Entries Tagged "leaks"

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Choosing a Bad Password Has Real-World Consequences

Oops:

Wikileaks has cracked the encryption to a key document relating to the war in Afghanistan. The document, titled “NATO in Afghanistan: Master Narrative”, details the “story” NATO representatives are to give to, and to avoid giving to, journalists.

An unrelated leaked photo from the war: a US soldier poses with a dead Afghani man in the hills of Afghanistan

The encrypted document, which is dated October 6, and believed to be current, can be found on the Pentagon Central Command (CENTCOM) website.

Posted on March 9, 2009 at 1:19 PMView Comments

BNP Database Leaked

This is a big deal.

British National Party (BNP, a far-right nationalist party) membership and contacts list. 12,801 individuals are represented. Contains contact details and notes on selected party members and (possibly) other individuals. The list has been independently verified by Wikileaks staff as predominantly containing current or ex-BNP members, however other individuals who have donated to the BNP or who have had other contact (not necessarily supportive) with the BNP or one of its fronts may also be represented.

Says BBC:

Occupations ascribed to the listed names include teachers, a doctor, nurse, vicar and members of the armed forces.

While there is no ban on many of those professions joining the BNP, its right-wing political stance and whites-only membership policy are seen by many as incompatible with frontline public service.

Police officers, on the other hand, are formally banned from joining, a policy which is recognised in the list.

Alongside the name of a serving officer, the document states that there is “Discretion required re. employment concerns”.

Seems that the BNP database wasn’t hacked from the outside, but that someone on the inside leaked the list.

There’s a lot more leaked BNP documents on the Wikileaks website.

Posted on November 24, 2008 at 6:26 AMView Comments

Secret German IP Addresses Leaked

From Wikileaks:

The PDF document holds a single paged scan of an internally distributed mail from German telecommunications company T-Systems (Deutsche Telekom), revealing over two dozen secret IP address ranges in use by the German intelligence service Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND). Independent evidence shows that the claim is almost certainly true and the document itself has been verified by a demand letter from T-systems to Wikileaks.

Posted on November 20, 2008 at 7:26 AMView Comments

The DNS Vulnerability

Despite the best efforts of the security community, the details of a critical internet vulnerability discovered by Dan Kaminsky about six months ago have leaked. Hackers are racing to produce exploit code, and network operators who haven’t already patched the hole are scrambling to catch up. The whole mess is a good illustration of the problems with researching and disclosing flaws like this.

The details of the vulnerability aren’t important, but basically it’s a form of DNS cache poisoning. The DNS system is what translates domain names people understand, like www.schneier.com, to IP addresses computers understand: 204.11.246.1. There is a whole family of vulnerabilities where the DNS system on your computer is fooled into thinking that the IP address for www.badsite.com is really the IP address for www.goodsite.com — there’s no way for you to tell the difference — and that allows the criminals at www.badsite.com to trick you into doing all sorts of things, like giving up your bank account details. Kaminsky discovered a particularly nasty variant of this cache-poisoning attack.

Here’s the way the timeline was supposed to work: Kaminsky discovered the vulnerability about six months ago, and quietly worked with vendors to patch it. (There’s a fairly straightforward fix, although the implementation nuances are complicated.) Of course, this meant describing the vulnerability to them; why would companies like Microsoft and Cisco believe him otherwise? On July 8, he held a press conference to announce the vulnerability — but not the details — and reveal that a patch was available from a long list of vendors. We would all have a month to patch, and Kaminsky would release details of the vulnerability at the BlackHat conference early next month.

Of course, the details leaked. How isn’t important; it could have leaked a zillion different ways. Too many people knew about it for it to remain secret. Others who knew the general idea were too smart not to speculate on the details. I’m kind of amazed the details remained secret for this long; undoubtedly it had leaked into the underground community before the public leak two days ago. So now everyone who back-burnered the problem is rushing to patch, while the hacker community is racing to produce working exploits.

What’s the moral here? It’s easy to condemn Kaminsky: If he had shut up about the problem, we wouldn’t be in this mess. But that’s just wrong. Kaminsky found the vulnerability by accident. There’s no reason to believe he was the first one to find it, and it’s ridiculous to believe he would be the last. Don’t shoot the messenger. The problem is with the DNS protocol; it’s insecure.

The real lesson is that the patch treadmill doesn’t work, and it hasn’t for years. This cycle of finding security holes and rushing to patch them before the bad guys exploit those vulnerabilities is expensive, inefficient and incomplete. We need to design security into our systems right from the beginning. We need assurance. We need security engineers involved in system design. This process won’t prevent every vulnerability, but it’s much more secure — and cheaper — than the patch treadmill we’re all on now.

What a security engineer brings to the problem is a particular mindset. He thinks about systems from a security perspective. It’s not that he discovers all possible attacks before the bad guys do; it’s more that he anticipates potential types of attacks, and defends against them even if he doesn’t know their details. I see this all the time in good cryptographic designs. It’s over-engineering based on intuition, but if the security engineer has good intuition, it generally works.

