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+ - FBI Accuses Researcher of Hacking Plane, Seizes Equipment->

Submitted by chicksdaddy
chicksdaddy writes: The Feds are listening and they really can't take a joke. That's the apparent moral of security researcher Chris Roberts' legal odyssey on Wednesday, which saw him escorted off a plane in Syracuse by two FBI agents and questioned for four hours over a humorous tweet Roberts posted about his ability to hack into the cabin control systems of the Boeing 737 he was flying.( Roberts (aka @sidragon1), joked that he could "start playing with EICAS messages," a reference to the Engine Indicating and Crew Alerting System (

Roberts was traveling to Syracuse to give a presentation. He said local law enforcement and FBI agents boarded the plane on the tarmac and escorted him off. He was questioned for four hours, with officers alleging they had evidence he had tampered with in-flight systems on an earlier leg of his flight from Colorado to Chicago.

In an interview with The Security Ledger (, Roberts said the agents questioned him about his tweet and whether he tampered with the systems on the United flight -something he denies doing.

Roberts had been approached earlier by the Denver office of the FBI which warned him away from further research on airplanes. The FBI was also looking to approach airplane makers Boeing and Airbus and wanted him to rebuild a virtualized environment he built to test airplane vulnerabilities to verify what he was saying.

Roberts refused, and the FBI seized his encrypted laptop and storage devices and has yet to return them, he said. The agents said they wished to do a forensic analysis of his laptop. Roberts said he declined to provide that information and requested a warrant to search his equipment. As of Friday, Roberts said he has not received a warrant.

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+ - GAO warns FAA of hacking threat to airliners->

Submitted by chicksdaddy
chicksdaddy writes: A report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) warns that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration may be failing to address cyber security vulnerabilities that could allow remote attacks on avionics systems needed to keep the plane airborne, Security Ledger reports. (

In a report issued Tuesday (GAO-15-370) (, the GAO said that the FAA faces “challenges protecting aircraft avionics used to operate and guide aircraft” and that “significant security-control weaknesses remain that threaten the agency’s ability to ensure the safe and uninterrupted operation of the national airspace system.” Among those: a lack of clear certification for aircraft airworthy readiness that encompasses cyber security protections. That lapse could allow planes to fly with remotely exploitable vulnerabilities that could affect aircraft controls and guidance systems.

The GAO report did not provide details of any specific vulnerability affecting any specific aircraft. Rather, GAO cited FAA personnel and experts, saying that the possibility exists that “unauthorized individuals might access and compromise aircraft avionics systems,” in part by moving between Internet-connected in-flight entertainment systems and critical avionics systems in the aircraft cabin.

“According to FAA and experts we spoke to, IP networking may allow an attacker to gain remote access to avionics systems and compromise them,” GAO said.

Security researchers have long warned that hackers could jump from in-flight entertainment systems in the passenger cabin to cockpit avionics systems if airlines did not take proper precautions, such as so-called "air gapping" the networks. At last year's Black Hat Briefings, researcher Ruben Santamarta of IOActive demonstrated a method of hacking the satellite communications equipment on passenger jets through their WiFi and inflight entertainment systems. (

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+ - IoT Developers Worry More About Security Than Interoperability->

Submitted by chicksdaddy
chicksdaddy writes: A survey of developers working on Internet of Things technologies reveals that security is the biggest concern, topping even interoperability among developers who plan to deploy an IoT product in the next 6 to 18 months. (

The survey, conducted by the Eclipse Foundation's IoT Working Group, polled 356 IoT developers. Fully 44% listed “Security” as one of two top concerns for developing IoT solutions. Thirty one percent listed “Interoperability” as one of two top concerns.

The results ( provide an interesting glimpse into the fast-evolving Internet of Things space, from the software developer’s point of view. Home automation was the most common type of solution that developers reported they were working on, with 44% identifying that as the focus of their work. Industrial automation was a close second,with 35% of respondents reporting having worked on an industrial automation IoT project.(

And much of the development work appears to take place at smaller firms. Fifty six percent of respondents said their employer had between 1 and 500 employees. Thirty five percent worked in a company that employed between 1 and 49 employees.

The use of open source technology was pervasive: fully 80% of the developers surveyed said their employer uses open source software for Internet of Things solutions. Linux was the dominant operating system, accounting for 78% used to power IoT devices. HTTP was the most common messaging protocol. Among IoT specific protocols, only MQTT was used by a majority of respondents (53%), Eclipse found.

