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Comment: What if.... (Score 3, Insightful) 190

What if the protection on planes is so bad that a passenger can use the inflight entertainment system to gain virtual access to the controls of the plane?

Suppose you are a security researcher and find this out. What do you do? Tell boeing! They... do nothing. Tell the airline! They.... do nothing.

It all starts with a belief issue. You hack into the entertainment system, compromise the firewall and see plane-control messages flying around on the network you now have gained access to. This is enough for a sufficiently technical person to be convinced of having gotten too far for comfort. At that point you know you are only one step away from taking control of the airplane.

Tell anybody less technical about it and they will not be convinced that you'd be able to move the plane. For example, today with this news today someone already voiced: "he might only THINK he moved the plane" (... while in fact the pilots initiated that maneuver).

So... to prove to the world that there indeed is a dangerous situation, you need to actually make the plane move.

And this is where everybody gets their panties in a knot. Suddenly the guy who reports that the planes are not secure enough is the bad guy and needs to be thrown in jail.

Examples of people reporting security problems and being ignored include: On a saturday night two men walking their dogs notice that the bank has left a window open. A person can just climb into.. the bank! So monday morning they walk into the bank, tell them about it, bank says thank you and... nothing happens. Next weekend, window is again left open. So they tell the bank again. And again. After a few times, to prove the point, they decide to climb in, and photograph what access they have once inside the bank. They got into a lot of trouble for that. But since then, the window has been closed.

Personally I have reported security problems in computers without going that extra mile of "making the plane move". In one instance I've reported such a misconfiguration to over 100 system administrators. Two hours later, saturday afternoon, the first response: "Thanks, fixed". Come monday morning, one response: "we know, not a security issue, get lost.". And all others were "no response". A year later more than 50% of the computers where I reported the configuration error were still vulnerable.

With laws being written in such a way that the "white hats" (*) can be thrown in jail, we create an environment where the white hats are either ignored or thrown in jail. Before you know it, the "white hats" are too afraid to report anything and stop reporting real problems. In that situation, you only find out the problems when a bad guy ends up crashing a plane.

Boeing: invite the guy over to show you the problem. Once that hole has been closed, invite him over, pay his hotel an meals for a week while he hacks at a "fixed" plane on the ground at your facilities. Credit him for making aviation safer.

(Do this, before someone makes it stick that: "Boeing created this system with such bad security that it put passengers at risk.").

(*) the researchers that report the problems they find without causing real harm,

Comment: Re:So... (Score 1) 63

by rew (#47555807) Attached to: UK Team Claims Breakthrough In Universal Cancer Test

They found a statistical relationship between the results from "normal" people and "people with cancer". This means that it MIGHT be possible to develop this into a test.

But this "result" (a statistical difference) might be that they got an average score of 98 +/- 10 for the healty people and 102 +/- 10 for the people-with-cancer. So someone who scores 100, healty or has cancer? 105? Can still go both ways.

Comment: Re:It looks like a response to anti spam laws (Score 1) 145

by rew (#47341427) Attached to: Microsoft Suspending "Patch Tuesday" Emails

I'm guessing that of the hundreds of thousands of people who get that "mass mailing", some are reporting the mails as SPAM to the authorities. Even if there is an "unsubscribe link" somewhere.

Those that do this, might have subscribed in the past and now no longer use Microsoft software. Or maybe Microsoft at one point decided to add a class-of-users to the list automatically (which I think they shouldn't have done if they did).

In any case, with so many users, the chances of being reported as spammers are 100%. So I understand the pressure to stop.

Comment: Good thing.... (Score 2) 474

by rew (#47206383) Attached to: Comcast Converting 50,000 Houston Home Routers Into Public WiFi Hotspots

Here in holland and across europe the same is being done. The thing is, technically, many homes are hooked up with a line physically capable of say 20mpbs, but with only a 10mbps subscription. The extra bandwidth can be alotted to "guest users".

Similarly, even if someone has a 20(or more) mbps subscription on a 20mbps line, he/she won't be using all of it all of the time. So you can again use part of the bandwidth for guests. In this case it would be fair to give the original subscriber priority to use whatever he/she wants, and put the guests at a lower priority.

Oh, security wise they also separate the original subscriber from the guests.

I have the impression they do this "sensibly": the subscribers don't really have a valid reason to be upset about it.

