For me, the most under-reported, under-appreciated element of the Snowden leaks is the BULLRUN/EDGEHILL program, through which the NSA and GCHQ spend $250,000,000/year sabotaging information security. In a great Wired story, Andy Greenberg analyzes former NSA chief Keith Alexander's defense of the stockpiling of vulnerabilities to attack "bad guys." There is no delusion more deadly than the idea that spies will make us more secure by weakening our computers' security to make it easier to spy on us.
Last December, a group of advisers to the White House issued a report to President Obama calling on him to rein-in the intelligence community’s use of so-called zero-day vulnerabilities–newly discovered hackable software bugs for which there exist no patch. The group went on to propose that zero-days only be used sparingly for “high priority intelligence collection,” and that those uses must be approved by a “senior-level, interagency approval process.”
“In almost all instances, for widely used code, it is in the national interest to eliminate software vulnerabilities rather than to use them for US intelligence collection,” the report reads. “Eliminating the vulnerabilities–’patching’ them–strengthens the security of U.S. Government, critical infrastructure, and other computer systems.”
Obama’s response to his advisers’ review, however, added a major loophole, allowing any zero-day vulnerabilities to be exploited if they have a “clear national security or law enforcement” application.
Former NSA Chief Defends Stockpiling Software Flaws for Spying [Andy Greenberg/Wired]
Image: Commander Keith Alexander on the bridge, DonkeyHotey, CC-BY-SA)
Vtech is a ubiquitous Hong Kong-based electronic toy company whose kiddy tablets and other devices are designed to work with its cloud service, which requires parents to set up accounts for their kids. 4.8 million of those accounts just breached, leaking a huge amount of potentially compromising information, from kids’ birthdays and home addresses to […]
Yesterday, Dell was advising customers not to try to uninstall the bogus root certificate it had snuck onto their Windows machine, which would allow attackers to undetectably impersonate their work intranets, bank sites, or Google mail. Today, they apologized and offered an uninstaller — even as we’ve learned that at least one SCADA controller was […]
Last February, Lenovo shocked its security-conscious customers by pre-installing its own, self-signed root certificates on the machines it sold. These certificates, provided by a spyware advertising company called Superfish, made it possible for attackers create “secure” connections to undetectable fake versions of banking sites, corporate intranets, webmail providers, etc.
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