Project Covert Operations and Zero Days – Controlled Compromise of Infrastructure and Code

René Pfeiffer/ April 21, 2021/ Discussion, High Entropy, Security/ 0 comments

Once you collect information, you will eventually have to decide on when to use which part for what reason. This is the dilemma of intercepting intelligence from an adversary and using it for defence (or offence). Once you act on your the knowledge no one else is supposed to have, then you will also disclose your capabilities. The digital world is full of these scenarios. The most recent case is a disclosure of Google’s Project Zero. The publication covered vulnerabilities dating back to the first half of 2020. As it turned out the discovery comprised 11 powerful weaknesses used to compromise iOS, Android and Microsoft® Windows devices. By publishing these vulnerabilities Project Zero essentially shut down a nine-month digital hacking operation by a Western government. Bugs in software have no labels. They may be

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All your Content are belong to Us – how the Crypto Wars continue

René Pfeiffer/ March 31, 2021/ Discussion, High Entropy, Internet, Legal/ 0 comments

Encryption is one of our favourite topics. This blog and our events feature discussions, tools, and content regarding cryptography. The first DeepSec conference in 2007 even had a presentation about a practical attack on GSM’s A5/1 algorithm. Subsequent conferences followed up on this, for example, the state of affairs of mobile network security in 2010. We use encryption and high levels of privacy in our own communication. Certain published documents emphasize the importance of using uncompromised and modern encryption algorithms. In the meantime, users have moved to messengers using TCP/IP on top of the mobile network transmissions. This enables full end-to-end encryption and privacy. The problems are still the same as in the 1990s. Enter the continuation of the Crypto Wars. On 23 March the Oberlandesgericht (Higher Regional Court) Rostock in Germany argued that

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Translated Article: Further Wrangling in the Council of Ministers over Competences for Europol

Sanna/ March 30, 2021/ Discussion, High Entropy, Legal, Stories/ 0 comments

Weiter Gerangel im Ministerrat um Kompetenzen für Europol by Erich Moechel for fm4.ORF.at A majority led by Germany and France does not even want to give Europol the power to initiate transnational investigations itself in the event of a major cyber attack. On Monday the EU Council of Ministers decided on an approach for a new cybersecurity strategy. A network of “Security Operation Centers” across Europe will form an early warning system against attacks, and a new “Joint Cyber Unit” will be responsible for crisis management. In addition, they want to promote strong encryption methods together – but with back doors for law enforcement officers. Whether this collection of buzzwords will actually become an EU-wide implemented strategy is very much in question. The ongoing discussions in the Council of Ministers about the planned new powers of

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Translated Article: E-Privacy Regulation allows retained Data and duplicate Keys

Sanna/ March 29, 2021/ Discussion, Internet, Legal, Stories/ 0 comments

E-Privacy-Verordnung erlaubt Vorratsdaten und Nachschlüssel by Erich Moechel for fm4.ORF.at The most important EU regulation for the protection of privacy contains a license for data processing of all kinds without the consent of the user and allows political parties to spread spam mail. For four years the e-privacy regulation has been stuck in the EU Council of Ministers, but under the Portuguese presidency, it was possible to agree on a version for the first time. However, this version of the “Ordinance on the Respect of Privacy and the Protection of Personal Data” has been designed in such a way that Germany’s top data protection officer, Ulrich Kelber, sees “several red lines crossed at the same time”. In addition to the reference to data retention, which was rejected by the EU Court of Justice for the third

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Call for IoT Trainings: Secure Development for embedded Devices

René Pfeiffer/ March 24, 2021/ Discussion, Training/ 0 comments

The world is much easier to handle without limits. If you have all your frameworks freely available and have the luxury of running your code with a multi-MB (or -GB) runtime environment, then you are in paradise. The world of embedded devices and the Internet of Things looks different. Saving energy is the prime directive. The power supply might be a battery or the connector pin of another device. Multiple cores are rare, memory is even rarer. If you are acquainted with the container and cloud lifestyle, then embedded systems will be a culture shock. Think kilo instead of mega or giga. Small devices run code, too. So this is where security comes into play. What can you do to design your embedded code to be small and secure? Secure design and coding have

