Schneier on Security
A blog covering security and security technology.
February 2008 Archives
Friday Squid Blogging: Giant Snow Squid
Pictures from the 2008 Dartmouth Winter Carnival.
Another Interview with Me
This one was from Computerworld Hong Kong.
Kids and Lying
How kids learn to lie. (Maybe it's a bit off the security topic, but with all my reading on the psychology of security, I don't think so.)
So when do the 98 percent who think lying is wrong become the 98 percent who lie?
More War on the Unexpected
I'm really curious what he said.
Why Some Terrorist Attacks Succeed and Others Fail
In "Underlying Reasons for Success and Failure of Terrorist Attacks: Selected Case Studies" (Homeland Security Institute, June 2007), the authors examine eight recent terrorist plots against commercial aviation and passenger rail, and come to some interesting conclusions.
From the "Executive Summary":
The analytic results indicated that the most influential factors determining the success or failure of a terrorist attack are those that occur in the pre-execution phases. While safeguards and controls at airports and rail stations are critical, they are most effective when coupled with factors that can be leveraged to detect the plot in the planning stages. These factors include:
I especially like this quote, which echos what I've been saying for a long time now:
One phenomenon stands out: terrorists are rarely caught in the act during the execution phase of an operation, other than instances in which their equipment or weapons fail. Rather, plots are most often foiled during the pre-execution phases.
Intelligence, investigation, and emergency response: that's where we should be spending our counterterrorism dollar. Defending the targets is rarely the right answer.
Toy X-Ray Machine for Kids
Third Parties Controlling Information
Wine Therapy is a web bulletin board for serious wine geeks. It's been active since 2000, and its database of back posts and comments is a wealth of information: tasting notes, restaurant recommendations, stories and so on. Late last year someone hacked the board software, got administrative privileges and deleted the database. There was no backup.
Of course the board's owner should have been making backups all along, but he has been very sick for the past year and wasn't able to. And the Internet Archive has been only somewhat helpful.
More and more, information we rely on -- either created by us or by others -- is out of our control. It's out there on the internet, on someone else's website and being cared for by someone else. We use those websites, sometimes daily, and don't even think about their reliability.
Bits and pieces of the web disappear all the time. It's called "link rot," and we're all used to it. A friend saved 65 links in 1999 when he planned a trip to Tuscany; only half of them still work today. In my own blog, essays and news articles and websites that I link to regularly disappear -- sometimes within a few days of my linking to them.
It may be because of a site's policies -- some newspapers only have a couple of weeks on their website -- or it may be more random: Position papers disappear off a politician's website after he changes his mind on an issue, corporate literature disappears from the company's website after an embarrassment, etc. The ultimate link rot is "site death," where entire websites disappear: Olympic and World Cup events after the games are over, political candidates' websites after the elections are over, corporate websites after the funding runs out and so on.
Mostly, we ignore the issue. Sometimes I save a copy of a good recipe I find, or an article relevant to my research, but mostly I trust that whatever I want will be there next time. Were I planning a trip to Tuscany, I would rather search for relevant articles today than rely on a nine-year-old list anyway. Most of the time, link rot and site death aren't really a problem.
This is changing in a Web 2.0 world, with websites that are less about information and more about community. We help build these sites, with our posts or our comments. We visit them regularly and get to know others who also visit regularly. They become part of our socialization on the internet and the loss of them affects us differently, as Greatest Journal users discovered in January when their site href="http://barry095.vox.com/library/post/greatest-journal-death.html">died.
Few, if any, of the people who made Wine Therapy their home kept backup copies of their own posts and comments. I'm sure they didn't even think of it. I don't think of it, when I post to the various boards and blogs and forums I frequent. Of course I know better, but I think of these forums as extensions of my own computer -- until they disappear.
As we rely on others to maintain our writings and our relationships, we lose control over their availability. Of course, we also lose control over their security, as MySpace users learned last month when a 17-GB file of half a million supposedly private photos was uploaded to a BitTorrent site.
In the early days of the web, I remember feeling giddy over the wealth of information out there and how easy it was to get to. "The internet is my hard drive," I told newbies. It's even more true today; I don't think I could write without so much information so easily accessible. But it's a pretty damned unreliable hard drive.
