Many years ago, (like ten or more) there was a major US bank (BoA, CitiBank I don’t remember) that had a major security breach. I don’t remember all the details, and Google has been less than helpful, but the bank in question was very forth coming, they announced the incident, released a press release, and detailed what happened. They then spent millions to revamp their entire security posture to prevent it from happening again. That bank lost millions of dollars of business afterwards despite the fact that after the breach it was probably the most secure bank in the country at that time.
Looks like banks have learned their lesson and now are keeping as quiet as possible about any and all compromises in their security.
Kevin Poulsen has written an excellent article over at Wired detailing the recent breach of ATM card numbers and their PINS. Seems that someone broke into a server that controlled CitiBank branded ATMs in various 7-11s across the country and then used the card numbers and PINs to create fake cards and drain bank accounts. There are a lot of unanswered questions about this case such as who was actually responsible for this server. Citibank is pointing the finger at a third party transaction processing company and that company seems to be denying any involvement. No one is being very forthcoming with the details, probably afraid of bad publicity and the loss of business that may result from it.
Consumers of course are protected by law from actual monetary losses but the hassle of having to get a new card number can’t be fun. Unfortunately there isn’t much the consumer can do to protect themselves against this sort of attack. You can try to avoid those stand alone ATM kiosks like those found in convenience stores and rely solely on ATMS at actual banks but in many cases that is just not practical. So keep a close eye on those statements, verify every line item and call your bank at the first sign of anything weird.
UPDATE: Thanks to NR for sending me a link to the CitiBank breach from 1995 that I referenced above.
I was at Autozone yesterday getting a set of Upper Strut Mounts for my 167K mile old Saturn when the sales guy asked me for my phone number. I didn’t hesitate a bit and just rattled off ten digits. The same ten digits I always give out. Ten digits which in fact are not my phone number.
So what does this have to do with anything? Hopefully it serves as a reminder that the only one who is going to protect your identity is you. Some people obviously think they can hire some other company to protect their identity for them. A company like LifeLock which promises to “guarantee your good name.” Since the company’s founder publishes his own social security number on its web site and in print advertisements they must be able to protect people from identity theft, right? Why worry? Just pay Lifelock and your good name is guaranteed!
Well come to find out the company is currently being sued by customers in at least three states who say that LifeLock did anything but protect their identities. In the course of gathering information for the trial the lawyer for the case found 87 instances where people have tried to steal the identity of the CEO of the company, 20 of which were attempts at obtaining fake drivers licenses. And one instance of fraud being perpetrated in the name of the CEO! (I wonder if the CEO can get a refund?)
So what is the lesson to be learned? You can either pay your $10 a month and live in blissful ignorance until you get burned or you can expend a little effort and protect yourself. Don’t give out personal information to people who don’t need it (which is just about everyone), don’t use your PIN in point-of-sale machines, check your credit reports once a year, and don’t do what the CEO of Lifelock did and publish your social security number on your website.
About a month or so ago I did an email interview with an online ezine known as The Bug Magazine. They are based in Brazil so most of the magazine is in Portuguese however the editors graciously published my interview in English as well. Scroll about half way down the page to get to the English version. The interview covers some of the old L0pht and @Stake stuff but also touches on new trends and the future.
Everyone gets a kick out of TV shows and news reports that feature stupid criminals. People who get themselves locked inside the store they are trying to rob or stuck in the air vent attempting to break in. For some reason you don’t hear about the smart criminals very often. Maybe they don’t get caught as much?
Recently there has been a new twist on the old credit card number scam. Criminals have found a way to modify those point-of-sale scanning machines everyone swipes their cards through to make copies of the information. I’ve written about this before here and here. Previously it was Stop & Shop Supermarkets who had their card readers physically altered inside the store to record card information (smart) and the second time it was researchers at the University of Cambridge [PDF] who found how easy it was to tamper with the tamper resistant chip and pin machines (wicked smart). Now it is Lunardi’s Supermarket in Los Gatos California who have found their card swipe machines altered to record the card number and PIN. At least a hundred people so far have reported fraud against their cards.
There isn’t a lot of room inside those little machines, so to be able to take one apart, install your recording device then put it back together and install it inside the store without anyone noticing seems to be pretty damn smart to me.
So you want to be smarter? Don’t trust the machines. Don’t give out your PIN number to every retailer you shop at. When the machine asks for a PIN hit the cancel button and choose ‘credit’ instead of ‘debit’. If your debit card can’t double as a credit card get to your bank today and demand one that can. Don’t give your PIN to the Supermarket or Walmart, and at the corner MOM & POP store use cash. Cash is King. Even at the ATM protect your PIN, look for tampering at the machine, cover your hand when entering the number. Be smarter than the criminals. Sure you may feel like George Costanza in an episode of Seinfeld but better to feel like a stocky bald man than to become the victim of fraud.
So about nine years ago Tan at the L0pht first wrote about the creation of a Cyber Underwriters Laboratory. Like the real UL the Cyber UL would be tasked with independently testing and evaluating software, specifically security related software without the influence of vendors. At the time no one paid much attention and the idea went pretty much nowhere. Since then, in the wake of broke non-secure USB drives and people still using XOR encryption, such luminaries such as Bruce Schneier and even myself have commented that such an organization is sorely needed.
Well Tan has now responded to himself with a followup to his original paper. The new paper Cyber Underwriters Laboratories – Reloaded takes a look at the PCI compliance required by VISA as a possible starting ground or model for such an organization.
