Tag Archives: Security

Former NSA head Keith Alexander is profiting on cybersecurity

Keith Alexander is the former director of the NSA as well as former head of the US Cyber Command, who announced he was going into cybersecurity consulting upon his retirement from the government Hardly surprising given his background, right? But he also announced that the company he founded will be delivering a new anti-hacker tool based on behavioral models. And also filing for nine patents around technology associated with that tool. This is where things get a little ugly. While it’s possible he came up with this technology on his own and on his own time, but it’s far more likely he did so as a result of his employment with the NSA and Cyber Command. Meanwhile, Jason Leopold is suing the NSA for failure to disclose Alexander’s financial information.

Stay tuned, this could get exciting.

What the heck is going on with TrueCrypt?

Yesterday, without warning, the SourceForge page for file and disk encryption package TrueCrypt popped up this message: “WARNING: Using TrueCrypt is not secure as it may contain unfixed security issues”. Discussions on reddit, Metafilter and other sites are full of speculation but nothing definitive. The only version available for download, v7.2, only allows for decrypting of existing archives.

TrueCrypt did a fund raiser for a security audit and the initial review found no backdoors (additional review was in progress).

I will update if I hear anything. I am a TrueCrypt user so this directly affects me.

Hacking Traffic Systems for Fun and Chaos

Ever see one of those traffic information signs along the roadway and wonder how they were updated? At least in some cases they’re connected via a radio link. And you can control them using a remote-controlled drone and some simple hardware.

What’s worse, the manufacturer as well as CERT were made aware and have chosen to take no action. Drive safely.

xkcd explains the Heartbleed bug

Webcomic xkcd does an excellent job of explaining the “Heartbleed” bug:

If you know something about programming this is bug is the result of dynamic memory and lack of bounds checking. It allows the server to return the contents of RAM that may include information like passwords, login ids, etc. that are normally not visible externally. If you’ve recently logged in your information could easily still be in RAM and vulnerable but if you haven’t it’s likely nothing of yours remains. It’s all dependent on whether or not someone has determined a particular server is vulnerable and exploited the bug.

So what should you do? First, check this list on Mashable. If there’s a site you use frequently and it’s marked as vulnerable, change your password now. Otherwise, you can probably take your time but still change it. Consider using a password manager like 1Password or LastPass to make creating and managing passwords easier. Turn on multi-factor authentication where available. Also consider a personal password expiration policy. Yes, I know it’s a pain but if you use a password manager generating a new password is painless.

Security isn’t a “set it and forget it” thing, it’s an ongoing process.

Nest’s smoke alarm stumble (and creepy capability)

I’ll be honest, I haven’t been paying much attention to the Nest smoke alarm because, like its thermostat, it solves a problem I don’t have. But a lot of people have been attracted to the devices because of their emphasis on design and user interface. After all, Google didn’t buy the company because it wanted to get into the thermostat business.

Unfortunately, in the case of the smoke alarm that emphasis might have blinded them to more practical matters. The alarm was designed to be silenced when you wave your hands underneath it, thus eliminating that annoying issue that often crops up when you’re cooking something that gives off even a little bit of smoke. But Nest forgot something pretty important, people have a tendency to wave their arms around when there’s a real fire. To their credit they’ve temporarily halted sales while they investigate. But now here comes the creepy part.

They remotely turned off the hand waving sensing on any alarm connected to the Internet via WiFi. In other words, Nest (and now Google) has the ability to control your smoke alarm without your knowledge. Sure, this is a situation where doing so makes perfect sense, but as I’ve often said if Nest can access your smoke alarm over the Internet, someone else can as well.

NSA can bridge the air gap

You have to admit the NSA is nothing but thorough. We all know they’re grabbing data from the Internet and cell networks and while that might lead you to believe you’re safe if you’re not actually connected to a network, you’d be wrong. Very wrong. The NSA has spy devices with built-in radios that can send data from unconnected computers to listening stations miles away. While this requires physical access to the computer, once installed they are undetectable unless you’re looking for an RF signal. They claim to only be using this technology against foreign targets but at this point does anyone believe them?

The Sad Decline of ‘60 Minutes’ Continues

60 Minutes used to be on the forefront of investigative journalism. Just mentioning the name would strike fear in the hearts of anyone associated with dirty dealings. Now, with this Sunday’s thinly-disguised propaganda piece on the NSA, 60 Minutes has abandoned all pretext of being investigative.