Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Security: Meltdown, Spectre, Apple, CoffeeMiner, EMC, VMware and More

Filed under
Security
  • NSA Didn't Know of Meltdown, Spectre, Trump Cyber Czar Says

    The National Security Agency didn't know about the Meltdown or Spectre flaws, White House cybersecurity coordinator Rob Joyce said at the International Conference on Cyber Security at Fordham University Law School here today (Jan. 11).

  • spectre and the end of langsec

    Like many I was profoundly saddened by this analysis. I want to believe in constructive correctness, in math and in proofs. And so with the rise of functional programming, I thought that this historical slide from reason towards observation was just that, historical, and that the "safe" languages had a compelling value that would be evident eventually: that "another world is possible".

    In particular I found solace in "langsec", an approach to assessing and ensuring system security in terms of constructively correct programs. One obvious application is parsing of untrusted input, and indeed the langsec.org website appears to emphasize this domain as one in which a programming languages approach can be fruitful. It is, after all, a truth universally acknowledged, that a program with good use of data types, will be free from many common bugs. So far so good, and so far so successful.

    The basis of language security is starting from a programming language with a well-defined, easy-to-understand semantics. From there you can prove (formally or informally) interesting security properties about particular programs. For example, if a program has a secret k, but some untrusted subcomponent C of it should not have access to k, one can prove if k can or cannot leak to C. This approach is taken, for example, by Google's Caja compiler to isolate components from each other, even when they run in the context of the same web page.

    But the Spectre and Meltdown attacks have seriously set back this endeavor. One manifestation of the Spectre vulnerability is that code running in a process can now read the entirety of its address space, bypassing invariants of the language in which it is written, even if it is written in a "safe" language. This is currently being used by JavaScript programs to exfiltrate passwords from a browser's password manager, or bitcoin wallets.

  • Is Apple Even Paying Attention To macOS Security Anymore?

    A new Mac security flaw lets you type literally any username and password in order to unlock the Mac App Store panel in System Preferences. It’s probably not a big deal practically speaking—the panel is unlocked by default—but the fact that this issue exists at all is a worrying reminder that Apple isn’t prioritizing security like they used to.

  • Ubuntu Linux Unbootable After Users Install Meltdown And Spectre Patches
  • Ubuntu Update For Meltdown And Spectre Chip Flaws Leaves Some PCs Unbootable

    Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. Just ask the affected users of older AMD systems who had their PCs bricked after downloading and installing a Windows update that was supposed to protect them from Meltdown and Spectre. It is not just Windows users who are suffering, either. Some Ubuntu Xenial 16.04 users also report that the latest update for their OS has rendered their system unable to boot.

  • How CoffeeMiner Attack Hacks Public Wi-Fi And Uses Your PC For Mining Cryptocurrency

    After a series of ransomware attacks capturing the headlines past year, crypto mining malware and cryptojacking attacks came into the play. Just last month, a Starbucks customer found that the infected Wi-Fi hotspot was trying to mine Monero digital coins. It was a new kind of threat associated with using public hotspots, which are often labeled unsafe and users are advised to use VPN services for extra privacy.

  • Prosecutors say Mac spyware stole millions of user images over 13 years

    An indictment filed Wednesday in federal court in Ohio may answer some of those questions. It alleges Fruitfly was the creation of an Ohio man who used it for more than 13 years to steal millions of images from infected computers as he took detailed notes of what he observed.

  • EMC, VMware security bugs throw gasoline on cloud security fire

    While everyone was screaming about Meltdown and Spectre, another urgent security fix was already in progress for many corporate data centers and cloud providers who use products from Dell's EMC and VMware units. A trio of critical, newly reported vulnerabilities in EMC and VMware backup and recovery tools—EMC Avamar, EMC NetWorker, EMC Integrated Data Protection Appliance, and vSphere Data Protection—could allow an attacker to gain root access to the systems or to specific files, or inject malicious files into the server's file system. These problems can only be fixed with upgrades. While the EMC vulnerabilities were announced late last year, VMware only became aware of its vulnerability last week.

  • Malware based on open source Kotlin language discovered lurking in Google Play [Ed: This has nothing to do with "open source". They don't say "proprietary" when the framework is.]

    Basically, it's pretty typical of the malware that crops up in dodgy apps that have wormed their way past the digital bouncers on the Play Store.