Kaminsky’s vulnerability is a perfect example of this. Years ago, cryptographer Daniel J. Bernstein looked at DNS security and decided that Source Port Randomization was a smart design choice. That’s exactly the work-around being rolled out now following Kaminsky’s discovery. Bernstein didn’t discover Kaminsky’s attack; instead, he saw a general class of attacks and realized that this enhancement could protect against them. Consequently, the DNS program he wrote in 2000, djbdns, doesn’t need to be patched; it’s already immune to Kaminsky’s attack.

That’s what a good design looks like. It’s not just secure against known attacks; it’s also secure against unknown attacks. We need more of this, not just on the internet but in voting machines, ID cards, transportation payment cards … everywhere. Stop assuming that systems are secure unless demonstrated insecure; start assuming that systems are insecure unless designed securely.

This essay previously appeared on Wired.com.

EDITED TO ADD (8/7): Seems like the flaw is much worse than we thought.

EDITED TO ADD (8/13): Someone else discovered the vulnerability first.

Posted on July 29, 2008 at 6:01 AMView Comments

Gitmo Manual Leaked

A 2003 “Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures” manual has been leaked to the Internet. This is the same manual that the ACLU has unsuccessfully sued the government to get a copy of. Others can debate the legality of some of the procedures; I’m interested in comments about the security.

See, for example, this quote on page 27.3:

(b) Upon arrival will enter the gate by entering the number (1998) in the combination lock

(c) Proceed to the junction box with the number (7012-83) Breaker Box and open the boc. The number for the lock on the breaker box is (224).

Posted on November 20, 2007 at 6:49 AMView Comments

New TSA Report

A classified 2006 TSA report on airport security has been leaked to USA Today. (Other papers are covering the story, but their articles seem to be all derived from the original USA Today article.)

There’s good news:

This year, the TSA for the first time began running covert tests every day at every checkpoint at every airport. That began partly in response to the classified TSA report showing that screeners at San Francisco International Airport were tested several times a day and found about 80% of the fake bombs.

Constant testing makes screeners “more suspicious as well as more capable of recognizing (bomb) components,” the report said. The report does not explain the high failure rates but said O’Hare’s checkpoints were too congested and too wide for supervisors to monitor screeners.

At San Francisco, “everybody realizes they are under scrutiny, being watched and tested constantly,” said Gerald Berry, president of Covenant Aviation Security, which hires and manages the San Francisco screeners. San Francisco is one of eight airports, most of them small, where screeners work for a private company instead of the TSA. The idea for constant testing came from Ed Gomez, TSA security director at San Francisco, Berry said. The tests often involve an undercover person putting a bag with a fake bomb on an X-ray machine belt, he said.

Repeated testing is good, for a whole bunch of reasons.

There’s bad news:

Howe said the increased difficulty explains why screeners at Los Angeles and Chicago O’Hare airports failed to find more than 60% of fake explosives that TSA agents tried to get through checkpoints last year.

The failure rates — about 75% at Los Angeles and 60% at O’Hare — are higher than some tests of screeners a few years ago and equivalent to other previous tests.

Sure, the tests are harder. But those are miserable numbers.

And there’s unexplainable news:

At San Diego International Airport, tests are run by passengers whom local TSA managers ask to carry a fake bomb, said screener Cris Soulia, an official in a screeners union.

Someone please tell me this doesn’t actually happen. “Hi Mr. Passenger. I’m a TSA manager. You know I’m not lying to you because of this official-looking laminated badge I have. We need you to help us test airport security. Here’s a ‘fake’ bomb that we’d like you to carry through security in your luggage. Another TSA manager will, um, meet you at your destination. Give the fake bomb to him when you land. And, by the way, what’s your mother’s maiden name?”

How in the world is this a good idea? And how hard is it to dress real TSA managers up like vacationers?

EDITED TO ADD (10/24): Here’s a story of someone being asked to carry an item through airport security at Dulles Airport.

EDITED TO ADD (10/26): TSA claims that this doesn’t happen:

TSA officials do not ask random passengers to carry fake bombs through checkpoints for testing at San Diego International Airport, or any other airport.

[…]

TSA Traveler Alert: If approached by anyone claiming to be a TSA employee asking you to take something through the checkpoint, please contact a uniformed TSA employee at the checkpoint or a law enforcement officer immediately.

Is there anyone else who has had this happen to them?

Posted on October 19, 2007 at 2:37 PMView Comments

NSA's Public Relations Campaign Targets Reporters

Your tax dollars at work:

Frustrated by press leaks about its most sensitive electronic surveillance work, the secretive National Security Agency convened an unprecedented series of off-the-record “seminars” in recent years to teach reporters about the damage caused by such leaks and to discourage reporting that could interfere with the agency’s mission to spy on America’s enemies.

