Previously I have written about the Swedish-owned Swiss-based cryptographic hardware company: Crypto AG. It was a CIA-owned Cold War operation for decades. Today it is called Crypto International, still based in Switzerland but owned by a Swedish company.
It’s back in the news:
Late last week, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said she had canceled a meeting with her Swiss counterpart Ignazio Cassis slated for this month after Switzerland placed an export ban on Crypto International, a Swiss-based and Swedish-owned cybersecurity company.
The ban was imposed while Swiss authorities examine long-running and explosive claims that a previous incarnation of Crypto International, Crypto AG, was little more than a front for U.S. intelligence-gathering during the Cold War.
Linde said the Swiss ban was stopping “goods” — which experts suggest could include cybersecurity upgrades or other IT support needed by Swedish state agencies — from reaching Sweden.
She told public broadcaster SVT that the meeting with Cassis was “not appropriate right now until we have fully understood the Swiss actions.”
EDITED TO ADD (10/13): Lots of information on Crypto AG.
Posted on October 6, 2020 at 6:11 AM •
Together with Nate Kim (former student) and Trey Herr (Atlantic Council Cyber Statecraft Initiative), I have written a paper on IoT supply chain security. The basic problem we try to solve is: How do you enforce IoT security regulations when most of the stuff is made in other countries? And our solution is: enforce the regulations on the domestic company that’s selling the stuff to consumers. There’s a lot of detail between here and there, though, and it’s all in the paper.
We also wrote a Lawfare post:
…we propose to leverage these supply chains as part of the solution. Selling to U.S. consumers generally requires that IoT manufacturers sell through a U.S. subsidiary or, more commonly, a domestic distributor like Best Buy or Amazon. The Federal Trade Commission can apply regulatory pressure to this distributor to sell only products that meet the requirements of a security framework developed by U.S. cybersecurity agencies. That would put pressure on manufacturers to make sure their products are compliant with the standards set out in this security framework, including pressuring their component vendors and original device manufacturers to make sure they supply parts that meet the recognized security framework.
Posted on July 1, 2020 at 9:31 AM •
Remember Spectre and Meltdown? Back in early 2018, I wrote:
Spectre and Meltdown are pretty catastrophic vulnerabilities, but they only affect the confidentiality of data. Now that they — and the research into the Intel ME vulnerability — have shown researchers where to look, more is coming — and what they’ll find will be worse than either Spectre or Meltdown. There will be vulnerabilities that will allow attackers to manipulate or delete data across processes, potentially fatal in the computers controlling our cars or implanted medical devices. These will be similarly impossible to fix, and the only strategy will be to throw our devices away and buy new ones.
That has turned out to be true. Here’s a new vulnerability:
On Tuesday, two separate academic teams disclosed two new and distinctive exploits that pierce Intel’s Software Guard eXtension, by far the most sensitive region of the company’s processors.
The new SGX attacks are known as SGAxe and CrossTalk. Both break into the fortified CPU region using separate side-channel attacks, a class of hack that infers sensitive data by measuring timing differences, power consumption, electromagnetic radiation, sound, or other information from the systems that store it. The assumptions for both attacks are roughly the same. An attacker has already broken the security of the target machine through a software exploit or a malicious virtual machine that compromises the integrity of the system. While that’s a tall bar, it’s precisely the scenario that SGX is supposed to defend against.
Another news article.
Posted on June 11, 2020 at 6:40 AM •
Used Tesla components, sold on eBay, still contain personal information, even after a factory reset.
This is a decades-old problem. It’s a problem with used hard drives. It’s a problem with used photocopiers and printers. It will be a problem with IoT devices. It’ll be a problem with everything, until we decide that data deletion is a priority.
EDITED TO ADD (6/20): These computes were not factory reset. Apparently, he data was intentionally left on the computer so that the technicians could transfer it when upgrading the computer. It’s still bad, but a factory reset does work.
Posted on May 8, 2020 at 9:46 AM •
There’s a vulnerability in Wi-Fi hardware that breaks the encryption:
The vulnerability exists in Wi-Fi chips made by Cypress Semiconductor and Broadcom, the latter a chipmaker Cypress acquired in 2016. The affected devices include iPhones, iPads, Macs, Amazon Echos and Kindles, Android devices, and Wi-Fi routers from Asus and Huawei, as well as the Raspberry Pi 3. Eset, the security company that discovered the vulnerability, said the flaw primarily affects Cypress’ and Broadcom’s FullMAC WLAN chips, which are used in billions of devices. Eset has named the vulnerability Kr00k, and it is tracked as CVE-2019-15126.
Manufacturers have made patches available for most or all of the affected devices, but it’s not clear how many devices have installed the patches. Of greatest concern are vulnerable wireless routers, which often go unpatched indefinitely.
That’s the real problem. Many of these devices won’t get patched — ever.
