Security Review: Mandylion Password Manager

By mstie74 at 5:17 pm on January 31, 2008 | 3 Comments


Password complexity and policy enforcement in today’s enterprise has forced users to take unsecure measures to ensure recollection of the many passwords they use.  Users may put passwords in text files on their computer, re-use old passwords frequently, or write them down on Post-It notes.  Mandylion has created a convenient portable device to help store important passwords while providing military-grade protection for them. (Read on …)

Filed under: Security Reviews3 Comments »

UWnews hacked?

By Kris Plunkett at 4:05 pm on January 29, 2008 | 1 Comment

I stumbled upon this and wanted to share:

First go here ->

Now go here  ->

Any thoughts?  Just a basic site defacing?

Filed under: Miscellaneous1 Comment »

Perfect Security: Delusional and Misdirected

By jimg at 11:27 pm on January 28, 2008 | 1 Comment

I hesitate to post commentary about this article, but feel that is important to deconstruct claims by those believing they have all the answers. Especially when they are posting in high-profile blog sites.

InfoWorld’s Security adviser Roger A. Grimes has detailed his “Perfect Plan” for making the Internet secure for every user. In his words: “All computer devices, users, and transactions must be authenticated by default.”

(Read on …)

Filed under: Current Events1 Comment »

One Username to Rule Them All

By jessicaf at 12:06 am on | 3 Comments

My husband has been working on a pet project lately that needs to have a user login system.  Although he could build one himself or purchase a system, he is probably going to go with OpenID.  Using OpenID simplifies the project immensely and is probably more secure than anything he or I could write.  Already it is estimated that there are over 160-million OpenIDs with nearly ten-thousand sites supporting OpenID logins (  But it does beg the question, how secure is OpenID?

OpenID is “an open, decentralized, free framework for user-centric digital identity (”.   Basically, a user sets up an account with one of several OpenID Providers (,, etc.).  The provider keeps the username, password, email and all sorts of other account information the user wants there.  When the user goes to a site that uses OpenID authentication (,, and more), they enter their OpenID and are redirected to the Provider’s site.  Here they enter their credentials and grant access to the referring website.   That is the process in a nutshell, but see this video for a really great, succinct explanation.

The driving idea behind OpenID is to have only one set of credentials for all your online identities.  This way you do not have to remember which username goes to which website and passwords for each.  Sounds pretty good… but what happens if your OpenID is compromised.  An adversary has access to ALL your online accounts.  The consequences of a compromised OpenID are intense.  On the other hand, people generally use the same username and password for everything anyways, which is definitely a security problem and has the same consequences of a compromised OpenID.

Benefits of OpenID are that small businesses and developers do not need to implement their own login system, users can change personal information or passwords once and have it apply everywhere, and users are less likely to do dumb things like write lists of usernames and passwords. 

However, OpenIDs have some problems also.  First, OpenIDs are URLs- for example,  For an average user, a URL is difficult to remember and very unfriendly.  Personally, I think users would get used to it just as they have with email addresses.  There is nothing innately harder about URLs. The OpenID system is prone to phishing attacks because the user is redirected to the provider’s page which could easily be imitated.  There have been problems with CSRF attacks (cross site request forgery attacks).  One of the largest providers, site, had this issue, but when notified, they reacted promptly.  Another issue is that the set of specifications that a provider must implement is fairly small.  There are no requirements on the strength of passwords or even to have a password.  From a security standpoint, OpenID just adds another layer of complexity for things to go wrong.  It also puts a burden on the user to choose a provider they can trust. 

With all this in mind, is OpenID a good system?  Will it prove to be the downfall of the Internet as some naysayers have speculated? Or will it bring about a revolution in convienence?  Should a website use OpenID as their username and password management system?  Would it be an acceptable system for banks or other financial institutions?

Filed under: Miscellaneous3 Comments »

Here are RFID Debit Cards, whether you wanted them or not.

By davidjsh at 3:01 pm on January 27, 2008 | 7 Comments

In the world of banking, attention has turned to the prospect of using RFID technology for contactless transactions via bank cards.  While this in of itself is a security concern, John Leyden brought to light in his article ( that some banks have started phasing in these cards without the consent of their customers.    

In the UK, some banks such as Halifax are trying a system backed by Visa known as PayWave.  Under PayWave, customers can make transactions under £10 without the need for a pin or having to sign anything.  In the article, we find that Pete is one of the customers upon whom this technology has been pushed without their consent.   After destroying the new PayWave card (which he did not request) out of security concerns, Pete found that Halifax had also cancelled his old card.  The replacement card Halifax ended up sending him was also a PayWave card.  Though Pete was eventually able to obtain a non-PayWave card by enough complaining, it alarms me that banks would presume that convenience outweighs security for every customer.  What prevents a “vendor” from rigging up a reader located in a backpack that would allow them to roam the streets charging a small transaction to every passing card.  Few people would notice such a miniscule charge on their statements, and the “vendor” could potentially obtain a large sum of money over time.   In my opinion, companies that are entrusted with our money should be much more responsible when it comes to security.  Or at least they should ask their customers first.

Filed under: Current Events7 Comments »

Logic Bomb Fails to Cripple Medco’s Systems

By kurifodo at 2:09 pm on | 2 Comments

In a recent article on Computerworld, it was reported that a former system administrator of Medco planted a logic bomb which was intended to cripple the company’s network. Medco deals with prescribing drugs and various other heath services. Due to the nature of this attack, the well-being of customers of Medco were put at risk. Fortunately, the logic bomb did not succeed, and it is reported that the first wave of the attack failed due to buggy code, and subsequent waves were detected and prevented before they could trigger. The former system administrator will now serve 30 months and has to pay $81,200 in damages.

