Feeds

Governments may hit social networks with cyber attacks

Arab Spring alerted governments to power of Facebook, Twitter et al

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Security for virtualized datacentres

Social networking operators like Facebook and Twitter need to consider themselves much more vulnerable to attacks – not because they are more vulnerable or more attractive to criminals than previously, but because states are now actors in security threats.

According to Phillip Hallam-Barker, vice-president and principal scientist of Comodo Group, “The introduction of state actors means you now need to be serious about security if you’re doing social networking: the Facebooks, the Twitters, need to consider themselves targets of attack, because what they do is of interest to states.

“Because of events like the Arab Spring, decisions about the Internet are now being made at the very highest levels of government,” he said – reflected not only in state-driven attacks on security, but also in the emergence of international various “cyber” treaties, which only exist because the highest levels of government consider the issue worth top-level attention.

Hallam-Barker told AusCERT delegates, it’s clear that state interest in the Internet is growing – and that includes the incidence of state-based attacks of various kinds.

Since June 2010’s Stuxnet, he said, attacks that appear to emanate from states have been occurring with increasing frequency.

It’s not that “the sky is falling”, he said – after all, the problem of professional criminals crafting attacks on the Internet is at least 15 years old. “It’s us that we have a new threat actor on the horizon, and we need to be aware of them. We don’t need to panic, but we do need to consider state actors as a risk.”

The two code-signing certificates used in Stuxnet, for example, suggests that the key for the code-signed certificates was compromised and allows the signing of device drivers.

Closer to home for Hallam-Barker, when a breach of one of Comodo’s resellers occurred, an attacker was able to request the issue of nine certificates, only one of which the company had been known to have been retrieved.

However, such incidents – and the more-notorious DigiNotar disaster of 2011 – has shaken the certificate industry out of the complacency that it had developed, partly (he said) “because it has worked so well”.

“If the system had been breaking all the time over fifteen years, attacks like DigiNotar would never have succeeded.

Comodo is proposing a “trust broker” that can act as a curator of trust information (not only certificate information) to help provide more dependable information than a browser could collect for itself.

“Even though attacks are rare” when it is a state, “they are very consequential.” And while this means that the Internet’s trust infrastructure needs revision to cope with this, any new proposal “must meet all the requirements of the old”, as well as adding he ability to defend the trust infrastructure from state actors, he said. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
NASTY SSL 3.0 vuln to be revealed soon – sources (Update: It's POODLE)
So nasty no one's even whispering until patch is out
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Forget passwords, let's use SELFIES, says Obama's cyber tsar
Michael Daniel wants to kill passwords dead
FBI boss: We don't want a backdoor, we want the front door to phones
Claims it's what the Founding Fathers would have wanted – catching killers and pedos
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.