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Encryption Could Make You More Vulnerable

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the also-condoms-give-you-aids dept.

Security 126

narramissic writes "It sounds like a headline straight out of The Onion, but security researchers from IBM Internet Security Systems, Juniper, nCipher and elsewhere are warning that the use of data encryption could make organizations vulnerable to new risks and threats. There is potential for 'A new class of DoS attack,' says Richard Moulds, nCipher's product strategy EVP. 'If you can go in and revoke a key and then demand a ransom, it's a fantastic way of attacking a business.'"

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126 comments

Why does this remind me of... (0, Troll)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 6 years ago | (#22380656)

Why does this remind me of the two couples who found that they had one condom between them? The second guy turned the rubber inside out, getting his partner pregnant with the first guy's kid. Protection turned right inside out... providing more harm than good...

Re:Why does this remind me of... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22380748)

I'm so offended! Perhaps one or both of the couples were gay! *tsk*

Then, of course, the story you heard was a complete lie.

- Stupid Polictically Incorrect Comment(SPIC!) Man... AWAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYY!!!!!

Hey AC, I got a goooood idea! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22380872)

How about you go here?

GOATSE [goatse.ch]

I would *not* use protection using this man since an elephant can't get an STD from a human...

Re:Why does this remind me of... (-1, Offtopic)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381386)

The second guy turned the rubber inside out, getting his partner pregnant with the first guy's kid

Dumb kids, never heard of water? Now get off my lawn!

-mcgrew [slashdot.org]

(OT but I'm wondering how the comment I just replied to was a troll? Can't mod up a FP no matter what and it actually was on-topic? Beware of us metamods, young moderators! Mod this one any way you want, I don't have to whore for karma)

I was a beta tester for dirt. We never did get all the bugs out.

This Just In! (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381626)

There may be risks associated with the adoption of a technology. Details at 11.

Re:This Just In! (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#22383774)

Jeff Foxwirthy says "A redneck's last words:

'Hey Billybob, watch this!'"

It's not so much 'more vulnerable' (5, Insightful)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22380670)

I'd call it 'differently vulnerable' rather than 'more vulnerable'--all things come with inherent risks, and the risks of any particular action must be weighed against the rewards thereof.

Encryption is necessary for many businesses, and if such attacks are truly a worry, they should be addressed in the same manner as any other risk.

Re:It's not so much 'more vulnerable' (5, Insightful)

AndGodSed (968378) | more than 6 years ago | (#22380756)

Yes, but splashing "MORE VULNERABLE" on a headline preys better on the fears of the uninformed than "DIFFERENTLY VULNERABLE"

We all know headlines exist solely to generate traffic...

Re:It's not so much 'more vulnerable' (1)

Megaweapon (25185) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381026)

We all know headlines exist solely to generate traffic...

And Slashdot isn't helping any by front-paging people from these magazine sites to submit their own content, complete with misleading headlines and writeups.

Re:It's not so much 'more vulnerable' (2, Funny)

mjpaci (33725) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381228)

If this were an Apple story, would it be "Different Vulnerable"?

Just a q.

--mike

Re:It's not so much 'more vulnerable' (3, Funny)

gwern (1017754) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381624)

No, for an Apple story you just know someone would try to make an 'iVulerable' joke.

Re:It's not so much 'more vulnerable' (1)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381704)

Conversely, imagine if Apple's ad campaign was "Think More"...not a bad principle, but hardly a slogan to sell more computers.

Re:It's not so much 'more vulnerable' (2, Insightful)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381420)

Not actually having RTFM (What?) but I don't see how this makes you vulnerable at all. You have your data backed up, right? Offsite and secure? How is having your hard drive unencryptable any different than a head crash or a building fire?

And as to encrypted email, you can always send it again.

Making people fear encryption because of this verges on sociopathic. BTW, BACK UPI YOUR DATA DAMMIT

-mcgrew (not the security guy)

Re:It's not so much 'more vulnerable' (1)

ichthyoboy (1167379) | more than 6 years ago | (#22382706)

'differently vulnerable'
Is this like the Special Olympics for vulnerabilities?

Re:It's not so much 'more vulnerable' (2, Insightful)

DdJ (10790) | more than 6 years ago | (#22382928)

I'd call it 'differently vulnerable' rather than 'more vulnerable'--all things come with inherent risks, and the risks of any particular action must be weighed against the rewards thereof.
Yeup, it's almost exactly analogous to using locks in the real world. If your car does not use locks, someone can steal it. If your car does use locks, someone can steal your keys, and deny you access to your own car. Most people use keys anyway.

I agree, but... (2, Insightful)

an.echte.trilingue (1063180) | more than 6 years ago | (#22383944)

I agree, but I would go so far as to say you are less vulnerable with encryption.

The highest level of attack that the article mentions is DOS by which attackers steal your keys and ransom them back to you. Indeed, this would be a bad day for the IT department and the affected departments of the company could lose days or even a week of productivity, which is damaging indeed.

Compare this to the risks of not running encryption. A similarly motivated and skilled attacker as discussed above could easily grab things like log ins just by monitoring your traffic. Once he finds that login with the proper credentials, not only can he execute a DOS as outlined above, but he can also potentially steal all of your client information, your internal financial information and implant rootkits on all your servers so as to be able to come back for more later. One of the best ways to lose your entire customer base is to tell them that they have to cancel their credit cards because you got their numbers stolen.