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Secure Operation of IT Systems requires Skills, no Shortcuts

René Pfeiffer/ March 19, 2021/ Discussion, High Entropy/ 0 comments

The recent vulnerability in the Microsoft® Exchange server application has sparked many discussions. One of the topics is connected to the skills of IT departments responsible for patching systems in time. How can n weeks or months pass until upgrades are rolled out and in place? Well, the answer is easy. Some upgrades do not work flawlessly. In anticipation of problems during the change, IT departments need a copy of the live system and time to test the updates. This takes time, even if you have the budget to run additional copies of your systems. Furthermore, sometimes upgrades go wrong. Theoretically, these changes should just eliminate security problems and enable the application to work as before. IT departments bitten by the “this should not have happened but it did anyway” situation will hesitate to

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Bug Disclosure Policies and the Eternal Discussion about Security ♨

René Pfeiffer/ March 15, 2021/ Discussion, High Entropy, Security/ 0 comments

In theory, there is the evolution from bug over to weakness, vulnerability and finally the exploit. Errors in code and application behaviour are interesting for any serious developer. Security researchers also look for bugs and ways to make code do something it wasn’t designed for. In the absence of critical failures in applications, the process of reporting bugs and getting them fixed everything is smooth and less prone to heated discussions (YMMV, some software projects feature persons with very strong opinions). All of this changes when the code can be remotely exploited. Enter the recent CVEs regarding the Microsoft® Exchange server. CVE-2021-26855 is as bad as it sounds. It is a remote code execution with low complexity requiring no user interaction and no privileges. Disclosure of bugs impacting security has a long history. Knowing

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Management Console Access – Obscurity by Security and vice versa

René Pfeiffer/ February 28, 2021/ Discussion, Security/ 0 comments

Every discussion about security sooner or later connects to the wonderful word obscurity. Mentioning security by obscurity is a guaranteed way of losing sight of the facts. It is vital to actually fix weaknesses and introduce strong separation of systems when implementing security. Furthermore, the leakage of useful information to potential adversaries should be eliminated. That’s the theory. Enter the discussions we have witnessed in real life and in the Internet. A common tactic is to strip information from communication protocols that is not needed for transporting the message. Version numbers, host names, addresses, and other pieces of data are often removed when a server answers requests. Especially web applications send a ton of useful information to clients. You can see the structure of the web space, components used for rendering, server systems involved,

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The Art of testing Code

René Pfeiffer/ February 4, 2021/ Discussion, High Entropy, Security/ 0 comments

The Twitterverse, various blogs, and some news portals published discussions about a bug in libgcrypt. The code contained a loop which could read past the end of a buffer. The error condition was found by using a test suite. Given the C code base of libgcrypt cases like this can often be found by using the static code analysing features of modern compilers. If you read the ticket concerning the particular overrun bug, then you will notice that it contains more than just the error description. The reason for emotional discussion around bugs are the many ways to find them. Modern compilers contain a lot of helpful tools to audit your code. Even if the compiler lacks auditing/testing features, you can resort to other tools such as Valgrind (which turned 20 years of age

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Press Release: IT Security Sabotage threatens the domestic Economy

Sanna/ November 10, 2020/ Conference, Discussion, Press

Effective end-to-end encryption is a critical component in everyday and business life. Over 300 years ago, cryptanalysis, i.e. the method for decrypting secret codes, had its heyday in Europe. In so-called black chambers or black cabinets (also known as cabinet noir) in post offices all letters from certain people were secretly opened, viewed, copied and closed again. The letters intercepted in this way were then delivered. The purpose was to find dangerous or harmful news for the regents of the time. The most active and efficient chamber in Europe was the Secret Cabinet Chancellery in Vienna. This early form of wiretapping was only ended in the 19th century. And this scenario of the imperial and royal courts is now facing all European companies and individuals. End-to-end encryption is to be provided with back doors

