Entries Tagged "UK"

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Cybercrime Pays

This sentence jumped out at me in an otherwise pedestrian article on criminal fraud:

“Fraud is fundamentally fuelling the growth of organised crime in the UK, earning more from fraud than they do from drugs,” Chris Hill, head of fraud at the Norwich Union, told BBC News.

I’ll bet that most of that involves the Internet to some degree.

And then there’s this:

Global cybercrime turned over more money than drug trafficking last year, according to a US Treasury advisor. Valerie McNiven, an advisor to the US government on cybercrime, claimed that corporate espionage, child pornography, stock manipulation, phishing fraud and copyright offences cause more financial harm than the trade in illegal narcotics such as heroin and cocaine.

This doesn’t bode well for computer security in general.

Posted on November 30, 2005 at 6:05 AMView Comments

Ex-MI5 Chief Calls ID Cards "Useless"

Refreshing candor:

The case for identity cards has been branded “bogus” after an ex-MI5 chief said they might not help fight terror.

Dame Stella Rimington has said most documents could be forged and this would render ID cards “useless”.

[…]

She said: “ID cards have possibly some purpose.

“But I don’t think that anybody in the intelligence services, particularly in my former service, would be pressing for ID cards.

“My angle on ID cards is that they may be of some use but only if they can be made unforgeable – and all our other documentation is quite easy to forge.

“If we have ID cards at vast expense and people can go into a back room and forge them they are going to be absolutely useless.

“ID cards may be helpful in all kinds of things but I don’t think they are necessarily going to make us any safer.”

Posted on November 18, 2005 at 6:48 AMView Comments

Sony Secretly Installs Rootkit on Computers

Mark Russinovich discovered a rootkit on his system. After much analysis, he discovered that the rootkit was installed as a part of the DRM software linked with a CD he bought. The package cannot be uninstalled. Even worse, the package actively cloaks itself from process listings and the file system.

At that point I knew conclusively that the rootkit and its associated files were related to the First 4 Internet DRM software Sony ships on its CDs. Not happy having underhanded and sloppily written software on my system I looked for a way to uninstall it. However, I didn’t find any reference to it in the Control Panel’s Add or Remove Programs list, nor did I find any uninstall utility or directions on the CD or on First 4 Internet’s site. I checked the EULA and saw no mention of the fact that I was agreeing to have software put on my system that I couldn’t uninstall. Now I was mad.

Removing the rootkit kills Windows.

Could Sony have violated the the Computer Misuse Act in the UK? If this isn’t clearly in the EULA, they have exceeded their privilege on the customer’s system by installing a rootkit to hide their software.

Certainly Mark has a reasonable lawsuit against Sony in the U.S.

EDITED TO ADD: The Washington Post is covering this story.

Sony lies about their rootkit:

November 2, 2005 – This Service Pack removes the cloaking technology component that has been recently discussed in a number of articles published regarding the XCP Technology used on SONY BMG content protected CDs. This component is not malicious and does not compromise security. However to alleviate any concerns that users may have about the program posing potential security vulnerabilities, this update has been released to enable users to remove this component from their computers.

Their update does not remove the rootkit, it just gets rid of the $sys$ cloaking.

Ed Felton has a great post on the issue:

The update is more than 3.5 megabytes in size, and it appears to contain new versions of almost all the files included in the initial installation of the entire DRM system, as well as creating some new files. In short, they’re not just taking away the rootkit-like function—they’re almost certainly adding things to the system as well. And once again, they’re not disclosing what they’re doing.

No doubt they’ll ask us to just trust them. I wouldn’t. The companies still assert—falsely—that the original rootkit-like software “does not compromise security” and “[t]here should be no concern” about it. So I wouldn’t put much faith in any claim that the new update is harmless. And the companies claim to have developed “new ways of cloaking files on a hard drive”. So I wouldn’t derive much comfort from carefully worded assertions that they have removed “the … component .. that has been discussed”.

And you can use the rootkit to avoid World of Warcraft spyware.

World of Warcraft hackers have confirmed that the hiding capabilities of Sony BMG’s content protection software can make tools made for cheating in the online world impossible to detect.

.

EDITED TO ADD: F-Secure makes a good point:

A member of our IT security team pointed out quite chilling thought about what might happen if record companies continue adding rootkit based copy protection into their CDs.

In order to hide from the system a rootkit must interface with the OS on very low level and in those areas theres no room for error.

It is hard enough to program something on that level, without having to worry about any other programs trying to do something with same parts of the OS.

Thus if there would be two DRM rootkits on the same system trying to hook same APIs, the results would be highly unpredictable. Or actually, a system crash is quite predictable result in such situation.

EDITED TO ADD: Declan McCullagh has a good essay on the topic. There will be lawsuits.

EDITED TO ADD: The Italian police are getting involved.

EDITED TO ADD: Here’s a Trojan that uses Sony’s rootkit to hide.

EDITED TO ADD: Sony temporarily halts production of CDs protected with this technology.

Posted on November 1, 2005 at 10:17 AMView Comments

ATM Fraud and British Banks

An absolutely great story about phantom ATM withdrawals and British banking from the early 90s. (The story is from the early 90s; it has just become public now.) Read how a very brittle security system, coupled with banks using the legal system to avoid fixing the problem, resulted in lots of innocent people losing money to phantom withdrawals. Read how lucky everyone was that the catastrophic security problem was never discovered by criminals. It’s an amazing story.

