Security researcher Jonathan Lampe recently published a report comparing the security readiness of various leading contenders for the White House.
The findings are interesting because, well, it’s 2015, and many of these people lived a long time without the existence of the Internet. Given the number of high-profile hacks the government has suffered in recent years, it seems safe to say they’re still not taking computer security very seriously. To this assertion, Lampe told Hacked:
The federal government’s take on computer security is definitely a mixed bag. On the one hand, we have positive initiatives like NIST’s stewardship of commercial-quality cryptography, presidential leadership in encouraging all sites to use HTTPS, grant programs that fund bug hunts and vulnerability databases, and regulations that mandate security awareness training. On the other hand, we have recent debacles like CISA’s sharing of raw data, Wassenaar’s weaponizing of vulnerability tools, poor data security practices that lead to exposures like the one that
struck the OPM, and bad designs that lead to vulnerabilities in HealthCare.gov.
The federal government certainly spends more than enough money on IT, but good security always seems out of reach. I’d be surprised if the federal government spends less on security, proportionally, than the private sector, but bureaucracy and the continual development of custom software seem to conspire to keep federal security deployments a step behind where they should be.
With great irony, one of the lesser candidates, Republican Ben Carson, wins overall on website security. “Outsources donation and volunteer services. No store. Small attack surface,” the report says of his positives. For the negative or “con” column, there was nothing. Carson has made some radical claims during his campaign, such as the idea that Jews during the Holocaust could have survived if they’d had guns. While this is not the craziest thing ever said by a Republican, it’s proven to be significant fodder for liberal outlets to attack the candidate.
But in cybersecurity, victory is not achieved through saying things people do or do not like. It is achieved through best practices. And in this regard, Carson is perhaps unknowingly in the lead. For one thing, it may not remain the case that the candidate has no storefront. Perhaps his campaign has decided to create such a thing in the unlikely event that he gets the nomination, not before.
The other four candidates rank as follows:
- Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump received an overall “B” (compared to Carson’s “A”). Clinton lost points for relying on a “quickly built application” while Trump’s team has left the log-in page on the front of his WordPress website and possibly uses an old version of a WordPress donation plugin. (That Trump is receiving donations in the first place is perhaps the true irony here.)
- Jeb Bush and Bernie Sanders each got a “C.” Both are guilty of the same sin: they use unsecured WordPress pages and leak user information on login. Jeb Bush’s site appears to be a little worse, as the report notes that his site leaks “other information” but does not say this about Bernie Sanders’.
Lampe went to great lengths to get the data for the report. It does not, honestly, feel like there is a political bias. In the case of Hilary Clinton, he was able to find information about the way the campaign’s proprietary web application was built by finding the DevOp job description for her campaign.
This listing described the software stack in use by the Clinton people. The report fairly says that Clinton’s team had instituted some security features.
[T]here are signs that the Clinton team is taking some security precautions. The site itself seems to be running a piece of “obfuscation” software called “varnish” that regularly lies about its identity so would-be hackers would have a harder time locking on with a targeted attack. At the time of my research, Clinton’s code relied on JQuery 2.1.3, just one minor version behind cutting edge, which suggests that the team’s continuous integration process is successfully getting new versions of software (and their security fixes) published.
There is a feature of WordPress which is designed for sites like Hacked.com called “user enumeration,” and for a site like Hacked.com it would allow you to see all of our writers. But for a site like Bernie Sanders’, it makes it possible for the attacker to have a list of potential weaknesses when trying to take down the campaign. This makes plain the overall problem with CMS suites like WordPress – they are often used by venues that have no need of them.
This is not to denigrate WordPress, but it creates an overall less secure Internet when most sites are running on the same codebase. A security vulnerability in one can often mean a security vulnerability in all, and the more sites using the code, the longer it will take to patch across the spectrum. Bernie Sanders site also potentially uses an outdated version of WooCommerce, one of the more popular e-commerce plugins online. In June, WooCommerce suffered an “Object Injection Vulnerability.”
Trump Campaign Scrambles Credit Card Numbers
Like Hilary Clinton, Donald Trump’s site uses a custom design from a San Antonio firm. However, the site has few vulnerabilities because it requires less complex code to run. Trump’s donation
page, however, runs on WordPress. The report wasn’t all negative on Trump, saying that it had added security for its credit card processing.
