Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Security: Intel, Cisco, Apple, FBI

Filed under
Security
  • How Much Slower Will My PC Become After Meltdown And Spectre Patches?
  • Intel's Microcode Update for Spectre Exploit Is Now Available in Ubuntu's Repos

    Canonical announced a few moments ago that Intel's latest microcode update for the Spectre security vulnerability is now available from the software repositories of all supported Ubuntu Linux releases.

    After releasing earlier this week new kernel updates to mitigate the Meltdown and Spectre security exploits that put billions of devices at risk of attacks by allowing a local, unprivileged attacker to obtain sensitive information from kernel memory, Canonical now released the updated microcode from Intel for supported Intel CPUs.

  • Cisco can now sniff out malware inside encrypted traffic

    Cisco has switched on latent features in its recent routers and switches, plus a cloud service, that together make it possible to detect the fingerprints of malware in encrypted traffic.

    Switchzilla has not made a dent in transport layer security (TLS) to make this possible. Instead, as we reported in July 2016, Cisco researchers found that malware leaves recognisable traces even in encrypted traffic. The company announced its intention to productise that research last year and this week exited trials to make the service – now known as Encrypted Traffic Analytics (ETA) - available to purchasers of its 4000 Series Integrated Service Routers, the 1000-series Aggregation Services Router and the model 1000V Cloud Services Router 1000V.

    Those devices can’t do the job alone: users need to sign up for Cisco’s StealthWatch service and let traffic from their kit flow to a cloud-based analytics service that inspects traffic and uses self-improving machine learning algorithms to spot dodgy traffic.

  • MacOS High Sierra security bug lets you unlock App Store System Preferences with any random password

    According to the bug report, users can simply open System Preferences, go to App Store settings and check the padlock icon. If it is unlocked, lock it and then try unlocking it using your username and any password.

  • Intel tells select customers not to use its bug fixes

    Processor giant Intel has told some of its customers that the microcode patches it issued to fix the Meltdown and Spectre flaws in its products are buggy and that they should not install them.

  • Canonical reissues Meltdown and Spectre patches for Ubuntu after borkage
  • A Step in the Right Direction: House Passes the Cyber Vulnerability Disclosure Reporting Act

    The House of Representatives passed the “Cyber Vulnerability Disclosure Reporting Act” this week. While the bill is quite limited in scope, EFF applauds its goals and supports its passage in the Senate.

    H.R. 3202 is a short and simple bill, sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), that would require the Department of Homeland Security to submit a report to Congress outlining how the government deals with disclosing vulnerabilities. Specifically, the mandated report would comprise two parts. First, a “description of the policies and procedures developed [by DHS] for coordinating cyber vulnerability disclosures,” or in other words, how the government reports flaws in computer hardware and software to the developers. And second, a possibly classified “annex” containing descriptions of specific instances where these policies were used to disclose vulnerabilities in the previous year, leading to mitigation of the vulnerabilities by private actors.

    Perhaps the best thing about this short bill is that it is intended to provide some evidence for the government’s long-standing claims that it discloses a large number of vulnerabilities. To date, such evidence has been exceedingly sparse; for instance, Apple received its first ever vulnerability report from the U.S. government in 2016. Assuming the report and annex work as intended, the public’s confidence in the government’s ability to “play defense” may actually increase.

  • FBI Says Device Encryption Is 'Evil' And A Threat To Public Safety

    The FBI continues its anti-encryption push. It's now expanded past Director Christopher Wray to include statements by other FBI personnel. Not that Chris Wray isn't taking every opportunity he can to portray personal security as a threat to the security of the American public. He still is. But he's no longer the only FBI employee willing to speak up on the issue.

    Wray expanded his anti-encryption rhetoric last week at a cybersecurity conference in New York. In short, encryption is inherently dangerous. And the FBI boss will apparently continue to complain about encryption without offering any solutions.

  • Canonical Says It'll Release New Ubuntu Kernels to Further Mitigate Spectre Bugs

    Canonical's Dean Henrichsmeyer published today an update on the Ubuntu patches for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities and what they plan on doing next to mitigate these critical bugs.

    By now, most of you have probably updated your Ubuntu Linux computers to the new kernel versions Canonical released earlier this week, as well as the new Nvidia proprietary graphics driver and Firefox web browser, both including patches to mitigate the Meltdown and Spectre exploits affecting billions of devices powered by modern processors from Intel, AMD, and ARM.

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