This kind of stuff has killed companies. No thanks, I'll keep my ssh and ssl.

To sum up: (4, Informative)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 6 years ago | (#22380676)

The threats discussed are:

  1. Losing keys/passwords
  2. Missing business opportunities because of the difficulty of sharing data internally (or presumably with third-parties
  3. Hackers stealing your keys, deleting them, and ransoming them back to you
  4. Hackers performing DOS on your authentication key-serving server./li

Re:To sum up: (4, Funny)

rasputin465 (1032646) | more than 6 years ago | (#22380784)

So it's agreed then. We'll drop ssh and use telnet from now on.

Mission option for every security discussion (5, Insightful)

wsanders (114993) | more than 6 years ago | (#22380860)

5) Buy our stuff!

Really, I've never seen a setup where stealing ONE (or a few) keys could result in a situation where a whole enterprise gets shut down for ransom.

More likely, consider the situation where only two guys have the password to the domain name registrar's account, they get laid off, and a year later some one realizes the company domain expires in two days. Before anyone figures out how to renew it, it's in the hands of a pr0n site. There's your missing/lost key scenario, happens all the time.

Re:Mission option for every security discussion (4, Funny)

grassy_knoll (412409) | more than 6 years ago | (#22380980)

More likely, consider the situation where only two guys have the password to the domain name registrar's account, they get laid off, and a year later some one realizes the company domain expires in two days. Before anyone figures out how to renew it, it's in the hands of a pr0n site. There's your missing/lost key scenario, happens all the time.


Still trying to explain that web site you "accidentally" visited, eh?

[badum-ching]

Re:Mission option for every security discussion (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381480)

No, that was me. Only I let it lapse because I was tired of it.

Honest,

Re:Mission option for every security discussion (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 6 years ago | (#22382640)

But it looked just like a regular business website! It was only after I subscribed with my credit card information and completed a wget -m on the site that I noticed I had been forwarded to latexgirlswithwhippedcream.com!

Re:To sum up: (1)

el_chupanegre (1052384) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381024)

Those are their reasons!?!

In which case, if encryption makes you more vulnerable to hackers, then surely no encryption makes you safer. By the same reasoning we should get rid of every kind of security. Why lock doors since you may lose the key? What if someone else gets your keys, breaks in and changes your locks? So we should all stop locking things away since that actually makes them less safe.

No passwords to forget/steal/target != safe.

Re:To sum up: (1)

megaditto (982598) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381134)

If you got nothing to hide, you got nothing to fear.

And yes, I never lock my house or my car, and I have yet to have one thing stolen from me in all these years.

Remember, people who really want to get at your stuff will do so no matter how smart you think your security is. Locks are just for keeping honest people away.

Wrong (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381194)

They're also for keeping opportunists away. And making sure your car alarm, immobiliser etc spring into action when they're circumvented.

Re:To sum up: (1)

el_chupanegre (1052384) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381234)

If you got nothing to hide, you got nothing to fear.
And if you have got something to hide (as the targets of this article do), lock it up!!

You would feel safe knowing that the bank you keep all your money at just left it's vault unlocked? Or the government databases that hold all of your personal information were freely available to all?

Just because somebody wants to commit crime doesn't mean you should put absolutely no obstacles in their way and make it easier for them.

Re:To sum up: (1)

Phyrexicaid (1176935) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381242)

I'm guessing you don't live in a country like South Africa? You park a locked or unlocked car on the side of the road in some suburbs and you'll wake up to no car. You don't install electric fences, burglar alarms, and burglar bars then you are more likely to be robbed since your house is the easier target. People can get at your stuff if they're sufficiently motivated, obviously, but given the choice between going for the unlocked house and the locked house, which one do you think they'll choose?

Re:To sum up: (2, Funny)

Intron (870560) | more than 6 years ago | (#22382504)

If I lived in South Africa I would have bigger things to worry about. Like figuring out a 15,000 mile commute.

Re:To sum up: (1)

gallwapa (909389) | more than 6 years ago | (#22383296)

so its OT but I saw a 20/20 report a few years back where people were getting all up in arms because people were installing flamethrowers on the cars underneath the doors in order to deter car thieves. Others were adding small landmines to their already-barbed-wire 10' fences. I shook my head and just said "Damn, they've got some bad crime there. Scratch that off the tourist list"

This was specifically about Johannesburg

Re:To sum up: (1)

SpleenVenter (976034) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381544)

And yes, I never lock my house or my car, and I have yet to have one thing stolen from me in all these years.

Really? What's your address?

Re:To sum up: (1)

misleb (129952) | more than 6 years ago | (#22382822)

Remember, people who really want to get at your stuff will do so no matter how smart you think your security is. Locks are just for keeping honest people away.


No kidding. I've had my car broken into 3 times now. Every single time they just smashed the window to get in. Funny thing is that I am pretty sure that one of those times I had left the door unlocked. If hadn't lost my car stereo and had to pay for a new window, it might be funny. F'ing meth addicts....

-matthew

Re:To sum up: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22383804)

3) Hackers stealing your keys, deleting them, and ransoming them back to you

Why would you rely on an outside key source? PGP, generate your own. Easy. Aslo solves 4).

