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Controversial Security Paper Nixed From Black Hat

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the keep-it-under-your-hat dept.

Security 144

coondoggie writes us with a link to the Network World site, as he tends to do. Today he offers an article discussing the cancellation of a presentation which would have undermined chip-based security on PCs. Scheduled during the Black Hat USA 2007 event, the event's briefing promised to break the Trusted Computing Group's module, as well as Vista's Bitlocker. Live demos were to be included. The presenters pulled the event, and have no interest in discussing the subject any more. "[Presenters Nitin and Vipin Kumar's] promised exploit would be a chink in the armor of hardware-based system integrity that [trusted platform module] (TPM) is designed to ensure. TPM is also a key component of Trusted Computing Group's architecture for network access control (NAC). TPM would create a unique value or hash of all the steps of a computer's boot sequence that would represent the particular state of that machine, according to Steve Hanna, co-chair of TCG's NAC effort."

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Reason for pull? (4, Interesting)

gravos (912628) | more than 7 years ago | (#19688665)

So, did they pull because they had a problem with the demos at the last minute, or is there a more sinister conspiracy-type explanation for this retraction?

Re:Reason for pull? (4, Interesting)

Baron_Yam (643147) | more than 7 years ago | (#19688717)

I would definitely be very interested to find out if it is a case of the presenters discovering they hadn't really done what they claimed, or if they folded under threat of litigation.

This is interesting enough geek news that I expect some tech journalist somewhere will follow up on it.

DMCA anyone? (5, Insightful)

TheSciBoy (1050166) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689113)

My guess is that they could not go to the US from fear of being arrested for breaking the DMCA/some other law. I for sure wouldn't go to the US under any circumstances with information on how to defeat any kind of security.

Security by obscurity still seems to be the mantra.

White Castle, Anyone? (0, Offtopic)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689265)

Maybe instead of finishing their presentation at the last minute, they went to white castle [imdb.com] .

Re:DMCA anyone? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19689283)

Every security system in existance has a vulnerability, wether its the passwords, the keys, or the algorithms involved. Every security system in existance is only secure while this information is unknown, therefore every security system in existance is essentially 'security through obscurity'.

The term 'security by obscurity' has it's place, but it seems like another phrase in a growing list that Slashbots just seem to latch onto whenever they feel like karma whoring (like 'DMCA invocation').

Re:DMCA anyone? (1)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689695)

Every security system in existance has a vulnerability, wether its the passwords, the keys, or the algorithms involved. Every security system in existance is only secure while this information is unknown, therefore every security system in existance is essentially 'security through obscurity'.
Close. The "security through obscurity" mantra is about how much knowledge is required to defeat a system. Knowing the algorithms involved shouldn't be enough. One should have direct access to the system's key(s).

The issue isn't that there's a piece of secret knowledge that unlocks the system. That's a given - passwords, cryptographic keys, etc. are referred to as "secrets" and have nothing to do with the "obscurity" part of the mantra. The issue is whether enough study of a system or general knowledge of a system is enough to bypass it. It is much easier to control a secret (in the cryptographic sense) than the inner workings of a system.

The term 'security by obscurity' has it's place, but it seems like another phrase in a growing list that Slashbots just seem to latch onto whenever they feel like karma whoring (like 'DMCA invocation').
I do agree on this point. One should understand the concept behind a tidy little catch-phrase before trying to use it.

Re:DMCA anyone? (2, Informative)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689791)

The point is that with something like public-key encryption using an Open Source algorithm, the only thing that has to be kept secret, and does not even have to be shared with the other party, is the decryption key. And you can prove that (if you've studied enough maths). You are in total charge of the only thing that needs to be kept secret for your communications to be secure.

Whereas, with something like Skype -- which uses a closed-source implementation of christ-knows-what algorithm and handles its own key generation -- there's no way to be sure exactly what needs to be kept secret, or even who else knows it (without reading and understanding the Source Code, you can't be sure that the decryption key is not being made available to anyone else). That's "security by obscurity": someone other than you is in charge of the secrets.

DMCA anyone?-karma-whoring anyone? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19689329)

"My guess is that they could not go to the US from fear of being arrested for breaking the DMCA/some other law. I for sure wouldn't go to the US under any circumstances with information on how to defeat any kind of security."

That's right. It's your guess. There are these things call websites. Theirs is in India. The paper isn't there.

Re:DMCA anyone? (2, Insightful)

dpilot (134227) | more than 7 years ago | (#19690221)

So you're really saying rather than "security by obscurity", how about "security by threat of Gitmo"?

Re:DMCA anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19691745)

Just to enlighten our american friends: We do have laws just like the DMCA in the EU.

Don't you people get it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19692975)

The developers took multiple million dollar payoffs from multiple corporations with intrests DMCA.

