It is often debated if, and how often, hackers are going after critical infrastructure like water plants, generators, and such.
MIT Technology Review reports on a security researcher Kyle Wilhoit’s exploration of this question. He set up two fake control systems and one real one (just not connected to an actual plant), which he then connected to the Internet.
Over the course of the one month experiment he detected 39 sophisticated attacks against his “honeypot” systems. The attackers did not just penetrate the systems, but also manipulated their settings, which would have had real world impacts had these been real systems.
One must assume that the same is happening to any real Internet accessible industrial control systems.
Arstechnica reports on the discovery of signed malware designed for surveillance on the Mac laptop of an Angolan activist.
The malware was a trojan that the activist obtained through a spear phishing email attack. The news here is that the malware was signed with a valid Apple Developer ID.
The idea is that having all code signed should substantially reduce the amount of malware on the platform. This works because creating a valid Apple Developer ID requires significant effort, and may expose the identity of the hacker unless they take steps to hide their identity. This is not trivial as the Developer ID requires contact information and payment of fees.
The second advantage of signed code is that the Developer’s certificate can be quickly revoked, so the software will be detected as invalid and automatically blocked on every Mac world wide. This limits the amount of damage a given Malware can do, and forces the attacker to create a new Apple Developer ID every time they are detected.
This has been seen to work fairly well in practice, but it is not perfect. If a target is valuable enough, a Developer ID can be set up just to go after that one person or small group. The malware is targeted to just them, so the likelihood of detection is low. In this case, it would continue to be recognized as a legitimates signed valid application for a very long time.
In the case of the Angolan activist, it was discovered at a human rights conference where the attendees were learning how to secure their devices against government monitoring.
The ACLU just posted an article about a recent federal magistrate judge’s ruling. It is a somewhat bizarre case.
The DEA had an arrest warrant for a doctor suspected selling prescription pain killer drugs for cash. They then requested a court order to obtain his real time location information from his cell provider.
The judge went along, but then published a 30 page opinion stating that no order or warrant should have been required for the location information because the suspect had no expectation of location privacy. If he wanted privacy, all he had to have done is to turn off his phone (which would have prevented the collection of the information at all, not just established his expectation).
So, if this line of reasoning is picked up and becomes precedent, it is clear than anyone on the run needs to keep their phone off and / or use burner phones paid for with cash.
My concern is that, if there is no expectation of privacy, is there anything preventing government entities from requesting location information on whole populations without any probable cause or court order.
While I think that the use of location information in this case was completely appropriate, I would sleep better if there was the check and balance of the need for a court order before getting it.
This is another situation where technology has run ahead of the law. The Fourth Amendment was written in a time where information was in tangible form, and the only time it was generally in the hands of third parties, was when it was in the mail. Therefor search of mail in transit was specially protected.
Today, cloud and telecommunication providers serve much the same purpose as the US Postal Service, and are used in similar ways. It is high time that the same protection extended to snail mail be applied to the new high tech communications infrastructures we use today.
Wendy Nather at Dark Reading has post on the explosion of white hat “offensive defense”.
She speaks to an issue I have been thinking about for some time. More and more security firms and internal security groups are going “offensive”. They are setting up more and more honey pots, creating fake malware, posting about false vulnerabilities, and actively participating in hacker forums. Even the hackers are getting in on the action by dropping false information and leads.
At what point does the false information start to swamp the real and cause the value of the collected intelligence to degrade. Undercover law enforcement calls the problem “blue on blue” where one group (typically overt) is actively investigating an under cover group.
I was told a story like this by a friend in law enforcement. He told of a drug case. A deal was going down in a warehouse between some drug distributers and drug importers. In the middle of the transaction the warehouse was raided by the local police. Turns out, everyone there was in law enforcement.
Even if that story was apocryphal, it illustrates what we are likely to see on-line. Undercover is in many ways easier and certainly less dangerous on-line, and we are likely to see many private investigations in addition to official law enforcement activities.
This is likely to get interesting. The Internet may start to feel like cold war Vienna, where you never know where anyone really stands.
There is a lot of buzz right now about how Google Glass will lead to some kind of universal George Orwell type surveillance state.
I think this misses the point. We are going there without Google Glass. Private surveillance is becoming ubiquitous. Any place of business is almost certain to have cameras. After the Boston bombings, we are likely to see the same proliferation of street cameras that has already happened in London any many other places.
The meteor in russia earlier this year made me aware of just how common personal dash board cameras are in Russia. It seems likely that they will be common everywhere in no too many years.
Smart phone cameras are already doing an amazing job of capturing almost any event that takes place anywhere in the world.
So, you are probably being filmed by at least one camera at almost all times any time you are away from your house.
David Brin and others have been arguing for “sousveillance”. If surveillance is those with power looking down from above, sousveillance is those without power looking back. It tends to have a leveling effect. Law enforcement officers are less likely to abuse their power if they are being recorded by private cameras. Similarly and simultaneously they are protected against false claims of abuse from citizens.
I would rather see ubiquitous private cameras than ubiquitous government cameras. If there is a major incident, the public will send in requested footage, but it would make broad drift net fishing, and facial recognition based tracking more difficult.
An interesting counter trend may be in the creation of camera free private spaces. Private clubs, restaurants, gyms, etc. may all differentiate themselves in part based on their surveillance / sousveillance policies.