Oh, I get it, buy nCipher and you will be OK (NOT). This post is bin-spam. Use PGP.

Misleading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22380678)

simply misleading.

revoke isn't that big (4, Informative)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 6 years ago | (#22380684)

Revoking a key isn't going to harm a company. They can just issue a new key.

A revoked key can usually still be used without limitations, however a revoked key should not be trusted and should be considered exposed.

Re:revoke isn't that big (3, Insightful)

0xygen (595606) | more than 6 years ago | (#22380718)

I believe they are referring to keys in situations where the keys are used to encrypt / decrypt business critical data, rather than say SSL certificates.

Re:revoke isn't that big (1)

badfish99 (826052) | more than 6 years ago | (#22380822)

It would still not be sufficient for the attacker to revoke the key: in order to make the data inaccessible, the attacker would have to delete the key (including deleting it from all the places where it is backed up).

Still, if you're worried, the simple solution is to buy a security product from one of the commercial sponsors of this report. Then, when you lose your key, you will be able to pay a hacker some money to recover your data using the back-door that the NSA forced them to incorporate into their product.

Re:revoke isn't that big (4, Informative)

Zeinfeld (263942) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381038)

Its storage encryption keys they are talking about and nCipher makes a key management product.

This is hardly a new issue, its been a significant concern for at least a decade. One of the problems with dealling with it was that for many years the mere mention of Key Escrow had people screaming about black helicopters.

Key escrow is neither necessary nor desirable for communications security. You use session keys, preferably with a round of Diffie Hellman to provide perfect forward secrecy and protect against kelptographic attacks. But for storage encryption it is all a matter of how you keep the keys safe.

It isn't that difficult to do, you simply make sure that keys are backed up in multiple places and are governed by separation of duties and multi-party control. The VeriSign Certification Practices Statement provides a complete primer in how to do this properly.

mod parent up! (2, Insightful)

bazorg (911295) | more than 6 years ago | (#22382570)

+1 Cromulent!

Re:revoke isn't that big (1)

0xygen (595606) | more than 6 years ago | (#22383036)

I believe the revocation threat is against keys used to interact with other organisations, if you gain access to the revocation certs for public keys used to perform eg inter-bank transactions, once those revocation certificates are issued to whichever authority is controlling the key infrastructure (normally only done in the case of a compromised key) then the required level of trust is no longer present, leading to failed transactions whilst we race around trying to inform everyone the revocation is false.

I would suggest that is probably the least likely threat addressed in the article though. In the real world, most of these systems have a selection of keys to try, where each of the private parts and the revocations are stored on diverse hardware with unique security around each of them.

I think the threat most likely to face an average user is having one of your private keys compromised without knowing it has happened. Given the way crypto hardware works though, this should be near impossible for serious organisations using "real" crypto solutions. Except when they screw the hardware up... [slashdot.org]

Re:revoke isn't that big (1)

plover (150551) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381304)

Revoking a key isn't going to harm a company. They can just issue a new key.

A revoked key can usually still be used without limitations, however a revoked key should not be trusted and should be considered exposed.

But how exactly would an attacker revoke a key in the first place? CRLs are supposed to be signed by the CA who issued the certificates in the first place. Are they suggesting that it's somehow easy to hack a certificate authority to revoke these keys? We're talking about a worse-than-useless CA if that's the case.

I think I'm declaring shenanigans. Anybody bring their broom?

Re:revoke isn't that big (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381824)

The revocation certificate is (should) usually be stored separate from the rest of the keys, to guard against loss/theft. The backside of that means one can steal the revocation certificates, which would probably be less noticeable.

Re:revoke isn't that big (1)

plover (150551) | more than 6 years ago | (#22382694)

Please define "revocation certificate". As far as I know, X.509 [ietf.org] only defines a Certificate Revocation List (CRL) which is a list of certificates that are revoked and is usually signed by the Certificate Authority (CA) that issued them. (In some installations another system may be granted the authority to serve as an "indirect CRL".)

But I am unaware of any mechanism to produce a "revocation certificate" or how or why you would issue one in advance of a certificate being revoked. Without the signature of the CA (or the indirect CRL) there's no way to "revoke" a certificate.

Sure, if your Certificate Authority's administrator is corrupt, you might get hosed. That's why you need secured access to the equipment, and a strong set of policies to protect it.

Hmm (5, Insightful)

moogied (1175879) | more than 6 years ago | (#22380716)

This sounds more like a problem in the encryption SYSTEM. Its kind of like saying "Encryption makes you weaker because your more likely to use passwords. Which can be brute forced!"

Re:Hmm (1)

MrMacman2u (831102) | more than 6 years ago | (#22380836)

I don't really see the problem here. Any form of NOT leaving important/sensitive/etc... data wide open and freely readable is better than none at all.

It's sort of backward logic to say it's bad because CAN be forced.

Revoked keys do not (normally) your data hold hostage.

Though in my experiance, the password cracking is more of a problem.

Users really do need education on stronger passwords that are still usable, which they will promptly forget or write on the bottom of their keyboards therefore pulling the PS/2 or USB connector out of the back of the computer and then call the helpdesk because their keyboard doesn't work.

Re:Hmm (4, Insightful)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381004)

Yes but if encryption leads people to keep records they would not have kept or destroyed otherwise it could pose a risk if its eventually cracked.