This explains why the are all of sudden 'no longer interested in talking about it'..

Do You Understand now?

Re:Reason for pull? (2, Informative)

luckysam (1122059) | more than 7 years ago | (#19691231)

There is no conspriracy... The presenters' visa to enter USA has been under FBI name check for over a year ...

Re:Reason for pull? (1)

dr.badass (25287) | more than 7 years ago | (#19691707)

This is interesting enough geek news that I expect some tech journalist somewhere will follow up on it.
I heard Brian Krebs is already on the case.

Re:Reason for pull? (1)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#19688751)

FTA:

A spokesman for the conference was unable to offer more information. "At their request, they are no longer presenting. That is all the info I have," said the spokesman, Nico Sell, in an e-mail.
(emphasis mine)

Re:Reason for pull? (5, Funny)

j0nkatz (315168) | more than 7 years ago | (#19688849)

Who cares???

It's iPhone Day!!!

Who cares: (1, Offtopic)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689023)

Those of us with perfectly good phones who aren't willing to pay $500 for something that doesn't really bring much new to the table.

Cool factor: 10
Usefulness factor: 5 (it really doesn't do much more than my RAZR V3xx)
Budget fact: -1

Burn karma burn!

Re:Who cares: (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19689405)

Admittedly there's not many big individual features that the iPhone brings to the table, but if you look at all the insane details that Apple have put in, it all adds up to a device with a UI streets ahead of anything else. The coolest I saw is in the keyboard [apple.com] video, where it intelligently adjusts the 'landing zone' of keys as you type, so if you type 'Slashdo' then the 't' key becomes a slightly larger target to hit. The iPhone is full of stuff like this.

Then again, speaking as someone who was given a RAZR for free and went back to his ancient Nokia within an hour because the UI was such an abomination, Apple aren't exactly up against much.

Re:Reason for pull? (1)

doc_doofus (1102559) | more than 7 years ago | (#19690313)

That's it!!
They have to wait in the latest never ending line for the latest eyeGizmo and so, won't be able to attend. "Queues of more than 100 people have already formed outside the company's flagship store in Manhattan, with one gentleman -- the first to form the line -- now in the 4th day of his vigil on 5th Avenue." (emphasis mine)
http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_ and_web/article2005122.ece [timesonline.co.uk]

No conspiracy theory required (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19688999)

Maybe they pulled it because their claims were bogus.

Occam's Razor, and all that jazz.

Re:No conspiracy theory required (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689841)

That'd be Hanlon's Razor -- "Never ascribe to malice that which can adequately be explained by incompetence".

Re:Reason for pull? (4, Insightful)

PoliTech (998983) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689291)

As for why they cancelled the presentation, last year Cisco sued Black Hat conference organizers after a security researcher demonstrated a method for running unauthorized code on a Cisco router. That, or there was a deal made.

My question is why would anyone place their information security "Trust" in MS BitLocker, or Indochinese hardware (TPM chips) that likely already contain built in backdoors for John Law, and corporate drones?

Open Source Full disk encryption is fast and free, open source Firewalls and process restricting software are available for those who just can't resist getting infected with the latest malware. Most Open Source security software developers are likely NOT under the control of Big Brother in any form, be it corporate drones or big government fascists.

So while I'm a little disappointed that the Back Hatters decided to forgo the presentation of cracking TPM, since it was never trustworthy or secure to start with, and since anyone serious about security would never use such a faux security scheme at the outset, cracking TPM and "Trusted Computing" was only a curiosity anyway.

The "Trusted Computing Initiative" is simply a way to provide vendors "Plausible Deniability" and to limit liability for allowing exposed data, nothing more.

Re:Reason for pull? (4, Insightful)

computational super (740265) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689747)

As for why they cancelled the presentation, last year Cisco sued Black Hat conference organizers after a security researcher demonstrated a method for running unauthorized code on a Cisco router.

And still there are people, even here on Slashdot, who insist that anonymous speech is not a precondition for free speech.

Re:Reason for pull? (1)

stickystyle (799509) | more than 7 years ago | (#19691935)

As for why they cancelled the presentation, last year Cisco sued Black Hat conference organizers after a security researcher demonstrated a method for running unauthorized code on a Cisco router. That, or there was a deal made.
So then just how "black hat" is this conf?

Re:Reason for pull? (1)

Allador (537449) | more than 7 years ago | (#19693539)

Open Source Full disk encryption is fast and free ...
Can you link us? The only whole-disk encryption I'm aware of is from PGP and MS.

I'm assuming here that in your words, 'Full disk encryption' is the same as 'Whole disk encryption'.

Wikipedia also shows that Seagate has a product as well. But I'm not aware of a single open-source 'full disk encryption' implementation out there.

Note that software like TrueCrypt, while amazing, and useful pieces of software, do not do whole disk encryption.