The internet is my hard drive, but only if my needs are immediate and my requirements can be satisfied inexactly. It was easy for me to search for information about the MySpace photo hack. And it will be easy to look up, and respond to, comments to this essay, both on Wired.com and on my own blog. Wired.com is a commercial venture, so there is advertising value in keeping everything accessible. My site is not at all commercial, but there is personal value in keeping everything accessible. By that analysis, all sites should be up on the internet forever, although that's certainly not true. What is true is that there's no way to predict what will disappear when.
Unfortunately, there's not much we can do about it. The security measures largely aren't in our hands. We can save copies of important web pages locally, and copies of anything important we post. The Internet Archive is remarkably valuable in saving bits and pieces of the internet. And recently, we've started seeing tools for archiving information and pages from social networking sites. But what's really important is the whole community, and we don't know which bits we want until they're no longer there.
And about Wine Therapy, I think it started in 2000. It might have been 2001. I can't check, because someone erased the archives.
This essay originally appeared on Wired.com.
I'd love to get details on this:
A television documentary team said it had made a bomb by mixing a series of odourless and colourless chemicals that could be brought into an aircraft by passengers.
EDITED TO ADD (3/8): More info.
Fear of Internet Predators Largely Unfounded
Does this really come as a surprise?
"There's been some overreaction to the new technology, especially when it comes to the danger that strangers represent," said Janis Wolak, a sociologist at the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
In January, I said this:
...there isn't really any problem with child predators -- just a tiny handful of highly publicized stories -- on MySpace. It's just security theater against a movie-plot threat. But we humans have a well-established cognitive bias that overestimates threats against our children, so it all makes sense.
EDITED TO ADD (3/7): A good essay.
Research on Malware Distribution
Among their conclusions are that the majority of malware distribution sites are hosted in China, and that 1.3% of Google searches return at least one link to a malicious site. The lead author, Niels Provos, wrote, 'It has been over a year and a half since we started to identify web pages that infect vulnerable hosts via drive-by downloads, i.e. web pages that attempt to exploit their visitors by installing and running malware automatically. During that time we have investigated billions of URLs and found more than three million unique URLs on over 180,000 web sites automatically installing malware. During the course of our research, we have investigated not only the prevalence of drive-by downloads but also how users are being exposed to malware and how it is being distributed.'"
The Doghouse: Drecom
This is why evaluating security products is hard: the devil is in the details.
Forensic Printer Codes May Be Illegal in Europe
Friday Squid Blogging: Camouflage in Squids
How squids and other cephalopods camouflage themselves:
A clue to how cephalopods disguise themselves so quickly came to Dr. Hanlon when he and his colleagues reviewed thousands of images of cuttlefish, trying to sort their patterns into categories. "It finally dawned on me there aren't dozens of camouflage patterns," he said. "I can squeeze them into three categories."
It's not often you can find research on the intersection of security and squid.
Video Interview of Me
Amtrak to Start Passenger Screening
Amtrak is going to start randomly screening passengers, in an effort to close the security-theater gap between trains and airplanes.
It's kind of random:
The teams will show up unannounced at stations and set up baggage screening areas in front of boarding gates. Officers will randomly pull people out of line and wipe their bags with a special swab that is then put through a machine that detects explosives. If the machine detects anything, officers will open the bag for visual inspection.
This is the most telling comment:
"There is no new or different specific threat," [Amtrak chief executive Alex] Kummant said. "This is just the correct step to take."
Why is it the correct step to take? Because it makes him feel better. That's the very definition of security theater.
Cryptanalysis of A5/1
There have been a lot of articles about the new attack against the GSM cell phone encryption algorithm, A5/1. In some ways, this isn't real news; we've seen A5/1 cryptanalysis papers as far back as ten years ago.
What's new about this attack is: 1) it's completely passive, 2) its total hardware cost is around $1,000, and 3) the total time to break the key is about 30 minutes. That's impressive.
The cryptanalysis of A5/1 demonstrates an important cryptographic maxim: attacks always get better; they never get worse. This is why we tend to abandon algorithms at the first sign of weakness; we know that with time, the weaknesses will be exploited more effectively to yield better and faster attacks.
Cold Boot Attacks Against Disk Encryption
Nice piece of research:
We show that disk encryption, the standard approach to protecting sensitive data on laptops, can be defeated by relatively simple methods. We demonstrate our methods by using them to defeat three popular disk encryption products: BitLocker, which comes with Windows Vista; FileVault, which comes with MacOS X; and dm-crypt, which is used with Linux.