Its like Mom always said; never write something down without expecting someone else to eventually read it. If its dangerous or hurtful information it should be destroyed. If its really important keep it in the only place its really safe your head.

Business are keeping more and more customer information. Information is leaked all the time stored encrypted or not. Encryption is likely to give an often false impression of security. People may think they are safely storing facts that will only be available to them and their organization and customers might end up really unhappy if they discover they were wrong about that some time.

Re:Hmm (1)

MrMacman2u (831102) | more than 6 years ago | (#22382948)

To the untrained eye, it seems as if you just downplayed backups at first, however, I get your drift. Information will always be kept and usually kept long, LONG after it SHOULD have been destroyed. This is an inevitable fact, and as I said initially, leaving it open to any set of prying eyes is BAD. About half the problems highlighted in the article are not as much of a problem if you keep regular and up-to-date backups (You DO right?) Some full disk encryption schemes even support a "user" key and a "admin" key (kept by a select one or 2 people). This gives you, at the very least, a second chance to not have your data forever locked away. Any way you slice this cake, encryption can help prevent the very leaks you are talking about by making that data SIGNIFICANTLY harder to access through anything that approaches normal means. Of course, it's not going to stop any and all leaks 100% obviously, for that is impossible. However it should help in reducing the amount of damage done when your next security breech DOES occur.

Re:Hmm (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381014)

"and what is thing that was plugged in between the keyboard and my computer?"

Beats the alternative (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 6 years ago | (#22380816)

"If you can go in and revoke a key for ransom..."

that sounds a bit better than going in and just taking whatever is valuable wholesale with nothing to stop you such as... encryption?

Re:Beats the alternative (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381046)

"Hello. We are in your datacentre. Pay us 1 million dollars to or we will delete all of your encryption keys. Oh, and can you tell me your administrator password too, please?"

Re:Beats the alternative (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381062)

that was meant to say "to [insert account number here]". Stupid HTML strippers always spoiling the party.

You see this as a problem... (1)

th3rtythr33 (1191409) | more than 6 years ago | (#22380862)

I see this as a way to cover up my corporate scandal while I get out of the country.

Just another story of... (1)

ZonkerWilliam (953437) | more than 6 years ago | (#22380876)

FUD, seriously a revoked certificate is just one thing, ya it can be a nuisance but a company just needs to re-issue the certificate. All stories like this is give reason to be afraid and get companies to go out and buy more stuff secure their data and in the end really not do a thing.

Thanks For Nothing (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22380892)


I'll just use plain text in all of my communication with IMPEACH-BUSH-NOW.COM.

P.S.:Fuck Bush

Re:Thanks For Nothing (1)

arizwebfoot (1228544) | more than 6 years ago | (#22380910)

***"P.S.:Fuck Bush"***

Are you making an offer, one that he might take you up one?

Re:Thanks For Nothing (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381100)

I think it would be more likely that Bush would be taking up one in that case.

Revoking a key may be a red herring (3, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#22380902)

Traditionally, you store the data in one place and the key in another. You may even encrypt the key with a smaller key, called a password, that is stored in someone's head.

If someone tricks the key-checking mechanism into thinking a key is revoked, that's not a huge problem: All a revoked key means is that you may not be able to TRUST the key or the data it protects anymore. It doesn't mean you can't get at the data.

This is no worse than if a burglar broke into the building storing your paper forms. You can no longer automatically trust that those forms weren't tampered with. You have to either re-authenticate each of them or accept the fact that they may have been altered.

Other way to protect data: Split the data (5, Interesting)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#22380928)

A friend taught me this years ago:

Say you have a secret. Divide the secret into 3 parts and find 3 people to hold the key. Each person holds 2 parts of the key. If any one person is unavailable, the key can still be used, but no one person can use the key alone.

This same system can work with larger numbers too. My friend used a "3 of 5" approach, which required 3 people out of 5 to use the key.

In a way, this is like RAID-5 but more general.

You can apply this to keys, to the raw unencrypted data, or to encrypted data, depending on your security needs.

Re:Other way to protect data: Split the data (1)

msuarezalvarez (667058) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381084)

You can do much, much better than that: your system is not resilient to having one of the 3 parties providing wrong information intentionally, for example.

Distributed secret algorithms is a very well studied area of cryptography.

Re:Other way to protect data: Split the data (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381330)

I'm unclear on how what you say is true. It would seem that after failing the password check with your first two people, you would switch, and if you fail again, switch once more, and then you should succeed. Such a system should be completely resilient to ANY failure of one person, whether physical or moral.

Re:Other way to protect data: Split the data (2)

avatar4d (192234) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381872)

I don't understand how Hugh, er... "3 of 5" [wikipedia.org] can assist with this, but resistance is futile.

Good thing he didn't use 7 of 9 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22382310)

She could be difficult to work with sometimes.

Re:Other way to protect data: Split the data (1)

rjhubs (929158) | more than 6 years ago | (#22382352)

Distributed key algorithms do exist, but there is a problem with them. The security of the system depends on the key holders having high levels of distrust for one another. It is very easy to imagine many corporate environments where keys will be shared with another out of convenience which then makes the system essentially a single key system.

revoke isn't that new (1)

starfishsystems (834319) | more than 6 years ago | (#22380942)

What's all this about "new risks and threats"? There's nothing remotely new here.