It is mentioned that upcoming layoffs could have triggered the system administrator (Lin) to commit this offense. Medco had just been restructured, and layoffs had taken place, but Lin did not lose his job. However, there were more layoffs to come, so perhaps in anticipation, Lin planted the logic bomb. It is difficult to say if there could have been anything done to prevent this offense. Since Lin was a system administrator, it is difficult to stop or deter a person of this position if they are willing to commit such a serious offense. I think the best a company could do is respond to actions taken by employees by checking their work, but enforcing a system like this would be too pricey and time consuming to be plausible.

As mentioned before, the impact of this event, if it were successful, could have been very serious. People’s lives could have been lost due to lack of prescription drugs, and others could have been damaged for life potentially. One very difficult question to answer is, what should we do with people like Lin? What kind of punishment is suitable for the crime? Even though it was not successful, the intent to harm was always present. After Lin completes his sentence, should he be trusted to work with a company’s computer systems? Who knows if Lin will have learned his lesson, or if he will be even more upset and “out to get the world.” I would think it is safe to say that a company will never hire Lin to work on their computer systems with this kind of event on his record.

Filed under: Current Events,Ethics,Policy2 Comments »

Pillaged MySpace Photos Show Up in BitTorrent Download

By felixctc at 2:51 am on | 5 Comments

More than half of the million images that are private photos of MySpace users was stolen and uploaded onto BitTorrent. This is a huge privacy breach to MySpace users. The hacker, “DMaul”, said that he learned the security hole from the WIRED and used the method of attack. This security hole was surfaced last fall and because of this, various adversaries such as possible pedophiles, voyeurs, and advertisements were able to steal these photos. DeMaul ended up seeding these photos and advertised them as “pictures taken exclusively from private profiles”. It turns out that his attack cycles through the accounts by MySpace Friend ID numbers, thus did not target any specific group of people. Although, the attack did not target any specific group, this is a significant breach that affected users who are under 16 because their accounts are automatically set of private and their adversaries are more dangerous. Even though the attack result in leaks of a huge amount of pictures, it seems that MySpace didn’t follow up with the issue properly.

(Read on …)

Filed under: Availability,Current Events,Privacy5 Comments »

Alledged Skype Surveillance by German Police

By iddav at 11:54 pm on January 26, 2008 | 4 Comments

Documents posted today on WikiLeaks suggest that German police in Bavaria may have used a trojan for intercepting Skype calls as part of their surveillance of suspects. One document is an offer from DigiTask, a German company, to rent Skype surveillance technology at EUR 3,500 per month per instance. The other document is a letter between the Ministry of Justice and the Prosecutors office about distributing this cost.

(Read on …)

Filed under: Current Events,Privacy4 Comments »

DoS attacks and International Tension

By joyleung at 12:27 am on January 25, 2008 | 2 Comments

Last May during a protested movement of a World War II soviet statue, Estonian governmental and political sites were flooded in a series of Denial of Service (DoS) attacks. These attacks consisted of hammering the sites servers with requests till they crash or shut down. While investigating, Estonia blamed the attacks on the Russian government, increasing the political tension between the two countries. Today, a twenty year old Estonian was fined for organizing some of the attacks.


Many Estonians of Russian decent were angered last May at the movement of the statues and there many rioted. A DoS attack perhaps was also used as a form of retaliation because of its relative ease. Whereas an attack on government building is easily caught, an attack over the internet can be easier to do and much harder to trace.


It isn’t clear what sort of protection these servers had from such attacks. However, preventing a DoS attack is difficult. While servers can be made to shut down more gracefully when attacked, it is hard to prevent denial of service. Firewalls and filters can help as well but they can keep out legitimate use of a site as well as attacks. The best solution seems to be preparedness. Quick detection and intervention of an attack occurring can allow more evidence to identify the offending party quicker. That coupled with high fines can also probably deter more attacks.


What is most interesting is the political side to these attacks. Cyber attacks can be used as a vector to make political statements as well as exacerbate political situations. The internet is a different and convenient medium for malicious groups wanting to increase political tensions or perhaps even start a war. For something with such impact it is surprising that these attacks are not so well protected against.

Filed under: Availability,Current Events2 Comments »

$7.1 billion loss at major European Bank due to fraud

By chrislim at 10:09 pm on January 24, 2008 | 3 Comments

I haven’t been able to thoroughly analyze this situation, but it seemed like something particularly germane to this blog (so I decided to post it with brief commentary). Basically, the French bank Société Générale (SocGen) recently revealed that single rogue employee was able to concoct “elaborate, fictitious transactions” that ultimately cost the company $7.1 billion dollars (€4.9 billion).

Jérôme Kerviel, the perpetrator, was able to breach 5 levels of controls and was called a “computer genius” by the governor of the bank. Apparently, he was allowed to move from a back office position to the trading floor, which removed the separation of duties that was intended to protect against this kind of fraud. The expertise in control procedures that he gained while working in the back office, enabled him to develop the complex scheme which covered his fraudulent actions until auditors discovered fictitious trades on the books of the bank’s risk management office.

As this story unfolds, it will be interesting to hear more of the details of the breach, particularly with respect to computer security. From a policy perspective, many questions have been raised about tightening controls and even if a single person was able to engineer the process, how a single person would be able to finance the fraud without detection. Why did the numerous financial safeguards fail at the hands of single person?

This must be quite a blow for an already tumultuous industry…

UPDATE: apparently there are conflicting reports about Kerviel’s computer skills and it should be noted that SocGen has not accused him of personally profiting from the trades (though they may in the future).  This incident sounds like its going to be in the news for quite awhile.

Filed under: Current Events3 Comments »
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