  • How to increase Linux security by disabling USB support

    This may sound like a crazy way of enhancing security on a server, but if you can get away with it—as in you don't need any USB devices such as keyboards, mice, external drives—disabling USB support can be an added means of ensuring malicious files do not find their way onto your servers. Obviously, this will only work for headless machines, so you better make certain you can SSH into those servers, otherwise, you'll find yourself in trouble trying to input anything via keyboard or mouse.

More in Tux Machines

Security: OpenSSL, IoT, and LWN Coverage of 'Intelpocalypse'

  • Another Face to Face: Email Changes and Crypto Policy
    The OpenSSL OMC met last month for a two-day face-to-face meeting in London, and like previous F2F meetings, most of the team was present and we addressed a great many issues. This blog posts talks about some of them, and most of the others will get their own blog posts, or notices, later. Red Hat graciously hosted us for the two days, and both Red Hat and Cryptsoft covered the costs of their employees who attended. One of the overall threads of the meeting was about increasing the transparency of the project. By default, everything should be done in public. We decided to try some major changes to email and such.
  • Some Basic Rules for Securing Your IoT Stuff

    Throughout 2016 and 2017, attacks from massive botnets made up entirely of hacked [sic] IoT devices had many experts warning of a dire outlook for Internet security. But the future of IoT doesn’t have to be so bleak. Here’s a primer on minimizing the chances that your IoT things become a security liability for you or for the Internet at large.

  • A look at the handling of Meltdown and Spectre
    The Meltdown/Spectre debacle has, deservedly, reached the mainstream press and, likely, most of the public that has even a remote interest in computers and security. It only took a day or so from the accelerated disclosure date of January 3—it was originally scheduled for January 9—before the bugs were making big headlines. But Spectre has been known for at least six months and Meltdown for nearly as long—at least to some in the industry. Others that were affected were completely blindsided by the announcements and have joined the scramble to mitigate these hardware bugs before they bite users. Whatever else can be said about Meltdown and Spectre, the handling (or, in truth, mishandling) of this whole incident has been a horrific failure. For those just tuning in, Meltdown and Spectre are two types of hardware bugs that affect most modern CPUs. They allow attackers to cause the CPU to do speculative execution of code, while timing memory accesses to deduce what has or has not been cached, to disclose the contents of memory. These disclosures can span various security boundaries such as between user space and the kernel or between guest operating systems running in virtual machines. For more information, see the LWN article on the flaws and the blog post by Raspberry Pi founder Eben Upton that well describes modern CPU architectures and speculative execution to explain why the Raspberry Pi is not affected.
  • Addressing Meltdown and Spectre in the kernel
    When the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities were disclosed on January 3, attention quickly turned to mitigations. There was already a clear defense against Meltdown in the form of kernel page-table isolation (KPTI), but the defenses against the two Spectre variants had not been developed in public and still do not exist in the mainline kernel. Initial versions of proposed defenses have now been disclosed. The resulting picture shows what has been done to fend off Spectre-based attacks in the near future, but the situation remains chaotic, to put it lightly. First, a couple of notes with regard to Meltdown. KPTI has been merged for the 4.15 release, followed by a steady trickle of fixes that is undoubtedly not yet finished. The X86_BUG_CPU_INSECURE processor bit is being renamed to X86_BUG_CPU_MELTDOWN now that the details are public; there will be bug flags for the other two variants added in the near future. 4.9.75 and 4.4.110 have been released with their own KPTI variants. The older kernels do not have mainline KPTI, though; instead, they have a backport of the older KAISER patches that more closely matches what distributors shipped. Those backports have not fully stabilized yet either. KPTI patches for ARM are circulating, but have not yet been merged.
  • Is it time for open processors?
    The disclosure of the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities has brought a new level of attention to the security bugs that can lurk at the hardware level. Massive amounts of work have gone into improving the (still poor) security of our software, but all of that is in vain if the hardware gives away the game. The CPUs that we run in our systems are highly proprietary and have been shown to contain unpleasant surprises (the Intel management engine, for example). It is thus natural to wonder whether it is time to make a move to open-source hardware, much like we have done with our software. Such a move may well be possible, and it would certainly offer some benefits, but it would be no panacea. Given the complexity of modern CPUs and the fierceness of the market in which they are sold, it might be surprising to think that they could be developed in an open manner. But there are serious initiatives working in this area; the idea of an open CPU design is not pure fantasy. A quick look around turns up several efforts; the following list is necessarily incomplete.
  • Notes from the Intelpocalypse
    Rumors of an undisclosed CPU security issue have been circulating since before LWN first covered the kernel page-table isolation patch set in November 2017. Now, finally, the information is out — and the problem is even worse than had been expected. Read on for a summary of these issues and what has to be done to respond to them in the kernel. All three disclosed vulnerabilities take advantage of the CPU's speculative execution mechanism. In a simple view, a CPU is a deterministic machine executing a set of instructions in sequence in a predictable manner. Real-world CPUs are more complex, and that complexity has opened the door to some unpleasant attacks. A CPU is typically working on the execution of multiple instructions at once, for performance reasons. Executing instructions in parallel allows the processor to keep more of its subunits busy at once, which speeds things up. But parallel execution is also driven by the slowness of access to main memory. A cache miss requiring a fetch from RAM can stall the execution of an instruction for hundreds of processor cycles, with a clear impact on performance. To minimize the amount of time it spends waiting for data, the CPU will, to the extent it can, execute instructions after the stalled one, essentially reordering the code in the program. That reordering is often invisible, but it occasionally leads to the sort of fun that caused Documentation/memory-barriers.txt to be written.

