The office of the Director of National Intelligence released its “Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community.” Cybersecurity is covered on pages 20-21. Nothing surprising:
- Cyber threats from nation states and their surrogates will remain acute.
- States’ increasing use of cyber operations as a tool of national power, including increasing use by militaries around the world, raises the prospect of more destructive and disruptive cyber activity.
- Authoritarian and illiberal regimes around the world will increasingly exploit digital tools to surveil their citizens, control free expression, and censor and manipulate information to maintain control over their populations.
- During the last decade, state sponsored hackers have compromised software and IT service supply chains, helping them conduct operations — espionage, sabotage, and potentially prepositioning for warfighting.
The supply chain line is new; I hope the government is paying attention.
Posted on April 15, 2021 at 6:13 AM •
I am a co-author on a report published by the Hoover Institution: “Chinese Technology Platforms Operating in the United States.” From a blog post:
The report suggests a comprehensive framework for understanding and assessing the risks posed by Chinese technology platforms in the United States and developing tailored responses. It starts from the common view of the signatories — one reflected in numerous publicly available threat assessments — that China’s power is growing, that a large part of that power is in the digital sphere, and that China can and will wield that power in ways that adversely affect our national security. However, the specific threats and risks posed by different Chinese technologies vary, and effective policies must start with a targeted understanding of the nature of risks and an assessment of the impact US measures will have on national security and competitiveness. The goal of the paper is not to specifically quantify the risk of any particular technology, but rather to analyze the various threats, put them into context, and offer a framework for assessing proposed responses in ways that the signatories hope can aid those doing the risk analysis in individual cases.
Posted on February 25, 2021 at 6:19 AM •
In a lecture, Adam Shostack makes the case for a discipline of cyber public health. It would relate to cybersecurity in a similar way that public health relates to medicine.
Posted on November 25, 2020 at 6:25 AM •
A new malware, called Ramsay, can jump air gaps:
ESET said they’ve been able to track down three different versions of the Ramsay malware, one compiled in September 2019 (Ramsay v1), and two others in early and late March 2020 (Ramsay v2.a and v2.b).
Each version was different and infected victims through different methods, but at its core, the malware’s primary role was to scan an infected computer, and gather Word, PDF, and ZIP documents in a hidden storage folder, ready to be exfiltrated at a later date.
Other versions also included a spreader module that appended copies of the Ramsay malware to all PE (portable executable) files found on removable drives and network shares. This is believed to be the mechanism the malware was employing to jump the air gap and reach isolated networks, as users would most likely moved the infected executables between the company’s different network layers, and eventually end up on an isolated system.
ESET says that during its research, it was not able to positively identify Ramsay’s exfiltration module, or determine how the Ramsay operators retrieved data from air-gapped systems.
Honestly, I can’t think of any threat actor that wants this kind of feature other than governments:
The researcher has not made a formal attribution as who might be behind Ramsay. However, Sanmillan said that the malware contained a large number of shared artifacts with Retro, a malware strain previously developed by DarkHotel, a hacker group that many believe to operate in the interests of the South Korean government.
Posted on May 18, 2020 at 6:15 AM •
Interesting taxonomy of machine-learning failures (pdf) that encompasses both mistakes and attacks, or — in their words — intentional and unintentional failure modes. It’s a good basis for threat modeling.
Posted on December 9, 2019 at 5:56 AM •
Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center has published a long report on the security of US elections. Summary: it’s not good.
Posted on June 24, 2019 at 6:05 AM •
Someone is flying a drone over Gatwick Airport in order to disrupt service:
Chris Woodroofe, Gatwick’s chief operating officer, said on Thursday afternoon there had been another drone sighting which meant it was impossible to say when the airport would reopen.
He told BBC News: “There are 110,000 passengers due to fly today, and the vast majority of those will see cancellations and disruption. We have had within the last hour another drone sighting so at this stage we are not open and I cannot tell you what time we will open.
“It was on the airport, seen by the police and corroborated. So having seen that drone that close to the runway it was unsafe to reopen.”
The economics of this kind of thing isn’t in our favor. A drone is cheap. Closing an airport for a day is very expensive.
I don’t think we’re going to solve this by jammers, or GPS-enabled drones that won’t fly over restricted areas. I’ve seen some technologies that will safely disable drones in flight, but I’m not optimistic about those in the near term. The best defense is probably punitive penalties for anyone doing something like this — enough to discourage others.
There are a lot of similar security situations, in which the cost to attack is vastly cheaper than 1) the damage caused by the attack, and 2) the cost to defend. I have long believed that this sort of thing represents an existential threat to our society.
EDITED TO ADD (12/23): The airport has deployed some anti-drone technology and reopened.
EDITED TO ADD (1/2): Maybe there was never a drone.
Posted on December 21, 2018 at 6:24 AM •
Here’s some interesting research about how we perceive threats. Basically, as the environment becomes safer we basically manufacture new threats. From an essay about the research:
To study how concepts change when they become less common, we brought volunteers into our laboratory and gave them a simple task – to look at a series of computer-generated faces and decide which ones seem “threatening.” The faces had been carefully designed by researchers to range from very intimidating to very harmless.
As we showed people fewer and fewer threatening faces over time, we found that they expanded their definition of “threatening” to include a wider range of faces. In other words, when they ran out of threatening faces to find, they started calling faces threatening that they used to call harmless. Rather than being a consistent category, what people considered “threats” depended on how many threats they had seen lately.
This has a lot of implications in security systems where humans have to make judgments about threat and risk: TSA agents, police noticing “suspicious” activities, “see something say something” campaigns, and so on.
The academic paper.
Posted on June 29, 2018 at 9:44 AM •
Last year I wrote about the Digital Security Exchange. The project is live:
The DSX works to strengthen the digital resilience of U.S. civil society groups by improving their understanding and mitigation of online threats.
We do this by pairing civil society and social sector organizations with credible and trustworthy digital security experts and trainers who can help them keep their data and networks safe from exposure, exploitation, and attack. We are committed to working with community-based organizations, legal and journalistic organizations, civil rights advocates, local and national organizers, and public and high-profile figures who are working to advance social, racial, political, and economic justice in our communities and our world.
If you are either an organization who needs help, or an expert who can provide help, visit their website.
Note: I am on their advisory committee.
Posted on April 11, 2018 at 6:33 AM •
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.