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A Story of Crypto Wars, the Growth on the Internet, and possible future Regulations

René Pfeiffer/ November 9, 2020/ Discussion, High Entropy

The discussion about how to tackle end-to-end encryption (E2EE) and how to reconcile it with surveillance is almost 30 years old. The very first Crypto War was sparked by the Comprehensive Counter-Terrorism Act of 1991 (no, there is no mention of cryptography in it, because it was the first draft of a series of legislative texts dealing with a reform of the US justice system; have a look at the author of the act). In the following years things like strong cryptography, export bans on mathematics, or the creation of Phil Zimmerman’s Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) were a follow-up. Even the proposal of having the Clipper chip present in telecommunication devices and the concept of key escrow was discussed in the wake of the reform. Sometimes laws have to grow with the technology. All

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Press Release: Digitalisation without Information Security has no Future

Sanna/ July 15, 2020/ Conference, Development, Discussion

DeepSec conference warns of unsafe software and insufficient knowledge of professionals. The months in which we had to learn to deal with the effects of various quarantine measures on our everyday lives have decisively emphasized the importance of information technology. Although the Internet has long been an integral part of work and everyday life in many industries, the physical restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic could have been significantly more drastic for public authorities, the economy and society without modern telecommunications. Audio, video and chat platforms have prevented things getting worse. The call for more digitalisation, however, lacks the most important ingredient – information security. Published software is safe, isn’t it? In the world of software development, there is an unofficial saying that a product is ready when you can install it. The rest

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Lectures on Information Security

René Pfeiffer/ July 1, 2020/ Discussion, High Entropy

It’s time for an editorial to end our premature Covid-19 induced Summer break. We (as in the staff behind DeepSec/DeepINTEL) were busy with projects, preparations, following the news about the pandemic, and collecting information for our event(s) in November. Personally I have been involved in teaching for decades. The past months have shifted the focus heavily on virtual presences in the form of teleconferences. Keeping hundreds of students busy while explaining how operating systems work and how secure code looks tends to take up some of your time. Good network connections and decent hardware helped a lot, but there are a couple of problems with conveying content, concepts, and ideas. Let me show you what I mean. Getting good tutorials is hard. The new agile way of computer science is to ditch good documentation

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Update on DeepSec / DeepINTEL / ROOTS 2020 with regards to Covid-19

René Pfeiffer/ May 2, 2020/ Administrivia, Discussion, High Entropy

Lacking time travel we have no way to know what will happen in November 2020. That’s not news to us. We closely follow the development of the current Covid-19 crisis, and we constantly evaluate our plans for DeepSec, DeepINTEL, and ROOTS 2020. Given the current state of affairs and the experiments in various countries (including Austria) with lowering the restrictions for business and public life, we believe that our conferences can take place in November. There may be restrictions still present in November with regard to travel and protection measures at our venue. We have developed a schedule for keeping you informed. Additionally we have plans for changing the schedule in order to guarantee the minimum level of content required by our call for papers process. Updates regarding the state of our events in

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Contact Tracing and the Security of Things

René Pfeiffer/ April 17, 2020/ Call for Papers, Discussion

The spread of Sars-Cov-2 keeps everyone on their toes. Given the emotional state after weeks and months of physical distancing (which we recommend; social distancing has been the norm for decades). We have closed our office in March and heavily rely on telecommunication. Fortunately we did not need to reinvent the Internet. Many of you have probably done the same. We hope that you manage to stay healthy until things can get back to “normal”. Speaking of communication and normality, there are some aspects of the current situation we like to point out. Every security conference features presentations shedding light on important tools, libraries, applications, or protocols people rely on. Humans like to communicate. The degree varies, but essentially few can do without talking, writing, hearing, or seeing stuff (i.e. messages). This is even

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