US Sanctions Against Chinese Android Phones, LWN Report on Eelo

  • A new bill would ban the US government from using Huawei and ZTE phones
    US lawmakers have long worried about the security risks posed the alleged ties between Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE and the country’s government. To that end, Texas Representative Mike Conaway introduced a bill last week called Defending U.S. Government Communications Act, which aims to ban US government agencies from using phones and equipment from the companies. Conaway’s bill would prohibit the US government from purchasing and using “telecommunications equipment and/or services,” from Huawei and ZTE. In a statement on his site, he says that technology coming from the country poses a threat to national security, and that use of this equipment “would be inviting Chinese surveillance into all aspects of our lives,” and cites US Intelligence and counterintelligence officials who say that Huawei has shared information with state leaders, and that the its business in the US is growing, representing a further security risk.
  • U.S. lawmakers urge AT&T to cut commercial ties with Huawei - sources
    U.S. lawmakers are urging AT&T Inc, the No. 2 wireless carrier, to cut commercial ties to Chinese phone maker Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and oppose plans by telecom operator China Mobile Ltd to enter the U.S. market because of national security concerns, two congressional aides said. The warning comes after the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump took a harder line on policies initiated by his predecessor Barack Obama on issues ranging from Beijing’s role in restraining North Korea to Chinese efforts to acquire U.S. strategic industries. Earlier this month, AT&T was forced to scrap a plan to offer its customers Huawei [HWT.UL] handsets after some members of Congress lobbied against the idea with federal regulators, sources told Reuters.
  • Eelo seeks to make a privacy-focused phone
    A focus on privacy is a key feature being touted by a number of different projects these days—from KDE to Tails to Nextcloud. One of the biggest privacy leaks for most people is their phone, so it is no surprise that there are projects looking to address that as well. A new entrant in that category is eelo, which is a non-profit project aimed at producing not only a phone, but also a suite of web services. All of that could potentially replace the Google or Apple mothership, which tend to collect as much personal data as possible.

today's howtos

Mozilla: Resource Hogs, Privacy Month, Firefox Census, These Weeks in Firefox

  • Firefox Quantum Eats RAM Like Chrome
    For a long time, Mozilla’s Firefox has been my web browser of choice. I have always preferred it to using Google’s Chrome, because of its simplicity and reasonable system resource (especially RAM) usage. On many Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, Linux Mint and many others, Firefox even comes installed by default. Recently, Mozilla released a new, powerful and faster version of Firefox called Quantum. And according to the developers, it’s new with a “powerful engine that’s built for rapid-fire performance, better, faster page loading that uses less computer memory.”
  • Mozilla Communities Speaker Series #PrivacyMonth
    As a part of the Privacy Month initiative, Mozilla volunteers are hosting a couple of speaker series webinars on Privacy, Security and related topics. The webinars will see renowned speakers talking to us about their work around privacy, how to take control of your digital self, some privacy-security tips and much more.
  • “Ewoks or Porgs?” and Other Important Questions
    You ever go to a party where you decide to ask people REAL questions about themselves, rather than just boring chit chat? Us, too! That’s why we’ve included questions that really hone in on the important stuff in our 2nd Annual Firefox Census.
  • These Weeks in Firefox: Issue 30