Feeds

Home Secretary in ID card gaffe

Unhackable? Up to a point, minister

Security for virtualized datacentres

Security experts have rubbished claims by the Home Secretary that databases for the controversial National ID Cards will be "unhackable" because they are being kept off the public internet.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Thursday, Jacqui Smith said "none of the [ID card] databases will be online, so it won't be possible to hack into them". Experts, such as GCHQ accredited penetration testing firm SecureTest, said the Home Secretary's claims demonstrate complete lack of understanding of the security issues affecting databases.

"There are numerous routes to compromise a database that is not available on the public internet," SecureTest managing director Ken Munro told El Reg.

Internal attacks, where a database could be compromised by an employee or visitor from the inside, and attacks via email are both possible vectors. If an external hacker was able to deliver an exploit to an unsuspecting internal user via email he might be able to get access to a machine that in turn allowed him access to the database.

"The Government Secure Intranet (GSI) mail filtering systems are not sufficient to prevent an unknown [zero day] vulnerability being delivered by email. Using this, the exploited machine would connect outbound to a third party, giving a degree of remote address, and potentially access to the database," Munro explained.

The UK's National Infrastructure Security Co-ordination Centre (NISCC), and other government agencies, have periodically warned of the active use of this kind of targeted attack since at least June 2005. The GSI's mail filtering system is well designed and blocks many of these attacks, but it would be foolish to think it provides complete protection against such assaults.

Munro describes Smith's faith in the inherent security of databases kept off the internet as "misguided" and symptomatic of wider government IT security shortcomings. "The minister's lack of appreciation gives us great concern that government ministers have no significant understanding of security, as evidenced by the recent data losses on CD," he said. "What hope have we got that the National ID card database will be any more secure?"

The Home Secretary's interview with Today can be found here. Smith's interview starts about the 12:00 minute mark and her comment on database security for the National ID Cards project can be found after the 18:20 mark.

In the course of her interview, Smith goes on to explain a revised rollout of ID cards, initially targeting non-EU foreign nationals and young adults. El Reg's take on this "boil a frog" plan can be found here. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Heavy VPN users are probably pirates, says BBC
And ISPs should nab 'em on our behalf
Former Bitcoin Foundation chair pleads guilty to money-laundering charge
Charlie Shrem plea deal could still get him five YEARS in chokey
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.