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Comment Re:Stick with iOS (Score 1) 126

The trouble is that, while that's a good question; it applies all to readily to using custom ROMs or using stock ones.

Should you trust some random dude on the internet who totally got AOSP+CM tweaks working on a newer kernel by aggregating blobs from 4 different devices? No, probably not. He may well be acting in good faith; but you have zero assurance of that; or much reason to trust that he hasn't made some potentially serious error in the process of making it work.

Should you trust your handset vendor/(and telco, if it's a phone that they've had a hand in)/Google? No, very probably not. The vendors do seem to care slightly more about bugs that might cause customer support calls or returns; and a lot less about security patches or providing vaguely recent versions of anything; but aside from those somewhat different technical priorities they aren't markedly more trustworthy than some random person on the XDA forums.

Comment Re:Why not an x86 board? (Score 1) 107

They don't appear to have abandoned the product line; but it's been ages since I've seen a VIA x86 in the wild. HP used to build thin clients around them, after Transmeta died horribly; and prior to Atoms they showed up reasonably frequently on embedded boards(slow; but markedly cheaper than a Pentium M and markedly smaller and cooler than P4); but they don't seem to have done well recently. They were always pretty slow, and ran pretty warm unless clocked quite low, plus their GPU offering is a descendant of the old S3 'Chrome' designs which is...not good...when it comes to software support.

Between Atoms and the AMD G-series SoCs, it was a bit of a slaughter.

Comment Re:Security expert? (Score 1) 303

It probably helps that the techniques for neutralizing locks and cameras, while typically not legal if used during a burglary, aren't all that interesting to a potential jury; while the techniques for neutralizing dogs are either rather unreliable or deeply unsympathetic. Some dogs will roll right over for a charm offensive and a treat; but you can't rely on that; and if you kill a dog you've probably made yourself less popular than at least half of the actual murders on the docket, which isn't a good plan for a relatively petty property crime.

Comment Re:Squirrels spread their attacks conveniently (Score 1) 139

At the nation state level, I don't think it operates the same way. That is, I don't think they rely on a few dumb operators. Looking at what the NSA does, they're able to attack the supply lines and send you pre-compromised hardware. They have advanced exfiltration systems that don't need to touch your network at all. They have malware that cannot be decrypted by any machine other than the target that makes you think there's nothing wrong. It's also custom, just for you, so AV programs aren't going to see it.

Those statements are mostly true, but only to a certain extent.

The APT teams aren't operating at a nation-state level. They are nation-state funded, but they're still operating more like an experiment, mostly due to the lack of available expertise in the field. Think more along the lines of the Manhattan Project. A very small number of people are doing the real work, and a lot of people figuring out how to apply this new weapon strategically.

Yes, the intelligence agencies have lots of fancy tools, and they're shared among the APT teams as needed, but usually the attacks are boring script-kiddy stuff. Most of the time, pass-the-hash and Word macros will get the job done, so there's no reason to risk exposing the elite tools and zero-day vulnerabilities.

I know they labeled the DNC hack as an APT, but it appears to be an ordinary criminal gang. It simply doesn't match the profile of nation state level attacks. They want long-term access without getting caught. Sending an email like the one to Podesta got someone ~2 days of access, as best we can tell. Enough to download a few emails, only to end up locked out. When nation states do spear phishing, they have a custom written piece of malware disguised as a legitimate attachment. It won't be noticed by any AV programs. They will use that to make sure they have long-term access to your systems.

The Podesta hack and the DNC hacks were separate events, by related teams. They used different tactics, but shared some (but not all) infrastructure. Both teams were involved in the DNC hack, but apparently weren't aware of each other's presence, since they'd attack servers that the other team had already penetrated.

In the DNC hack, they did have long-term access. One group had been active on the network for over a year, and the other was sloppier, and was detected after only a month of activity.

The Podesta attack wasn't particularly specialized. It was a wide attack using automated tools. There was no attachment, just a link to a bit.ly-shortened URL that wouldn't be caught by the spam filter. There was nothing downloaded from the phishing site, either. It just decrypted the Base64-encoded parameter in the emailed URL, and displayed that. Again, don't fall into the mental trap that nation-state attacks must be highly-sophisticated next-generation hacks. In hacking, if it's stupid and it works, then it isn't stupid.

They just don't operate the same way because they don't have the same goals. It's not like Russia is the only possible culprit here, either.

Russia isn't the only possible culprit, but they are the only likely culprit. Their same infrastructure (bit.ly account, phishing site host, and mail-sending botnet) had previously been used to attack 1800 accounts in 2015. Those accounts were overwhelmingly non-Russian military personnel. There's a great analysis of the hack by pwnallthethings on Twitter. I highly recommend expanding the thread and reading.

