Here is my talk on the NSA from the RSA Conference, although this version, from MIT a few weeks earlier, is better. I was interviewed on stage by Joe Menn at TrustyCon about the NSA; here’s the video.
Entries Tagged "RSA"
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Last week at the RSA Conference, we announced that we’ve integrated Co3 Systems’ incident-response coordination software with the HP ArcSight SEIM system, and that CSC is basing its incident-response service on Co3 Systems.
Lots of new customers too, but we can’t talk about them.
Co3 Systems is going to be at the RSA Conference. We don’t have our own booth on the show floor, but there are four ways you can find us. Monday, we’re at the Innovation Sandbox: 1:00–5:00 in Moscone North. At the conference, we’re in the RSA Security booth. Go to the SecOps section of the booth and ask about us. We’ll be happy to show you our incident response coordination system. We’re hosting an Incident Response Forum on Tuesday night with partners HP, CSC, and iSight Partners for select companies and individuals. We also have a demo suite in the St. Regis Hotel. E-mail me if you want to get on the schedule for either of those two.
On Friday, Reuters reported that RSA entered into a secret contract to make DUAL_EC_PRNG the default random number generator in the BSAFE toolkit. DUA_EC_PRNG is now known to have been backdoored by the NSA.
Yesterday, RSA denied it:
Recent press coverage has asserted that RSA entered into a “secret contract” with the NSA to incorporate a known flawed random number generator into its BSAFE encryption libraries. We categorically deny this allegation.
We made the decision to use Dual EC DRBG as the default in BSAFE toolkits in 2004, in the context of an industry-wide effort to develop newer, stronger methods of encryption. At that time, the NSA had a trusted role in the community-wide effort to strengthen, not weaken, encryption.
We know from both Mark Klein and Edward Snowden—and pretty much everything else about the NSA—that the NSA directly taps the trunk lines of AT&T (and pretty much every other telcom carrier). On Friday, AT&T denied that:
In its statement, AT&T sought to push back against the notion that it provides the government with such access. “We do not allow any government agency to connect directly to our network to gather, review or retrieve our customers’ information,” said Watts.
I’ve written before about how the NSA has corroded our trust in the Internet and communications technologies. The debates over these companies’ statements, and about exactly how they are using and abusing individual words to lie while claiming they are not lying, is a manifestation of that.
This sort of thing can destroy our country. Trust is essential in our society. And if we can’t trust either our government or the corporations that have intimate access into so much of our lives, society suffers. Study after study demonstrates the value of living in a high-trust society and the costs of living in a low-trust one.
Rebuilding trust is not easy, as anyone who has betrayed or been betrayed by a friend or lover knows, but the path involves transparency, oversight and accountability. Transparency first involves coming clean. Not a little bit at a time, not only when you have to, but complete disclosure about everything. Then it involves continuing disclosure. No more secret rulings by secret courts about secret laws. No more secret programs whose costs and benefits remain hidden.
Oversight involves meaningful constraints on the NSA, the FBI and others. This will be a combination of things: a court system that acts as a third-party advocate for the rule of law rather than a rubber-stamp organization, a legislature that understands what these organizations are doing and regularly debates requests for increased power, and vibrant public-sector watchdog groups that analyze and debate the government’s actions.
Accountability means that those who break the law, lie to Congress or deceive the American people are held accountable. The NSA has gone rogue, and while it’s probably not possible to prosecute people for what they did under the enormous veil of secrecy it currently enjoys, we need to make it clear that this behavior will not be tolerated in the future. Accountability also means voting, which means voters need to know what our leaders are doing in our name.
This is the only way we can restore trust. A market economy doesn’t work unless consumers can make intelligent buying decisions based on accurate product information. That’s why we have agencies like the FDA, truth-in-packaging laws and prohibitions against false advertising.
We no longer know whom to trust. This is the greatest damage the NSA has done to the Internet, and will be the hardest to fix.
EDITED TO ADD (12/23): The requested removal of an NSA employee from an IETF group co-chairmanship is another manifestation of this mistrust.
This is neat:
Here, we describe a new acoustic cryptanalysis key extraction attack, applicable to GnuPG’s current implementation of RSA. The attack can extract full 4096-bit RSA decryption keys from laptop computers (of various models), within an hour, using the sound generated by the computer during the decryption of some chosen ciphertexts. We experimentally demonstrate that such attacks can be carried out, using either a plain mobile phone placed next to the computer, or a more sensitive microphone placed 4 meters away.