Re:Reason for pull? (4, Insightful)

WED Fan (911325) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689651)

Or, perhaps, like in science, they discovered a flaw in their own methodology that rendered the presentation pointless. It does happen. How many times has someone yelled eureka, only to have some genius say, "Uh, Bob, you still have the machine plugged into the grid, it's not under its own power"?

Re:Reason for pull? (2, Insightful)

Blue Stone (582566) | more than 7 years ago | (#19690197)

>"Or, perhaps, like in science, they discovered a flaw in their own methodology that rendered the presentation pointless. It does happen

Then why did they not just say that?

Re:Reason for pull? (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 7 years ago | (#19691211)

This is going to sound horrible but sometimes it's just a cultural thing. Nobody wants to admit they're wrong. Some Americans don't break unless you're holding a big effing gun to their head. Some Indians just never break... I don't know why and I'm certainly not qualified to research it, but anyone who's worked with Indian consultants and staff has run into this brick wall: your guy screwed up royally but adamantly refuses to admit it, like you're going to rip his head off if he does.

Back to the topic: in this case, I wouldn't be all that surprised if the whole thing was a hoax. Let's pretend they didn't crack the system. Let's say they just started talking like they had figured out, but actually hadn't. Their names were on the guest list, and now they're on slashdot. People think there's an exploit when really there isn't. The perceived threat (to TPM manufacturers) is non-negligible, and some of damage is already done, sight unseen.

Have you ever seen a "terrorist" with your own eyes ? Probably not. Are you afraid of them ? Probably yes. As long as there's the seed of doubt, humans will act irrationally.

Re:Reason for pull? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19690145)

So, did they pull because they had a problem with the demos at the last minute, or is there a more sinister conspiracy-type explanation for this retraction?

Duh. They're waiting in line for an iphone.

How could a presentation "undermine" security? (5, Insightful)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#19688707)

If the chip is secure, then no mere presentation can undermine its security. If it's not secure, then there's no security to undermine. Don't shoot the messenger.

Re:How could a presentation "undermine" security? (4, Funny)

AP2k (991160) | more than 7 years ago | (#19688837)

...Or kick him down a well.

Re:How could a presentation "undermine" security? (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 7 years ago | (#19690781)

I believe that these people were given an offer, they could not refuse. One has to ask, "Who would benefit by this deafening silence?"

Re:How could a presentation "undermine" security? (2, Funny)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 7 years ago | (#19690961)

...Or kick him down a well.

Where's Lassie when you need her?

...and that problem is transport... (3, Funny)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 7 years ago | (#19691233)

...Or kick him down a well.

So our country can be free?

Re:How could a presentation "undermine" security? (2, Insightful)

eviloverlordx (99809) | more than 7 years ago | (#19688863)

If the chip is secure, then no mere presentation can undermine its security. If it's not secure, then there's no security to undermine. Don't shoot the messenger.


Agreed. Another possibility is that one of them discovered a flaw with their method. Eleventh-hour bugs right before demos are the most evil ones of all.

Re:How could a presentation "undermine" security? (4, Insightful)

BunnyClaws (753889) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689045)

Agreed. Another possibility is that one of them discovered a flaw with their method. Eleventh-hour bugs right before demos are the most evil ones of all.

Ding! Ding! Ding! This more than likely is the case. What is more likely to happen? These guys getting silenced and quietly removing their presentation or these guys figuring out they were wrong and quietly removing their presentation. If there was a threat from the company there would have been a leak about the reason for pulling the plug on the presentation. More than likely the presenter discovered a flaw and quietly pulled the plug.

Re:How could a presentation "undermine" security? (2, Interesting)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689353)

"The demonstration would include a few live demonstrations. For example, one demonstration will show how to login and access data on a Windows Vista System (which has TPM + BitLocker enabled)," the abstract said.

If they were able to do that, most likely they had what they said they had. I'm betting they were threatened with a lawsuit or a criminal complaint.

Re:How could a presentation "undermine" security? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19691269)

If they were able to do that, most likely they had what they said they had. I'm betting they were threatened with a lawsuit or a criminal complaint.

Why? They could just as easily have said "We'll give you a million dollars if you don't do this demo". And show us how to lock it down (we won't but that way you can pretend to yourself to be doing something).

Why do people always assume everyone is an asshole. If this is so wide reaching, there are enough pockets to shut anyone up.

Re:How could a presentation "undermine" security? (1)

darkvizier (703808) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689655)

What is more likely to happen?

I think what's more likely to happen is parties with a business interest in these technologies paying the presenters off to lay low for a time. If I had found a security flaw, and was offered, say $10,000 to shut my mouth about it, I'd do it. It's going to come out anyway, but the delay might be worth millions of dollars... Especially if they manage to find a fix in that time.

