The Washington Post is reporting on an internal CIA report about its “Vault 7” security breach:
The breach — allegedly committed by a CIA employee — was discovered a year after it happened, when the information was published by WikiLeaks, in March 2017. The anti-secrecy group dubbed the release “Vault 7,” and U.S. officials have said it was the biggest unauthorized disclosure of classified information in the CIA’s history, causing the agency to shut down some intelligence operations and alerting foreign adversaries to the spy agency’s techniques.
The October 2017 report by the CIA’s WikiLeaks Task Force, several pages of which were missing or redacted, portrays an agency more concerned with bulking up its cyber arsenal than keeping those tools secure. Security procedures were “woefully lax” within the special unit that designed and built the tools, the report said.
Without the WikiLeaks disclosure, the CIA might never have known the tools had been stolen, according to the report. “Had the data been stolen for the benefit of a state adversary and not published, we might still be unaware of the loss,” the task force concluded.
The task force report was provided to The Washington Post by the office of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who has pressed for stronger cybersecurity in the intelligence community. He obtained the redacted, incomplete copy from the Justice Department.
It’s all still up on WikiLeaks.
Posted on June 18, 2020 at 6:34 AM •
South Africa’s Postbank experienced a catastrophic security failure. The bank’s master PIN key was stolen, forcing it to cancel and replace 12 million bank cards.
The breach resulted from the printing of the bank’s encrypted master key in plain, unencrypted digital language at the Postbank’s old data centre in the Pretoria city centre.
According to a number of internal Postbank reports, which the Sunday Times obtained, the master key was then stolen by employees.
One of the reports said that the cards would cost about R1bn to replace. The master key, a 36-digit code, allows anyone who has it to gain unfettered access to the bank’s systems, and allows them to read and rewrite account balances, and change information and data on any of the bank’s 12-million cards.
The bank lost $3.2 million in fraudulent transactions before the theft was discovered. Replacing all the cards will cost an estimated $58 million.
Posted on June 17, 2020 at 6:21 AM •
This study shows that most people don’t change their passwords after a breach, and if they do they change it to a weaker password.
Abstract: To protect against misuse of passwords compromised in a breach, consumers should promptly change affected passwords and any similar passwords on other accounts. Ideally, affected companies should strongly encourage this behavior and have mechanisms in place to mitigate harm. In order to make recommendations to companies about how to help their users perform these and other security-enhancing actions after breaches, we must first have some understanding of the current effectiveness of companies’ post-breach practices. To study the effectiveness of password-related breach notifications and practices enforced after a breach, we examine — based on real-world password data from 249 participants — whether and how constructively participants changed their passwords after a breach announcement.
Of the 249 participants, 63 had accounts on breached domains;only 33% of the 63 changed their passwords and only 13% (of 63)did so within three months of the announcement. New passwords were on average 1.3× stronger than old passwords (when comparing log10-transformed strength), though most were weaker or of equal strength. Concerningly, new passwords were overall more similar to participants’ other passwords, and participants rarely changed passwords on other sites even when these were the same or similar to their password on the breached domain.Our results highlight the need for more rigorous password-changing requirements following a breach and more effective breach notifications that deliver comprehensive advice.
EDITED TO ADD (6/2): Another news aricle. Slashdot thread.
EDITED TO ADD (7/1): This entry has been translated into Spanish.
Posted on June 1, 2020 at 6:08 AM •
This one isn’t even related to contact tracing:
On March 17, 2020, the federal government relaxed a number of telehealth-related regulatory requirements due to COVID-19. On April 3, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-43-20 (the Order), which relaxes various telehealth reporting requirements, penalties, and enforcements otherwise imposed under state laws, including those associated with unauthorized access and disclosure of personal information through telehealth mediums.
Lots of details at the link.
Posted on April 16, 2020 at 10:34 AM •
Marriott announced another data breach, this one affecting 5.2 million people:
At this point, we believe that the following information may have been involved, although not all of this information was present for every guest involved:
- Contact Details (e.g., name, mailing address, email address, and phone number)
- Loyalty Account Information (e.g., account number and points balance, but not passwords)
- Additional Personal Details (e.g., company, gender, and birthday day and month)
- Partnerships and Affiliations (e.g., linked airline loyalty programs and numbers)
Preferences (e.g., stay/room preferences and language preference)
This isn’t nearly as bad as the 2014 Marriott breach — made public in 2018 — which was the work of the Chinese government. But it does call into question whether Marriott is taking security seriously at all. It would be nice if there were a government regulatory body that could investigate and hold the company accountable.
Posted on April 2, 2020 at 11:33 AM •
There was a successful attack against NordVPN:
Based on the command log, another of the leaked secret keys appeared to secure a private certificate authority that NordVPN used to issue digital certificates. Those certificates might be issued for other servers in NordVPN’s network or for a variety of other sensitive purposes. The name of the third certificate suggested it could also have been used for many different sensitive purposes, including securing the server that was compromised in the breach.