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+ - Research Finds Shoddy Security on Connected Home Gateways ->

Submitted by chicksdaddy
chicksdaddy writes: Connected home products are the new rage. But how do you connect your Nest thermostat, your DropCam surveillance device and your Chamberlin MyQ "smart" garage door opener? An IoT hub, of course. But not so fast: a report from the firm Veracode ( ) may make you think twice about deploying one of these IoT gateways in your home.

As The Security Ledger reports (, Veracode researchers found significant security vulnerabilities in each of six IoT gateways they tested, suggesting that manufacturers are giving short shrift to security considerations during design and testing.

The flaws discovered ranged from weak authentication schemes (pretty common) to improper validation of TLS and SSL certificates, to gateways that shipped with exposed debugging interfaces that would allow an attacker on the same wireless network as the device to upload and run malicious code. Many of the worst lapses seem to be evidence of insecure design and lax testing of devices before they were released to the public, Brandon Creighton, Veracode’s research architect, told The Security Ledger.

This isn't the first report to raise alarms about IoT hubs. In October, the firm Xipiter published a blog post ( describing research into a similar hub by the firm VeraLite. Xipiter discovered that, among other things, the VeraLite device shipped with embedded SSH private keys stored in immutable areas of the firmware used on all devices.

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+ - DHS: Drug Infusion Pumps Vulnerable to Trivial Hacks->

Submitted by chicksdaddy
chicksdaddy writes: The Department of Homeland Security warned that drug infusion pump management software sold by Hospira contains serious and exploitable vulnerabilities that could be used to remotely take control of the devices.

The MedNet server software manages drug libraries, firmware updates, and configurations of Hospira intravenous pumps. DHS’s Industrial Control System Computer Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) said in an advisory ( issued Tuesday that the MedNet software from the firm Hospira contains four, critical vulnerabilities – three of them capable of being exploited remotely. The vulnerabilities could allow a malicious actor to run malicious code on and take control of the MedNet servers, which could be used to distribute unauthorized modifications to medication libraries and pump configurations.

The vulnerabilities were discovered by independent security researcher Billy Rios and reported to both Hospira and ICS-CERT. The vulnerabilities vary in their severity. Among the most serious is Rios’s discovery of a plaintext, hard-coded password for the SQL database used by the MedNet software (CVE-2014-5405e). By obtaining that password, an attacker could compromise the MedNet SQL server and gain administrative access to the workstation used to manage deployed pumps.

Rios also discovered that the MedNet software uses vulnerable versions of the JBoss Enterprise Application Platform software. That software could allow unauthenticated users to execute arbitrary code on the target system. The vulnerability assigned to that issue, CVE-2014-5401k, was assigned a CVSS (Common Vulnerability Scoring System) severity rating of 10 – the highest possible rating. While no known public exploits specifically target these vulnerabilities, the alert notes that even an unskilled attacker could exploit the vulnerabilities.

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+ - Petulant Penguin Hackers use Antarctica as Base->

Submitted by chicksdaddy
chicksdaddy writes: Security Ledger reports on a new and sophisticated cyber crime campaign dubbed “Petulant Penguin” that is using compromised computers at Antarctic research bases to launch targeted attacks on government agencies in the U.S. and Europe. (

“To say we were surprised is an understatement,” said Matt Flinders, a security researcher at the firm Crowdstrike, which was among a handful to identify the attack. “We’re used to seeing attacks with ties back to countries like Russia, China – even Brazil. But Antarctica? Nobody expected that.”

Crowdstrike issued a report ( that provides information on the attacks Wednesday. Its profiles of sophisticated hacker groups include names like “Deep Panda” (a Chinese hacking crew with links to the People’s Liberation Army), “Energetic Bear,” (a group with its base in the Russian Federation) and “Flying Kitten” (with links to the Islamic Republic of Iran).

Antartica is connected to the Internet and even has its own top-level domain, .AQ. But data access for the icy continent is spotty and heavily reliant on satellites. Internet access to the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station is provided by access via NASA’s TDRS-F1, GOES & Iridium satellite constellation. The South Pole’s TDRS relay (named South Pole TDRSS Relay or SPTR) was upgraded recently to support a data return rate of 50 Mbit/s. That accounts for more than 90% of the South Pole’s data capability and is primarily used to relay scientific data from the many research stations.

Working through NASA and other agencies, researchers were eventually able to trace the malicious traffic back to research installations at the South Pole including the Amundsen-Scott base, Concordia Station (a joint Italian and French research base) and Japan’s Dome Fuji station. Interestingly, the attackers were apparently able to work around the continent’s spotty access to the Internet and limited bandwidth: scheduling their malicious activities for seasons and periods in which the stations enjoyed strong and reliable Internet access.