There is a general security problem illustrated here: it is very difficult to secure data when the attacker has physical control of the machine the data is stored on. I talk about the general problem here, and it's a hard problem.
EDITED TO ADD (2/26): How-to, with pictures.
U.S. Post Office to Enable Wholesale Surveillance of Mail
The post office is launching a new barcode on first class mail that will enable the sender to track mail through the system:
With the new bar code, companies will be able to track mail delivery and know when their customers got a bill, solicitation or product, and the Postal Service will have another way of checking that mail is being delivered on time.
So now the government will have a database of who sends mail to whom. Of course, there's no discussion of this in the news article.
ETA: The plan only applies to commercial mail, like ad mailers and magazines, not to letters that individual people send each other.
Foreign Hackers Stealing American Health Care Records
What in the world is going on here?
Foreign hackers, primarily from Russia and China, are increasingly seeking to steal Americans' health care records, according to a Department of Homeland Security analyst.
Espionage? Um, how?
Walker said the hackers are seeking to exfiltrate health care data. "We don't know why," he added. "We want to know why." At the same time, he said, it's clear that "medical information can be used against us from a national security standpoint."
How? It's not at all clear to me.
Any health problems among the nation's leaders would be of interest to potential enemies, he said.
This just has to be another joke.
Hijacking in New Zealand
There are a couple of interesting things about the hijacking in New Zealand two weeks ago. First, it was a traditional hijacking. Remember after 9/11 when people said that the era of airplane hijacking was over, that it would no longer be possible to hijack an airplane and demand a ransom or demand passage to some exotic location? Turns out that's just not true; there still can be traditional non-terrorist hijackings.
And even more interesting, the media coverage reflected that. Read the links above. They're calm and reasoned. There's no mention of the T-word. We're not all cautioned that we're going to die. If anything, they're recommending that everyone not overreact.
EDITED TO ADD (2/25): And this:
Mr Williamson today said the idea behind anything involving transport was "safety at reasonable cost".
Spending Money on the Wrong Security Threats
This story is a year and a half old, but the lessons are still good:
Kim Hyten, emergency management director in Putnam County, said he didn't realize homeland security grants can now be used to prepare for tornados. As a result, Putnam County is using its grant money to prepare for something else.
This is a stupid idea:
Milan Vojnovic and colleagues from Microsoft Research in Cambridge, UK, want to make useful pieces of information such as software updates behave more like computer worms: spreading between computers instead of being downloaded from central servers.
This idea pops up every few years. This is what I wrote back in 2003, updating something I wrote in 2000:
This is tempting for several reasons. One, it's poetic: turning a weapon against itself. Two, it lets ethical programmers share in the fun of designing worms. And three, it sounds like a promising technique to solve one of the nastiest online security problems: patching or repairing computers' vulnerabilities.
EDITED TO ADD (2/19): This is worth reading on the topic.
EDITED TO ADD (2/19): Microsoft is trying to dispel the rumor that it is working on this technology.
EDITED TO ADD (2/21): Using benevolent worms to test Internet censorship.
EDITED TO ADD (3/13): The benveolent W32.Welchia.Worm, intended to fix Blaster-infected systems, just created havoc.
Fascinating Social Engineering Story
Petty crime and identity theft, but both fascinating and impressive. Social engineering works even in places that take security seriously.
Story of a sonic blaster:
Here's how it works: Inferno uses four frequencies spread out over 2 to 5 kHz. The idea behind it is that unlike a regular siren, these particular frequencies have a uniquely disturbing effect on people (and presumably cats, dogs and any other living thing). At 123 dB, it's loud, but not significantly louder than any other alarm system. The advantage, according to Dr. Goldman, is the combination of frequencies. The human ear just doesn't like it. I agree, I really didn't like it.
Note to the TSA: Dr. Goldman has had no problems bringing this thing onto airplanes.
Friday Squid Blogging: Valentine Squidograms in Second Life
A day late: Cuddlefish Junction Kissing Squidograms.
DHS in The Onion
I know Stefan; he's good. The cryptography behind this system is almost certainly impeccable. I like systems like this, and I want them to succeed. I just don't see a viable business model.
I'd like to be proven wrong.
