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  2010-11-16

Overcoming Distrust in CAs Using External Quality Enforcement

  22:46, by Hagai Bar-El   , 790 words
Categories: IT Security

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the inherent limitations of the certification model. This model cannot be expected to provide a solution to the binding of entities to public keys, primarily because Certification Authorities (CAs) have no financial incentive in performing thorough investigation on who they issue certificates to; and often on the contrary.

There is probably more than one solution to this problem. Let us examine one of them: External quality enforcement

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  2010-11-05

Recommended Podcast: Security Now

  22:43, by Hagai Bar-El   , 307 words
Categories: Sources

There are many IT security podcasts out there; too many, perhaps. Certainly too many to listen to. The challenge is to decide on which ones to follow on a regular basis. I became aware of a good candidate a couple of years ago, and since it retained its qualities (listed below) over time, I figured it is worth mentioning.

This podcast is called: “Security Now” and it is featured by Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte. Leo is a good host. He manages the show and its topics well, all in a healthy, joyful, spirit. Steve is a well-known security expert, and the creator of SpinRite — a disk maintenance and recovery tool.

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  2010-10-28

Preventing the Evil Maid Attack on FDE

  22:33, by Hagai Bar-El   , 467 words
Categories: IT Security

The attack referred to as the ”Evil Maid Attack”, or the “Cleaning Maid Attack” against full disk encryption (FDE), is considered as one of the serious attacks concerning people who travel with laptops full of confidential information. This attack involves an attacker, who can obtain physical access to an FDE-protected laptop. The attacker boots the laptop from a second drive, and modifies the boot-sector so that subsequent boot-ups, e.g., by the owner, will cause the execution of malicious code that will capture the passphrase and/or key that is used to boot the system. Then, the attacker should get the laptop again to collect his loot. This attack was discussed everywhere, including in the PGP Blog, LWN.net, ZDNet, and the blog of Bruce Schneier.

Some people claimed that there are no feasible countermeasures against this attack, other than making sure your laptop is never left alone for too long. A while ago, I traveled to a place where laptops were not allowed; I had to leave it at the hotel every day for two weeks. This made me devise a practical solution which can be dubbed as: be the cleaning maid yourself.

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  2010-10-22

The Inevitable Collapse of the Certificate Model

  22:30, by Hagai Bar-El   , 755 words
Categories: IT Security, Counter-media

Many had high expectations from the SSL/TLS certificate model. At least on paper it sounded promising and worthwhile. Keys are used to protect traffic; for this to be effective, keys shall be bound to business entities; for the binding to be trustworthy by the public, binding will be signed by Certification Authorities (CAs), which the public will recognize as authoritative. Once the trusted CA signs the binding between a business entity (represented by a domain name) and a key — every user can tell he is communicating securely with the correct entity.

In practice, it got all messed up. It is difficult to form authorization hierarchies on the global Internet, this is one thing. However, the model failed also due to the economics behind it.

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  2010-08-24

Understanding the security risk of SaaS

  22:29, by Hagai Bar-El   , 745 words
Categories: IT Security, Counter-media

Software as a Service (SaaS) is one of the hot trends in Information Technologies. “SaaS” is the name given to the concept of having applications run on the infrastructure of the service provider, rendering service to the customer over the net.

The SaaS architecture promises lower cost of ownership, better scalability, and ease of maintenance. There are other advantages, and a few limitations as well. One of the key concerns regarding SaaS is about security. Corporate security officers claim that a security risk arises with the storage of corporate data off-site. This is probably true, but to be able to assess the risk accurately, the stakeholder needs to properly understand what the risk is exactly, and where most of this risk comes from. Following is my take on this.

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  2010-05-19

Automobile hack: we should have known better

  22:28, by Hagai Bar-El   , 776 words
Categories: Security Engineering, Counter-media

No one in the automotive security industry could miss the recently published news article titled “Beware of Hackers Controlling Your Automobile”, published here, and a similar essay titled “Car hackers can kill brakes, engine, and more”, which can be found here. In short, it describes how researchers succeeded in taking over a running car, messing up with its brakes, lights, data systems, and what not.

As alerting and serious as this is, it should not come by as a surprise.

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  2010-03-24

InZero provides some security

  22:25, by Hagai Bar-El   , 826 words
Categories: IT Security, Counter-media

I was just made aware of InZero, a new physical device that you connect to your PC, and your browsing becomes secure. I find it amazing that some people treat it as among the most revolutionary of security solutions.

I think the InZero device is cool. I think it protects against some attack vectors, at some usability costs. It may even make a worthwhile trade-off for some people. But to consider the protection granted by this device as something that is revolutionary, or to claim that it is “giving hackers, criminals, and spies the middle finger” is an exaggeration, even when it comes from marketing guys.

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