One piece of interesting information was the client-obfuscated (and possibly encrypted) credit card number. Where most processors simply rely on HTTPS to protect the card number (thus potentially exposing card numbers to security researchers and IT staff that use TLS interception proxies), Victory Passport takes an extra step to protect the data.
The report also notes that the term “obfuscate” is used since the makers of Victory Passport wouldn’t confirm the method they’re using with the credit card processing.
As previously mentioned, Ben Carson got the best rating of all those assessed. But Jeb Bush’s campaign site was maligned for using poor security practices, despite the candidate raising more than $100 million so far. For starters, it has the same problem as the Bernie Sanders site, in that campaign managers can easily be listed using the “user enumeration” feature of the WordPress suite. It’s important to note that this can be disabled by an experienced web developer fairly easily.
By cross-referencing the list of user full names against other public information, a dedicated hacker would have a list of some 26 people to probe for further vulnerabilities. While hacking someone like a presidential candidate might actually turn out to be in the public interest, it’s probably not the desirable effect, nor a good headline when trying to compete for the most powerful position in the world.
It wasn’t all bad in reference to the Jeb Bush campaign site, however. They gained points with Lampe by utilizing Stripe, an e-Commerce platform that is growing in popularity and allows merchants to accept Bitcoin, among other features.
For donations, Bush uses Revv, a startup which aims to become a “Republican ActBlue.” Revv is in turn powered by Stripe eCommerce, which actually handles all of Bush’s online donation transactions. Normally a startup handling campaign contributions would raise security concerns, but the fact that all significant financial functions have been outsourced to an established ecommerce firm should allay any fears.
Lampe believes that computer security issues and how candidates treat them are increasingly important to voters, saying:
At the end of the day, if a candidate can’t protect his or her own website, what chance do they have to defend America’s cyber infrastructure against a world full of motivated hackers, many of whom are backed by national resources from rival countries. […] Consider Hillary’s freefall in the polls earlier this year when her home email server shenanigans were uncovered. Half the country claimed her actions were criminal while the other half claimed she was merely clueless, but no one could claim that Hillary was competent in the area of secure digital communications. And by demonstrating that she was out of touch with Americans’ cybersecurity fears, Hillary instantly scared off millions of potential voters.
The way a candidate runs computer security before reaching a position should indicate how seriously they’ll take it as a leader. Computer security becomes more akin to national security with each passing year in the 21st century, and 21st-century leaders will have to abandon 20th-century notions on exactly how important it is.
Images from Shutterstock, Infosec Institute and Wikimedia.
Uber Is Paying Hackers to Keep Quiet
Uber Technologies Inc. has reportedly paid hackers to delete scores of private data stolen from the company in a security breach that was concealed for over a year. The revelation provides further confirmation that, when it comes to cyber security, crime does pay.
Massive Data Breach
According to Bloomberg Technology, hackers retrieved the personal data of 57 million Uber customers and drivers at some point last year. Nobody heard about it because the rideshare company paid the hackers $100,000 to keep quiet. A purge at the front office of Uber also ensured that the massive cyber breach was kept under wraps.
The compromised data was from October 2016 and included the names, phone numbers and addressed of 50 million Uber riders globally. About seven million drivers had their personal information accessed as well.
At the time of the cyber attack, Uber was inundated with a slew of legal issues stemming from alleged privacy violations. Rather than shine even more negative spotlight on the company, Uber executives decided to pay hackers to stay quiet.
“None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,” Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over as CEO in September, said in a statement that was published by Bloomberg. “We are changing the way we do business.”
Hackers have done a masterful job infiltrating companies and governments in recent years. As a reminder, recent cyber attacks levied against Yahoo!, Target Corp and Equifax Inc. dwarf Uber’s 57 million compromised accounts.
Various reports indicate that cyber attacks are bleeding the global economy dry. One report, issued by the World Economic Forum, suggests that cyber crime cost the world economy $445 billion in 2016. If cyber crime were its own market cap, it would exceed Microsoft Inc., Facebook Inc. and ExxonMobil Corp
The Fall of Uber?
Uber revolutionized the ride-hailing business over the span of seven years by giving more power to the consumer. Several missteps later, the company finds itself in legal hot water, with its future appearing less certain than it did just one year ago.
The rideshare company faces at least five U.S. probes ranging from bribes to illicit software and right up to unethical pricing schemes. According to another Bloomberg report, Uber is under investigation for violating price transparency regulations, not to mention the alleged theft of documents for Google’s autonomous cars.