Re:How could a presentation "undermine" security? (2, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689993)

YOu would need to put 3 more zeros on that to shut me up, minimum.
Because when it gets found out, I would not be trusted in the future.

Re:How could a presentation "undermine" security? (4, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#19690449)

How about -$100,000 and possible jail time? Not an unusual price for a criminal investigation, say, for a DMCA violation. These guys really do play hardball, and if you're lawyer agrees with their lawyers, you'd have to have quite a set to go to a public forum where the authorities are waiting for you to finish your talk so they can take you downtown, along with your presentation as proof to turn over to the DA.

Not saying it's right...but there are both carrots and sticks, and I have no doubt they are both used.

Re:How could a presentation "undermine" security? (1)

jZnat (793348) | more than 7 years ago | (#19691203)

If your lawyer agrees with their lawyers, you might have found an awful lawyer! He/she could probably be disbarred for not working for their client to the best of their ability (the lawyer oath and whatnot)...

Re:How could a presentation "undermine" security? (3, Informative)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689801)

What is more likely to happen? These guys getting silenced and quietly removing their presentation or these guys figuring out they were wrong and quietly removing their presentation.


While I definitely agree that its very plausible the researchers simply discovered that they goofed, I would also note that there is historical precedent [slashdot.org] for other motivations.

Re:How could a presentation "undermine" security? (1)

jimpop (27817) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689167)

Another, another possibility is that they previously signed an NDA (possibly having even sold the exploit for $$) and are now contractually prevented from further discussion.

Re:How could a presentation "undermine" security? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19688931)

The problem is that there are still people who believe in the concept of "security through obscurity", which can be undermined quite easily by pointing out the big gaping holes hidden under a few fluffy buzz-words, and if a messenger shows up trying to tell people about it, the owner of those holes will attempt to discourage them through any means available, including "shooting the messenger".
    It's very possible that the whole thing was called off because they didn't want to get treated like Dmitri Skylarov, who enjoyed the US Government's "hospitality" for quite a long time (even after Adobe dropped all charges against him) for pointing out that a supposedly "secure" encryption system was really just another ROT-13 equivalent.

Re:How could a presentation "undermine" security? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19689305)

Maybe they're not trying to keep it a secret for the sake of "security through obscurity." Maybe they are trying to prevent a crisis that would occur if a widespread unintentional flaw were suddenly exploitable by millions of script kiddies who rely on the low-hanging fruit of publicly available exploit information. Maybe the presenters were approached privately to find out what they know and an agreement was reached on how this information will be presented to the public in a way that puts less people at risk.

Re:How could a presentation "undermine" security? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19689279)

If the chip is secure, then no mere presentation can undermine its security. If it's not secure, then there's no security to undermine. Don't shoot the messenger.

Sounds like a false dilemma to me. Or maybe something of a slippery slope fallacy. Let me state your implied premise: "Either the chip is secure or it is not secure."

In my experience, the property of being "secure" is not at all boolean. Some things can be more secure than others, all of which are neither completely secure nor completely insecure. While in theory something sould be "secure" if it simply cannot be hacked by any means, and something should be "insecure" if there is any way at all to hack it....in practice nothing actually qualifies as "secure" but some things are much easier and more likely to be hacked than others.

Incidentally, if very few people know how to hack something, then a presentation on how to hack it will make a very big difference indeed. I can see why some parties would be keenly interested in preventing such a demonstration.

Re:How could a presentation "undermine" security? (1)

aldousd666 (640240) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689615)

I think it's highly unlikely that they'd have volunteered to present in the case that they didn't actually have the sploit already, but it's possible. I'm guessing (note I said Guessing, not arrogantly postulating, asserting, or stating) that they were bought out. Why not? it's a great exit strategy for a service well performed.

Don't give up so easily (1)

HalAtWork (926717) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689771)

Don't shoot the messenger.

Not only that, but the messengers shouldn't give up so easily. They have a responsibility to disclose their findings instead of letting people rely on insecure solutions, or letting them fall victim to losing control of what their PC can/can't do.

Re:Don't give up so easily (1)

azrider (918631) | more than 7 years ago | (#19690921)

Not only that, but the messengers shouldn't give up so easily. They have a responsibility to disclose their findings instead of letting people rely on insecure solutions, or letting them fall victim to losing control of what their PC can/can't do.
When you are not the messenger that's easy to say

Re:Don't give up so easily (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19691497)

That's just an excuse -- there are plenty of anonymous ways to do it.

Re:How could a presentation "undermine" security? (1, Troll)

quentin_quayle (868719) | more than 7 years ago | (#19690165)

benhocking "If the chip is secure, then no mere presentation can undermine its security. If it's not secure, then there's no security to undermine."

