Essays in the Category "Computer and Information Security"

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Click Here to Kill Everyone

With the Internet of Things, we’re building a world-size robot. How are we going to control it?

  • Bruce Schneier
  • New York Magazine
  • January 27, 2017

Last year, on October 21, your digital video recorder — or at least a DVR like yours — knocked Twitter off the internet. Someone used your DVR, along with millions of insecure webcams, routers, and other connected devices, to launch an attack that started a chain reaction, resulting in Twitter, Reddit, Netflix, and many sites going off the internet. You probably didn’t realize that your DVR had that kind of power. But it does.

All computers are hackable. This has as much to do with the computer market as it does with the technologies. We prefer our software full of features and inexpensive, at the expense of security and reliability. That your computer can affect the security of Twitter is a market failure. The industry is filled with market failures that, until now, have been largely ignorable. As computers continue to permeate our homes, cars, businesses, these market failures will no longer be tolerable. Our only solution will be regulation, and that regulation will be foisted on us by a government desperate to “do something” in the face of disaster…

Why Proving the Source of a Cyberattack is So Damn Difficult

  • Bruce Schneier
  • CNN
  • January 5, 2017

President Barack Obama’s public accusation of Russia as the source of the hacks in the US presidential election and the leaking of sensitive emails through WikiLeaks and other sources has opened up a debate on what constitutes sufficient evidence to attribute an attack in cyberspace. The answer is both complicated and inherently tied up in political considerations.

The administration is balancing political considerations and the inherent secrecy of electronic espionage with the need to justify its actions to the public. These issues will continue to plague us as more international conflict plays out in cyberspace…

Class Breaks

  • Bruce Schneier
  • Edge
  • December 30, 2016

This essay appeared as a response to Edge’s annual question, “what scientific term or concept ought to be more widely known?”

There’s a concept from computer security known as a class break. It’s a particular security vulnerability that breaks not just one system, but an entire class of systems. Examples might be a vulnerability in a particular operating system that allows an attacker to take remote control of every computer that runs on that system’s software. Or a vulnerability in Internet-enabled digital video recorders and webcams that allow an attacker to recruit those devices into a massive botnet…

Testimony at the U.S. House of Representatives Joint Hearing “Understanding the Role of Connected Devices in Recent Cyber Attacks”

  • Bruce Schneier
  • November 16, 2016

Testimony of Bruce Schneier
Fellow, Berkman-Klein Center at Harvard University
Lecturer and Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School of Government
Special Advisor to IBM Security and CTO of Resilient: An IBM Company

Before the

U.S. House of Representatives
Committee on Energy and Commerce
Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, and the
Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade

Joint Hearing Entitled
“Understanding the Role of Connected Devices in Recent Cyber Attacks”

November 16, 2016
10:00 AM

Watch the Video on House.gov

Good morning. Chairmen Walden and Burgess, Ranking Members Eshoo and Schakowsky, members of the committee: thank you for the opportunity to testify on this matter. Although I have an affiliation with both Harvard University and IBM, I am testifying in my personal capacity as a cybersecurity expert and nothing I say should be construed as the official position of either of those organizations…

American Elections Will Be Hacked

  • Bruce Schneier
  • The New York Times
  • November 9, 2016

It’s over. The voting went smoothly. As of the time of writing, there are no serious fraud allegations, nor credible evidence that anyone tampered with voting rolls or voting machines. And most important, the results are not in doubt.

While we may breathe a collective sigh of relief about that, we can’t ignore the issue until the next election. The risks remain.

As computer security experts have been saying for years, our newly computerized voting systems are vulnerable to attack by both individual hackers and government-sponsored cyberwarriors. It is only a matter of time before such an attack happens…

Your WiFi-Connected Thermostat Can Take Down the Whole Internet. We Need New Regulations.

  • Bruce Schneier
  • The Washington Post
  • November 3, 2016

Late last month, popular websites like Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit and PayPal went down for most of a day. The distributed denial-of-service attack that caused the outages, and the vulnerabilities that made the attack possible, was as much a failure of market and policy as it was of technology. If we want to secure our increasingly computerized and connected world, we need more government involvement in the security of the “Internet of Things” and increased regulation of what are now critical and life-threatening technologies. It’s no longer a question of if, it’s a question of when…

Lessons From the Dyn DDoS Attack

  • Bruce Schneier
  • SecurityIntelligence
  • November 1, 2016

A week ago Friday, someone took down numerous popular websites in a massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack against the domain name provider Dyn. DDoS attacks are neither new nor sophisticated. The attacker sends a massive amount of traffic, causing the victim’s system to slow to a crawl and eventually crash. There are more or less clever variants, but basically, it’s a datapipe-size battle between attacker and victim. If the defender has a larger capacity to receive and process data, he or she will win. If the attacker can throw more data than the victim can process, he or she will win…

Cybersecurity Issues for the Next Administration

Solutions require both corporate regulation and international cooperation

  • Bruce Schneier
  • Time
  • October 13, 2016

This essay appeared on Time.com as part of a special section called Let’s Talk About the Issues.

On today’s Internet, too much power is concentrated in too few hands. In the early days of the Internet, individuals were empowered. Now governments and corporations hold the balance of power. If we are to leave a better Internet for the next generations, governments need to rebalance Internet power more towards the individual. This means several things.

First, less surveillance. Surveillance has become the business model of the Internet, and an aspect that is appealing to governments worldwide. While computers make it easier to collect data, and networks to aggregate it, governments should do more to ensure that any surveillance is exceptional, transparent, regulated and targeted. It’s a tall order; governments such as that of the U.S. need to overcome their own mass-surveillance desires, and at the same time implement regulations to fetter the ability of Internet companies to do the same…

We Need to Save the Internet from the Internet of Things

  • Bruce Schneier
  • Motherboard
  • October 6, 2016

Brian Krebs is a popular reporter on the cybersecurity beat. He regularly exposes cybercriminals and their tactics, and consequently is regularly a target of their ire. Last month, he wrote about an online attack-for-hire service that resulted in the arrest of the two proprietors. In the aftermath, his site was taken down by a massive DDoS attack.

In many ways, this is nothing new. Distributed denial-of-service attacks are a family of attacks that cause websites and other internet-connected systems to crash by overloading them with traffic. The “distributed” part means that other insecure computers on the internet—sometimes in the millions—are recruited to a botnet to unwittingly participate in the attack. The tactics are decades old; DDoS attacks are perpetrated by lone hackers trying to be annoying, criminals trying to extort money, and governments testing their tactics. There are defenses, and there are companies that offer DDoS mitigation services for hire…

How Long Until Hackers Start Faking Leaked Documents?

There’s nothing stopping attackers from manipulating the data they make public.

  • Bruce Schneier
  • The Atlantic
  • September 13, 2016

In the past few years, the devastating effects of hackers breaking into an organization’s network, stealing confidential data, and publishing everything have been made clear. It happened to the Democratic National Committee, to Sony, to the National Security Agency, to the cyber-arms weapons manufacturer Hacking Team, to the online adultery site Ashley Madison, and to the Panamanian tax-evasion law firm Mossack Fonseca.

This style of attack is known as organizational doxing. The hackers, in some cases individuals and in others nation-states, are out to make political points by revealing proprietary, secret, and sometimes incriminating information. And the documents they leak do that, airing the organizations’ embarrassments for everyone to see…

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.