False certificate revocation is an obvious point of attack on certificate infrastructure, and has been ever since CRLs were proposed. Loss of encryption key is a new risk? Yes, to researchers who have been asleep since, oh, 1466 when Leon Battista Alberti developed key crypto.

It's not that we shouldn't pay attention to these risks and incorporate them into our security metrics. Of course we should. But it's not news. I hate it when people grab for attention but then have nothing to contribute.

So the point is? (2, Insightful)

a-zarkon! (1030790) | more than 6 years ago | (#22380978)

If you're implementing an encryption solution and don't understand the potential impacts, you probably shouldn't be implementing encryption. Encryption is great and necessary, but in the case of things like file encryption introduces another layer of complexity and point of failure into your system. Now instead of worrying about just an unrestorable backup of the data - you need to have a restorable backup AND a key recovery/additional decryption key/key escrow solution.... And for what it's worth, I'm a lot more concerned about a user losing/forgetting a key than I am about evil hackerz ransoming my key. (Thanks for the additional FUD though, that'll make my job easier next time I need to argue for encryption)

Maybe I'm just being silly or showing my old-school mentality, but I think it's important to try to identify these types of potential "gotchas" before I click setup.exe.

Game over ... (3, Insightful)

Sepiraph (1162995) | more than 6 years ago | (#22380998)

If your attacker can get a hold of your key and alter it, your system is already compromised... thus it is incorrect to claim that encryption can lead to MORE vulnerability because without it you are as good as dead.

There is always a risk (2, Insightful)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381052)

of some kind of attack regardless of your actions.

Encryption is making things harder for those that want to penetrate your business, but use it with care. Too much will do more harm than benefit. Set up boundaries in your systems and encrypt the communication. That's the reasonable way to do things.

Encryption of hard disks may be useful on laptops, but is relatively useless on stationary computers and servers, and will probably only add to the performance overhead. Just be sure that all hard disks are erased before the computers are retired and you have been saving yourself a lot of trouble.

If someone stores data encrypted anyway and the key is lost - well - tough luck unless you have a good policy where backup keys are stored in a safe place.

Only a few businesses will benefit from extreme levels of encryption, and those are mostly working in the military area. In these cases it may be better to just call it a day and consider all data where the key is missing or manhandled as compromised.

Users are always the weakest link (4, Insightful)

Psmylie (169236) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381054)

Where I work, we have a policy to have encryption on every laptop. It has to be minimum of 8 characters and include a mix of capital and lower case, a number and one special character. Compared to every other password requirement we have, that's relatively strong.

The problem comes in when people can't remember the encryption password. Either they lock themselves out of the laptop or they do something brilliant like write the password on a post-it and tape it to the laptop case.

No matter what strategy you have, your own customers will find a way to mess it up.

Re:Users are always the weakest link (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22381350)

Obviously they take the laptops to IT to have the user encryption password reset via the IT staff use of the escrow password.

Is this causing too much trouble for your IT staff, or did you forget to use escrow? The latter can be easily fixed via GPO if you're using MS EFS.

Re:Users are always the weakest link (2, Insightful)

Psmylie (169236) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381468)

Yeah, we can get them back in. Not while they're traveling, though. They're kinda out of luck until they get back into the office.

People not remembering their encryption password is by far the lesser of two evils, though. I'd rather have the data be totally inaccessible than be accessed by the wrong people.

Re:Users are always the weakest link (2, Interesting)

tppublic (899574) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381442)

No matter what strategy you have, your own customers will find a way to mess it up.

Then it is your job to either educate those users or to architect the system in such a way that those weaknesses are designed out of the system. The problem is not in the users, it is in the security guidelines you are issuing and your expectations of adherence to those guidelines.

Often, to respond to requirements like those you mention, we use things like: 1qAz@wSx

followed by 3eDc$rFv ... when the first one expires after 90 days (and what is the specific and measurable basis in computer security for why the password is forced to expire, especially so rapidly???)

As one can't use the last 4 passwords, you'll find these conveniently rotate...

The problem here is that the folks in charge of security either don't understand or don't care that the "bestest, most strongest, most frequently changed" password system isn't the one with the most complicated and longest password requirements. Security is rooted in passwords that are the hardest to guess OR access. If you are forcing rotation too frequently, or forcing really complicated rules (no dictionary words, must include symbols, etc.), then you will find users will simply resort to patterns or post-it notes, and your security has been defeated. Personally, the password requirements to my e-mail system at work are now so complicated that I have run through dozens of combinations to have them all fail. The ONLY solutions I have found that work are patterns on the keyboard (which IMHO, are less secure than many of the other passwords I tried to use)

I will repeat: This is NOT a user problem, it is an administrative rules and security architecture problem. If you really require security beyond passwords people can remember and type easily (and are willing to do), then you need a security system that goes beyond passwords - e.g. go buy a ThinkPad with an integrated Fingerprint reader.

Re:Users are always the weakest link (1)

Psmylie (169236) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381698)

Oh, I agree. Having strong password requirements is only good if people can remember their password. And, it's not like I've never forgotten passwords of my own :)

However, anyone should know that you don't tape your password to the device that it goes to. That's like locking your front door and leaving the key in the lock so you don't have to bother looking for it when you get home.