The TPM is designed to prevent the hardware owner from having access to at least one of the digital keys within it, and thereby to prevent the hardware owner from having control over software running in the "trusted", walled-off mode. It is therefore a DRM chip, not a "security" chip.

"Secure" in the sense you are using is from the key-holders' point of view, like the U.S. bases being "secure" against the rightful owners of the land who want to evict the occupiers.

It would be more correct to characterize the presentation as one which would help to restore security for the hardware owner whose device would otherwise be compromised by the euphemistically named "trusted computing" intrusions.

(Golf clap) (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#19690399)

I was wondering how long it was going to take someone to work some totally non sequitur U.S.-bashing into a technical discussion ... and there you went and did it!

Clarity (1)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#19692181)

In case it wasn't clear, I did not write the summary nor the article that the summary references. I was just pointing out that, regardless of how one feels about DRM or TPM and what is being secured against, the concept that a presentation could undermine security implies a security based on obscurity, which is no security at all.

Interesting meta-commentary (5, Interesting)

WalterGR (106787) | more than 7 years ago | (#19688725)

coondoggie writes us with a link to the Network World site, as he tends to do.

(emphasis mine.) Interesting. First time for such meta-commentary by a slashdot editor? I don't think we ever saw the same for one of Roland Piquepaille's many submissions...

Re:Interesting meta-commentary (0, Offtopic)

CmdrPorno (115048) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689489)

Roland Piquepaille needs to be banned from Slashdot and CNet. His license to have an online presence should be revoked.

Re:Interesting meta-commentary (1)

Aoreias (721149) | more than 7 years ago | (#19690229)

coondoggie's profile website in is networkworld.com Roland's links to his blogs are rarely if ever the primary source for the submission, but rather a 'for more information...'

Now crackers will have an advantage... (4, Insightful)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 7 years ago | (#19688733)

Now crackers will have an advantage and the rest of us will be blind-sided.

I don't like the whole [trusted platform module] (TPM) because we consumers are are not trusted in the whole scheme.

But for the few us techies that get this P.O.S. "security" system foisted upon them by their clueless/soldout management, wouldn't be nice to be able to explain why the hacker(s) got through the night before?

Re:Now crackers will have an advantage... (1)

an.echte.trilingue (1063180) | more than 7 years ago | (#19688965)

Its not really about consumers. The customers that this system sells to are people who have computers that they let other people use, such as companies or governments. This offers them protection against stupid/disgruntled employees. You will note in the article, the attack is targeted at controlled network access, such as protected networks that you find in say, a bank.

If you see this stuff in your commercial home system, it is mostly because, having spent the money to develop this technology for big customers, manufactures can sell the same machine to you and the big customers without having to change their assembly lines. Of course, the people in marketing try to make it sound interesting to consumers, but it isn't.

Hardware companies don't seel to consumers (1)

Tony (765) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689101)

PC hardware companies have one customer: Microsoft.

They have to sell their hardware to Microsoft. Oh, sure Microsoft doesn't pay for it directly-- they get consumers (both free citizens and corporations) to do that for them. However, the hardware companies must please Microsoft if they hope to be able to sell their hardware.

If Microsoft feels they are beset by an upstart operating system, one that does not have the financial or political clout to become "trusted," they may very well demand their suppliers provide the chips in *all* computers, not just high-end secure commercial systems.

So manufacturers may have no real choice in the matter.

Re:Now crackers will have an advantage... (1)

jeffasselin (566598) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689363)

You are mistaken, because you think Microsoft's customer is the end-user or even the corporate buyer but it isn't. Microsoft's customer here is the RIAA and the MPAA and their constituents, and you're just an ATM machine to them.

Re:Now crackers will have an advantage... (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689867)

Would that be one of those ATM machines where you type in your PIN number, then?

I seem to recall that they have their electronics on a single PCB board.

Re:Now crackers will have an advantage... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19690661)

For a home user, I agree, TPM is not for them. If you produced a product that you needed to trust the boot process so you can ensure that what you're running is what you say you are running, you need the TPM. If you can trust what you're booting, perhaps you could have the basis for true computer security.

Re:Now crackers will have an advantage... (1)

Allador (537449) | more than 7 years ago | (#19693593)

TPM doesnt take away control from you, it gives you (as the machine owner/manager) much more power over what happens.

For example, it gives you, as the company who owns/manages the box, a stable and trusted piece of hardware to do encryption/decryption/signing, along with a key such as a USB drive or a smart-card.

Without something like this, its hard to trust, as the OS could be compromised, but (at least in theory) its much harder (nearly impossible) to crack the TPM hardware.

Of course, if these guys have the real thing, then the current gen of TPM may be blown out of the water.

I hope it's published anyway (1)

nxsty (942984) | more than 7 years ago | (#19688757)

Trusted Computing is one security measure I'd like to see broken.