Embedding Iris Watermarking in Photos
Canon has filed a patent on embedding an iris scan of the photographer in the metadata of photographs, presumably secured with a digital signature.
Latest News on the War on the Unexpected
DHS Warns of Female Suicide Bombers
Terrorists increasingly favor using women as suicide bombers to thwart security and draw attention to their causes, a new FBI-Department of Homeland Security assessment concludes.
Female suicide bombers can use devices to make them appear pregnant, a security assessment says.
The assessment said the agencies "have no specific, credible intelligence indicating that terrorist organizations intend to utilize female suicide bombers against targets in the homeland."
Does the DHS think we're idiots or something?
Giving Drivers Licenses to Illegal Immigrants
Many people say that allowing illegal aliens to obtain state driver's licenses helps them and encourages them to remain illegally in this country. Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox late last year issued an opinion that licenses could be issued only to legal state residents, calling it "one more tool in our initiative to bolster Michigan's border and document security."
In reality, we are a much more secure nation if we do issue driver's licenses and/or state IDs to every resident who applies, regardless of immigration status. Issuing them doesn't make us any less secure, and refusing puts us at risk.
The state driver's license databases are the only comprehensive databases of U.S. residents. They're more complete, and contain more information - including photographs and, in some cases, fingerprints - than the IRS database, the Social Security database, or state birth certificate databases. As such, they are an invaluable police tool - for investigating crimes, tracking down suspects, and proving guilt.
Removing the 8 million-15 million illegal immigrants from these databases would only make law enforcement harder. Of course, the unlicensed won't pack up and leave. They will drive without licenses, increasing insurance premiums for everyone. They will use fake IDs, buy real IDs from crooked DMV employees - as several of the 9/11 terrorists did - forge "breeder documents" to get real IDs (another 9/11 terrorist trick), or resort to identity theft. These millions of people will continue to live and work in this country, invisible to any government database and therefore the police.
Assuming that denying licenses to illegals will make them leave is head-in-the-sand thinking.
Of course, even an attempt to deny licenses to illegal immigrants puts DMV clerks in the impossible position of verifying immigration status. This is expensive and time-consuming; furthermore, it won't work. The law is complicated, and it can take hours to verify someone's status only to get it wrong. Paperwork can be easy to forge, far easier than driver's licenses, meaning many illegal immigrants will get these licenses that now "prove" immigrant status.
Even more legal immigrants will be mistakenly denied licenses, resulting in lawsuits and additional government expense.
Some states have considered a tiered license system, one that explicitly lists immigration status on the licenses. Of course, this won't work either. Illegal immigrants are far more likely to take their chances being caught than admit their immigration status to the DMV.
We are all safer if everyone in society trusts and respects law enforcement. A society where illegal immigrants are afraid to talk to police because of fear of deportation is a society where fewer people come forward to report crimes, aid police investigations, and testify as witnesses.
And finally, denying driver's licenses to illegal immigrants will not protect us from terrorism. Contrary to popular belief, a driver's license is not required to board a plane. You can use any government-issued photo ID, including a foreign passport. And if you're willing to undergo secondary screening, you can board a plane without an ID at all. This is probably how anybody on the "no fly" list gets around these days.
A 2003 American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators report concludes: "Digital images from driver's licenses have significantly aided law enforcement agencies charged with homeland security. The 19 (9/11) terrorists obtained driver licenses from several states, and federal authorities relied heavily on these images for the identification of the individuals responsible."
Whether it's the DHS trying to protect the nation from terrorism, or local, state and national law enforcement trying to protect the nation from crime, we are all safer if we encourage every adult in America to get a driver's license.
This op ed originally appeared in the Detroit Free Press.
U.S. Customs Seizing Laptops
I've heard many anecdotal stories about U.S. Customs and Border Protection seizing, copying data from, or otherwise accessing laptops of people entering the country. But this is very mainstream:
Today, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Asian Law Caucus, two civil liberties groups in San Francisco, plan to file a lawsuit to force the government to disclose its policies on border searches, including which rules govern the seizing and copying of the contents of electronic devices. They also want to know the boundaries for asking travelers about their political views, religious practices and other activities potentially protected by the First Amendment. The question of whether border agents have a right to search electronic devices at all without suspicion of a crime is already under review in the federal courts.