Beyond acoustics, we demonstrate that a similar low-bandwidth attack can be performed by measuring the electric potential of a computer chassis. A suitably-equipped attacker need merely touch the target computer with his bare hand, or get the required leakage information from the ground wires at the remote end of VGA, USB or Ethernet cables.
There was a presentation at Black Hat last month warning us of a “factoring cryptopocalypse”: a moment when factoring numbers and solving the discrete log problem become easy, and both RSA and DH break. This presentation was provocative, and has generated a lot of commentary, but I don’t see any reason to worry.
Yes, breaking modern public-key cryptosystems has gotten easier over the years. This has been true for a few decades now. Back in 1999, I wrote this about factoring:
Factoring has been getting easier. It’s been getting easier faster than anyone has anticipated. I see four reasons why this is so:
- Computers are getting faster.
- Computers are better networked.
- The factoring algorithms are getting more efficient.
- Fundamental advances in mathematics are giving us better factoring algorithms.
I could have said the same thing about the discrete log problem. And, in fact, advances in solving one problem tend to mirror advances in solving the other.
The reasons are arrayed in order of unpredictability. The first two—advances in computing and networking speed—basically follow Moore’s Law (and others), year after year. The third comes in regularly, but in fits and starts: a 2x improvement here, a 10x improvement there. It’s the fourth that’s the big worry. Fundamental mathematical advances only come once in a while, but when they do come, the effects can be huge. If factoring ever becomes “easy” such that RSA is no longer a viable cryptographic algorithm, it will be because of this sort of advance.
The authors base their current warning on some recent fundamental advances in solving the discrete log problem, but the work doesn’t generalize to the types of numbers used for cryptography. And they’re not going to generalize; the result is simply specialized.
This isn’t to say that solving these problems won’t continue to get easier, but so far it has been trivially easy to increase key lengths to stay ahead of the advances. I expect this to remain true for the foreseeable future.
Twitter just rolled out a pretty nice two-factor authentication system using your smart phone as the second factor:
The new two-factor system works like this. A user enrolls using the mobile app, which generates a 2048-bit RSA keypair. The private key lives on the phone itself, and the public key is uploaded to Twitter’s server.
When Twitter receives a new login request with a username and password, the server sends a challenge based on a 190-bit, 32 character random nonce, to the mobile app—along with a notification that gives the user the time, location, and browser information associated with the login request. The user can then opt to approve or deny this login request. If approved, the app replies to a challenge with its private key, relays that information back to the server. The server compares that challenge with a request ID, and if it authenticates, the user is automatically logged in.
On the user end, this means there’s no string of numbers to enter, nor do you have to swap to a third party authentication app or carrier. You just use the Twitter client itself. It means that the system isn’t vulnerable to a compromised SMS delivery channel, and moreover, it’s easy.
Brian Krebs has done the analysis; it’s something like 760 companies that were compromised.
Among the more interesting names on the list are Abbott Labs, the Alabama Supercomputer Network, Charles Schwabb & Co., Cisco Systems, eBay, the European Space Agency, Facebook, Freddie Mac, Google, the General Services Administration, the Inter-American Development Bank, IBM, Intel Corp., the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Motorola Inc., Northrop Grumman, Novell, Perot Systems, PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP, Research in Motion (RIM) Ltd., Seagate Technology, Thomson Financial, Unisys Corp., USAA, Verisign, VMWare, Wachovia Corp., and Wells Fargo & Co.
We finally have some, even though the company isn’t talking:
So just how well crafted was the e-mail that got RSA hacked? Not very, judging by what F-Secure found.
The attackers spoofed the e-mail to make it appear to come from a “web master” at Beyond.com, a job-seeking and recruiting site. Inside the e-mail, there was just one line of text: “I forward this file to you for review. Please open and view it.” This was apparently enough to get the intruders the keys to RSAs kingdom.
F-Secure produced a brief video showing what happened if the recipient clicked on the attachment. An Excel spreadsheet opened, which was completely blank except for an “X” that appeared in the first box of the spreadsheet. The “X” was the only visible sign that there was an embedded Flash exploit in the spreadsheet. When the spreadsheet opened, Excel triggered the Flash exploit to activate, which then dropped the backdoor—in this case a backdoor known as Poison Ivy—onto the system.
Poison Ivy would then reach out to a command-and-control server that the attackers controlled at good.mincesur.com, a domain that F-Secure says has been used in other espionage attacks, giving the attackers remote access to the infected computer at EMC. From there, they were able to reach the systems and data they were ultimately after.
F-Secure notes that neither the phishing e-mail nor the backdoor it dropped onto systems were advanced, although the zero-day Flash exploit it used to drop the backdoor was advanced.
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.