Re:I hope it's published anyway (1)

phyrebyrd (631520) | more than 7 years ago | (#19688807)

Just virtualize it.

Re:I hope it's published anyway (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19689001)

The whole point of the design, almost the whole reason for having the hardware in the first place, is that you can't virtualize it. Neither a VM nor a computer without the chip can impersonate a computer with the chip, because they don't have the signed crypto keys which are (supposedly unextractably) embedded in the chip. It doesn't help if your VM is running inside a TC computer, because the TC device won't see the computer as running trusted software (it'll see the hypervisor, which will NOT be trusted unless it propagates the TCPA regime into the virtual system, which is what you're trying to avoid). So the chip won't attest to the VM's trustworthiness, and the VM can't do that for itself.

Re:I hope it's published anyway (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689981)

Except that there is no way for software to determine whether or not it is running in a virtualised environment. (If there was, that would indicate your virtualisation is not being done right.) Your virtual environment just has to listen for the challenges and send the correct responses. And you can know, by examining the software which is running within the virtualised environment, exactly what response it is expecting.

Re:I hope it's published anyway (2, Informative)

IgnoramusMaximus (692000) | more than 7 years ago | (#19690595)

Except that there is no way for software to determine whether or not it is running in a virtualised environment. (If there was, that would indicate your virtualisation is not being done right.) Your virtual environment just has to listen for the challenges and send the correct responses. And you can know, by examining the software which is running within the virtualised environment, exactly what response it is expecting.

You misunderstand the way the TPM works. TPM chip computes a running checksum of a number of hardware CPU operations, such as memory access and/or sequence of instructions executed. Then a software in your VM will be asked to return to the remote party requesting attestation a digest value based on a random number sent to you by the other party and then run through the TPM chip. The VM has no access to the internals of the TPM chip (it is an opaque black box as far as the CPU is concerned) and thus cannot compute the correct response. Only the TPM chip can, which it will refuse to do since your running of the VM has altered the "one and only" sequence of instructions/memory accesses that the TPM continuously monitors.

In other words, TPM is specifically designed to defeat virtualization as the virtualized environment does not have sufficient data to recreate the correct responses, only the raw hardware, executing istructions under the supervision of the TPM chip, has.

Re:I hope it's published anyway (0)

Jherek Carnelian (831679) | more than 7 years ago | (#19691069)

So add some wires.

Seriously, hook up the probes and watch/control all of the input to the chip. Once you have control of what the TPM chip sees as "hardware CPU oprations" then you have the ability to virtualize the system. So what if it takes a little bit of harwdare hacking? If the goal is to decrypt certain pieces of information, all it takes is for one person to do so and post it to the net.

Re:I hope it's published anyway (0)

SiliconEntity (448450) | more than 7 years ago | (#19691911)

It's possible that "adding some wires" is what the pulled presentation was going to be about. Some TPM chips are even available in removable modules [ieiworld.com] which would make it exceptionally easy to fool them about what was going on in the rest of the PC.

Another possibility for breaking TPM security would be to reflash the BIOS so that it lies to the TPM about the system configuration and boot sequence. Now, TPM-compliant systems are supposed to not allow the "core" part of the BIOS to be reflashed, the part that talks to the TPM. But maybe the researchers found that PCs were not properly enforcing that. Since they apparently have experience with BIOS viruses and such, this would make sense coming from them.

Re:I hope it's published anyway (1)

IgnoramusMaximus (692000) | more than 7 years ago | (#19693163)

So add some wires.

You mean helluva a lot of wires. Since the TPM straddles the whole width of data/address busses. In other words you gotta get a specialized board and stick the TPM onto it, following which you have to know precisely the expected memory access/contents change sequences, all the way from the moment the power switch goes into the "on" position on the PC.

Possible? Sure, but at what cost/effort ratio? Furthermore, no more hacking for the unwashed masses unless you've got one of those special, custom modified motherboards + TPM "virtualization" hardware. Stuff which is likely to be more illegal then crack cocaine soon and which can be caught at the border when its being imported from China or who knows where.

Conspiracy shmiracy (4, Insightful)

packetmon (977047) | more than 7 years ago | (#19688795)

Yanked why? ... Maybe because security experts have already exposed *stolen/old/re-hashed concepts* [seclists.org] and they didn't want to be embarrassed...

Probably realized... (2, Insightful)

MMC Monster (602931) | more than 7 years ago | (#19688797)

...that there is more money just selling the presentation to the highest bidder. Then present it a year later.

Correct me if I am wrong, but if someone adds something like this to a remote execution virus, they can install a virtual machine underneath Windows (any version) and have access to all data, including encrypted volumes?

Nah... I'm just paranoid.