We do tell people not to do that, when we set them up with a laptop and encryption. I also tell them to have the password in some way accessible while traveling, without actually being on the laptop or in the case. Keeping a slip of paper in your wallet is better than a post-it on the laptop or in the carrying case. I suggest leaving themselves a voicemail at work as to what the password is. That way, if they forget it while traveling, they can just dial into voicemail and check it.

Still, even with us telling them that, I still see an amazing number of people who just have a note taped to their laptop with their password. It's infuriating, really.

Re:Users are always the weakest link (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 6 years ago | (#22383322)

Create a fake person in your address book, on your phone, etc. Encode the password into their name, address and telephone number using a rule that's easy to remember. Or choose something else ; put it into a very boring looking TPS report, whatever. It's important you don't make a policy out of WHAT gets used, because then it's easier to crack. Let people choose what makes most sense to them.

Voicemail is a bad idea, because voicemail is notoriously easy to crack.

Re:Users are always the weakest link (1)

imbaczek (690596) | more than 6 years ago | (#22382756)

Re:Users are always the weakest link (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22381476)

It's simply because your IT department is either under budget or under trained.

Why do the stupid passwords? Only idiots enforce the stupid I cant remember password systems. 4 digit pin and a fucking smartcard. Make the smartcard their Photo ID on a lanyard. It's not that hard.

Hell even Dell D620 laptops come with a smartcard reader built in. I suggest starting by firing your CTO and Upper IT management and get someone in that is competent.

Not new or groundbreaking (4, Insightful)

pedrop357 (681672) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381080)

This is like saying that using locks on your car can leave you vulnerable. Sure, they keep casual thieves out and the newer systems keep go a long way towards preventing someone from hotwiring your car.

BUT, a mischevious person could put epoxy in all the keyholes, essentially revoking your keys and causing a denial-of-service.

Which is better, a small risk of being locked out of your data/car, or the larger risk of theft and/or misuse of your data/car due to lack of security?

Re:Not new or groundbreaking (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381368)

With a car, if I lose my keys or someone gums up the locks, the key can be recovered or the locks fixed for a modest cost. If the keys to strongly encrypted data are lost, the data may as well be gone.

Which means that sometimes it makes a lot of sense not to encrypt. People lose and forget passwords all the time. Even if you have a system for managing the keys, it can still be screwed up accidentally or deliberately. Much of the time, keeping the data intact is more important than keeping it secure. Consider the Microsoft Windows source. If that were to get out, how much would that harm Microsoft? Not much, IMO. Now consider if it were to be kept encrypted at all times, including backups, and the key was somehow lost... THAT would harm them a lot more.

I don't see the problem. (2, Informative)

jd (1658) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381140)

First, if the revocation process is insecure and unauthenticated, then don't blame the encryption. Security is holistic and is no better than the weakest link. This isn't unique to encryption. In fact, because revocation is merely altering a user's perception of trust, it can be regarded as nothing more than a social engineering attack. Those are old-hat.

Secondly, there are all sorts of potential problems with encryption: how vulnerable is the PRNG used to generate the key or key pair? Can an attacker exhaust CPU resources by forcing many expensive operations? Are people protecting their private keyrings correctly? Are command-line encryption programs exposing the encryption key on the command line? Since a virtual machine manager or hypervisor can see into a virtualized machine and therefore see the internal mechanics of encryption, are VMMs at the point where they can be used in a secure environment?

I'd consider any of these to be much more serious than a corp-to-corp key management problem which, ultimately, reduces to policy decisions on how to manage keys.

If an attacker has the ability to do all that.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22381286)

then what's to stop him from encrypting your data and demanding a ransom even if you don't use encryption?

By encrypting streams (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381312)

you provide a way to signal to somebody that you have something to hide. If you are an entity that is scanning all traffic, and have to decide what to look at as well as store, then the place to look is where somebody thinks that they are hidden, but where you have the ability to decrypt it. The current way to hide successfully, is to bury the stream via steganography i.e. in plain site, but with LOADS of crap.

Keeping doors unlocked is better? (3, Insightful)

a1ok (250188) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381322)

Whenever I leave my apartment, I'm always worried about losing my house keys and getting locked out. So I guess I should just never lock the door, since that makes me vulnerable to a DoS (can't get in) if I misplace my keys? Of course, this is a bad analogy as door locks aren't very secure; anyway this definition of 'vulnerability' is a bit strange :)
Considering this warning comes from a bunch of security companies, maybe this is some new trend of disclaimers, like anti-virus vendors warning that their product can only reduce but not eliminate attacks - in case a customer is stupid and tries to blame the encryption vendor for losing their keys, they can say 'I told you so' and point to these articles :D

Duh..... (1)

angus_rg (1063280) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381338)

If I replace my locks with a deadbolt, it is more secure, yes?

Now, I am more vulnerable to being locked out if my wife leaves the house and I forgot my keys, or if the lock breaks. So just because the slogan, "American express, I can't get into my home without it" is no longer true, should I not use it?

Security is an art. No one way is right, nor perfect. It is all acceptable risk. Personally, I have a feeling all IDS systems will migrate to host based systems because the majority of the traffic will be encrypted.

Let's extend this to other common security devices (5, Funny)

dschl (57168) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381364)

The use of door locks and deadbolts could make organizations vulnerable to new risks and threats, a panel of security experts warned Monday.

