Entries Tagged "cybersecurity"

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Brian Krebs

Nice profile of Brian Krebs, cybersecurity journalist:

Russian criminals routinely feed Mr. Krebs information about their rivals that they obtained through hacks. After one such episode, he began receiving daily calls from a major Russian cybercriminal seeking his files back. Mr. Krebs is writing a book about the ordeal, called “Spam Nation,” to be published by Sourcebooks this year.

In the meantime, hackers have been competing in a dangerous game of one-upmanship to see who can pull the worst prank on Mr. Krebs. They often steal his identity. One opened a $20,000 credit line in his name. Admirers have made more than $1,000 in bogus PayPal donations to his blog using hacked accounts. Others have paid his cable bill for three years with stolen credit cards.

The antics can be dangerous. In March, as Mr. Krebs was preparing to have his mother over for dinner, he opened his front door to find a police SWAT team pointing semiautomatic guns in his direction. Only after his wife returned home from the grocery store to find him handcuffed did the police realize Mr. Krebs had been the victim of “swatting.” Someone had called the police and falsely reported a murder at their home.

Four months after that, someone sent packets of heroin to Mr. Krebs’s home, then spoofed a call from his neighbor to the police. But Mr. Krebs had already been tipped off to the prank. He was tracking the fraud in a private forum — where a criminal had posted the shipment’s tracking number ­- and had alerted the local police and the F.B.I.

Posted on February 20, 2014 at 4:09 PMView Comments

More on Stuxnet

Ralph Langer has written the definitive analysis of Stuxnet: short, popular version, and long, technical version.

Stuxnet is not really one weapon, but two. The vast majority of the attention has been paid to Stuxnet’s smaller and simpler attack routine — the one that changes the speeds of the rotors in a centrifuge, which is used to enrich uranium. But the second and “forgotten” routine is about an order of magnitude more complex and stealthy. It qualifies as a nightmare for those who understand industrial control system security. And strangely, this more sophisticated attack came first. The simpler, more familiar routine followed only years later — and was discovered in comparatively short order.

Also:

Stuxnet also provided a useful blueprint to future attackers by highlighting the royal road to infiltration of hard targets. Rather than trying to infiltrate directly by crawling through 15 firewalls, three data diodes, and an intrusion detection system, the attackers acted indirectly by infecting soft targets with legitimate access to ground zero: contractors. However seriously these contractors took their cybersecurity, it certainly was not on par with the protections at the Natanz fuel-enrichment facility. Getting the malware on the contractors’ mobile devices and USB sticks proved good enough, as sooner or later they physically carried those on-site and connected them to Natanz’s most critical systems, unchallenged by any guards.

Any follow-up attacker will explore this infiltration method when thinking about hitting hard targets. The sober reality is that at a global scale, pretty much every single industrial or military facility that uses industrial control systems at some scale is dependent on its network of contractors, many of which are very good at narrowly defined engineering tasks, but lousy at cybersecurity. While experts in industrial control system security had discussed the insider threat for many years, insiders who unwittingly helped deploy a cyberweapon had been completely off the radar. Until Stuxnet.

And while Stuxnet was clearly the work of a nation-state — requiring vast resources and considerable intelligence — future attacks on industrial control and other so-called “cyber-physical” systems may not be. Stuxnet was particularly costly because of the attackers’ self-imposed constraints. Damage was to be disguised as reliability problems. I estimate that well over 50 percent of Stuxnet’s development cost went into efforts to hide the attack, with the bulk of that cost dedicated to the overpressure attack which represents the ultimate in disguise — at the cost of having to build a fully-functional mockup IR-1 centrifuge cascade operating with real uranium hexafluoride. Stuxnet-inspired attackers will not necessarily place the same emphasis on disguise; they may want victims to know that they are under cyberattack and perhaps even want to publicly claim credit for it.

Related: earlier this month, Eugene Kaspersky said that Stuxnet also damaged a Russian nuclear power station and the International Space Station.

Posted on November 29, 2013 at 6:18 AMView Comments

Is Cybersecurity a Profession?

A National Academy of Sciences panel says no:

Sticking to the quality control aspect of the report, professionalization, it says, has the potential to attract workers and establish long-term paths to improving the work force overall, but measures such as standardized education or requirements for certification, have their disadvantages too.

For example, formal education or certification could be helpful to employers looking to evaluate the skills and knowledge of a given applicant, but it takes time to develop curriculum and reach a consensus on what core knowledge and skills should be assessed in order to award any such certification. For direct examples of such a quandary, InfoSec needs only to look at the existing certification programs, and the criticisms directed that certifications such as the CISSP and C|EH.

Once a certification is issued, the previously mentioned barriers start to emerge. The standards used to award certifications will run the risk of becoming obsolete. Furthermore, workers may not have incentives to update their skills in order to remain current. Again, this issue is seen in the industry today, as some professionals chose to let their certifications lapse rather than renew them or try and collect the required CPE credits.

But the largest barrier is that some of the most talented individuals in cybersecurity are self-taught. So the requirement of formal education or training may, as mentioned, deter potential employees from entering the field at a time when they are needed the most. So while professionalization may be a useful tool in some circumstances, the report notes, it shouldn’t be used as a proxy for “better.”

Here’s the report.

Posted on October 3, 2013 at 12:55 PMView Comments

New Cybersecurity Position at DHS

There’s a major reorganization going on at the Department of Homeland Security. One of the effects is the creation of a new post: assistant secretary for cyber and telecommunications security.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter where the nation’s chief cybersecurity chief sits in the organizational chart. If he has the authority to spend money and write regulations, he can do good. If he only has the power to suggest, plead, and cheerlead he’ll be as frustrated as all the previous ones were.

Posted on July 20, 2005 at 7:44 AMView Comments

New U.S. Government Cybersecurity Position

From InfoWorld:

The Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity Enhancement Act, approved by the House Subcommittee on Economic Security, Infrastructure Protection and Cybersecurity, would create the position of assistant secretary for cybersecurity at DHS. The bill, sponsored by Representatives Mac Thornberry, a Texas Republican, and Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, would also make the assistant secretary responsible for establishing a national cybersecurity threat reduction program and a national cybersecurity training program….

The top cybersecurity official at DHS has been the director of the agency’s National Cyber Security Division, a lower-level position, and technology trade groups for several months have been calling for a higher-level position that could make cybersecurity a higher priority at DHS.

Sadly, this isn’t going to amount to anything. Yes, it’s good to have a higher-level official in charge of cybersecurity. But responsibility without authority doesn’t work. A bigger bully pulpit isn’t going to help without a coherent plan behind it, and we have none.

The absolute best thing the DHS could do for cybersecurity would be to coordinate the U.S. government’s enormous purchasing power and demand more secure hardware and software.

Here’s the text of the act, if anyone cares.

Posted on May 6, 2005 at 8:05 AMView Comments

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.