Posted on March 3, 2020 at 6:43 AM •
BusKill is designed to wipe your laptop (Linux only) if it is snatched from you in a public place:
The idea is to connect the BusKill cable to your Linux laptop on one end, and to your belt, on the other end. When someone yanks your laptop from your lap or table, the USB cable disconnects from the laptop and triggers a udev script [1, 2, 3] that executes a series of preset operations.
These can be something as simple as activating your screensaver or shutting down your device (forcing the thief to bypass your laptop’s authentication mechanism before accessing any data), but the script can also be configured to wipe the device or delete certain folders (to prevent thieves from retrieving any sensitive data or accessing secure business backends).
Clever idea, but I — and my guess is most people — would be much more likely to stand up from the table, forgetting that the cable was attached, and yanking it out. My problem with pretty much all systems like this is the likelihood of false alarms.
EDITED TO ADD (1/14): There are Bluetooth devices that will automatically encrypt a laptop when the device isn’t in proximity. That’s a much better interface than a cable.
Posted on January 7, 2020 at 6:03 AM •
Really interesting research: TPM-FAIL: TPM meets Timing and Lattice Attacks, by Daniel Moghimi, Berk Sunar, Thomas Eisenbarth, and Nadia Heninger.
Abstract: Trusted Platform Module (TPM) serves as a hardware-based root of trust that protects cryptographic keys from privileged system and physical adversaries. In this work, we per-form a black-box timing analysis of TPM 2.0 devices deployed on commodity computers. Our analysis reveals that some of these devices feature secret-dependent execution times during signature generation based on elliptic curves. In particular, we discovered timing leakage on an Intel firmware-based TPM as well as a hardware TPM. We show how this information allows an attacker to apply lattice techniques to recover 256-bit private keys for ECDSA and ECSchnorr signatures. On Intel fTPM, our key recovery succeeds after about1,300 observations and in less than two minutes. Similarly, we extract the private ECDSA key from a hardware TPM manufactured by STMicroelectronics, which is certified at CommonCriteria (CC) EAL 4+, after fewer than 40,000 observations. We further highlight the impact of these vulnerabilities by demonstrating a remote attack against a StrongSwan IPsecVPN that uses a TPM to generate the digital signatures for authentication. In this attack, the remote client recovers the server’s private authentication key by timing only 45,000 authentication handshakes via a network connection.
The vulnerabilities we have uncovered emphasize the difficulty of correctly implementing known constant-time techniques, and show the importance of evolutionary testing and transparent evaluation of cryptographic implementations.Even certified devices that claim resistance against attacks require additional scrutiny by the community and industry, as we learn more about these attacks.
These are real attacks, and take between 4-20 minutes to extract the key. Intel has a firmware update.
Attack website. News articles. Boing Boing post. Slashdot thread.
Posted on November 15, 2019 at 9:36 AM •
I always recommend using a random number generator like Fortuna, even if you’re using a hardware random source. It’s just safer.
Posted on October 31, 2019 at 6:24 AM •
Interesting proof of concept:
At the CS3sthlm security conference later this month, security researcher Monta Elkins will show how he created a proof-of-concept version of that hardware hack in his basement. He intends to demonstrate just how easily spies, criminals, or saboteurs with even minimal skills, working on a shoestring budget, can plant a chip in enterprise IT equipment to offer themselves stealthy backdoor access…. With only a $150 hot-air soldering tool, a $40 microscope, and some $2 chips ordered online, Elkins was able to alter a Cisco firewall in a way that he says most IT admins likely wouldn’t notice, yet would give a remote attacker deep control.
Posted on October 18, 2019 at 5:54 AM •
Security researchers Gabriel Campana and Jean-Baptiste Bédrune are giving a hardware security module (HSM) talk at BlackHat in August:
This highly technical presentation targets an HSM manufactured by a vendor whose solutions are usually found in major banks and large cloud service providers. It will demonstrate several attack paths, some of them allowing unauthenticated attackers to take full control of the HSM. The presented attacks allow retrieving all HSM secrets remotely, including cryptographic keys and administrator credentials. Finally, we exploit a cryptographic bug in the firmware signature verification to upload a modified firmware to the HSM. This firmware includes a persistent backdoor that survives a firmware update.
They have an academic paper in French, and a presentation of the work. Here’s a summary in English.
There were plenty of technical challenges to solve along the way, in what was clearly a thorough and professional piece of vulnerability research:
- They started by using legitimate SDK access to their test HSM to upload a firmware module that would give them a shell inside the HSM. Note that this SDK access was used to discover the attacks, but is not necessary to exploit them.
- They then used the shell to run a fuzzer on the internal implementation of PKCS#11 commands to find reliable, exploitable buffer overflows.
- They checked they could exploit these buffer overflows from outside the HSM, i.e. by just calling the PKCS#11 driver from the host machine
- They then wrote a payload that would override access control and, via another issue in the HSM, allow them to upload arbitrary (unsigned) firmware. It’s important to note that this backdoor is persistent a subsequent update will not fix it.
- They then wrote a module that would dump all the HSM secrets, and uploaded it to the HSM.
Posted on June 20, 2019 at 6:56 AM •
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.