Re:Probably realized... (2, Interesting)

I)_MaLaClYpSe_(I (447961) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689273)

This can be done with VBootkit [nvlabs.in] as well. Let's resurrect the BIOS viruses. Note that Nitin and Vipin Kumar are the authors of VBootkit and it was covered previously on Slahdot here: VBootkit Bypasses Vista's Code Signing. [slashdot.org]

So really... (4, Funny)

Seraphim_72 (622457) | more than 7 years ago | (#19688823)


...more of a dark gray hat then.

Give it time (2, Insightful)

gen0c1de (977481) | more than 7 years ago | (#19688839)

Maybe they are putting it on the back burner, not releasing the information and giving it time to get to the point that once they do release it there will be a much bigger effect. As it is now TPM isn't wide spread yet so give it a bit of time and then break it.

Re:Give it time (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689015)

Three possibilities:

* Didn't actually work like they said

* Wanted to make some cash-ola on the "sploit"

Big Corporate Illuminati paid them off.

* Found dead after listening Cowboy Neal drone on and on and on and on...

Your choice.

chink in the armor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19688885)

There's another one of those medieval-pacific anachronisms.

Remember the ARM JTAG one? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19688949)

Must have been a joke like the ARM JTAG interface exploit that was advertised a few months ago.

Fess up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19688959)

Alright, who has been requesting this trusted computing platform bullshit? Speak up! I want to know the name of the one consumer who said "Yes, I really want computers that can be uniquely identified. I hate the freedom that being anonymous brings."

Dick Cheney, was it you?

Re:Fess up (1)

diodeus (96408) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689111)

I think it was the same people who failed to give us the vote on DRM, NAFTA, globalization and the New Coke.

Re:Fess up (2, Informative)

SiliconEntity (448450) | more than 7 years ago | (#19692015)

Alright, who has been requesting this trusted computing platform bullshit? Speak up! I want to know the name of the one consumer who said "Yes, I really want computers that can be uniquely identified. I hate the freedom that being anonymous brings."

I do want a trusted computing platform. That's because I know how they work, and you don't. You think it limits what code you can run and takes away your anonymity. But those are all lies, fed to you by opponents of the technology, which you have blindly accepted.

The truth is that TC technology lets you prove the software configuration you are running, if you want to. That's it. This will be able to be done per-application, so that you can prove you are running a particular app while keeping other details private. I can think of many good reasons for this; yes, good, privacy-protecting reasons; even good, anonymity-protecting reasons.

But because of people like you who believe the Big Lie, the technology I need to improve privacy and anonymity on the net is being killed even in its moment of birth.

Re:Fess up (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 7 years ago | (#19692551)

Unless they're Luddites, people aren't opponents of a technology for no good reason. TPM depends on someone else, somewhere, attesting to... something. The point is, it's out of your and my control, which means that there's someone else in control, who holds the keys. For my security, I don't trust anyone else holding the keys in these TPM chips. Apparently, you do.

I'm all for more security. I just don't think this is the right way to go about it, and all I can see it realistically being used for is for on the consumer side limiting peoples rights to use media how they want. For businesses, it may provide some additional security, but even then I'm dubious that proper permissions and access control don't fix that already.

Re:Fess up (2, Insightful)

SiliconEntity (448450) | more than 7 years ago | (#19693099)

Unless they're Luddites, people aren't opponents of a technology for no good reason. TPM depends on someone else, somewhere, attesting to... something.

How can you object to people attesting to things? People attest to things all the time. Do you get up in arms over the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval? Do you insist that it is an infringement on your freedom that you can't use their Seal dishonestly in business?

Or how about the Verisign root CA key? This is the foundation for SSL security on the net. Do you think they should publish the private part so that anyone can forge signatures by that key and make their own attestations? That would destroy its security.

Secure attestation is the foundation of commerce in the whole world, as well as in the smaller world of the net. The TPM merely applies that same principle on a finer scale, allowing you to attest to the nature of your own software.

For my security, I don't trust anyone else holding the keys in these TPM chips. Apparently, you do.

No one else holds the keys in the TPM. Only the TPM holds the keys. The TPM owns the keys and never lets them go. That makes the TPM, from the security perspective, an autonomous agent; a little robot that obeys certain rules. Everyone knows what the rules are, and thanks to the keys embedded in the TPM which never leave, everyone can tell when a TPM is making a statement. This gives people confidence in what the TPM says.

That's the essence of this enormous threat that everyone is so up in arms over. That there could be an entity in the world that makes verifiable statements of known facts. The bottom line is that people want the ability to make their TPMs lie. Apparently no one can abide the presence of an honest agent in their life.

I call this complete bullshit. I have no desire to defraud or lie to anyone. Yet I want to preserve my own privacy and anonymity. These goals are completely consistent. And the TPM actually serves these goals. Because people know its rules and can trust what it says, the TPM can make statements about what I am doing that are reassuring to others, without me having to reveal any more information than necessary or any details. The TPM allows local filtering of outgoing information so as to add MORE privacy while allowing a degree of remote trust that is unimaginable today.