Many organizations are locking their doors to relieve concerns over material theft or loss - for example, U.S. break and enter statutes do not apply to unlocked doors.

However, experts from IBM Internet Security Systems, Juniper, nCipher and elsewhere said that locking doors also brings new risks, in particular via attacks - deliberate or accidental - on the key management infrastructure.

The change comes particularly with the shift from leaving doors open, as was common in the 1800's, to locking doors and securing buildings with perimeter fences - often in response to regulatory demands - said Richard Moulds, nCipher's product strategy EVP.

"Lot of organizations are new to door locks," he added. "Their only exposure to it has been with padlocks on remote sites, but that's something very few staff have to deal with, and infrequently. When you shift to locking your entire building, right down to the individual executive offices, if you lose the key you trash your access - it's a self-inflicted denial-of-service attack.

"Organizations experienced with door locks are standing back and saying this is potentially a nightmare. It is potentially bringing your business to a grinding halt."

Locking doors is also as big an interest for the bad guys as the good guys, warned Anton Grashion, European security strategist for Juniper. "As soon as you let the cat out of the bag, they'll be using it too," he said. "For example, it looks like a great opportunity to start attacking key infrastructures, as a little bit of epoxy in the keyhole, and whammo, your building is inaccessible."

"It's a new class of DoS attack," agreed Moulds. "If you can go in and damage a lock and then demand a 'protection money' so that it doesn't happen again, it's a fantastic way of attacking a business."

Another risk is that over-zealous use of door locking will damage an organization's ability to legitimately share and use critical business facilities, noted Joshua Corman, principal security strategist for IBM ISS.

"One fear I have is that we're all going to hide and lock up all of our assets such as pens, paper and coffee makers, but companies are asset-driven, so we take tactical decision and stifle ability to collaborate," he said.

"Sometimes, the result of implementing security technology is actually a net increase in risk," added Richard Reiner, chief security and technology officer at Telus Security Solutions.

FUD, a way of life for the "journalists" (1)

suitepotato (863945) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381502)

Keep spreading the truth people, encryption can make you safer and even if you have nothing to hide, it is still your nothing to hide. If they don't like you hiding your nothing, then that only tells you the truth: the powers that be and the powers that would be don't trust the people in any way and any form of governance which will not trust its people cannot be trusted by its people. Therefore, hide your nothing. Hide it all, jealously guard your privacy and keep on at it until they go into paroxysms of fear, insecurity, and anxiety. Keep it up people. It's your life to lose.

Once again, altogether with Princess Danish-head: "The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers."

They are CINNAMON BUNS, DAMMIT! (2, Funny)

ElboRuum (946542) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381594)

That seemed a little strident considering the topic. My apologies for shouting.

Key Management should be part of PKI (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22381514)

An "attack" like this could also originate from the inside, where an employee is terminated, etc., and refuses to give up the keys.

Just like a lock on a door, if properly implemented, in PKI keys can be replaced. Every organization that is serious about implementing a PKI should be just as serious about about key management as it is a massively important component.

http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/nistpubs/800-57/SP800-57-Part1.pdf [nist.gov]

There they go again... (1)

certain death (947081) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381522)

Those pigs flying out of my ass!! OMG!! THE SKY IS FALLING!!! Give me a break, next thing you know they will be saying that if you allow your sysadmins and security folks to have root or admin on a server you are at a higher risk!!!!!!!!! fucking n00bs!

Very low quality article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22381638)

When you shift to data at rest and encrypt your laptop, if you lose the key you trash your data...

DUH

  - it's a self-inflicted denial-of-service attack.

No it is not. I am sick of people twisting the semantics of what a "denial-of-service" attack means,.

Generally an empty vacuous article saying "encryption twicky, me sad"

"Revoked" key doesn't equal "Destroyed" key (5, Interesting)

tcampb01 (101714) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381654)

I'm not sure what point they're trying to make in the article other than churn up some FUD. If I encrypt a file on my computer with a password or key and then lose my key, I cannot easily decrypt that file. So poor management of my key could make me vulnerable to loss of data -- but that's not the same level of risk as theft of data (which may be worse than losing it.)

As several others have pointed out, a 'revoked' key in no way keeps you from getting at your data. In the same way that a bank can 'revoke' a credit card, the actual card itself doesn't disappear... it's just not trusted to do anything. Unlike the credit card system, most any security software that checks key revocation lists can easily be told to ignore the fact that the key is revoked. The bits needed to perform the encryption or decryption still exist -- you just get a warning that someone says you should not trust it... but that's not the same thing as saying you can not trust it.

What that really means is you just need a good key management scheme. Whereas most people would just use a single private key, in a corporate environment you've got the problem of project-related work that might be encrypted by an employee still belongs to the company. If an employee quits, is terminated, gets run over by the beer truck, etc. etc. then the company would like to have a way to get the data that they rightfully own. This is what "key escrow" systems are for. But escrowed keys would ideally be kept in a very safe place. Of course the fact that an escrowed key exists at all allows the individual to repudiate the contents of the encrypted file -- someone else could have altered it. The solution to that conundrum is to create a "signing" key which does not encrypt and which is not escrowed, and an encryption key which is not used for signing, but which is escrowed.

