’ll find that it references most vices! What do you think about the alternative title – “A culture of entitlement in an organisation is corrosive”?

Privacy, public surveillance, terrorism

Is Privacy overrated, or should we just think about it in a more balanced way?

Richard Posner (US Judge) in an opinion piece in the NY Times has responded to NY Mayor Bloomberg’s view that there should be a more welcoming attitude towards surveillance cameras.  Bloomberg argues that the US Constitution should be changed to allow more surveillance. Posner makes a good point about Surveillance use in public spaces.

It seems likely that if the Boston bombers hadn’t been caught soon, they would have continued their killing, whether in Boston or NY, only they can say definitively.

surveillance cameras by Jonathan Mcintosh
Surveillance cameras in NY – Photo by Jonathan Mcintosh – http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonathanmcintosh/

I think most people can accept that surveillance cameras should be used in public spaces. They may also be contributing to a general decrease in lawlessness in public spaces, especially in the UK where there are apparently up to 4 million. The question in my mind is always about what is done with the footage. I have fewer problems personally with government agency use of surveillance in a society where somebody watches the watchers than the use by ‘marketers’ of surveillance in shops and ‘semi-private’ places.

The argument against surveillance cameras being linked up is always the fallacy of the slippery slope. I suspect we should all just get used to being watched in public.

In any case, it is probably time for politicians in democratic countries to “Suck it up” and have an honest conversation with the public about privacy, both online and offline.

PS – Of course, when Google glass becomes a mass market item, your life and mine will be 720p movies for ourselves and other people. We won’t say, remember when you were “insert embarrassing event”, we’ll just play it from the memory…. Maybe Minority Report wasn’t so wrong after all – even if Tom Cruise starred. 🙂

 

 

He has shifty eyes, but at least we know who he is

A legislative approach that defines as ‘sensitive’ any  biometric measurement shows a lack of common sense and understanding of the science.

A better approach would be to protect those aspects of sensitive personal information  (eg sexuality, political opinion, racial / ethnic origin) collected by any means, making legislation independent of technology.

An interesting paper was published in the most recent International Journal of Biometrics. Finnish scientists have developed a biometric measure using saccade eye movements. Saccade eye movements are the involuntary eye movements when both eyes move quickly in one direction. Using a video camera to record movement, this biometric measure can be highly correlated to an individual.

What is important is that there are large numbers of these life (bio) measurements (metrics) being discovered as scientists look more closely at human physiology and behaviour.

The use of biometric identification technologies sees biometric information (eg eye movement) converted into a series of digits (a hash), which can be statistically compared against another series of digits that have been previously collected during the enrolment of an individual to use a system (eg building access control). A biometric ‘match’ is a comparison of the number derived from the collection of a biometric during enrolment with the number that is elicited during verification. In the real world, these ‘numbers’ are nearly always slightly different. The challenge is to make a system able to allow an individual to get a match when he/she seeks verification and to ensure that the bad guy is repelled.

Generally speaking, biometric identity systems are not primarily designed to determine information that might be used to elicit sensitive personal information. Nor is it practical to reverse-engineer the biometric because of the intentional use of one-way mathematical functions and the degradation of data quantity collected. This means that one person would be hard pressed to elicit any information that might be used to discriminate against another with access to this series of digits.

The word ‘biometric’ seems to send shivers down the spines of some privacy advocates. I suggest it is because most, if not all, are not scientists but lawyers. But these biometric systems  are just the current technology. Many critics of biometrics forget that like any tool, it depends on how it is used. The old saying that fire is a ‘good servant, but a bad master’ is equally true of biometrics.

What seems lacking in common sense is that legislation in several countries (including in Australia) puts up a barrier for the use of biometrics for purposes that protect the privacy and safety of people and organisations.

The information that a biometric collects is not necessarily sensitive information –I don’t really care if you know how often I blink. In fact, a photo of me is more likely to give you information about me that I am sensitive about.

