Feeds

NSA, GCHQ, accused of hacking Belgian smartcard crypto guru

Spear phishing through LinkedIn did for Professor Jean-Jacques Quisquater

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Professor Jean-Jacques Quisquater, a Belgian cryptographer whose work is said to have informed card payment systems worldwide, has reportedly become the victim of a spear-phishing attack by the NSA and/or GCHQ.

Belgium's De Standaaard reports that Professor Quisquater clicked on a fake LinkedIn invitation that infected his computer with something even nastier than the endless claims of industry leadership spouted by those most active on that network. The malware is said to have allowed tracking of the Professor's work, including consultancy for various firms.

Professor Quisquater's oeuvre, listed here at Google Scholar, bristles with cryptographic research. He also shared 2013's RSA Conference Award for Excellence in the Field of Mathematics for his work on “efficient zero-knowledge authentication schemes”. RSA's (PDF) notes for the award describe his efforts as “a seminal translation of cryptographic theory into practice” and as having “had a major impact on the early development of the smartcard industry.”

The professor is therefore a juicy target, as understanding either his research or the advice he offers could conceivably yield insights into real-world operations of cryptosystems or qualities of future schemes.

There's also the possibility of monitoring the professor's e-mail, which again could yield interesting information.

De Standaard says the hack on Quisquater's kit was discovered as part of the investigation into an attack on Belgacom described by one E. Snowden, late of Moscow.

The Belgian paper doesn't say why it is willing to put the NSA and GCHQ in the frame for the hack, saying only that its understanding of what went on indicates their involvement. As the story points out, the attack could be the first known instance of a spookhaus action against a private individual not under investigation for something nefarious. Quisquater's clearly not a 'civilian' , but nor does he appear to be a legitimate target whose activities could reveal the nature of a threat against either the USA or UK. If he has indeed been targeted to gather intelligence about cryptology in general, the Snowden snowball looks set to gather yet more size and speed. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Mounties always get their man: Heartbleed 'hacker', 19, CUFFED
Canadian teen accused of raiding tax computers using OpenSSL bug
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.