As for goals, the goal is simple: Gather any useful access. Hacking Podesta's email was probably a lucky stroke for the attackers, but they were more likely looking for anything useful. If not Podesta, then someone else might have made a good victim. If they got someone's account, but it wasn't particularly useful at the time, they don't care. The automated tool is cheap and easy to run. In fact, the campaign that hit Podesta targeted around 4,000 GMail accounts over the course of eight months.

I wouldn't be surprised if they had hacked such a soft, juicy target like this--no doubt along with many other countries--but it seems like a crazy risk. There was nothing in there that looked like it would sway the election. So why risk all those state sanctions on a long-shot like Trump?

The sanctions are an interesting development, as they're the most severe repercussions we've seen yet for a hack. I expect the same phishing emails went out to hundreds or thousands of government officials, and Podesta happened to be the one that took the bait. No, none of his leaked messages were particularly damaging, but it's probably the best that the attackers got. To use their information to possibly get an ally in the White House is worth a risk, especially if they didn't expect the sanctions. Without the sanctions on the table, if their favored candidate lost the race, it didn't really cost them anything to try.

Comment Re:I'M OUTRAGED!! Oh wait, no I'm not. (Score 2) 414

This is Slashdot. We light hair on fire every time anybody sneezes in a way we don't like. Of course, you could always read the bill itself.

It actually does look pretty bad for renewable fuel efforts. I don't see any obvious loopholes, and it effectively imposes a tax on renewable energy by 1 cent per kWh, that the utilities can't pass on to customers. Pretty much, the only way to run a renewable energy installation in Wyoming is to pay for a nonrenewable energy facility somewhere outside the state, or make sure all of your energy is going out of the state.

Comment Re:Squirrels spread their attacks conveniently (Score 1) 139

I apologize for the length of these posts... Weekends get boring, and I tend to ramble about these things.

It doesn't really take much. For a nation-state attacker, it takes almost no resources in comparison to a foreign-based physical operation.

First, understand that there are two different kinds of attacks being discussed here. The DNC hack was a general APT penetration, while attacks on SCADA systems (like Stuxnet) are usually more targeted and require more expert knowledge. Since they work hand-in-hand, I'll describe a mix of the two in a major hypothetical attack.

Let's suppose Strong Badia wants to attack Elbonia. Strong Badia first launches a campaign against several technology companies in Lower Slobbovia, with phishing bait emails trying to get internal credentials. They use those credentials to compromise public-facing servers, and use those servers to launch more attacks against Elbonian companies. That second round of attacks looks like it comes from Lower Slobbovia, so it's more difficult to investigate. This multi-stage effort relies on automated tools (available for a few thousand dollars) to exploit common software. Since the phishing mails are sent in bulk and do indeed rely on luck to get hits, they're automated for scale. They can be run by one social engineer working part time, who usually just needs to wait until he gets a few particularly useful credentials.

With credentials in hand, Strong Badia turns to making their presence persistent. A small number of experts (two or three, even) establish more permanent access credentials, and plant malware that they can use to restore access if it's ever disrupted. This effort is targeted to a specific network infrastructure, but again most of the tools are automated. This time, they aren't automated for scale, but rather to hide their presence better. Attack packages can be uploaded and held, hiding their traffic from monitoring systems. Again, this is only a couple of people to decide which servers (and users) are worth attacking and map out the Elbonian network.

In the case of the DNC hack, that was about all that happened. The attackers gained access to the DNC, became persistent, and copied out documents. As I recall, there is evidence (in writing style, level of expertise, and preferred attack patterns) that the DNC hack had up to a dozen operatives. Other attacks get more complicated.

If a target is "special", it might need a more customized approach. For the sake of analogy, this is the point in the heist movie where the crew realizes that the bank's security is something new, and they need to recruit that quirky specialist to get the job done. They'll go out and buy a copy of the bank's vault, posing as a wealthy individual who just has to have the best protection for their widgets. Similarly, in out hypothetical attack, this is where Strong Badia claims they need the latest and greatest in Elbonian technology, and purchases a SCADA system just like what their target has. While the purchase of such equipment does indeed take some effort, I don't count it as part of the attacking force. The purchasers would likely think they're actually purchasing equipment for a legitimate construction project, so it's a little unfair to count them against the trained spies.

With equipment, an expert in that system (our fourth Strong Badian team member) can begin reverse-engineering it to find new zero-day vulnerabilities, and perhaps with the aid of another Strong Badian, he can turn it into a malware package for that target.

That malware can then be handed back to the APT team, who have the understanding of the Elbonian bureaucracy. They can create fake problem reports that require a call to tech support, and the social engineer can assist in making it seem legitimate. To jump an airgap, they might need a participant in Elbonia, but that could be a simple matter of attacking the Elbonian support subcontractor in a similar manner, and such an attack could be executed by the very same five-man band.

