Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Hackers Demonstrate Their Skills in Vegas

Filed under
Misc

Even the ATM machines were suspect at this year's Defcon conference, where hackers play intrusion games at the bleeding edge of computer security.

With some of the world's best digital break-in artists pecking away at their laptops, sending e-mails or answering cell phones could also be risky.

Defcon is a no-man's land where customary adversaries - feds vs. digital mavericks - are supposed to share ideas about making the Internet a safer place. But it's really a showcase for flexing hacker muscle.

This year's hot topics included a demonstration of just how easy it may be to attack supposedly foolproof biometric safeguards, which determine a person's identity by scanning such things as thumb prints, irises and voice patterns.

Banks, supermarkets and even some airports have begun to rely on such systems, but a security analyst who goes by the name Zamboni challenged hackers to bypass biometrics by attacking their backend systems networks. "Attack it like you would Microsoft or Linux he advised.

Radio frequency identification tags that send wireless signals and that are used to track a growing list of items including retail merchandise, animals and U.S. military shipments_ also came under scrutiny.

A group of twentysomethings from Southern California climbed onto the hotel roof to show that RFID tags could be read from as far as 69 feet. That's important because the tags have been proposed for such things as U.S. passports, and critics have raised fears that kidnappers could use RFID readers to pick traveling U.S. citizens out of a crowd.

RFID companies had said the signals didn't reach more than 20 feet, said John Hering, one of the founders of Flexilis, the company that conducted the experiment.

"Our goal is to raise awareness," said Hering, 22. "Our hope is to spawn other research so that people will move to secure this technology before it becomes a problem."

Erik Michielsen, an analyst at ABI Research, chuckled when he heard the Flexilis claims. "These are great questions that need to be raised," he said, but RFID technology varies with the application, many of which are encrypted. Encryption technology uses an algorithm to scramble data to make it unreadable to everyone except the recipient.

Also on hand at the conference was Robert Morris Sr., former chief scientist for the National Security Agency, to lecture on the vulnerabilities of bank ATMs, which he predicted would become the next "pot of gold" for hackers.

The Internet has become "crime ridden slums," said Phil Zimmermann, a well-known cryptographer who spoke at the conference. Hackers and the computer security experts who make a living on tripping up systems say security would be better if people were less lazy.

To make their point, they pilfered Internet passwords from convention attendees.

Anyone naive enough to access the Internet through the hotel's unsecured wireless system could see their name and part of their passwords scrolling across a huge public screen.

It was dubbed the "The Wall of Sheep."

Among the exposed sheep were an engineer from Cisco Systems Inc., multiple employees from Apple Computer Inc. and a Harvard professor.

An annual highlight of the conference is the "Meet the Feds" panel, which this year included representatives from the FBI, NSA, and the Treasury and Defense departments. Morris and other panel members said they would love to hire the "best and brightest" hackers but cautioned that the offer wouldn't be extended to lawbreakers.

During the session, Agent Jim Christy of the Defense Department's Cyber Crime Center asked the audience to stand.

"If you've never broken the law, sit down," he said. Many sat down immediately - but a large number appeared to hesitate before everyone eventually took their seats.

OK, now we can turn off the cameras, Christy joked.

Some federal agents were indeed taking careful notes, though, when researcher Michael Lynn set the tone for the conference by publicizing earlier in the week a vulnerability in Cisco routers that he said could allow hackers to virtually shut down the Internet.

Lynn and other researchers at Internet Security Systems had discovered a way of exploiting a Cisco software vulnerability in order to seize control of a router. That flaw was patched in April, but Lynn showed that Cisco hadn't quite finished the repair job - that the same technique could be used to exploit other vulnerabilities in Cisco routers.

Cisco and ISS went to court to try to stop Lynn from going public, but Lynn quit ISS and spoke anyway. In the wake of his decision, Lynn has become the subject of an FBI probe, said his attorney Jennifer Granick.

Many at the conference praised Lynn.

"We're never going to secure the Net if we don't air and criticize vulnerabilities," said David Cowan, a managing partner at venture capital firm Bessemer Venture Partners.

And the vulnerabilities are plenty.

During his session on ATM machines, Morris said thieves have been able to dupe people out of their bank cards and passwords by changing the software in old ATM machines bought off eBay for as little as $1,000 and placing the machines out in public venues.

