Inspired by Chris Eng, here is a list of Blackhat talks I will probably attend. It’s frustrating to have so many talks in conflicting time slots while some times have almost none relevant to me.
Highway to Hell: Hacking Toll Systems (11:15 am). As much as I’d like to see the other talks, someone has to present this one. If you’re just getting into hardware hacking or wondering how to secure toll systems, please drop in. Too bad I also have to miss Ilfak’s talk on adding a decompiler to IDA (watch out Veracode!) Oh, and there was some DNS thing too.
Software Radio and the Future of Wireless Security (1:45 pm). After lunch, I’m interested in hearing more about software radio. I do most of my work by soldering directly to the logic side, bypassing any demodulation circuitry. Temporal Reverse Engineering looks interesting also.
Return-Oriented Programming: Exploits Without Code Injection (3:15 pm). This should be good since I haven’t seen an exhaustive treatment of this approach. I think the stack has been overlooked since NX became common. But it can still control program flow even without executing directly from it.
Pwnie Awards (6 pm). The Oscars without the speeches and with more embarassment. Awesome.
Developments in Cisco IOS Forensics (10 am). I can get up early to enjoy FX getting back into Cisco again.
Timing Attacks on the MSP430 Bootstrap Loader (1:45 pm). The BSL sometimes gives access to the flash even if the JTAG fuse has been blown. I’ve become familiar with the MSP430 due to this FasTrak research so this is quite relevant to me.
How To Impress Girls With Browser Memory Protection Bypasses or Mifare – Little Security, Despite Obscurity (3:15 pm). Augh, can’t decide: amusing heap fung shui or more updates on the CRYPTO1 train wreck. I’ll probably flip a coin.
Inducing Momentary Faults Within Secure Smartcards/Microcontrollers (4:45 pm). Chris Tarnovsky is the leading silicon hacker. You’d have to be crazy to miss this.
[Edit: added Travis Goodspeed’s talk. I inadvertently left it out the first time]
Being his usual humble self, Halvar casually discovers what I think is Dan Kaminsky’s DNS flaw. The Register has a story that quotes me on this. While I’m not certain it is the same attack, I’m moderately confident it is.
Note that neither Halvar nor I was part of the secret briefing Dan gave to researchers. I didn’t receive that inside information and believe Halvar didn’t either. This reinforces the perspective that information about a bug should be revealed quickly, given the likelihood that another party might rediscover it. It’s possible a black hat hacker even beat Halvar, even though he’s very smart.
The debate about full or partial disclosure is really all about control. In this case, the information about the patch (randomize source port and double check the randomization on TXID) was enough to independently rediscover the attack. Even though there is not a direct connection between the attack and the patch, knowing that it was possible was enough. Once the information was out there, Dan and the vendors had given up control.
So, patch your servers and back to business as usual…
Well-funded and motivated attackers are typically the hardest to defend against when designing a system. Governments can attack systems in different ways and with more resources than a typical threat. Consider a recent example where a British aide lost his Blackberry after spending the night with a woman who approached him in a Chinese disco. While it’s possible he just lost it while drunk, this is a good example of how unconventional threats need to be carefully considered.
Let’s analyze the cost of two routes to getting this same information: hacker or hooker. The hacker might try to crack passwords or develop a 0-day exploit against the Blackberry server. Or, build a custom trojan and send it via a forged email that appears to come from the Prime Minister. The hooker would try to get to his hotel room and steal the phone. It would actually suffice to just borrow it for a few minutes and dump the RAM since passwords are often cached there. This has the added advantage that he might never know anything had happened.
A 0-day exploit could be in the $20,000 range. Hiring someone to develop and target a trojan at this aide would be less, but the chance of succeeding would be lower. According to the stories about Eliot Spitzer, a high-end call girl is $1,500 per hour. Assuming it takes four hours, the total cost would be $6,000. The fact that both these approaches could be done in China means the actual cost would be lower but probably still a similar ratio.
There are a lot of other advantages to the hooker approach besides cost. There is good deniability if the call girl gets caught. Since the call girl remains within the attacking country’s jurisdiction, the police can be used to recover the Blackberry if she makes an extortion attempt. The hacker approach has a lot more uncertainty as flaws could be patched or blocked, making the exploit useless.
I also think this gives good support to my claim that software protection techniques are on the verge of wider adoption. With cold boot attacks and growing news of governments seizing laptops or stealing cell phones, systems must remain secure even when an attacker has physical possession of a powered-up device. The only way to do this is to adopt software and hardware techniques that are already used to protect games, DRM, and satellite TV. Traditional approaches like those used in network security are no longer enough.
I’ll be speaking on this topic along with Thomas Ptacek at WOOT, co-hosted at USENIX on July 28th in San Jose. Since this event is invite-only, send me email if you’re a security researcher who would like to attend. Please include a brief summary of your background.
The next Baysec meeting is Thursday at Pete’s Tavern. Come out and meet fellow security people from all over the Bay Area. As always, this is not a sponsored meeting, there is no agenda or speakers, and no RSVP is needed. Thanks go to Ryan and Rick Wesson for planning all this.
See you on Thursday, July 17th, 7-11 pm.
128 King St. (at 2nd)