The revelations came as evidence surfaced suggesting that two rival VPN services, TorGuard and VikingVPN, also experienced breaches that leaked encryption keys. In a statement, TorGuard said a secret key for a transport layer security certificate for *.torguardvpnaccess.com was stolen. The theft happened in a 2017 server breach. The stolen data related to a squid proxy certificate.
TorGuard officials said on Twitter that the private key was not on the affected server and that attackers “could do nothing with those keys.” Monday’s statement went on to say TorGuard didn’t remove the compromised server until early 2018. TorGuard also said it learned of VPN breaches last May, “and in a related development we filed a legal complaint against NordVPN.”
The breach happened nineteen months ago, but the company is only just disclosing it to the public. We don’t know exactly what was stolen and how it affects VPN security. More details are needed.
VPNs are a shadowy world. We use them to protect our Internet traffic when we’re on a network we don’t trust, but we’re forced to trust the VPN instead. Recommendations are hard. NordVPN’s website says that the company is based in Panama. Do we have any reason to trust it at all?
I’m curious what VPNs others use, and why they should be believed to be trustworthy.
Posted on October 23, 2019 at 6:15 AM •
Interesting essay arguing that we need better legislation to protect cybersecurity whistleblowers.
Congress should act to protect cybersecurity whistleblowers because information security has never been so important, or so challenging. In the wake of a barrage of shocking revelations about data breaches and companies mishandling of customer data, a bipartisan consensus has emerged in support of legislation to give consumers more control over their personal information, require companies to disclose how they collect and use consumer data, and impose penalties for data breaches and misuse of consumer data. The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has been held out as the best agency to implement this new regulation. But for any such legislation to be effective, it must protect the courageous whistleblowers who risk their careers to expose data breaches and unauthorized use of consumers’ private data.
Whistleblowers strengthen regulatory regimes, and cybersecurity regulation would be no exception. Republican and Democratic leaders from the executive and legislative branches have extolled the virtues of whistleblowers. High-profile cases abound. Recently, Christopher Wylie exposed Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of Facebook user data to manipulate voters, including its apparent theft of data from 50 million Facebook users as part of a psychological profiling campaign. Though additional research is needed, the existing empirical data reinforces the consensus that whistleblowers help prevent, detect, and remedy misconduct. Therefore it is reasonable to conclude that protecting and incentivizing whistleblowers could help the government address the many complex challenges facing our nation’s information systems.
Posted on June 3, 2019 at 6:30 AM •
I just noticed this bit from the incredibly weird story of the Chinese woman arrested at Mar-a-Lago:
Secret Service agent Samuel Ivanovich, who interviewed Zhang on the day of her arrest, testified at the hearing. He stated that when another agent put Zhang’s thumb drive into his computer, it immediately began to install files, a “very out-of-the-ordinary” event that he had never seen happen before during this kind of analysis. The agent had to immediately stop the analysis to halt any further corruption of his computer, Ivanovich testified. The analysis is ongoing but still inconclusive, he said.
This is what passes for forensics at the Secret Service? I expect better.
EDITED TO ADD (4/9): I know this post is peripherally related to Trump. I know some readers can’t help themselves from talking about broader issues surrounding Trump, Russia, and so on. Please do not comment to those posts. I will delete them as soon as I see them.
EDITED TO ADD (4/9): Ars Technica has more detail.
Posted on April 9, 2019 at 6:54 AM •
The US House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has just released a comprehensive report on the 2017 Equifax hack. It’s a great piece of writing, with a detailed timeline, root cause analysis, and lessons learned. Lance Spitzner also commented on this.
Here is my testimony before before the House Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection last November.
Posted on December 19, 2018 at 6:00 AM •
In an excellent blog post, Brian Krebs makes clear something I have been saying for a while:
Likewise for individuals, it pays to accept two unfortunate and harsh realities:
Reality #1: Bad guys already have access to personal data points that you may believe should be secret but which nevertheless aren’t, including your credit card information, Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, date of birth, address, previous addresses, phone number, and yes even your credit file.
Reality #2: Any data point you share with a company will in all likelihood eventually be hacked, lost, leaked, stolen or sold usually through no fault of your own. And if you’re an American, it means (at least for the time being) your recourse to do anything about that when it does happen is limited or nil.
Once you’ve owned both of these realities, you realize that expecting another company to safeguard your security is a fool’s errand, and that it makes far more sense to focus instead on doing everything you can to proactively prevent identity thieves, malicious hackers or other ne’er-do-wells from abusing access to said data.
His advice is good.
Posted on December 6, 2018 at 7:33 AM •
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.