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+ - Angry Boss Phishing Emails Prompt Fraudulent Wire Transfers->

Submitted by chicksdaddy
chicksdaddy writes: Lots of studies have shown that assertiveness works ( in the professional as well as personal sphere. It turns out to work pretty well in the cyber criminal sphere, also (

Websense Labs has posted a blog warning of a new round of spear phishing attacks that rely on e-mail messages posing as urgent communications from senior officers to lower level employees. The messages demand that the employees wire funds to a destination account provided in the message. (

According to Websense, these attacks are low tech. The fraudsters register “typo squatting” domains that look like the target company’s domain, but are subtly different. They then set up e-mails at the typo squatted domain designed to mirror legitimate executive email accounts.
Like many phishing scams, these attacks rely on the similarities of the domains and often extensive knowledge of key players within the company, creating e-mails that are highly convincing to recipients.

The key element of their attack is – simply – “obeisance,” Websense notes. “When the CEO or CFO tells you to do something, you do it.” Specifically, the attackers sent emails to lower level employees that appeared to come from executives. The messages were brief and urgent, included (phony) threads involving other company executives and demanded updates on the progress of the transfer, making the request seem more authentic. Rather than ask the executive for clarification (or scrutinize the FROM line), the employees found it easier to just wire the money to the specified account, Websense reports.

Websense notes the similarities between the technique used in the latest phishing attack and the grain trading firm Scoular in June, 2014. That company was tricked into wiring some $17 million to a bank in China, with employees believing they were acting on the wishes of executives who had communicated through e-mail. (

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+ - Turns out nobody's sure what should count as a Cyber Incident->

Submitted by chicksdaddy
chicksdaddy writes: Despite a lot of attention to the problem of cyber attacks against the nation's critical infrastructure (, The Christian Science Monitor notes that there is still a lot of confusion about what, exactly, constitutes a "cyber incident" in critical infrastructure circles. The result: many incidents in which software failures affect critical infrastructure may go unreported. (

Passcode speaks to security experts like Joe Weiss, who claims to have a list of around 400 incidents in which failures in software and electronic communications lead to a failure of confidentiality, integrity or availability (CIA) — the official definition of a cyber incident. Few of them are considered cyber incidents within critical infrastructure circles, however.

His list includes some of the most deadly and destructive public sector accidents of the last two decades. Among them: a 2006 emergency shutdown of Unit 3 at the Browns Ferry nuclear plant in Alabama, the 1999 Olympic Gas pipeline rupture and explosion in Bellingham Washington that killed three people and the 2010 Pacific Gas & Electric gas pipe explosion in San Bruno, Calif., that killed eight people and destroyed a suburban neighborhood.

While official reports like this one about the San Bruno pipeline explosion ( duly note the role that the software failure played in each incident, they fail to characterize them as 'cyber incidents' or note the cyber-physical aspects of the adverse event.

Weiss says he has found many other, similar omissions that continue even today. One obstacle to properly identifying such incidents is that the popular understanding of a cyberincident borrows too much from the information technology industry, which focuses on malicious actors and software based threats operating in traditional IT environments. “In the IT world, ‘cyber’ is equated with malicious attacks,” Weiss said. “You’re worried about a data breach and stolen data, or denial of service attacks.”

Weiss argues that applying an IT mindset to critical infrastructure results in operators overlooking weaknesses in their systems. “San Bruno wasn’t malicious, but it easily could have been,” Weiss notes. “It’s a nonmalicious event that killed 8 people and destroyed a neighborhood.”

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+ - DHS: Advanced Threats behind most Industrial Control System Hacks Last Ye ->

Submitted by chicksdaddy
chicksdaddy writes: A new report from the Department of Homeland Security ( reveals that, of 245 reported incidents of cyber attacks on critical infrastructure in 2014, more than half were attributed to sophisticated “APT” type actors.

The revelation comes from DHS’s Industrial Control System Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT), which reported on incident response and vulnerability coordination in 2014. ( Among the 245 incidents reported were malware infections on “air-gapped control system networks,” strategic compromises of so-called “watering hole” web sites and the use of previously unknown or “zero day” vulnerabilities in industrial control system software. DHS found 55% involved APT or sophisticated actors. Hactivists, malicious insiders and cyber criminals were behind other incidents. In many other cases, asset owners were unable to determine who or what was attacking them, the report said.

The report from ICS-CERT gives the best picture available of the scope of cyber attacks on critical infrastructure. Firms in the energy sector reported the biggest share of cyber attacks: 79, or 32% of the incident reports. The “critical manufacturing” sector reported the next highest number of incidents: 65, or 27% of the total recorded by ICS-CERT.