Some of this seems pretty severe:
"I was assured that my laptop would be given back to me in 10 or 15 days," said [Maria] Udy, who continues to fly into and out of the United States. She said the federal agent copied her log-on and password, and asked her to show him a recent document and how she gains access to Microsoft Word. She was asked to pull up her e-mail but could not because of lack of Internet access. With ACTE's help, she pressed for relief. More than a year later, Udy has received neither her laptop nor an explanation.
Privacy? There's no need to worry:
Hollinger said customs officers "are trained to protect confidential information."
I know I feel better.
I strongly recommend the two-tier encryption strategy I described here. And I even more strongly recommend cleaning out your laptop and BlackBerry regularly; if you don't have it on your computer, no one else can get his hands on it. This defense not only works against U.S. customs, but against the much more likely threat of you losing the damn thing.
And the TSA wants you to know that it's not them.
Buying an iPhone isn't the same as buying a car or a toaster. Your iPhone comes with a complicated list of rules about what you can and can't do with it. You can't install unapproved third-party applications on it. You can't unlock it and use it with the cellphone carrier of your choice. And Apple is serious about these rules: A software update released in September 2007 erased unauthorized software and -- in some cases -- rendered unlocked phones unusable.
"Bricked" is the term, and Apple isn't the least bit apologetic about it.
Computer companies want more control over the products they sell you, and they're resorting to increasingly draconian security measures to get that control. The reasons are economic.
Control allows a company to limit competition for ancillary products. With Mac computers, anyone can sell software that does anything. But Apple gets to decide who can sell what on the iPhone. It can foster competition when it wants, and reserve itself a monopoly position when it wants. And it can dictate terms to any company that wants to sell iPhone software and accessories.
This increases Apple's bottom line. But the primary benefit of all this control for Apple is that it increases lock-in. "Lock-in" is an economic term for the difficulty of switching to a competing product. For some products -- cola, for example -- there's no lock-in. I can drink a Coke today and a Pepsi tomorrow: no big deal. But for other products, it's harder.
Switching word processors, for example, requires installing a new application, learning a new interface and a new set of commands, converting all the files (which may not convert cleanly) and custom software (which will certainly require rewriting), and possibly even buying new hardware. If Coke stops satisfying me for even a moment, I'll switch: something Coke learned the hard way in 1985 when it changed the formula and started marketing New Coke. But my word processor has to really piss me off for a good long time before I'll even consider going through all that work and expense.
Lock-in isn't new. It's why all gaming-console manufacturers make sure that their game cartridges don't work on any other console, and how they can price the consoles at a loss and make the profit up by selling games. It's why Microsoft never wants to open up its file formats so other applications can read them. It's why music purchased from Apple for your iPod won't work on other brands of music players. It's why every U.S. cellphone company fought against phone number portability. It's why Facebook sues any company that tries to scrape its data and put it on a competing website. It explains airline frequent flyer programs, supermarket affinity cards and the new My Coke Rewards program.
With enough lock-in, a company can protect its market share even as it reduces customer service, raises prices, refuses to innovate and otherwise abuses its customer base. It should be no surprise that this sounds like pretty much every experience you've had with IT companies: Once the industry discovered lock-in, everyone started figuring out how to get as much of it as they can.
Economists Carl Shapiro and Hal Varian even proved that the value of a software company is the total lock-in. Here's the logic: Assume, for example, that you have 100 people in a company using MS Office at a cost of $500 each. If it cost the company less than $50,000 to switch to Open Office, they would. If it cost the company more than $50,000, Microsoft would increase its prices.
Mostly, companies increase their lock-in through security mechanisms. Sometimes patents preserve lock-in, but more often it's copy protection, digital rights management (DRM), code signing or other security mechanisms. These security features aren't what we normally think of as security: They don't protect us from some outside threat, they protect the companies from us.
Microsoft has been planning this sort of control-based security mechanism for years. First called Palladium and now NGSCB (Next-Generation Secure Computing Base), the idea is to build a control-based security system into the computing hardware. The details are complicated, but the results range from only allowing a computer to boot from an authorized copy of the OS to prohibiting the user from accessing "unauthorized" files or running unauthorized software. The competitive benefits to Microsoft are enormous (.pdf).
