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Articles

TLS attacks and anti-censorship hacks

Articles, Blog, Censorship, China, Cyber Security, cybersecurity, TLS
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Despite safeguards in TLS 1.3, China is still censoring HTTPS communications, according to a new report. There are workarounds to this. Plus, how TLS can be used as an attack vector.

The Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol emerged as a focal point of attention for the information security world during August as the Chinese government updated its censorship tool, the Great Firewall of China, to block HTTPS traffic with the latest TLS version. The topic got even more attention when security researchers offered workarounds to TLS-enabled censorship and demonstrated potential TLS-based attacks at DEF CON: Safe Mode.

TLS is a widely adopted protocol that enables privacy and data security for internet communications, mostly by encrypting communications between web applications and servers. TLS 1.3, the most recent version, was published in 2018. TLS is the foundation of the more familiar HTTPS technology and hides communications from uninvited third parties, even as it does not necessarily hide the identity of the users communicating.

TLS 1.3 introduced something called encrypted server name indication (ESNI), which makes it difficult for third parties, such as nation-states, to censor HTTPS communications. In early August, three organizations — iYouPort, the University of Maryland and the Great Firewall Report — issued a joint report about the apparent blocking of TLS connections with the ESNI extension in China.

[This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.]

Hybrid cloud complexity, rush to adopt pose security risks, expert says

Articles, Blog, Cloud security, Cyber Security, cybersecurity
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Organizations rushing to adopt hosted cloud infrastructure alongside on-premises systems might not fully understand or address potential security threats.

As enterprises race to adopt cloud technology, they also encounter a combination of new possible threats from the rapid and frequently unorganized deployment of different cloud-based technologies. Particular concerns surround the adoption of so-called hybrid cloud technologies, Sean Metcalf, founder of cloud security advisory company Trimarc told the attendees of DEF CON Safe Mode last week.

The hybrid cloud is a blend of on-premises infrastructure combined with cloud-hosted infrastructure (infrastructure-as-a-service, or IaaS) and services (software-as-a-service, or SaaS). The IaaS providers are usually giants such as Amazon’s AWS, Microsoft’s Azure or Google’s Cloud Platform. Extending on-premises data centers into the cloud basically means the cloud is effectively operating as a virtualization host like VMware or Microsoft Hyper V, Metcalf said.

Because of this effective virtualization, any attacks that are associated with those cloud data center elements are similar to how you would attack VMware and Hyper V “but with the additional overhead of ‘well, it’s hosted by Microsoft or it’s hosted by Amazon, or it’s hosted Google,’” Metcalf tells CSO.

[This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.]

CISO Q&A: How AvidXchange manages COVID-related threats and risk

Articles, Blog, Coronavirus, Cyber Security, cybersecurity
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Like many CISOs, Christina Quaine’s team is supporting the payment processor’s work-at-home employees and managing internal pandemic-specific risks. It also helps its mid-market customers meet new security challenges.

CSO caught up with Christina Quaine, the CISO of AvidXchange, a North Carolina-based payments processor that focuses on mid-market companies. We talked to her about how this mid-sized company, with 1,400 or so employees, has dealt with the changes wrought by the COVID pandemic. Given the company’s role in financial transactions, we were particularly keen to hear how the rise in coronavirus fraud instances were affecting her job. Below is a transcript of our conversation, edited for length and clarity.

[This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.]

18 (new) ways attackers can compromise email

Articles, Blog, Cyber Security, cybersecurity, Email, Phishing
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Researchers have discovered eighteen new vulnerabilities in how email systems authenticate senders, making it even easier for criminals to fool users.

All organizations wrestle with chronic phishing attacks that are the primary vectors through which malicious actors breach systems and spread malware.

Most phishing attackers deliver their payloads on networks by crafting spoofed emails that look like they come from legitimate, authoritative senders. Those look-alike emails instead derive from domains deployed solely for malicious purposes. It’s virtually impossible for most email recipients to detect the differences between real and spoofed email accounts, making phishing an intractable and seemingly never-ending problem for users and organizations alike.

Now computer science researchers have discovered eighteen new vulnerabilities in how email systems authenticate senders. Vern Paxson, Professor of Computer Science at UC Berkeley and Co-Founder and Chief Scientist at Corelight, Jianjun Chen, Post-Doc researcher at the International Computer Science Institute and Jian Jiang, Senior Director of Engineering at F5 (Shape Security), presented the result of their research at Black Hat last week in a talk entitled “You Have No Idea Who Sent That Email: 18 Attacks on Email Sender Authentication.”

[This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.]

Mathematical Mesh alpha release promises better end-to-end encryption

Articles, Blog, Cyber Security, cybersecurity, Encryption
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Web pioneer proposes a new cryptographic system that relies on threshold key infrastructure to improve end-to-end encryption.

One of the main challenges posed by the internet has been the need to secure communications across a massive tangle of public and private networks. Security experts agree that end-to-end communication encryption is the best means of defending users against third-party interception or breaches that could expose the potentially sensitive content.

End-to-end encryption, however, has been more of a dream than a reality, particularly given the rise of “walled gardens” led by internet giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon. Each always maintains some form of access to their users’ communications.