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+ - Stolen Data is a Perishable Commodity->

Submitted by chicksdaddy
chicksdaddy writes: Ben Franklin famously observed that “guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” Hospitality, Franklin realized, was a perishable commodity.

According to a post on Digital Guardian's blog, it may turn out that the same is true of stolen data. The post picks up on new research on cyber criminal networks from The University of Massachusetts (, which finds that “time” is the key element in understanding the behavior of cyber criminals operating within larger cyber criminal marketplaces. Stolen data's “sell by” date actually has a big impact on cybercriminal activity and how such networks operate.

The research is presented in a new paper: “A Multiproduct Network Economic Model of Cybercrime in Financial Services.” ( by Professor Anna Nagurney of the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Nagurney models cybercriminal networks by looking at the interplay between three factors: the supply price, the transaction cost, and demand price functions. Nagurney’s model is novel because it figures in the “average time associated with illicit product delivery at the demand markets” and the tendency of demand price to go down over time.

Of course, the notion that the value of goods decreases over time isn’t unusual. Every butcher or grocer contends with that reality daily. But Nagourney may be the first to attempt to model how the value of stolen data decreases with its “freshness” – the proximity to the theft event.

Her research puts weight behind the oft-stated (but not studied) notion that cyber criminals aren’t shadowy super villains, but rational, economic agents. They make decisions about which targets to pursue by calculating the difference between the demand price that products (such as credit and debit cards) fetch and the associated costs of stealing and transacting them.

The goal is to identify ways to make it harder to attack financial organizations, thus raising the cost of obtaining the data – or ‘increasing transaction costs’ to use the language of economics. Her model allows researchers to show, graphically, how increasing or decreasing demand for stolen goods will affect the functioning of the criminal enterprise, overall.

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+ - Anthem Blocking Federal Auditor from Doing Vulnerability Scans->

Submitted by chicksdaddy
chicksdaddy writes: File this one under "suspicious behavior." Anthem Inc., the Indiana-based health insurer has informed a federal auditor, the Office of Personnel Management, that it will not permit vulnerability scans of its network — even after acknowledging that it was the victim of a massive breach that leaked data on tens of millions of patients.

According to this article (, Anthem is citing "company policy" that prohibits third party access to its network in declining to let auditors from OPM's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) conduct scans for vulnerable systems. OPM's OIG performs a variety of audits on health insurers that provide health plans to federal employees under the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, or FEHBP. Insurers aren't mandated to comply — though most do.

This isn't Anthem's first time saying "no thanks" to the offer of a network vulnerability scan. The company also declined to let OIG scan its network in 2013. A partial audit report issued at the time ( warned that the company, then known as WellPoint, "provided us with conflicting statements" on issues related to information security, including Wellpoint's practices regarding regular configuration audits and its plans to shift to IBM's Tivoli Endpoint Manager (TEM) platform.

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+ - NIST: Crystal Pattern Matching Recovers Obliterated Serial Numbers from Metal->

Submitted by chicksdaddy
chicksdaddy writes: Criminals beware: researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have figured out how to recover serial numbers obliterated from metal surfaces such as firearms and automobiles — a common problem in forensic examinations.

Law enforcement agencies use serial numbers to track ownership of firearms and build criminal cases. But serial numbers can be removed by scratching, grinding or other methods. Analysts typically try to restore the numbers with acid or electrolytic etching or polishing, because deformed areas behave differently from undamaged material. But these methods don’t always work.

According to this report ( NIST researchers used a technique called electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) to read, in the crystal structure pattern, imprints on steel that had been removed by polishing.

In EBSD, a scanning electron microscope scans a beam of electrons over the surface of a crystalline material such as a metal. The electrons strike atoms in the target and bounce back. Because the atoms are arranged in a regular pattern, the scattered electrons interact and form patterns that reveal the crystal’s structure on a scale down to tens of nanometers. The more perfect the crystal structure, the stronger and clearer the pattern. Software can then calculate the pattern quality to reveal crystal damage; areas with more damage produce lower quality patterns.

In the NIST experiments, described in Forensic Science International,* researchers hammered the letter “X” into a polished stainless steel plate. The letter stamps were as deep as 140 micrometers, meeting federal regulations for firearm serial numbers. The researchers then polished the metal again to remove all visible traces of the letters, and collected the EBSD diffraction patterns and pattern quality data and analyzed them for evidence of the imprints.

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+ - Federal Court: Theft of Medical Records Not An 'Imminent Danger' To Victim->

Submitted by chicksdaddy
chicksdaddy writes: A federal court in Texas ruled last week that a massive data breach at a hospital in that state didn’t put patients at imminent risk of identity theft, even when presented with evidence that suggested stolen patient information was being used in attempted fraud and identity theft schemes.

