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We went to the moon, why can’t we have crypto backdoors? – and more this week • The Register

We Went To The Moon, Why Can’t We Have Crypto Backdoors? – And More This Week • The Register

Roundup There has been a bumper crop of Security news this week, including another shipping company getting taken down by ransomware, Russian hackers apparently completely pwning US power grids and a sane request from Senator Wyden (D-OR) for the US government to dump Flash. But there has been other news bubbling under.

Useless action please! While Wyden might know what he’s talking about his colleagues seem set on useless posturing.

On Tuesday Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) sent a letter [PDF] to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin asking him to implement financial sanctions against the 12 Russians accused of hacking the servers of the Democratic Party. Given the president’s confused attitude towards Russia they shouldn’t hold their breath.

The two are depressingly vague about what exactly they would like to see done, but we can’t imagine the accused are trembling in their Afoor boots. But it got the senators a bit of publicity, which is probably the point of the exercise.

FBI goes Facepalm on encryption: There had been signs that FBI Director Chris Wray might actually start listening to the technically adept about backdooring encryption. But no, he has come out with another idiotic zinger.

Speaking at the Aspen Security Conference Wray returned to the tired old theme that criminals were “going dark” thanks to encryption and thus the government needs access. Despite it being a mathematical impossibility to introduce a backdoor that no one else can find, Wray was sure there must be a way, as he explained on camera:

“We’re a country that has unbelievable innovation,” he said. “We put a man on the Moon. We have the power of flight. We have autonomous vehicle. The idea that we can’t solve this problem as a society — I just don’t buy it.”

It’s an argument that has been used before, so often in fact that Matt Blaze, professor of Computer and Information Science at the University of Pennsylvania and Tor Project board member, came up with this pithy comeback.

“When I hear ‘if we can put a man on the moon, we can do this’ I’m hearing an analogy almost saying ‘if we can put a man on the moon, surely we can put a man on the sun,'” he said.

Samsung’s Internet of S**t: We’re getting a little tired of the persistent failings in Internet of Things devices and Samsung is the latest manufacturer to be caught with its digital pants down.

Researchers at Cisco’s Talos security team examined the Samsung SmartThings Hub and found a stunning 20 vulnerabilities. Given this device is supposed to act as a central control unit for all the gadgets in the home, potentially controlling security cameras, door locks and climate control, this isn’t good news.

Thankfully Talos are big on responsible disclosure and a firmware fix is now available, and if you have a so-called SmartThings Hub then you’d be advised to download the fix. But it does make you wonder – if a massive manufacturer like Samsung can’t get security right, what are the odds your Kickstarter funded device has?

Lifelock irony overload: Lifelock likes to describe itself of a guardian of online identities, but the firm showed it can’t even protect its own data.

The company’s website was so poorly designed that any visitor could access any of the email addresses of Lifelock’s 4.5 million customers. The flaw, discovered by freelance security researcher Nathan Reese, could have seen those email addresses scraped with a simple script.

As bugs go it could have been worse. No passwords, ID information or credit card data could have been swiped. But it did make the Lifelock people, and their owners Symantec, look very silly indeed.

Dropbox – It’s not a bug, it’s a feature: Cloud data dumpers Dropbox have has a grisly week of it after a panic about it pulling a Facebook and sharing its customer’s data.

A paper published in the Harvard Business Review by the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems analyzed the usage patterns of Dropbox customers. A mistake in the paper seemed to say that the user data for the study had been handed over to the researchers without being properly anonymized.

Naturally the excrement hit the aircon unit and people started to panic. Dropbox put out a statement saying the data was fully anonymized before being passed over. But a lot of people came to the realization that Dropbox had done nothing wrong, just that they had signed over a lot of rights to the company in the terms and conditions.

Beware Big Star Labs apps: While we’re on data slurping it appears that a group calling itself Big Star Labs has been pumping out mobile apps and browser extensions that are collecting a lot of user data.

A study by AdGuard Research found that as many as 11 million people might have had their data taken by the software’s operators. They note that, while the firm claims to only take anonymized data, it doesn’t appear to be too rigorous about it.

If you want to avoid this there’s a full list of affected software here.

Microsoft bugs spread malware: Microsoft Office Vulnerabilities were used to distribute the Felixroot backdoor, a strain of malware previously slung against Ukrainian banking customers.

Supposed environmental protection seminar documents actually came loaded with exploits targeting Microsoft Office vulnerabilities (CVE-2017-0199) and (CVE-2017-11882) and geared towards dropping the Felixroot backdoor. Security firm FireEye reports that the same backdoor abused last September in a campaign involving malicious Ukrainian bank documents.

Flexiroot backdoor attack overview [source: FireEye blog post]

The malware is distributed via Russian-language documents, in the latest green concerns-tinged account.

The hackers are going after a pair of fashionable exploitation targets, FireEye concludes.

“CVE-2017-0199 and CVE-2017-11882 are two of the more commonly exploited vulnerabilities that we are currently seeing, a blog post on the threat from FireEye explained. “Threat actors will increasingly leverage these vulnerabilities in their attacks until they are no longer finding success, so organisations must ensure they are protected.”

Leafminer in the Levant: Symantec has issued a warning to Middle East computer users that there’s a new hacking squad in town.

The Leafminer crew use a mixture of watering hole websites, vulnerability scans of network services on the internet, and brute-force/dictionary login attempts and it appears they are primarily after emails and database logins.

The researchers found a list of 809 targeted organizations, two thirds of which were in Saudi Arabia, the Lebanon, Israel and Kuwait also targeted. Occam’s Razor would suggest that maybe the Iranian hacking teams have a new subgroup that’s going to work.

Stop paying sextortion scumbags: A couple of weeks ago we covered the story of a Reg reader who had received a sextortion email, claiming to have video of the recipient pleasuring themselves to porn.

Of course, it’s bollocks, but the social engineering was quite clever, using a stolen password to convince the recipient that the threats were real. Now research suggests that there are quite a few people got suckered into this scam.

An analysis of the Bitcoin wallets used in some of the emails suggests the scumbags have netted at least $250,000 and possibly over a million in cryptocurrency. As someone who has been approached by these scumbags my advice remains the same – tell them where to stick their blackmailing demands. ®

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We went to the moon, why can’t we have crypto backdoors? – and more this week • The Register


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