Lets hope that this time people realize that the importance of such software evaluations is critical not just to the future of online commerce but is critical to the future of simply being online.
After .mudge off handedly announced that he was going to stand up a CyberUL at the request of the White House the haters came out in full force. Tan has written a response to the recent criticisms of his CyberUL idea and posted it here.
I have a list of websites that I read as part of my morning ritual just like everybody else. It helps fritter away the first few minutes of the day as I wait for my tea to cool to a drinkable temperature. Like most of the people who visit my little blog here you probably also read Slashdot. The stories are usually interesting enough to hold my interest while waiting for the aforementioned tea. (Red if you must know.) Today however, was posted a very rare treat, (for /. anyway) an extremely interesting and informative comment thread regarding Security Ethics. An important topic that isn’t discussed very often outside of vulnerability disclosure. Considering just how valuable Security people and IT workers in general are to a company (despite what your boss might think) it is important to maintain a high level of ethical behavior while at the same time remaining gainfully employed. Especially when all to often those two tasks seem diametrically opposed. This balancing act has forced myself to change employment more than once. The discussion thread on Slashdot provides some interesting horror stories, sage advice, and ammusing ancedotes about what really goes on during those SOX, SAS-70, 404 etc.. audits that the big companies (and governments) are so fond of.
One of the more popular features of HNN (The Hacker News Network) was the daily list of web page defacements that was maintained at the time by Attrition.org. Maintaining such an archive soon overwhelmed Attrition and the task was taken over by Alldas. After the demise of Alldas, a small (at the time) upstart security site in Austria, Zone-H took over. They have been maintaining the defacement archive for years and years slowly adding to it over time as new websites get compromised. Their archive now encompasses over 2.6 million web page defacements. The amount of data they have collected is invaluable and is an amazing resource for security researchers to gain a historical perspective on the frequency and methods of attacks used over the years.
Lately Zone-H has had some rough times, their founder has been arrested in relation to an Italian spying scandal and they have been coming under increasing criticism from people who think their archive is actually promoting web page defacements. As a result they are actually thinking about discontinuing the defacement archive.
This would be an unfortunate occurrence if it was to happen. They are currently running a poll on their front page, (in the left column) as to whether they should continue hosting and updating the archive or not. I urge you to cast your vote and help save a valuable security research tool.
I had been waiting for the folks at Source Boston to update their website with relevant materials before I posted a recap but they are probably waiting until Monday and I know I won’t have time to post anything then. So be sure to check their site for presentation slides, videos, and whatnot, but in the meantime here is what I have.
First of all I don’t think I have been to a better con since HoHoCon ’92 or maybe SummerCon ’97? (Was there a SummerCon that year?). So what made it so great? The excellent talks for one thing. You had to make hard decisions for three days straight about where you wanted to spend your time. All of the talks I listened to were extremely high caliber, better than most talks at Blackhat, Defcon, RSA or elsewhere. Then throw in just enough socializing to make it interesting without going overboard (i.e. Defcon), not to many pushy vendors trying to sell stuff (i.e. RSA), and the small (by Blackhat standards) number of attendees and you had a really intimate setting of knowledge sharing for three days straight.
For a recap of the whole conference check out Jack Daniel’s blog post over at Uncommon Sense Security and check the individual talk write-ups at the Source Boston Blog. So far I have only found slides for Sinan Eren’s talk on Information Operations. Dan Geer’s keynote speach is posted here (If you read nothing else read that!). If you want to relive the con vicariously check out the tweme feed as several people (myself included) were microblogging the whole thing.) Other than that you can check out all the photos posted to Flickr so far.
Oh, and videos of all the talks should be available at Media Archives real soon now. I can personally recommend James Atkinson’s talk about telephone defenses, Andrew Jaquith’s talk about problems with AV software, Matt Moynahan’s talk about software inspections, Carole Fennelly’s talk about Incident response plans, and Frank Reiger’s talk on cell phone security. Oh, and there was a little thing near the end about the L0pht you might want to watch as well.
Anyone got more links? Post in the comments. Thanks.
I’m still busy recovering from the excellent Source Boston conference and I will post a recap soon but I wanted to get this out there.
Last week I wrote about RFID enabled external hard drives that supposedly offered secure encryption of your data that turned out to be simple XOR. Well now USB thumb drives with integrated fingerprint readers have been found to be just as much Snake Oil. Hiese Security has reviewed several of the devices and have found it very easy to bypass the security of all of them. Companies that make crap like this should be found criminally responsible for fruad.
People see biometrics and automatically think they are secure, same thing when they see the word ‘encryption’. Your fingerprint is not a secret, you leave thousands of copies lying around everyday. In addition once the attacker has physical access to the device then your security will be compromised, fingerprint or not.
Oh, and I hope everyone had fun on Pi Day yesterday.
Yesterday I unfortunately missed James Atkinson’s talk at Source Boston but evidently it scared a few people and pissed off a few others. I did manage to catch Carole Fennelly’s talk about Incident Response Plans which was very informative even for me. And of course people are still talking about Dan Geer’s keynote. Still great talks lined up for today, listening to Frank Reiger right now telling me how insecure all my cell phones are, scary. Oh, yeah, I have a little talk scheduled later as well, at least thats what their telling me, after last night’s pub crawl I’m not sure I remember right now.
Videos of the talks are said to be available at Media Archives at some point real soon now. If you missed the con be sure to pick up a couple of these.
P.S. If you ever get to sit down with James Atkinson ask him to empty his pockets onto the table. Trust me you won’t be at a loss for conversation.