According to this post over at Digital Guardian's blog ( Beverly Peters was one more than 400,000 patients of St. Joseph Hospital whose information was stolen by hackers in an attack that took place between December 16 and 18, 2013. Peters alleged that her personal information had been exposed in the breach and then disseminated in the public domain, where it was being “misused by unauthorized and unknown third parties.” Specifically: Peters reported that, subsequent to the breach at St. Josephs, her Discover credit card was used to make a fraudulent purchase and that hackers had tried to infiltrate her account — posing as her son. Also: telemarketers were using the stolen information. Peters claimed that, after the breach, she was besieged with calls and solicitations for medical products and services companies, with telemarketers asking to speak to her and with specific family members, whose contact information was part of the record stolen from St. Joseph's.

As a result, Peters argued that she faced an “imminent injury” due to “increased risk” of future identity theft and fraud because of the breach at St. Joseph, and wished to sue the hospital for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

But the court found otherwise, ruling that Peters lacked standing to bring the case in federal court under Article III of the Constitution. That was because she hadn’t been able to prove any direct damages from the attempted identity theft that occurred in the past (Discover reversed the fraudulent charge), while the threat she faced in the future was not “imminent.”

As this article notes (, the ruling turns on a high profile case involving government surveillance and the now-infamous FISA courts dating back to the Carter administration: Clapper v. Amnesty International USA. ( In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the human rights group and a collection of lawyers and reporters in a challenge to part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The plaintiffs said they feared that their sources, colleagues and clients would be targets of U.S. government surveillance, and the threat would force them to take expensive security measures to keep their communications private. The High Court ruled otherwise, saying the threat of government surveillance was hypothetical, but not “certainly impending.”

In his 15 page ruling (, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt said the same logic applied to Peters’ suit as well. “Under Clapper, Peters must at least plausibly establish a “certainly impending” or “substantial” risk that she will be victimized,” Hoyt wrote. “The allegation that risk has been increased does not transform that assertion into a cognizable injury.”

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+ - After White House Cyber Summit a Consensus - on Pessimism->

Submitted by chicksdaddy
chicksdaddy writes: Even with a high-profile summit in the heart of Silicon Valley, partisan gridlock back in Washington D.C. will make progress on cyber security impossible, the Security Ledger reports.

Last week's “Whitehouse Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection” ( ) made much of the need for better cooperation between the government and private sector, especially in sharing information about cyber attacks and threats. Speaking at the event, President Obama issued an Executive Order ( instructing the Secretary of Homeland Security (Secretary) to “strongly encourage the development and formation of Information Sharing and Analysis Organizations (ISAOs)” that would facilitate such sharing.

But critics note that the President’s reliance on an Executive Order was just one sign of the trouble ahead – with a familiar culprit: gridlock. “I know people on both sides – Republicans and Democrats, people on the Hill and the Whitehouse who deal with these policy matters,” said John Dickson, a Principal at Denim Group. “I’ll tell you one thing, they are not talking to each other at all.”

The result is efforts on cyber security that are more symbol than action: calls for information sharing without the legal changes to enable it. “Obviously, the lynch pin for information sharing is getting some comfort for commercial entities about liability and how that is defined,” Dickson said. “And that simply was not addressed."

Not that Republicans are doing any better: with control of both the House and Senate, the GOP hasn't made any effort to put forward comprehensive reforms, despite bi-partisan support and good prospects for passage and a Presidential signature. Neither side, it seems, wants the other to "win," Dickson observed.

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+ - Privacy: The 21st Century's Newest Luxury Item->

Submitted by chicksdaddy
chicksdaddy writes: There is a report today on the 21st century's newest luxury item: online privacy.

The Christian Science Monitor writes about the growing market for premium privacy protection tools available to tech-savvy consumers with the desire for online anonymity- and the means to pay for it. (

The piece profiles new tools from companies like Abine ( that deliver everything from self-destructing e-mail messages to the 21st century’s equivalent of Kleenex: one-off “throwaway” online identities to keep advertisers, merchants and government snoops at bay.

Privacy experts, however, doubt that the new tools will tip the scales of online privacy in favor of consumers and away from governments and advertisers. "Consumers really don’t have a fighting chance,” says Andrea Matwyshyn of Princeton University. “Technology moves entirely too fast." She and others see the need for both bigger fixes and the level of Internet infrastructure and law. "As a consumer protection matter, there needs to be a floor,” she said. "Just as there are laws protecting renters from substandard housing, or car buyers from 'lemons,' there need to be regulations that create a buffer between consumers and companies."

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There are no data that cannot be plotted on a straight line if the axis are chosen correctly.