What's sarcastically great about APTs is that they can wait. Unlike saboteur employees, they don't have to show up to work every day. While their SCADA expert is working on the malware kit, the social engineer is phishing the technician contractor, and the persistence guys are establishing a presence in another Elbonian company. Meanwhile, the malware in their primary target sits and waits for their next instruction.

The team can repeat this process over and over again. As the Elbonian support tech gets calls from around his country, he installs system updates as they appear in his Elbonian-SCADA-R-Us.com FTP site. They look legitimate to him, and he's happy to be getting calls from so many different customers.

Eventually, a critical number of systems are infected. At the predetermined time, the logic bomb goes off, and the systems shut down. In a grid sytem like the electrical supply, other systems would normally take over, but they've all been timed to shut down at once. The remaining systems can't handle the load, and they shut down out of preservation.

It took Strong Badia a few years, but Elbonia goes dark, because of the work of five people. The subsequent investigation stops at the technician, because his computer has been nicely loaded up with documents declaring anti-Elbonian sentiment and expressing a strong desire to move to Lower Slobbovia. Meanwhile, the Strong Badians are celebrating (quietly) a job well done, and they're ready to apply their talents to the next target on the list.

In contrast, consider the cost of this attack being done with a more hands-on approach. First, Strong Badia would have to have some kind of Elbonian presence to recruit Elbonian spies. While recruiting could be done online, the Strong Badian recruiters wouldn't have any way to tell if their conversations were being played right in front of a room full of Elbonian investigators. Having a physical presence also means Elbonia knows exactly who to watch.

If they can escape scrutiny, they can start grooming a spy. Insider threats are extremely capable, since they rarely have to worry about gaining initial access, but they're also risky, partly because decades of James Bond movies have made espionage into a pick-up line. Training a good spy means a lot of one-on-one coaching to sufficiently alter their morality until they want to do the job, and moving slowly enough that they aren't so excited to be a spy that they'll go tell someone. To convince the Elbonian to even do anything against their home country requires several months. To ask them to perform major acts of sabotage like planting a bomb would require more effort.

The Strong Badian brainwashing/indoctrination/radicalization process involves having the handler be available to talk, to convert the Elbonian's loyalty. It needs (roughly) a handler for each spy, and that spy has to go to work. That means that for each targeted site, Strong Badia has to pay a handler and bribe the spy, and hope that the spy's induced disloyalty doesn't get them fired before the planned attack.

For one or two sites, having a physical attack is reasonable, but it quickly becomes more efficient to run an APT attack, instead, since such targets can be controlled and kept waiting for years with basically no upkeep. Weakly-protected targets (no airgaps, unpatched software) can be fully compromised by APTs in a matter of hours, and can be useful for years. Mid-range sites can take a few weeks, but then they're completely compromised. Airgaps make the attacks significantly more expensive, but a proper airgap is exceedingly rare. Physical presences require ongoing support, and take months or years to groom.

Comment Re:Why not an x86 board? (Score 2) 107

Intel has parts that would work(albeit a bit light on GPIO); I've got a dreadful little tablet here based on the Z3735G, and they packed that CPU, a gig of RAM, 16GB of flash, a 1024x600 touchscreen, some sort of BT and wifi, and a battery together for under $50.

If they hadn't also burdened the device with some of the more agonizing firmware I've had the pleasure of dealing with(AMI's dysfunctional take on 32-bit UEFI, no compatibility support module, on a 64-bit platform? Sign me up!); it'd actually be a decent little Linux toy, since that Atom is supported by intel GPU drivers, not the freaky PowerVR stuff.

As best I can tell, though, the Z-series Atoms didn't attract all that much interest(they are comparable to ARM devices aimed as similar price performance niches; but not particularly superior); and vendors weren't exactly clamoring to buy the chips; and Intel doesn't really like selling parts that cheap. They'd much rather try to sell you on a Core M or the like.

There isn't a whole lot of reason to do it; or apparent interest; but it could be done.

Comment Re:Squirrels spread their attacks conveniently (Score 5, Informative) 139

How many spies and saboteurs with well-placed bombs (or high-powered rifles) would it take to disable the power grid? Not many, I would think. There are a lot of threats besides 'the cyber.'

Far more than it takes to set a flag on a C&C server. Those spies and saboteurs also have to be physically present around the time of the coordinated attack, increasing the risk they'll be caught, and the opportunity for them to double-cross the attacker and reveal the plan to the target.

On the other hand, malware can lurk for years undetected from a single entry point. A small team of sub-sub-sub-contracted service technicians can deploy malware to an embedded system, and walk away. Sufficiently advanced threats can hide their traffic inside the normal monitoring operations of the utility, cross through the network, and even add personnel records, effectively making their actions look like legitimate employee operations until they shut everything down.

