Contact Tracing and the Security of Things

René Pfeiffer/ April 17, 2020/ Call for Papers, Discussion/ 0 comments

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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War Dialing Video Conference Systems

René Pfeiffer/ March 11, 2020/ Security

Do you remember the Golden Age of Wardialing? The idea back then was to try calling phone numbers and to see if a computer systems answers. This methods still works, because you can wardial any system with a suitable addressing scheme. VoIP wardialing is a lot easier since you do not need a modem. You just need to send signalling messages. Video conferencing systems are no exception. They have to do signalling, too. Furthermore, participants of a meeting need to join and leave. For joining there must be a process that authenticates participants. Usually you get a conference identification number and maybe a PIN code. Other systems require an account, so that you have to log in first. Finding conference rooms gets real easy if you just need an URL. The Bavarian Ministry of

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Analysing Data Leaks and avoiding early Attribution

René Pfeiffer/ January 4, 2019/ High Entropy

The new year starts with the same old issues we are dealing with for years. German politicians, journalists, and other prominent figures were (are) affected by a data leak. A Twitter account started tweeting bits from the leaked data on 1 December 2018 in the fashion of an Advent calendar. The account was closed today. You will find articles describing single parts of what may have happened along with tiny bits of information. Speculation is running high at the moment. So we would like to give you some ideas on how to deal with incomplete information about a security event floating around in the Internet and elsewhere. Attributing data leaks of this kind is very difficult. Without thoroughly understanding and investigating the situation, proper attribution is next to impossible. Given the method of disclosure

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DeepSec and Tor Tickets – Update

René Pfeiffer/ August 24, 2018/ High Entropy, Internet

We wrote about the German Tor operator relay organisation Zwiebelfreunde e.V. a while ago. They were raided on 20 June 2018 by the German police in five different locations. The police was investigating a German left-wing blog and was trying to find the author of articles published there. As many of you know, Tor exit relay operators are the last hop in a chain of communication channels, so the origin of the operator’s servers can be seen. However Tor exit relays bear to relation to the real origin of the transmission. This is the essence of the Tor anonymity network. Zwiebelfreunde e.V. is a non-profit organisation that runs Tor nodes for anyone donating money (realised by the Torservers.net project). Their nodes have a combined bandwidth of 5000 Mbit/s. They know what they are doing,

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Thoughts on the Information Security Skill Set

René Pfeiffer/ July 13, 2018/ Discussion, Security

As mentioned in an earlier blog article we moved our office infrastructure to a new location. Once you use a space for more than a decade things inevitably pile up. So I had to sort through hardware, software (on optical storage hardware and floppy disks), lecture notes from a previous life, ancient project documentation, and notes on ideas for a brighter future. Most things were thrown away (i.e. responsibly recycled), some stuff could be saved by enthusiasts (for example the two old Amigas that were sitting in the basement). All of the things we had to move had a purpose once. The main purpose was to get familiar with technology, accumulate knowledge, and understand how things work. This is essentially the hacker mindset, also found among scientists. Given the many presentations at past DeepSec

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BSidesLondon 2018 Rookie Track Follow-Up

René Pfeiffer/ June 8, 2018/ Conference, Discussion, High Entropy

We would like to share some impressions about the BSidesLondon 2018 Rookie Track presentations. It gets hard and harder to tell which one of the talks is the best. And picking a winner is not the right approach. We do this, because we can only invite one person to DeepSec, and because the intention is to have a motivation to work hard on the presentation. From what we have seen, we were quite impressed. The quality has much improved, also thanks to the tireless efforts of the mentors (if you see someone with a mentor badge, please buy them a drink!). Apart from the 15 minute time slot some talks were hard to distinguish from their bigger cousins in the main tracks. The topics were well-chosen. The mix was great. Every single rookie did

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Manufacturers integrate Blockchain into Processors to counter Spectre and Meltdown

René Pfeiffer/ April 1, 2018/ Discussion, High Entropy

The Spectre and Meltdown security vulnerabilities gathered a lot of attention in January. Processor manufacturers have rushed to fix the design of the chips and to patch products already in production. The vulnerabilities show that secure design is critical to our modern infrastructure. Computing has become ubiquitous, so has networking. The current fixes change the microcode on the chips. Altering the flow of assembler instructions is bound to have a detrimental impact on performance. There is not much you can do about this – but there is hope. Future generations of processors will have a defence against unknown security vulnerabilities – the blockchain! The past decade in information security has taught us that a pro-active holistic approach to IT defence is not enough. To counter unknown threats you have to go below 0(day). The

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Biometrics and Failures in understanding Security – Copy & Paste Iris Scans

René Pfeiffer/ May 23, 2017/ High Entropy, Security

Biometrics has an irresistible attraction. Simply by mentioning the fact that you can measure parts (or surfaces) of the body and convert them to numbers a lot of people are impressed out of their mind. Literally. In theory biometric information serves as a second set of data to be used for any purposes. A common purpose is to use it for authentication. Most physical sources of biometric data are easily accessible. Fingers (for fingerprints), eyes (for your iris), limbs (for your veins), voice (for the Cloud), and other examples show this well. Where does the security come into play? Well, it doesn’t. For starters, passwords can be changed. Biometrics can’t unless you have a transplant. In contrast to passwords biometrics can be faked. The biometric source can be copied. In most cases this is