The danger with this approach is that people focus on the technology being ‘bad’ and not on the fact that it is the sensitive information which is potentially harmful.  Biometrics can be privacy enhancing, particularly as they can add additional layers to securing claims about identity and be used to protect individuals and organisations from becoming victims of identity fraud.

Disaggregating biometrics from ‘sensitive information’ and considering technology on the basis of what (sensitive information – gender, medical information, religious affiliation etc) it collects about an individual would more appropriately provides a course of protecting personal information. This of course would avoid stifling the practical application of technology.

 

The journal article can be found here

Martti Juhola et al. Biometric verification of subjects using saccade eye movementsInternational Journal of Biometrics, 2012, 4, 317-337

 

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Why the world needs the cyber equivalent of an international law of the sea

Islands of order in a sea of chaos

I’ve been thinking for the best part of the last decade about Internet governance and its impact on national security. In that time, little has changed to improve security for users.

The Internet as we know it today can be compared in many ways to the high seas during the swashbuckling so-called Golden age of Piracy between around 1650 and 1730 when pirates ruled the Caribbean.

Why is this comparison valid? Because in the Internet today, like on the high seas of yesteryear, there are islands of order surrounded by seas of chaos. The islands of order are the corporate networks like Facebook, Google, Amazon, Ebay etc and those run by competent governments for their citizens. However, between these orderly Internet islands are large areas where there are no rules and where pirates and vagabonds thrive. An additional similarity is that some of the most competent and successful historical pirates operated with the explicit support from countries seeking to further their national aims.

Even those who govern the orderly Internet islands are subject to bold attacks from chaos agents if they are not vigilant! Witness the compromise of Linkedin earlier this year and very few governments have not had some significant compromise affect their operations.

On the high seas, piracy has been reduced significantly since the 18th Century. With the exception of places like the coast of Somalia, there are now far fewer places where there is a significant piracy problem.  There are a number of reasons why this has been a success. Not least of these has been the development of law of the high seas.

In cyberspace, the world also needs to be moving on from the swashbuckling days. Internet criminals need to be hunted down in whichever corner of the Internet they lurk. Additionally, the concept that some countries could give free reign to local cyber-criminals, as long as they don’t terrorise their own countrymen/women, is an anathema in the 21st Century.

The long term solution has remained in my view a cyber version of the  UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. UCLOS is the international agreement, most recently updated in 1982 that governs behaviour by ships in international waters. Apart from other things the convention deals with acts of piracy committed in international waters.

In the same way, a similar international cybercrime convention could deal with acts where the victim was from for example the USA, the criminal from the Vatican and the offence committed on a server in South Korea.

It would seem that at the moment any move towards a UN convention has gone off the boil. A proposal was shot down in 2010 over disagreements around national sovereignty and human rights. As well, the European Union and USA  position was that a new treaty on cyber crime was not needed since the Council of Europe Convention on Cyber Crime had already been in place for 10 years and has been signed or ratified by 46 countries since  2001.

As I recently noted, wariness by both USA and China continues and means that any international agreement which includes Western countries and the BRICs will be a long time coming. China, Russia and other countries submitted a Document of International Code of Conduct for Information Security to the United Nations in 2011 which the USA seems to have dismissed out of hand.

A code of conduct is nice and the Council of Europe convention is a good start, but they need to be supported by some sort of international cyber ‘muscle’ in the long term.

However, all is not lost. In the meantime, working to coordinate the orderly organisations’ defences that I wrote about before, is a practical step that organisations and governments should be doing more of. This is the cyber equivalent of escorting ships through dangerous waters and passing them from one island of order to another.

There’s a good reason for this, and here’s the resilience message. The cyber-security of an organisation does not begin and end at their firewall or outer perimeter. Whilst in most cases an organisation cannot force other organisations to which it is connected to change, it can maintain vigilance over areas outside its direct sphere of control. This then allows the organisation more time to adapt to its changing environment and of course, a chain is only a strong as its weakest link.