Targeting infrastructure has been a military strategy for as long as there have been militaries. Modern tactics, however, focus on efficiency. If five malware-assisted spies can take down a target country's utilities with no risk, why spend the budgeted resources to recruit and train (and possibly extract) fifty to do the same job? That budget can then go toward hiring cryptographers to decrypt the target's movement orders, so you spend less budgeted resources trying to find the enemy units. That leaves more budget to use on building better bombs and guidance systems, and so on.

Ultimately, the goal is to win the war. With modern society relying on border-crossing communications, it is no longer really important who can put supplies into what territory, as was important until around 1960. Now, it's important to convince the locals that you're protecting them from the evil oppressive enemy, and doing that means minimizing civilian deaths. Better targeted bombs, better intel, and attacks that don't involve blowing up a power plant full of civilian workers, are all ways to reduce your side's death count.

Security is something for professionals like us to think about always while we're working, but it's not something to panic about. A lot of these news stories like this one are designed to spread panic...

There's very little panic, except for a few uninformed headlines where a laptop with malware became a complete takeover of the US power grid. On the other hand, the DNC hack is a great example of how information-based warfare will be conducted, and the news article you linked explains it well. Unlike Watergate, there was never a Russian physical presence in the DNC. There's nobody in the US that can be arrested for it. After the initial breaches, there was almost no evidence of the digital presence. The reality of the situation once it was discovered was met with skeptics like you, who underestimate how useful such an attack could be.

While that holds true, the attacks won't likely escalate. As soon as an enemy attacks the American power grid, every American company will treat information attacks more seriously, and the low-hanging fruit will disappear.

...and to increase power to those who are spreading panic.

There's nobody really getting more power from this, though, except for a few hucksters who are selling fraudulent security systems. The threats have been real and the attacks have been ongoing for the past few decades, and the people who have been wise enough to care have found that there are solutions available. There are backup generators and UPSes protecting vital systems from outages of the power grid. There are airgaps and mitigations protecting secret information. There are encryption algorithms and opsec protocols protecting identities... Security is cheap, but it is very user-driven. The user has to care for security to be effective. They have to install the generators, they have to work over the airgap, and they have to follow the protocols.

The DNC hack is different in only one way from every other attack since the mid-90s: The attacker chose to make it public, exposing the shadowy world of espionage to the public eye. The people who don't know any better will panic, because it's an attack on American infrastructure. The ones who've been working in it for long enough will sigh, because it's yet another attack on American infrastructure.

Comment Re:I activated my own phone on Ting (Score 1) 66

Ting is great....if you don't actually use your phone much or use the smart part of your smart phone. If you actually use your phone and need data? Their service adds up pretty damned quickly.

The last month I was on Ting it ended up costing me nearly $60 for minutes and data and I really don't use my phone that often, all it took was a sick relative and being stuck in the hospital waiting to find out what was going on to blow through the cash on their service. I want to be able to use my phone without having to worry about some unexpected event raising my costs so I ended up going to Cricket, its $70 for 2 phones with unlimited talk and text and 2.5Gb of data which I've found is plenty for watching YouTube when I'm stuck waiting somewhere.

Comment Re:Microsoft's effective negative advertising (Score 4, Insightful) 161

"Almost every person who has used Win 10 for any length of time is now aware of what they consider extreme abuse."....FTFY.

I thought I got a lot of work wiping Win 8 for 7 but damned people HATE Windows 10 and for good reason, all it takes is MSFT forcing a shit driver that locks the PC into endless rebooot or having it just decide to install updates and shut down in the middle of them actually doing something for people to say "fuck this POS!" and demand any other Windows than 10. I've even had people bring by brand new in box Win 10 lappys just to have me wipe the thing before its ever even turned on, its gotten THAT bad a rep.

If they thought they had a shitload still running XP at its EOL I have a feeling when Win 7 hits EOL the numbers running 7/8/8.1 will still be crazy high.

Comment Re:How (Score 1) 76

The only part of that that sounds potentially unkosher is the unlimited miles on the leases. Everything else looks like just a matter of people failing to do their own damned due diligence.

Every employer brags about their awesome compensation package; any employee making $20.50/hour (the average for a NYC Uber driver) who thinks they'll make $90k a year damned well better plan on working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. And their leases sucked? Hey, maybe shop the fuck around before you pay someone (especially your employer) for a product or service offered by a million other sources?

Comment Secret Service? (Score 1) 205

I can understand why the Secret Service might be the ones who actually break the bad news and hand over the handset; but does anyone know if they actually have any role in 'approving' it; or do they just provide whatever the Information Assurance Directorate tells them is the correct answer?

Even aside from their recent history of embarrassing scandal, you don't really think of them as one of the techie outfits.

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