So back to the FUD... I suppose all these companies have an interest in creating the fear, getting the average IT person to decide to look into it, realize what they're missing, then realize that they probably need to hire a professional security business to help build a proper key distribution and escrow system.

ADK (2, Informative)

Aram Fingal (576822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381788)

This is part of the reason for the Additional Decryption Key (ADK) functionality of PGP. Individual users within the organization can encrypt and decrypt with their own keys but there is always the additional key for backup, in the possession of the organization, to decrypt data in case users' keys are lost. I don't see how someone stealing keys is likely to cause much of a DoS situation when an organization is using ADK.

Also, someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think revoking a key only affects future uses of the key for creating valid digital signatures. You can still decrypt data without a problem. Someone coming in and revoking keys on you is only a DoS attack in the sense that you need to take the time to issue new keys and fix whatever security breach allowed the attacker access to the old keys.

Encrypting Data, not communications (1)

OxFF52 (1126819) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381852)

What the article is talking about has nothing to do with web servers or the internet, it has to do with confidential data stored on private/internal file servers and database servers. It also has to do with data that "walks" out of the corporation on laptops and PDAs.

When you encrypt this data with a key and you lose the key, you LOSE the data... period. You NEED the key to recover the data... THAT is the risk they are talking about. Now extend that risk from losing the key, to someone stealing it and then holding it for ransom.

Re:Encrypting Data, not communications (3, Informative)

rampant poodle (258173) | more than 6 years ago | (#22382604)

TrueCrypt can protect you in both of these scenarios. After setting up the encrypted volume:

1. Set an administrative passphrase/key.
2. Make volume header backup. (Must be stored/protected as you would a safe combination.)
3. Have end user set personal passphrase. (Creates a new volume header)

If the user passphrase is lost or stolen the volume can be recovered by restoring the "admin" volume header. No ransom payment to bad guys required. (Applying clue stick to user is optional.)

This does add the potential risk of someone stealing the "admin" header backups. Storing the headers in a locked container in the company safe or an off-site bank vault will bring this risk down to reasonable levels. (Storing them on a CD on someone's desk will not!)

Re:Encrypting Data, not communications (1)

DigitAl56K (805623) | more than 6 years ago | (#22382776)

I think the article is about hacking an enterprise authentication/key server, and not local volumes with local key storage, but the same applies: Backup your keys.

Cryptovirology (1)

neuromandw (1153315) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381894)

Variations on this theme are considered in the book "Malicious Cryptography: Exposing Cryptovirology" by authors Adam Young and Moti Yung. To quote from a famous online book site: Hackers have uncovered the dark side of cryptography--that device developed to defeat Trojan horses, viruses, password theft, and other cyber-crime. It's called cryptovirology, the art of turning the very methods designed to protect your data into a means of subverting it. In this fascinating, disturbing volume, the experts who first identified cryptovirology show you exactly what you're up against and how to fight back. They will take you inside the brilliant and devious mind of a hacker--as much an addict as the vacant-eyed denizen of the crackhouse--so you can feel the rush and recognize your opponent's power. Then, they will arm you for the counterattack. This book reads like a futuristic fantasy, but be assured, the threat is ominously real. Vigilance is essential, now. Understand the mechanics of computationally secure information stealing Learn how non-zero sum Game Theory is used to develop survivable malware Discover how hackers use public key cryptography to mount extortion attacks Recognize and combat the danger of kleptographic attacks on smart-card devices Build a strong arsenal against a cryptovirology attack

Don't Install Sprinklers In Your Building! (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381924)

Some one might extort money from you by threatening to set them off.

Not new (1)

DigitAl56K (805623) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381964)

This is not a new problem. There are viruses, for example, that encrypt a file system and demand a ransom for the key.

Gpcode-AI [viruslist.com] is one example.

I see a correlation here (1)

PirateBlis (1208936) | more than 6 years ago | (#22382618)

This makes a lot of sense. The more Protection, the more trouble we run into. Take the Homeland Security Advisory System. I mean I can only deal with my wife's implants being "too many ounces for carry on" so many times.

Backups (1)

kcbanner (929309) | more than 6 years ago | (#22383000)

This is why backups exist. Unless of course someone gets their hands on the mass disk eraser...

_Offspring_ could make you more vunlurable. (1)

v(*_*)vvvv (233078) | more than 6 years ago | (#22383426)

'If you can go in and revoke a _child_ and then demand a ransom, it's a fantastic way of attacking a business.'

stretching, stretching, stretching... (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 6 years ago | (#22383584)

"When you shift to data at rest and encrypt your laptop, if you lose the key you trash your data - it's a self-inflicted denial-of-service attack."

What???

Huh? (2, Interesting)

thethibs (882667) | more than 6 years ago | (#22383972)

TFA is so much bafflegab, there's no place to get a hold of it.

Revoking a certificate would result in some inconvenience, but it couldn't provide the means to hold anything for ransom.

In a corporate environment, an encrypted file on a laptop is almost certainly duplicated somewhere—usually in clear on a server. And if I just created or modified a file and haven't yet backed it up, I had to use the password to do it, so I'm unlikely to forget it over lunch.

Add to that the fact that all the mainstream encryption products come with key management systems to help avoid even that small risk, TFA suggests that either the "experts" aren't really experts or the reporter didn't understand them.

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