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Putting the Science into Security – Infosec with Style

René Pfeiffer/ January 27, 2017/ Discussion, Security

The world of information security is full of publications. It’s like being in a maze of twisted little documents, all of them alike. Sometimes these works of art lack structure, deep analysis, or simply reproducibility. Others are perfectly researched, contain (a defence of) arguments, proofs of concept, and solid code or documentation to make a point. Information security is a mixture of different disciplines such as mathematics, physics, computer science, psychology, sociology, linguistics, or history. It’s not about computers and networks alone. There is interaction between components. Protocols are involved. Even the simple act of logging in and staying in an active session requires in some parts to talk to each other. And then there are rituals. Scepticism is widespread in information security. Questioning your environment is the way to go, but you need to

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DeepSec 2016 Keynote: Security in my Rear-View Mirror – Marcus J. Ranum

Sanna/ November 8, 2016/ Conference, Discussion, Security, Stories

Everything that’s old is new again, and if you work in security long enough, you’ll see the same ideas re-invented and marketed as the new new thing. Or, you see solutions in search of a problem, dusted off and re-marketed in a new niche. At this year’s DeepSec conference the keynote will be given by Marcus Ranum, who set up the first email server for whitehouse.gov. He will reflect upon over 30 years of IT security and make a few wild guesses for where this all may wind up. Spoiler alert: Security will not be a “solved” problem. Marcus answered a few questions beforehand: Please tell us the Top 5 facts about your talk. I’ll be talking about how the security market evolves from here. I’ll be talking about the relationship between security and management It’s going to be depressing. I have

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DeepSec 2016 Talk: I Thought I Saw a |-|4><0.- Thomas Fischer

Sanna/ October 21, 2016/ Conference, Development, Security

Threat Hunting refers to proactively and iteratively searching through networks or datasets to detect and respond to advanced threats that evade traditional rule- or signature-based security solutions. “But what does this really mean?”, asks Thomas Fischer. “And what real impact does it have on the security team? Can we use threat hunting to provide a process to better detect and understand when you’ve been breached?” More and more security data is being produced and usually aggregated into a central location or body to hopefully take quick and informed decisions on attacks or compromises amongst a mountain of data. When you start to include data gathered from your endpoints the amount of data starts to explode exponentially. This level of data provides us with a large amount of visibility. But is having visibility enough? What

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Of Clouds & Cyber: A little Story about Wording in InfoSec

René Pfeiffer/ September 5, 2016/ Discussion, High Entropy

In case you ever received a message about our calls for papers, you may have noticed that we do not like the word cyber. Of course we know that it is used widely. Information security experts are divided if it should be used. Some do it, some reject it, some don’t know what to do about it. We use it mostly in italics or like this: „cyber“. There is a reason why, but first let’s take a look where the word comes from. The Oxford Dictionaries blog mentions the origin in the word cybernetics. This word was used in the 1940 by scientists from the fields of engineering, social sciences, and biology. Cybernetics deals with the study of communication and control systems in living beings and machines. Hence the word is derived from the

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Intelligence on the Silver Screen: A Good American Kickstarter Campaign

René Pfeiffer/ July 21, 2016/ Discussion, High Entropy, Security Intelligence

Surveillance has a bad reputation. No one likes to be watched. Yet infosec researchers, sysadmins, and developers talk a lot about log files. We need to watch stuff for various reasons. You got your mail logs, diagnostic messages, performance metrics, network addresses, and more painstakingly sorted by timestamps and maybe geolocation. Log data is part of information technology. It gets interesting once you store, process and mine this data. Some people like to collect it all and do all kinds of Big Data stuff with it. Others filter out the relevant bits of information and work with that. Opinion is divided, results may vary. Enter A Good American, the documentary which was screened in Vienna during the DeepSec 2015 conference. It has been shown all over the world. The film itself is fully funded,

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The Internet of Threats revisited

René Pfeiffer/ July 14, 2016/ Communication, High Entropy, Internet

Everyone is talking about the Internet of Things. Connecting household applications (yes, applications, appliances is so 1990s) to a network hasn’t been more fun than now. Also measuring things is great. Today most sensors are deployed to generate endless streams of data because we can, not because there is a need for it. And I haven’t even talked about the information security aspect yet. Let’s take a step back into 1995/1996. Those were the days of the first browser wars. Jamie Zawinski has a quote of the Law of Software Envelopment on his web site. Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can. The proof of concept was undertaken by creating the Netscape Mail and News client. Processing email once

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BSidesLND2016 Rookie Track Review

René Pfeiffer/ June 11, 2016/ Discussion, Security, Stories

Sitting through the Rookie Track at BSidesLondon is something we really enjoy. This year the quality of the presentations was amazing. Of course, the rookie’s mentors take a part of the blame for that. Good training gives you always a head start. Nevertheless someone has to stand in front of the crowd and fill the 15 minutes slot with content. All rookies did a good job. It was hard to pick a clear winner. The jury took more than three iterations to find a conclusion. Locard made it, and we welcome him to DeepSec 2016 in November. Honourable mentions go to @Shlibness, @Oxana_Sereda and @callygarr. For you we have some thoughts on the presentations we saw and on the methods being used. Think of your presentation as code. Make it lean and mean. It’s

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