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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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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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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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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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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It’s April Fool’s Day – 7/24 and 365 Days of the Year

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

The first day of April is typically the time where you hide well-written pieces of misinformation to trick people into believing something that isn’t true. We published our share of April Fool’s Day articles in the past. While this was and still is fun we believe that it is time to break with this tradition. Hiding something that isn’t true within a stream of informative articles or news items has become a major way of influencing opinion. Good comedy does the same, but the outcome is different. Satirical news are a means to criticise by exaggerating or focussing on an issue. The typical audience of comedy expects this. The distinction between satire and reality have almost disappeared in the past decade. So if you are looking for entertainment there are plenty of other sources

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Complexity of Dependencies in Multidimensional Systems – Corona Virus

René Pfeiffer/ February 28, 2020/ Administrivia, Conference, High Entropy

This blog is often silent. Our policy is to publish if there is real information to send out. DeepSec is all about facts. We don’t do speculation. Sometimes it is hard to idly watch „news“ being published, revised, withdrawn, altered, commented, and even deleted. We, to the best of our abilities, try not to publish something which doesn’t hold. But we read and watch a lot or articles, opinion, and other sources. For the rare cases where we need to publish our opinion we have created the High Entropy category in this blog. This category is all about the things we like to discuss. This time it’s about biology, containment, and IT security defence. Let’s have a look at the current coronavirus. We are in touch with various partners in different countries. You may

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Secure Design – Combining Information Security with Software Development

René Pfeiffer/ February 5, 2020/ Discussion, High Entropy

Information security researchers usually see software fail. Sometimes they try to make software fail on purpose. The result is a bug description, also called vulnerability report in case the bug has a security impact. The the best case scenario this information reaches the software developers who in turn fix the problem. Then the cycle continues. This process is fun for the first iterations. After a while it gets boring. Even a while after that you ask yourself why integer overflow, injection attacks, and basic cross-anything is still an issue. Some bug classes are well over 40 years old. Polio is far older, and yet we got rid of it (mostly). What’s different in the field of software creation? The answers are simple, endless, and change depending on the current trend. Just as computing changed

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Thoughts on Geopolitics and Information Security

René Pfeiffer/ July 12, 2019/ Call for Papers, DeepIntel, Discussion, High Entropy

Geopolitics is a rather small word for very complex interactions, strategies, tactics, and the planning (of lack thereof) of events. Reading about topics connected to it is probably familiar to you. Few news articles can do without touching geopolitic aspects. Since politics has less technological content for most people, the connection to information security may not be obvious. Malicious software such as Stuxnet/WannaCry has changed this. Due to the events connected to their outbreak (or attack) the motivations of national agendas on the international stage have created awareness. There is a lot more to explore which is not on the radar of most experts, even in the field of information security. The current trade wars have a major impact on technology and ultimately information security. When it comes to vendors there is a bias

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Translated Article: EU Prosecutors call for Security Holes in 5G Standards

Sanna/ June 3, 2019/ Communication, Discussion, High Entropy, Security

EU-Strafverfolger fordern Sicherheitslücken in 5G-Standards for fm4 by Erich Moechel The telecoms are to be forced to align the technical design of their 5G networks with the monitoring needs of the police authorities. In addition, security holes in the 5G protocols are required to enable monitoring by IMSI catchers. Gilles de Kerchove, EU counter-terrorism coordinator, warns against the planned security standards for the new 5G mobile networks. The reason for this are neither network components of the Chinese manufacturer Huawei, nor technical defects. De Kerchove’s warnings are directed against the planned high degree of network security, according to an internal document of the EU Council of Ministers, available to ORF.at. These measures to protect against criminals as well as the planned 5G network architecture stand in the way of the installation of backdoors for

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Eth(er)ical Hacking – Hacker Defined Radio and analysing Signals

René Pfeiffer/ April 4, 2019/ Call for Papers, High Entropy

There is a lot going on in the wireless world. 5G is all the fashion, because frequencies are being auctioned. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Wireless protocols have become ubiquitous. The IEEE 802.11 family is one widespread example. Bluetooth, mobile networks, ZigBee, Z-Wave, and other wireless transmissions are widely used. If you go looking for signals, your first stop are usually industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) radio bands. But there is much more. It’s well worth to passively scan what’s all around you. The equipment is often the main obstacle preventing hacker from doing something. When it comes to radio waves you need a suitable antenna (or a couple thereof) plus the hardware to drive it. Even if you limit yourself to passive operation you still need something to catch, amplify,

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