Of course, that's not how Microsoft advertises NGSCB. The company has positioned it as a security measure, protecting users from worms, Trojans and other malware. But control does not equal security; and this sort of control-based security is very difficult to get right, and sometimes makes us more vulnerable to other threats. Perhaps this is why Microsoft is quietly killing NGSCB -- we've gotten BitLocker, and we might get some other security features down the line -- despite the huge investment hardware manufacturers made when incorporating special security hardware into their motherboards.
In my last column, I talked about the security-versus-privacy debate, and how it's actually a debate about liberty versus control. Here we see the same dynamic, but in a commercial setting. By confusing control and security, companies are able to force control measures that work against our interests by convincing us they are doing it for our own safety.
As for Apple and the iPhone, I don't know what they're going to do. On the one hand, there's this analyst report that claims there are over a million unlocked iPhones, costing Apple between $300 million and $400 million in revenue. On the other hand, Apple is planning to release a software development kit this month, reversing its earlier restriction and allowing third-party vendors to write iPhone applications. Apple will attempt to keep control through a secret application key that will be required by all "official" third-party applications, but of course it's already been leaked.
And the security arms race goes on ...
EDITED TO ADD (2/12): Slashdot thread.
And critical commentary, which is oddly political:
This isn’t lock-in, it’s called choosing a product that meets your needs. If you don’t want to be tied to a particular phone network, don’t buy an iPhone. If installing third-party applications (between now and the end of February, when officially-sanctioned ones will start to appear) is critically important to you, don’t buy an iPhone.
Actually, lock-in is one of the factors you have to consider when choosing a product to meet your needs. It's not one thing or the other. And lock-in is certainly not "anti-libertarian." Lock-in is what you get when you have an unfettered free market competing for customers; it's libertarian utopia. Government regulations that limit lock-in tactics -- something I think would be very good for society -- is what's anti-libertarian.
How the MPAA Might Enforce Copyright on the Internet
Interesting speculation from Nicholas Weaver:
All that is necessary is that the MPAA or their contractor automatically spiders for torrents. When it finds torrents, it connects to each torrent with manipulated clients. The client would first transfer enough content to verify copyright, and then attempt to map the participants in the Torrent.
Note that this requires no wiretapping, and nicely minimizes false positives.
Debate on idea here.
Improvements in Face Recognition
Ignore the laughable "100% accurate" claim; this is an interesting idea:
Mike Burton, Professor of Psychology at Glasgow, and lecturer Rob Jenkins say they achieved their hugely-improved results by eliminating the variable effects of age, hairstyle, expression, lighting, different camera equipment etc. This was done by producing a composite "average face" for a person, synthesised from twenty different pictures across a range of ages, lighting and so on.
Not useful when you only have one grainy photograph of your target, but interesting research nonetheless.
Friday Squid Blogging: The Real Cause of the Cable Breaks
But, of course, you all knew this already.
The Onion on Terror
We must all do whatever we can to preserve America by refocusing our priorities back on the contemplation of lethal threats—invisible nightmarish forces plotting to destroy us in a number of horrific ways. It is only through the vigilance and determination of every patriot that we can maintain the sense of total dread vital to the prolonged existence of a thriving, quivering America.
The whole thing is funny, and far too real.
Me at Linux.conf.au
Mujahideen Secrets 2
Mujahideen Secrets 2 is a new version of an encryption tool, ostensibly written to help Al Qaeda members encrypt secrets as they communicate on the Internet.
A bunch of sites have covered this story, and a couple of security researchers are quoted in the various articles. But quotes like this make you wonder if they have any idea what they're talking about:
Mujahideen Secrets 2 is a very compelling piece of software, from an encryption perspective, according to Henry. He said the new tool is easy to use and provides 2,048-bit encryption, an improvement over the 256-bit AES encryption supported in the original version.
No one has explained why a terrorist would use this instead of PGP -- perhaps they simply don't trust anything coming from a U.S. company. But honestly, this isn't a big deal at all: strong encryption software has been around for over fifteen years now, either cheap or free. And the NSA probably breaks most of the stuff by guessing the password, anyway. Unless the whole program is an NSA plant, that is.
My question: the articles claim that the program uses several encryption algorithms, including RSA and AES. Does it use Blowfish or Twofish?
Cyber Storm Details
Recently the Associated Press obtained hundreds of pages of documents related to the 2006 "Cyber Storm" exercise. Most interesting is the part where the participants attacked the game computers and pissed the referees off:
However, the government's files hint at a tantalizing mystery: In the middle of the war game, someone quietly attacked the very computers used to conduct the exercise. Perplexed organizers traced the incident to overzealous players and sent everyone an urgent e-mail marked "IMPORTANT!" reminding them not to probe or attack the game computers.