I could go on and on, but what's the point? You either won't understand or won't believe me. I have read thousands of pages of TPM documentation and understand this technology as well as anyone. You have read a few web sites that are totally biased in their presentation. Unfortunately millions of others are like you, and almost no one is like me.

Re:Fess up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19693313)

No hardware-enabled crippleware for me please. If I pay for a Blu-ray disc, why shouldn't I be able to copy it to my HD? Why must I be forced to use "trusted" Blu-ray players? No thanks.

it never existed in the first place. (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689135)

Scheduled during the Black Hat USA 2007 event, the event's briefing promised to break the Trusted Computing Group's module, as well as Vista's Bitlocker. Live demos were to be included. The presenters pulled the event, and have no interest in discussing the subject any more.

Maybe because it never existed?

1.Announce you're going to present how to break Vista / TCM
2.Collect $$$$ from registrations
3.Claim the presentation is "cancelled"
4.Profit!

Re:it never existed in the first place. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689953)

Look at the history of the people who where going to present it.

I would give the benefit of the doubt to them.

Nitin and Vipin Kumar are the creators of VBootkit (4, Informative)

I)_MaLaClYpSe_(I (447961) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689163)

Nitin and Vipin Kumar are the creators of VBootkit [nvlabs.in] and they were covered previously on Slashdot here: VBootkit Bypasses Vista's Code Signing [slashdot.org] .

Re:Nitin and Vipin Kumar are the creators of VBoot (1)

0bjectiv3 (216391) | more than 7 years ago | (#19690205)

Yes, but when will Nitin an Kumar go to White Castle?

Paid off? (1)

Fr05t (69968) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689301)

I don't know how likely it is, but since no one has mentioned it I figured I would. Maybe they were simply offered a big pile of cash to keep quiet, and never speak of it again??

Occam's razor (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689533)

What takes fewer assumptions: To assume that MS or some other bigwhig of the TPA crowd sent them some Ahnulds with an "...or else" message, or to assume that they found out that either their presentation is flawed or that their findings aren't so new at all? Or maybe they want to up the hype (after all, they do have a security consulting company)?

Seriously. Keep the conspiracy low.

Given the litigous nature of the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19689739)

it's the simplest explanation that they where whacked with a patent/ccopyright/piracy/DMCA clusterbomb.

I mean, is that so hard to believe?

Re:Occam's razor (1)

Darby (84953) | more than 7 years ago | (#19693325)

What takes fewer assumptions: To assume that MS or some other bigwhig of the TPA crowd sent them some Ahnulds with an "...or else" message, or to assume that they found out that either their presentation is flawed or that their findings aren't so new at all?

You're going to slit your throat holding your razor backwards like that.

The first obviously takes fewer assumptions. MS and various other companies have demonstrated repeatedly that that is *exactly* how they do business on a regular basis. So the only assumption needed to consider that choice reasonable is that they'll continue to do exactly what they've always done in the way they've always done it.

For the second, you're assuming that the people in question are shady characters (any evidence of that?), who are willing to risk destroying any credibility they might have over a half ass attempt to drum up publicity?

Seriously, if you're trying to apply Occam's razor you need to pay a little bit of attention to facts otherwise you'll completely screw it up like you just did.

rings a bell (1)

sacrilicious (316896) | more than 7 years ago | (#19689705)

Presenters Nitin and Vipin Kumar's presentation...

Wasn't there some movie about this? Nitin and Kumar go to Black Hat, or some such?

Gates & Ballmer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19690885)

The sequel should be titled: Gates & Ballmer Lose Their White Castle.

Yeah... (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 7 years ago | (#19690297)

Because we all know that hiding your head in the sand is a sound means of securing systems.

Money talks... (0, Redundant)

Eric Damron (553630) | more than 7 years ago | (#19690935)

And apparently can silence as well...

It's too bad. Any vulnerability will not go away just because it is not discussed. What this WILL do is make it more likely that some hacker will make a large profit selling the vulnerability to the bad guys. Black hats will have it but the white hats that would be the first line of defense have been barred from having the knowledge they need to mitigate the threat.

Re:Money talks... (1)

deviceb (958415) | more than 7 years ago | (#19691351)

exactly... perhaps they just saw more $ to be made on a different route.

Do it anon!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19691885)

If there really is an exploit and they were threatened, the hackers will (or should) release the exploit to the public anonymously.

At least that would bring the issue into the light.

Vendors want TPM, not consumers. (3, Insightful)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 7 years ago | (#19692713)

Remember: TPM is there so the vendors can trust the PC, not the consumers (hardware owners) - who are, as far as the vendors are concerned, untrustworthy...
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