And the thing is: If you're a subscriber, suddenly there are hundreds or thousands of places where you won't be using your 3G datalink but a wifi hotspot. Faster, cheaper!

Comment: Re: Not surprising. (Score 1) 378

by rew (#47200849) Attached to: Kids With Operators Manual Alert Bank Officials: "We Hacked Your ATM"

Getting into "admin" mode is a big deal. Even if you don't see a direct way of making money off that, someone else might. (see ingenium's post).

And even then, it should be "confidential information" how much money is in there. If the crooks get to check on the amount that's in there over a period, they can decide to crack it open at "just" the right time. Should improve their "profits" by a factor of two on average.

If you're right and absolutely the only thing they can do is to dispense bills into the "not-dispensed" basket, there is a "denial-of-service" attack: Dispense all bills into the wastebasket just after the machine has been filled. Now the machine will be empty until the next refill. VERY annoying for the people who out-of-habit only go to one ATM.

Comment: Re:Or call your credit card company ... (Score 1) 228

by rew (#47177485) Attached to: AT&T To Use Phone Geolocation To Prevent Credit Card Fraud

You have this creditcard. It works in the mall, it works at the cinema. You go somewhere where you know your brother/friend/whatever also has a creditcard that also works in the obvious places. Do you remember to call the credit card company?

What if the bad guys manage to find your account details at a badly protected webshop? They call the creditcard company saying you'll e doing a few purchases across the country (or abroad). Try it once or twice to see what the creditcard company asks to verify it's you, and most likely the crooks will be able to prepare that information.

Comment: Are you going to trust a 99% solution? (Score 1) 125

by rew (#47127035) Attached to: Imparting Malware Resistance With a Randomizing Compiler

This doesn't fix the problem. It makes the chances of exploitation a bit smaller, on a "per-try" basis.

Back in the old days, some daemons or setuid programs would do insecure things with /tmp. So the hacker would make a program:
target = "/tmp/somefile";
while (1) {
      unlink (target);
      link ("/etc/passwd", target);
      unlink (target);
      link ("/tmp/myfile", target);
The daemon would check access permissions of the "target", hopefully after the last line in the loop, then open and write the target, hopefully after the second line inside the loop. Leave this running, trigger the target app, and you get the target app to write somewhere where it shouldn't (in this case /etc/passwd. Get it to add "\nmyroot::0:0::::\n" to make the system allow you to login as root without a password....)

The same applies to this stack/compiler randomization tricks: The hacker first tries at a slow pace, but instead of hacking your system, fails to get in because he's crashing your service deamon. You notice your service going down every day or so. Buggy software. Stupid randomization! No time to fix, and you make the daemon restart automatically. And bingo! Now the hacker can try thousands of times!

In cryptography, care has been taken that you can't figure out one of the "bits" of the key by a simple search. So that the exponential search (find the key among 2^256 possible keys) does not become "256 times: find bit n". To guarantee that no "bit leaking" will happen in a buggy program is very, very difficult: The designers of the program don't know where the bug is, the compiler doesn't know where the bug is, but the attacker does!

So... if this goes mainstream, the hackers will find a way to extract little bits of knowledge of the randomization, determine what the actual randomization was, and then attack the service as usual.

Of course, there will be cases where say: the time for the attack is increased beyond the attack-detection-time. So instead of the attack being succesful, the attack might be detected and averted.

Anyway, I much rather have something that actually WORKS instead of "has a chance of working". But maybe that's just me.

Comment: Re:My DLP... (Score 1) 44

As this is from a western company (HP), I expect such technical claims to be reasonably reliable. They claim 1024x768 resolution, which is 100% correct. For something less easy to measure (for me), if they claim 2000 ANSI-lumen, I expect at least say 1800, with the "excuse" something like: we put it on the "boost" setting for that measurement (and then decided not to put it in the final product because it reduces lamp-life a lot).

Comment: Re:No problem (Score 1) 423

by rew (#46600673) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Preparing For Windows XP EOL?

I wrote software that is now cloned to 5 machines. The machine runs a terribly old OS, no longer supported. But the rest of the machine cost about $2M each....replacing them or part is not an option! So: don't connect it to the internet. These machines have processed countless billions worth of product. The product is worth more than whatever can be found on the machine, so yes the operators will be able to use a privilege escalation bug to gain root access.

Anyway, they run Linux 2.4 on Suse 7.2....

All great discoveries are made by mistake. -- Young