The half-day classes featured high-ranking NSA officials highlighting objectionable passages in published stories and offering “an innocuous rewrite” that officials said maintained the “overall thrust” of the articles but omitted details that could disclose the agency’s techniques, according to course outlines obtained by The New York Sun.

Posted on October 4, 2007 at 3:11 PMView Comments

Leaked MediaDefender E-mails

This story is poised to become a bigger deal:

Peer-to-peer (P2P) poisoning company MediaDefender suffered an embarrassing leak this weekend, when almost 700MB of internal company e-mail was distributed on the Internet via BitTorrent. The e-mails reveal many aspects of MediaDefender’s elaborate P2P disruption strategies, illuminate previously undisclosed details about the MiiVi scandal, and bring to light details regarding MediaDefender’s collaboration with the New York Attorney General’s office on a secret law enforcement project. We have been reviewing the data for days and will have multiple reports on the topic.

More info here.

And now, phone calls were leaked. Here’s a teaser — Ben Grodsky of Media Defender talking to the New York State General Attorney’s office:

Ben Grodsky: “Yeah it seems…I mean, from our telephone call yesterday it seems that uhm… we all pretty much came to the conclusion that probably was ehm… caught in the email transmission because the attacker, I guess what you call, the Swedish IP, the attacker uhm… knew the login and the IP address and port uhm… but they weren’t able to get in because we had changed the password on our end, you know, following our normal security protocols uhm… when we are making secure transactions like these on the first login we’ll change the password so, obviously, well not obviously but, it seems that, most likely scenario is that, at some point that email was ehm… intercepted.

You know just because it is,.. probably it was going through the public Internet and there wasn’t any sort of encryption key used to ehm… protect the data in that email.”

Ben Grodsky: “…if you guys are comfortable just communicating with us by phone, anything that is really really sensitive we can just communicate in this fashion…”

Ben Grodsky: “OK [confused, taking notes]. So, you are gonna disable password authentication and enable public key?”

Ben Grodsky: “…that part has… has not been compromised in any way. I mean, the communications between our offices in Santa Monica and our data centers have not been compromised in any way and all those communications to NY, to your offices, are secured. The only part that was compromised was…was the email communications about these things.”

Ben Grodsky: “…All we can say for sure Media Defender’s mail server has not been hacked or compromised…”

[Answering to the question “What kind of IDS you guys are running?”]
Ben Grodsky: “Ehm…I don’t know. Let me look into that.”

EDITED TO ADD (9/20): Media Defender’s source code is now available on P2P networks. Actually, I’m feeling sorry for them.

Posted on September 18, 2007 at 12:03 PMView Comments

New Harry Potter Book Leaked on BitTorrent

It’s online: digital photographs of every page are available on BitTorrent.

I’ve been fielding press calls on this, mostly from reporters asking me what the publisher could have done differently. Honestly, I don’t think it was possible to keep the book under wraps. There are millions of copies of the book headed to all four corners of the globe. There are simply too many people who must be trusted in order for the security to hold. And all it takes is one untrustworthy person — one truck driver, one bookstore owner, one warehouse worker — to leak the book.

But conversely, I don’t think the publishers should care. Anyone fan-crazed enough to read digital photographs of the pages a few days before the real copy comes out is also someone who is going to buy a real copy. And anyone who will read the digital photographs instead of the real book would have borrowed a copy from a friend. My guess is that the publishers will lose zero sales, and that the pre-release will simply increase the press frenzy.

I’m kind of amazed the book hadn’t leaked sooner.

And, of course, it is inevitable that we’ll get ASCII copies of the book post-publication, for all of you who want to read it on your PDA.

EDITED TO ADD (7/18): I was interviewed for “Future Tense” on this story.

EDITED TO ADD (7/20): This article outlines some of the security measures the publisher took with the manuscript.

EDITED TO ADD (7/25): The camera has a unique serial number embedded in each of the digital photos which might be used to track the author. Just another example of how we leave electronic footprints everywhere we go.

EDITED TO ADD (8/15): Here is a much more comprehensive analysis of who the leaker is:

  • The photographer is Caucasian.
  • The photographer is probably not married (no wedding ring on left hand).
  • The photographer is likely male. In the first few photos, the ring finger appears to be longer than the index finger. This is called the 2D:4D ratio and a lower ratio is symptomatic a high level of testosterone, suggesting a male. However, there is no clear shot of the fingers layed out, so this is not conclusive.
  • Although cameras are usually designed for right-handed use, the photographer uses his left hand to pin down the book. This suggests that the photographer is right handed. (I’ve seen southpaws try to do this sort of thing, and they usually hold the camera in an odd way with their left hand.) However, this too is not conclusive.
  • The photographer’s hand looks young — possibly a teenager or young adult.

Much, much more in the link.

Posted on July 17, 2007 at 4:38 PMView Comments

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.