See also Ross Anderson’s page on phantom withdrawals.

Oh, and Alistair Kelman assures me that he did not charge 1,750 pounds per hour, only 450 pounds per hour.

Posted on October 24, 2005 at 7:16 AMView Comments

UK Terrorism Law Used for Non-Terrorism Purposes

The U.K. has used terrorism laws to stifle free speech; now it’s using them to keep pedestrians off bicycle paths.

With her year-round tan, long blonde hair and designer clothes, Sally Cameron does not look like a threat to national security.

But the 34-year-old property developer has joined the ranks of Britain’s most unlikely terrorist suspects after being held for hours for trespassing on a cycle path.

And also to prevent people from taking pictures of motorways:

A Hampshire student was stopped and warned by police under new anti-terror laws—for taking pictures of the M3.

Matthew Curtis had been gathering images for the website of a design company where he works part-time when he was stopped, searched and cautioned.

The 21-year-old was told that he was in a “vulnerable area” as he snapped pictures of the M3 and was made to account for his actions before he was issued with a warning and told not to do it again.

Officers, who had quoted the Prevention of Terrorism Act, today apologised for causing concern but say they were just being vigilant.

I get that terrorism is the threat of the moment, and that all sorts of government actions are being justified with terrorism. But this is ridiculous.

Posted on October 19, 2005 at 12:04 PMView Comments

Terrorism Laws Used to Stifle Political Speech

Walter Wolfgang, an 82-year-old political veteran, was forcefully removed from the UK Labour party conference for calling a speaker, Jack Straw, a liar. (Opinions on whether Jack Straw is or is not a liar are irrelevant here.) He was later denied access to the conference on basis of anti-terror laws. Keep in mind that as recently as the 1980s, Labour Party conferences were heated affairs compared with today’s media shows.

From The London Times:

A police spokeswoman said that Mr Wolfgang had not been arrested but detained because his security accreditation had been cancelled by Labour officials when he was ejected. She said: “The delegate asked the police officer what powers he was using. The police officer responded that he was using his powers under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act to confirm the delegate’s details.”

Also this:

More than 600 people were detained under the Terrorism Act during the Labour party conference, it was reported yesterday.

Anti-Iraq war protesters, anti-Blairite OAPs and conference delegates were all detained by police under legislation that was designed to combat violent fanatics and bombers – even though none of them was suspected of terrorist links. None of those detained under Section 44 stop-and-search rules in the 2000 Terrorism Act was arrested and no-one was charged under the terrorism laws.

Walter Wolfgang, an 82-year-old Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, was thrown out of the conference hall by Labour heavies after heckling the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw.

When he tried to get back in, he was detained under Section 44 and questioned by police. The party later apologised.

But the Home Office has refused to apologise for heavy-handed tactics used at this year’s conference.

A spokesman insisted: “Stop and search under Section 44 is an important tool in the on-going fight against terrorism.

“The powers help to deter terrorist activity by creating a hostile environment for terrorists.”

He added that the justification for authorising the use of the powers was “intelligence-led and based on an assessment of the threat against the UK.”

The shadow home secretary, David Davis, said: “Laws that are designed to fight terrorism should only be used against terrorism.”

Posted on October 10, 2005 at 8:13 AMView Comments

Cameras Catch Dry Run of 7/7 London Terrorists

Score one for security cameras:

Newly released CCTV footage shows the 7 July London bombers staged a practice run nine days before the attack.

Detectives reconstructed the bombers’ movements after studying thousands of hours of film as part of the probe into the blasts which killed 52 people.

CCTV images show three of the bombers entering Luton station, before travelling to King’s Cross station where they are also pictured.

Officers are keen to find out if the men met anyone else on the day.

See also The New York Times.

Security cameras certainly aren’t useless. I just don’t think they’re worth it.

Posted on September 21, 2005 at 12:50 PMView Comments

Criminals Learn Forensic Science

Criminals are adapting to advances in forensic science:

There is an increasing trend for criminals to use plastic gloves during break-ins and condoms during rapes to avoid leaving their DNA at the scene. Dostie describes a murder case in which the assailant tried to wash away his DNA using shampoo. Police in Manchester in the UK say that car thieves there have started to dump cigarette butts from bins in stolen cars before they abandon them. “Suddenly the police have 20 potential people in the car,” says Rutty.

The article also talks about forensic-science television shows changing the expectations of jurors.

“Jurors who watch CSI believe that those scenarios, where forensic scientists are always right, are what really happens,” says Peter Bull, a forensic sedimentologist at the University of Oxford. It means that in court, juries are not impressed with evidence presented in cautious scientific terms.

Detective sergeant Paul Dostie, of Mammoth Lakes Police Department, California, found the same thing when he conducted a straw poll of forensic investigators and prosecutors. “They all agree that jurors expect more because of CSI shows,” he says. And the “CSI effect” goes beyond juries, says Jim Fraser, director of the Centre for Forensic Science at the University of Strathclyde, UK. “Oversimplification of interpretations on CSI has led to false expectations, especially about the speed of delivery of forensic evidence,” he says.

Posted on September 9, 2005 at 7:16 AMView Comments

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.