A new approach to end-to-end encryption called Mathematical Mesh was quietly introduced at this year’s HOPE (Hackers of Planet Earth) conference by esteemed cryptographer Phillip Hallam-Baker, who is currently a principal scientist at Comodo and was formerly a member of the CERN team that designed the World Wide Web, among many other accomplishments.

[This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.]

Many Cyberspace Solarium Commission recommendations expected to become federal law

Articles, Blog, Congress, Cyber Security, cybersecurity, Cyberspace Solarium Commission
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Dozens of cybersecurity measures designed to protect US businesses and infrastructure are part of the National Defense Authorization Act. Budget, political concerns might eliminate some.

Several cybersecurity proposals are advancing in both the US House and Senate that flow from the prolific work of the public-private brainstorming initiative called the Cyberspace Solarium Commission. The Commission was formed in 2019 to break through the seemingly intractable barriers blocking the path to devising and implementing practical solutions to the most challenging cybersecurity problems.

The vehicle through which the commission hopes to enact several dozen of its legislative recommendations (out of 75 recommendations included in its inaugural report this past spring) is the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an annual “must-pass” federal law that sets the budget and expenditures for the US military. The commission’s executive director Mark Montgomery estimated earlier this month that each chamber’s bills would feature eight to 20 of the commission’s recommendations.

[This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.]

Twitter hack raises alarm among government officials, security experts

Articles, Blog, Cyber Security, cybersecurity, hacking, Twitter
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The recent account takeover attack underscores how Twitter and other social platforms have become a critical component of political systems worldwide.

A hack of Twitter last week shook the foundations of the internet, cybersecurity, and political worlds. A gang of young people purportedly obsessed with OGusers, early Twitter adopters with one or two characters in their handles, ostensibly targeted 130 high-profile accounts and reset passwords and sent messages from the accounts of 45 “celebrities.” The hacks appear financially motivated, with the attackers fleeing with $121,000 worth of bitcoin generated through the scam messages they sent from the accounts of Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Elon Musk and other personages.

Coming as they did during a period of high paranoia just a few months from the 2020 presidential election, the hacks seem somehow intermixed with the ongoing fear of the kinds of nation-state digital attacks that took place during the 2016 elections. The take-over of what has become a vital political platform attracted the attention of lawmakers, including James Comer (R-KY), the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, who sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey demanding a briefing no later than July 24.

[This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.]

Time running out to protect US November elections

Articles, Blog, Cyber Security, cybersecurity, elections
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Experts say it’s too late for significant legislative action to better protect voting this fall, but meaningful changes are still possible.

Four years have passed since the 2016 presidential election when revelations of Russian hacking of the DNC threw political contests into turmoil. In the aftermath, the Mueller investigation, Justice Department indictments and other efforts made clear that the US election and voting systems themselves were the targets of cyberattacks. The subsequent Mueller probe and DOJ indictments also revealed massive Russian digital disinformation campaigns that permeated the election.

Now, as the country heads into the next presidential campaign weakened by a pandemic and laboring under a collapsed economy, little has happened over the past four years to substantially shore up voting, campaign or election security, with only marginal improvements made around the edges. There is time, though, to implement last-minute security measures that could substantially improve election integrity, experts say.

[This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.]

New DOE document names China, Russia as threats to US bulk power system

Articles, Blog, Critical Infrastructure, Cyber Security, cybersecurity, DOE
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A US Department of Energy RFI seeks information on energy industry’s supply chain security practices following executive order to develop industry regulations.

On May 1, the Trump Administration issued an Executive Order on Securing the United States Bulk Power System that seeks to remove from the power grid crucial electric equipment supplied by vendors from foreign adversarial nations. Yesterday, the Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Electricity issued a request for information (RFI) “seeking information to understand the energy industry’s current practices to identify and mitigate vulnerabilities in the supply chain for components of the bulk-power system (BPS).”

The RFI is a follow-on to the executive order (EO), which directs the Energy Department, in consultation with other agencies, to develop regulations implementing its goals through a rulemaking process. The EO defines electric equipment as items used in substations, control rooms and power generating stations, including reactors, capacitors, substation transformers, large generators, voltage regulators, along with several other defined pieces of electrical equipment.

[This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.]

Domestic 5G development at core of US communications security plan

5G, Articles, Blog, Cyber Security, cybersecurity, White House
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New NTIA document outlines White House 5G security goals, which promote home-grown R&D and call for continuous risk assessment and management.

In late March, during the first phase of the coronavirus lockdown, the White House issued a little-noticed document entitled The National Strategy to Secure 5G of the United States, which articulates a “vision for America to lead the development, deployment, and management of secure and reliable 5G communications infrastructure worldwide, arm-in-arm with our closest partners and allies.” The document was the White House’s effort to comply with the Secure 5G and Beyond Act, which required the president to” develop a strategy to ensure the security of next generation mobile telecommunications systems and infrastructure in the United States.”

The Act also required the president to submit within 180 days an implementation plan developed in consultation with a host of government departments and agencies. In May, the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) began a proceeding to receive comments on how it might implement the vision of the White House Strategy, with the comment period ending on June 25. Early this week, NTIA posted the comments it received from 80 organizations, corporations and interested individuals.

[This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.]