Associated Press

More in Tux Machines

OSS Leftovers

  • Canada’s Spy Agency Releases its Cyber-Defense Tool for Public
  • Canadian govt spooks open source anti-malware analytics tool
    The Communications Security Establishment (CSE) said the AssemblyLine tool is designed to analyse large volumes of files, and can automatically rebalance workloads.
  • Microservices served on blockchain, in open source
    Cloud application marketplace company Wireline is working with open source blockchain project developer Qtum The new union is intended to provide a conduit to consuming microservices at [web] scale using blockchain at the core. As we know, microservices offer the ability to create Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) without having to manage the underlying hardware and software infrastructure. [...] The Qtum a blockchain application platform combines the functions of Bitcoin Core, an account abstraction layer allowing for multiple virtual machines and a proof-of-stake consensus protocol aimed at tackling industry-use cases. The Qtum Foundation, headquartered in Singapore, is the decision-making body that drives the project’s development.
  • Rendering HTML5 video in Servo with GStreamer
    At the Web Engines Hackfest in A Coruña at the beginning of October 2017, I was working on adding some proof-of-concept code to Servo to render HTML5 videos with GStreamer. For the impatient, the results can be seen in this video here
  • Working Intel CET Bits Now Land In GCC8
    A few days back I wrote about Intel's work on Control-flow Enforcement Technology beginning to land in GCC. This "CET" work for future Intel CPUs has now landed in full for GCC 8. The bits wiring up this control-flow instrumentation and enforcement support are now all present in mainline GCC SVN/Git for next year's GCC 8.1 release.
  • Using Gitea and/or Github to host blog comments
    After having moved from FSFE’s wordpress instance I thought long about whether I still want to have comments on the new blog. And how I would be able to do it with a statically generated site. I think I have found/created a pretty good solution that I document below.

Security Leftovers

  • Where Did That Software Come From?
    The article explores how cryptography, especially hashing and code signing, can be use to establish the source and integrity. It examines how source code control systems and automated build systems are a key part of the software provenance story. (Provenance means “a record of ownership of a work of art or an antique, used as a guide to authenticity or quality.” It is increasingly being applied to software.)
  • Judge: MalwareTech is no longer under curfew, GPS monitoring [Updated]
    A judge in Milwaukee has modified the pre-trial release conditions of Marcus Hutchins, also known online as "MalwareTech," who was indicted two months ago on federal criminal charges. Under US Magistrate Judge William Duffin’s Thursday order, Hutchins, who is currently living in Los Angeles, will no longer be subject to a curfew or to GPS monitoring.
  • [Older] Leicester teen tries to hack CIA and FBI chiefs' computers
    A teenager attempted to hack senior US government officials' computers from his home. Kane Gamble, 18, from Coalville, Leicestershire, pleaded guilty to 10 charges relating to computer hacking. His targets included the then CIA director John Brennan and former FBI deputy director Mark Giuliano.

Debian: pk4, Freexian and More

Kernel and Graphics: ZenStates, AMDGPU, RADV, Vulkan, NVIDIA

  • ZenStates Allows Adjusting Zen P-States, Other Tweaking Under Linux
    ZenStates is an independent effort to offer P-States-based overclocking from the Linux desktop of AMD Ryzen processors and other tuning. ZenStates-Linux is an open-source Python script inspired by some available Windows programs for offering Ryzen/Zen CPU overclocking from the desktop by manipulating the performance states of the processor.
  • AMDGPU DC Gets A Final Batch Of Changes Before Linux 4.15
    The AMDGPU DC display code has a final batch of feature updates that were sent in this weekend for DRM-Next staging and is the last set besides fixes for the "DC" code for the 4.15 target.
  • Valve Developer Lands VK_EXT_global_priority For RADV Vulkan Driver
  • Vulkan 1.0.64 Adds In Another AMD-Developed Extension
    Vulkan 1.0.64 is out this weekend as the newest specification refinement to this high-performance graphics/compute API. As usual, most of the changes for this minor Vulkan revision are just documentation clarifications and corrections. This week's update brings just under a dozen fixes.
  • NVIDIA TX2 / Tegra186 Display Support Isn't Ready For Linux 4.15
    While the Jetson TX2 has been out since this past March and it's a phenomenal ARM development board, sadly the Direct Rendering Manager (DRM) driver support for it still isn't ready with the mainline Linux kernel. Thierry Reding of NVIDIA sent in the Tegra DRM driver changes for DRM-Next that in turn is staged for Linux 4.15. Reding commented that there is prepatory work for the TX2 (Tegra186) but it's not all ready for upstream yet.