Category: "IT Security"

About the IT Security category

  By Hagai Bar-El   , 57 words
Categories: IT Security

The IT Security category contains essays that discuss security aspects of corporate and personal information systems. Also included are personal and corporate security policy issues, as well as operations security. Examples for topics that fall into this category are: malware detection, network firewalls and attacks prevention, deployment of encryption technologies, protection of privacy in deployed systems, etc.

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  2011-04-28

CAcert as a certification alternative

  By Hagai Bar-El   , 1011 words
Categories: IT Security, Counter-media

A few months ago, I wrote about the problem that emerges from having to rely on digital certificates that are issued by Certification Authorities of which we, the relying parties, are not the paying customers. As a result, we rely on the CA (Certification Authority) certification process, while there is no economic incentive for the CA to actually maintain a robust certification mechanism and to justify our trust.

Unexpectedly, this post, titled “The Inevitable Collapse of the Certificate Model”, quickly became the favorite post on my blog, pulling more views than all other individual posts.

One alternative that was suggested is by CAcert.org, a community based certification organization. Here are my thoughts on the ability of such a mechanism to solve the certification problem.

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  2011-03-20

Understanding the Impact of the RSA SecurID Breach

  By Hagai Bar-El   , 849 words
Categories: IT Security

A few days ago, we were notified (e.g., here and here) that a hack into the network of RSA Security (the security division of EMC) has led to someone stealing something that is related to the SecurID token product.

We cannot determine the real impact of this security breach until RSA Security tells us what exactly got stolen. I believe that this information will be made available, as a result of legal or public pressure, if for no other reason. Until this data becomes available, let us examine the two most probable options, and how we may respond to each.

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  2010-12-18

The Effect of Wikileaks

  By Hagai Bar-El   , 689 words
Categories: IT Security

Wikileaks did evil. It published stuff that should not have been published. Julian Assange acted carelessly, I think. Still, the impact of Wikileaks is not what we usually think it is. The security of citizens was not affected by Wikileaks, but by the leak itself, and the publicity given to those leaks, in itself, may bring citizen security to a higher standard in the long run. The problem with Wikileaks is that it created a new market for leaked documents; a market which may increase the appeal of low-risk data theft.

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  2010-11-16

Overcoming Distrust in CAs Using External Quality Enforcement

  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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  2010-10-28

Preventing the Evil Maid Attack on FDE

  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

  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

  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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