The other step to be taken is to help emerging nations and organisations with poor online security to improve their cyber-defences. If the first step was like escorting ships between the orderly islands, this second step is the equivalent of helping nearby islands to improve their battlements so that the pirates don’t take over and then attack us! This work has been going on for some time. I chaired a number of seminars on cyber security and the need for computer emergency response teams for the APEC telecommunication and information working group which began this work in 2003 and this has been carried on by a number of countries around the world in fits and starts, but we need more.

Alex

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change”

The quote above has been often misattributed to Charles Darwin. But according to the Darwin project, it is actually a quote from Leon Megginson* in the 1960s paraphrasing Darwin in a management journal.

Now that I have done my bit to put that meme to bed, it is worth considering whether there is value in the concept or whether it is a dangerous oversimplification. And the answer is…

.. It depends!

You didn’t really think there was a black or white answer to this. The facts, such as we have, are that there are very few companies around today which are in the same form. Indeed, Mark Perry’s in his excellent economics blog Carpe Diem presents a chilling picture comparing the US fortune 500 from 1955 and 2011.

Of the 500 companies on the list in 1955, fewer than one in seven are still on the list in 2012! Only 57 years later. I say only 57 years, because it is less than the lifespan of an average western person.

So what happened to the rest, the other 6 in 7? They have either gone bankrupt, been privatised, merged, or their fortunes have gone south to the point that they are under the Fortune 500.

The parallels between evolution and raw capitalism are hard to resist. Indeed, although this may be a bridge too far, there may even be a parallel between evolutionary eras such as the Cambrian Explosion and the current communications technology fuelled business environment. As such, the life expectancy of companies seems to be getting less as the speed of global communications increases.  Steve Jobs is quoted in Forbes Magazine suggesting “why decline happens” at great companies: “The company does a great job, innovates and becomes a monopoly or close to it in some field, and then the quality of the product becomes less important. The company starts valuing the great salesman, because they’re the ones who can move the needle on revenues.” So salesmen are put in charge, and product engineers and designers feel demoted: Their efforts are no longer at the white-hot center of the company’s daily life. They “turn off.”

Maybe another way to say this is that all organisations must have purpose, whether that is a government agency or a company. The widgets (for want of a better description) might be policy or law in the case of a government agency; cars in the case of a car company; or services in the case of a services organisation. If the organisation maintains its focus on why it exists, then it can maybe adapt and survive beyond the average – however, this is hard work and most will end up like trilobites, ubiquitous one day, fossils the next.

Alex

Trilobite fossil – Photo by kevinzim – http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/43243889/

*Megginson, L. C. (1964). “Key to Competition is Management.” Petroleum Management, 36(1): 91-95.

 

Useful trick to add a nick to your google+ account leads to the darkside

I’ve been updating the Resilience Outcomes Google+ site. A friend asked me what the site url is, but Google in its wisdom has not made this easy. The site reference is https://plus.google.com/103380459753062778553 !!! What a mouthful and not really a set of numbers I want to dedicate my diminishing neurons on. A partial answer is http://gplus.to/  . Using this site you can get a nickname or vanity url for your gplus site.

So now I can give the url http://gplus.to/resilienceoutcomes and you get to the Resilience Outcomes Google+ site!

My friend Karl H. is going to point out that this is not very resilient, because although Google has a reputation for fairly bulletproof infrastructure I know nothing about gplus.to . Karl you’re absolutely right – it demonstrates why thinking about resilience is so difficult… The Dark side has cookies! Literally in the case of gplus.to.

http://gplus.to/ is almost certainly more fragile than google.com or .Google or whatever it will call itself next month. If http://gplus.to/ goes down then all the efforts of google to support their systems are naught in my case. As such, I am faced on a small-scale the choice faced by all who wish to become more resilient and mainstream security. Do I increase accessibility to the site whilst reducing integrity and confidentiality or not? In this case, the question is not an either or, and rarely is it ever. The answer may be in my case that http://gplus.to/ is used when friends ask me what the site is verbally, but that I always write the full url in posts.

🙂