Essays: 2003 Archives
At a gas station in British Columbia, two employees installed a camera in the ceiling in front of an ATM machine. They recorded thousands of people as they typed in their PIN numbers. Combined with a false front on the ATM that recorded account numbers from the cards, the pair were able to steal millions before they were caught.
In at least 14 Kinko's copy shops in New York City, Juju Jiang installed keystroke loggers on the rentable computers.
Recently I have been receiving e-mails from PayPal. At least, they look like they're from PayPal. They send me to a Web site that looks like it's from PayPal. And it asks for my password, just like PayPal. The problem is that it's not from PayPal, and if I do what the Web site says, some criminal is going to siphon money out of my bank account.
Welcome to the third wave of network attacks, what I have named "semantic attacks." They are much more serious and harder to defend against because they attack the user and not the computers. And they're the future of fraud on the Internet.
The first wave of attacks against the Internet was physical: against the computers, wires and electronics.
Ten years ago our critical infrastructure was run by a series of specialized systems, both computerized and manual, on dedicated networks. Today, many of these computers have been replaced with standard mass-market computers connected via the Internet. This shift brings with it all sorts of cost savings, but it also brings additional risks. The same worms and viruses, the same vulnerabilities, the same Trojans and hacking tools that have so successfully ravaged the Internet can now affect our critical infrastructure.
Did MSBlast cause the Aug. 14 blackout? The official analysis says "no," but I'm not so sure. A November interim report a panel of government and industry officials issued concluded that the blackout was caused by a series of failures with the chain of events starting at FirstEnergy, a power company in Ohio. A series of human and computer failures then turned a small problem into a major one. And because critical alarm systems failed, workers at FirstEnergy did not stop the cascade, because they did not know what was happening.
Im Jahr 2004 werden die USA viele Milliarden Dollar für Sicherheit ausgeben. Leider ist das meiste davon zum Fenster herausgeworfen – wirklichen Schutz bringt diese Aufrüstung nicht
VON BRUCE SCHNEIER
Der 11. September 2001 hat ein Trauma hinterlassen. Seit den Terroranschlägen brauchen die Amerikaner das Gefühl von mehr Sicherheit.
Computer security is not a problem that technology can solve. Security solutions have a technological component, but security is fundamentally a people problem. Businesses approach security as they do any other business uncertainty: in terms of risk management. Organizations optimize their activities to minimize their cost-risk product, and understanding those motivations is key to understanding computer security today.
Nathaniel Heatwole is a student at Guilford College. Several times between 7 February and 15 September 2003, he tested airline security. First, he smuggled in box cutters, clay resembling plastic explosives, and bleach simulating bomb-making chemicals through security. Then he hid these things in airplane lavatories, along with notes.
In September 2002, JetBlue Airways secretly turned over data about 1.5 million of its passengers to a company called Torch Concepts, under contract with the Department of Defense.
Torch Concepts merged this data with Social Security numbers, home addresses, income levels and automobile records that it purchased from another company, Acxiom Corp. All this was to test an automatic profiling system to automatically give each person a terrorist threat ranking.
A joint congressional intelligence inquiry has concluded that 9/11 could have been prevented if our nation's intelligence agencies shared information better and coordinated more effectively. This is both a trite platitude and a profound proscription.
Intelligence is easy to understand after the fact. With the benefit of hindsight, it's easy to draw lines from people in flight school here, to secret meetings in foreign countries there, over to interesting tips from informants, and maybe to INS records.
Paperless voting machines threaten the integrity of democratic process by what they don't do.
Voting problems associated with the 2000 U.S. Presidential election have spurred calls for more accurate voting systems. Unfortunately, many of the new computerized voting systems purchased today have major security and reliability problems.
The ideal voting technology would have five attributes: anonymity, scalability, speed, audit, and accuracy (direct mapping from intent to counted vote).
"The Slammer worm was the fastest computer worm in history. As it began spreading throughout the Internet, it doubled in size every 8.5 seconds. It infected more than 90 percent of vulnerable hosts within 10 minutes." (See "Inside the Slammer Worm," p. 33 of this issue.)For the six months prior to the Sapphire (or SQL Slammer) worm's release, the particular vulnerability that Slammer exploited was one of literally hundreds already known.
Internet security is usually described as a fortress, with the good guys inside the wall and the bad guys outside. Network owners buy products to shore up the barrier, on the logic that a stronger wall will give them better security. Flaws in the network are holes in the barricade, patches the mortar that closes them.
This metaphor might have been appropriate 10 years ago, when the Internet was made up of disparate networks that occasionally communicated, but it's outdated today.
In April 2003, the US Justice Department administratively discharged the FBI of its statutory duty to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database. This enormous database contains over 39 million criminal records and information on wanted persons, missing persons, and gang members, as well as information about stolen cars and boats. More than 80,000 law enforcement agencies have access to this database. On average, the database processes 2.8 million transactions each day.
Forget It: Bland PR Document Has Only Recommendations
AT 60 pages, the White House's National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace is an interesting read, but it won't help to secure cyberspace. It's a product of consensus, so it doesn't make any of the hard choices necessary to radically increase cyberspace security. Consensus doesn't work in security design, and invariably results in bad decisions. It's the compromises that are harmful, because the more parties you have in the discussion, the more interests there are that conflict with security.
THERE'S considerable confusion between the concepts of secrecy and security, and it is causing a lot of bad security and some surprising political arguments. Secrecy is not the same as security, and most of the time secrecy contributes to a false feeling of security instead of to real security.
Last month, the SQL Slammer worm ravished the Internet, infecting in some 15 minutes about 13 root servers that direct information traffic, and thus disrupting services as diverse as the 911 network in Seattle and much of Bank of America's 13,000 ATM machines. The worm took advantage of a software vulnerability in a Microsoft database management program, one that allowed a malicious piece of software to take control of the computer.
The full disclosure vs bug secrecy debate is a lot larger than computer security. Blaze's paper on master-key locking systems in this issue is an illustrative case in point. It turns out that the ways we've learned to conceptualize security and attacks in the computer world are directly applicable to other areas of security--like door locks. But the most interesting part of this entire story is that the locksmith community went ballistic after learning about what Blaze did.
Computer security is vital, and IEEE is launching this new magazine devoted to the topic. But there's more to security than what this magazine is going to talk about. If we don't help educate the average computer user about how to be a good security consumer, little of what we do matters.
Dozens of times a day, we are security consumers.
Photo of Bruce Schneier by Per Ervland.
Schneier on Security is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Resilient Systems, Inc.