Categories: "Analysis"

About the Analysis category

  03:20, by Hagai Bar-El   , 48 words
Categories: Analysis

The Analysis category contains articles that discuss security analysis of requirements and analysis of solutions. This category is further divided into sub-categories that address cybersecurity (critical infrastructure and homeland security), IT security (deployment of IT security tools and operations), security engineering (the development of security tools), and policy.

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  2014-10-11

Snapchat leak -- who is to blame?

  10:52, by Hagai Bar-El   , 242 words
Categories: IT Security, Security Engineering

Snapchat is in the headlines again for allegedly leaking out nude photos of users. They strictly deny that there was any breach of their servers, and blame third party applications for leaking this data. This might be the case, but it is not enough to take them off the hook, especially given that their product is mostly about confidence. There are more and better instant-messaging apps out there, and whoever uses Snapchat uses it exactly so such events do not happen, whatever the excuse is.

I have no idea what exactly happened, if at all, but if a third party app got to access Snapchat data, then this Snapchat data was either

  • obtained by the third-party app on the user device, or
  • obtained by the third party app by impersonating the legitimate Snapchat app against the Snapchat server.

On a typical (i.e., un-rooted) Android or iOS device, apps can store their data so it is not readily available to other, unauthorized, apps; it would have been careless to leave such photos behind for the asking. On the other hand, Snapchat were accused several months ago for improperly authenticating their clients by the server, allowing easy impersonation of Snapchat client apps. I was quoted in USA Today yesterday addressing the need to properly authenticate clients.

Lastly I will add that there is also the possibility that no breach has ever occurred, and that the entire image dump is a hoax. Time will tell.

  2014-09-23

A gift from Snowden to the European economy

  21:48, by Hagai Bar-El   , 463 words
Categories: Security Policies

The revelations made by Edward Snowden did not show us anything that we never thought possible. It did reveal, however, that many of the things that were possible in theory found their way to reality. Those revelations also gave opportunity for many of the chronic paranoids and conspiracy-theorists to say "I told you". Fact is, digital life causes us to rely on more and more service providers, in the shape of government agencies and private organizations, and those providers were now caught violating our trust. When we buy products and services, we trust their provider to follow the norms we believe it follows. When such trust breaks, we need to think what next. In my opinion, this situation forms an opportunity for Europe to catch up.

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  2014-08-19

Protecting network neutrality: both important and hard

  06:14, by Hagai Bar-El   , 2362 words
Categories: Security Policies

The term "network neutrality" is mentioned very often lately; also in the context of FCC ruling, such as here, and here. Since the definition of net neutrality is not always clear, this topic is not subject to as much public debate as it probably should. Here is my take of what network neutrality is, and why it is difficult to regulate and enforce. I will start with my proposed technical and service-related definition of "network neutrality", and will follow with a brief explanation of why this is both difficult and important.

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  2014-07-24

TrueCrypt alternatives?

  22:23, by Hagai Bar-El   , 660 words
Categories: IT Security, Products

It has been a while since the announcement of the demise of TrueCrypt (which I reported), and an equivalent replacement for all those people who rely on it is not yet evident. TrueCrypt did not revive yet, but the situation is not time-wise critical as it may have seemed. There are a few options, for the time being.

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  2014-05-30

The status of TrueCrypt

  07:40, by Hagai Bar-El   , 564 words
Categories: IT Security, Products

I wish I knew where TrueCrypt stands now, but I don't. I follow TrueCrypt and regularly endorse it  ever since I discovered it and wrote this post nine years ago. TrueCrypt was, and may still be, the most sensible and presumably-secure volume and full-disk encryption software for Windows; also supporting Linux and Mac. A few days ago the project discontinued, and users were directed to alternative, non-open-source solutions.

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  2014-04-09

OpenSSL "Heartbleed" bug: what's at risk on the server and what is not

  22:56, by Hagai Bar-El   , 1223 words
Categories: IT Security, Cyber Security, Counter-media

A few days ago, a critical bug was found in the common OpenSSL library. OpenSSL is the library that implements the common SSL and TLS security protocols. These protocols facilitate the encrypted tunnel feature that secure services -- over the web and otherwise -- utilize to encrypt the traffic between the client (user) and the server.

The discovery of such a security bug is a big deal. Not only that OpenSSL is very common, but the bug that was found is one that can be readily exploited remotely without any privilege on the attacker's side. Also, the outcome of the attack that is made possible is devastating. Exploiting the bug allows an attacker to obtain internal information, in the form of memory contents, from the attacked server or client. This memory space that the attacker can obtain a copy of can contain just about everything. Almost.

There are many essays and posts about the "everything" that could be lost, so I will take the optimistic side and dedicate this post to the "almost". As opposed to with other serious attacks, at least the leak is not complete and can be quantified, and the attack is not persistent.

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  2014-04-03

Bitcoin does not provide anonymity

  22:22, by Hagai Bar-El   , 762 words
Categories: Security Engineering, Security Policies, Security, Counter-media

When people discuss Bitcoin, one of its properties that is often considered is its presumable anonymity. In this respect, it is often compared to cash. However, it shall be recognized and understood that Bitcoin is not as anonymous as cash; far from it, actually. Its anonymity relies on the concept of pseudonyms, which delivers some (unjustified) sense of anonymity, but very weak anonymity in practice.

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