Some governments are sensing weakness in the ride-hailing service, and are moving toward banning the Uber app entirely. London is the most prominent example of a city that has taken definitive steps to outlaw the service over a “lack of corporate responsibility.”
Even with its legal troubles, Uber is a revolutionary technology that has influenced a bevy of other innovations aimed at improving the human experience.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.
The Pirate Bay is Hijacking PCs to Stealth-Mine Cryptocurrency
For the second time in as many months, The Pirate Bay has been caught mining cryptocurrency on your computer without consent. The torrent platform was actually test-driving cryptocurrency mining in your browser – no doubt a lucrative revenue stream.
The Pirates Are At It Again
The news was later confirmed by Bleeping Computer, which reported that,”The Pirate Bay, the internet’s largest torrent portal, is back at running a cryptocurrency miner after it previously ran a short test in mid-September.”
Estimates indicate that the scheme has earned the pirates a total of $43,000 over a three-week period.
Users had no way to opt their computers out of being test-driven by the torrent network. Back in September, The Pirate Bay got away by telling people it was just a test. The site’s owners cannot use the same excuse this time around.
CoinHive advises websites to let their visitors know their browser is being used to mine cryptocurrency.
“We’re a bit saddened to see that some of our customers integrate CoinHive into their pages without disclosing to their users what’s going on, let alone asking for their permission,” the company said.
The good news is most ad-blockers and antivirus programs will block CoinHive, given its recent abuses. That means not all visitors of The Pirate Pay were being used as a conduit for mining Monero.
Monero Joins Global Crypto Rally
The value of Monero (XMR) shot up nearly 8% on Friday, and was last seen trading at $94.17. With more than 15.2 million XMR tokens in circulation, the total market cap for Monero is $1.4 billion, according to CoinMarketCap. That’s enough for ninth on the global cryptocurrency list.
Twelve cryptos have now crossed the $1 billion valuation mark. A handful of others have made their way north of $500 million.
Ethereum Notches Two-Month High as Bitcoin Offspring Triggers Volatility
Digital currency Ethereum climbed to a two-month high on Monday, taking some of the heat off Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash, which have slumped since the weekend.
Ethereum Forges Higher Path
Concerns over Bitcoin created a favourable tailwind for Ethereum (ETH/USD), which is the world’s No. 2 digital currency by total assets. Ether’s price topped $340.00 on Monday and later settled at $323.54. That was the highest since June 20.
At its peak, ether was up 10% on the day and 70% for the month of August.
The ETH/USD was last down 2.2% at $315.02, according to Bitfinex. Prices are due for a brisk recovery, based on the daily momentum indicators.
Fractured Bitcoin Community
Bitcoin and its offshoot, Bitcoin Cash, retreated on Monday following a volatile weekend. The BTC/USD slumped at the start of the week and was down more than 3% on Tuesday, with prices falling below $3,900.00. Just last week, Bitcoin was trading at new records near $4,500.00.
Bitcoin Cash, which emerged after the Aug. 1 hard fork, climbed to new records on Saturday, but has been in free-fall ever since. The BTH was down another 20% on Tuesday to $594.49, according to CoinMarketCap. Its total market value has dropped by several billion over the past two days.
Analysts say that a “fractured” Bitcoin community has made Ethereum a more attractive bet this week. The ether token has shown remarkable poise over the past seven days, despite trading well shy of a new record.
Other drivers behind Ethereum’s advance are steady demand from South Korean investors and growing confidence in a smooth upgrade for the the ETH network. The upgrade, which has been dubbed “Metropolis,” is expected in the next several weeks. Its key benefits include tighter transaction privacy and greater efficiency.
Ethereum Prices Unaffected by ICO Heist
Fin-tech developer Enigma was on the receiving end of a cyber-heist on Monday after hackers took over the company’s website, mailing list and instant messaging platforms. The hack occurred three weeks before Enigma’s planned Initial Coin Offering (ICO) for September 11.
In addition to defacing the company’s website, the hackers pushed a special “pre-sale” ahead of the ICO. While many users realized it was a scam, 1,492 ether tokens – valued at $495,000 – were directed into the hackers’ cryptocurrency wallet by unsuspecting backers.
The irony in all this is that Engima is a cryptography company that prides itself on top-notch security protocols. The company issued a statement that its servers had not been compromised.
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