Heavily Armed Officers on New York City Subways
Why does anyone think this is a good idea?
In the first counterterrorism strategy of its kind in the nation, roving teams of New York City police officers armed with automatic rifles and accompanied by bomb-sniffing dogs will patrol the city's subway system daily, beginning next month, officials said on Friday.
What does it accomplish besides intimidating innocent commuters?
Criminals are using cloned trucks to bypass security:
Savvy criminals are using some of the country's most credible logos, including FedEx, Wal-Mart, DirecTV and the U.S. Border Patrol, to create fake trucks to smuggle drugs, money and illegal aliens across the border, according to a report by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
EDITED TO ADD (2/6): Here's someone who puts on a red shirt and predends to be a Target employee so he can steal stuff:
Police in North Miami Beach are looking for a man they say likes to pose as a Target employee while stealing pricey iPods, and the man allegedly knows so much about the store, he's even helped customers who thought he was a real employee.
"The Top 5 VoIP Security Threats of 2008." A nice little list of things to worry about.
Fourth Undersea Cable Failure in Middle East
The first two affected India, Pakistan, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Bahrain. The third one is between the UAE and Oman. The fourth one connected Qatar and the UAE. This one may not have been cut, but taken offline due to power issues.
The first three have been blamed on ships' anchors, but there is some dispute about that. And that's two in the Mediterranean and two in the Persian Gulf.
There have been no official reports of malice to me, but it's an awfully big coincidence. The fact that Iran has lost Internet connectivity only makes this weirder.
EDITED TO ADD (2/5): The International Herald Tribune has more. And a comment below questions whether Iran being offline has anything to do with this.
EDITED TO ADD (2/5): A fifth cut? What the hell is going on out there?
EDITED TO ADD (2/5): More commentary from Steve Bellovin.
EDITED TO ADD (2/5): Just to be clear: Iran is not offline. That was an untrue rumor; it was never true.
UK Two-Tier Tax Security System
Poor security for everyone except the rich and powerful:
The security of the online computer system used by more than three million people to file tax returns is in doubt after HM Revenue and Customs admitted it was not secure enough to be used by MPs, celebrities and the Royal Family.
A Good Security Investment by DHS
All the software scrutinized was found to have significant numbers of security flaws, Coverity said on Wednesday. Since 2006 the project has helped fix 7,826 open source flaws in 250 projects, out of 50 million lines of code scanned, the company said.
They find, on average, one security flaw per 1,000 lines of code. And when the flaw is fixed, everyone's security improves.
Little People Hiding in Luggage
This is both clever and very weird:
Swedish police are quizzing "people of limited stature" with criminal records following a spate of robberies from the cargo holds of coaches - possibly carried out by dwarves smuggled onboard in sports bags.
NSA Monitoring U.S. Government Internet Traffic
I have mixed feeling about this, but in general think it is a good idea:
President Bush signed a directive this month that expands the intelligence community's role in monitoring Internet traffic to protect against a rising number of attacks on federal agencies' computer systems.
My concern is that the NSA is doing the monitoring. I simply don't like them monitoring domestic traffic, even domestic government traffic.
EDITED TO ADD: Commentary.
Friday Squid Blogging: Cocaine Smuggled in Giant Squid
This link is from 2004, but still....
Peruvian police say they have seized nearly 1,540 pounds (700 kilograms) of cocaine hidden in frozen giant squid bound for Mexico and the United States.
Think Illegal Downloading Is Free?
Detecting Nuclear Weapons Using the Cell Phone Network
Okay, this is clever:
Such a system could blanket the nation with millions of cell phones equipped with radiation sensors able to detect even light residues of radioactive material. Because cell phones already contain global positioning locators, the network of phones would serve as a tracking system, said physics professor Ephraim Fischbach. Fischbach is working with Jere Jenkins, director of Purdue's radiation laboratories within the School of Nuclear Engineering.
I'm not convinced it's a good idea to deploy such a system, but I like the idea of piggy-backing a nationwide sensor network on top of our already existing cell phone infrastructure.
Bavarian Government Wants to Intercept Skype Calls
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